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21st September 2009
Staffordshire University launches JISC funded initiative for
federating open courseware using HarvestRoad Hive DR
Staffordshire University is taking part in a pilot study to explore the
issues and benefits involved in making its 'stock' of learning content
The project, made possible by the
use of Giunti Labs' HarvestRoad Hive digital repository (DR) allied to
the Blackboard virtual learning environment (VLE), is one of seven such
projects being funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC)
- a Government-funded body which supports education and research by
promoting innovation in new technologies and by the central support of
information and communications technology (ICT) services.
The project involving
Staffordshire University involves making some 700 'credits' of learning
materials available in various forms, including video, 'hardcopy' notes
and so on. These materials, originally kept within the Blackboard VLE,
or learning management system, have been migrated to Giunti Labs' DR;
then federated to the JISC repository (known as JORAM Open) and made
available to learners via RSS feed alerts.
Professor Mark Stiles, the University's Head of Learning Development
and Innovation, and a member of the board of directors of the IMS
Global Learning Consortium, explained: "We bought Giunti Labs'
HarvestRoad Hive - in 2006 - because we wanted flexibility in how we
used our learning content. We already had the Blackboard VLE but we
wanted to use the content on this system in other ways.
"Moreover, we have some 11 partner colleges - which are part of the
Staffordshire Region Foundation. All of these colleges use Moodle - the
increasingly popular open source VLE.
"We also have other partner organisations around the UK and, indeed,
throughout the world," he added. "We want to share our learning content
with all of them - and, indeed, getting academic institutions to share
their learning and expertise more widely is in line with current
"We are keen to make exposing our content to as wide an audience as
possible the norm rather than the exception," Stiles continued. "After
all, universities don't sell 'content'.
"Rather, they sell accreditation and access to expertise. So, even if
they make their courses freely available on the internet, they should
find students wanting to come to the university, for assessment and
"After all, you can find all the information associated with an
undergraduate course freely available in libraries," he added.
"But the key is the assessment and accreditation of your learning. If
you work through the information without tutors, how do you know that
you are any good at learning and applying that learning?"
Stiles discussed his university's experience with this project at a
conference held in Sestri Levante in Italy on 17th and 18th September.
Called 'EdReNe' (http://edrene.org/) the event was a workshop on
'digital repositories for education', bringing together specialists in
web-based learning resources repositories, along with content owners
and other stakeholders within education.
"Today, organisations exist in an interconnected environment and it is
no longer sufficient to merely manage and deliver the information that
an organisation owns," commented Fabrizio Cardinali, Giunti Labs' CEO.
"This is especially true where this information relates to knowledge
dissemination, online learning and training programs.
"Moreover, organisations may have core contents or information held on
disparate systems and, so, are unable to leverage any social or
community-based content value augmentation practice - thus losing
ground and effectiveness against user expectations. In this case, being
a 'Learning Organisation' is an impossible task to fulfil.
"HarvestRoad Hive consolidates this information into one source,
allowing people from all over an organisation to access, use and
benefit by it," he said. "DRs, such as HarvestRoad Hive, can be
invaluable in providing not just learning materials but also vital
information for business planning, strategy and tactics.
"Ultimately, the HarvestRoad DR solution allows organisations from any
business and educational background to evolve in tune with their market
requirements, augmenting the value of their content portfolio and
ensuring contents are transformed into usable knowledge."
In at least the case of Staffordshire University, that looks as if it
will soon mean 'freely available' usable knowledge.
About Staffordshire University
Established in the early 1990s, the university now has some 16,000
students, based at two main campuses in Stoke-on-Trent and Stafford, as
well as a co-funded University Centre in Lichfield. The university
provides courses at foundation, certificate, diploma, degree and
postgraduate level in the arts, media and design; business and law;
computing, engineering and technology; as well as health and sciences.
It also runs a number of vocational courses, including a range of
employer-backed foundation degrees, through its network of further
education colleges throughout Staffordshire and Shropshire. Recognising
that geographical and time barriers can be a constraint to learning,
the university continues to develop online courses for access at home
and/or in the workplace.
One of academia's first users of VLEs in the UK, Staffordshire
University also bought and installed Giunti Labs' HarvestRoad Hive DR
in 2006 to manage any form of content used in online learning,
corporate training and knowledge management initiatives. It is now
upgrading both its Blackboard VLE and its HarvestRoad Hive DR.
About HarvestRoad Hive digital repository (DR)
HarvestRoad Hive is the platform solution for creating digital content
repositories for educational, knowledge and performance support. It
solves the information management problems that occur when
organisations implement knowledge sharing or e-learning projects.
HarvestRoad Hive creates an infrastructure that allows learners to
bring together concepts, data, discoveries, ideas, interpretations and
methods in powerful new ways. It provides a DR solution offering
refined categorisation and search tools that help locate information
quickly - helping organisations to make quantifiable savings in terms
of time and resources.
About Giunti Labs
Giunti is unique in the international publishing industry.
In 1497, Giunti publishers and typographers in Florence, together with
others in Venice, began modern book manufacturing. Over the years
Giunti has built a 'historical catalogue' of huge dimensions, through a
gradual process of 'fusion' of different publishers, but also through
the creation of new brands, including Giunti Labs. Giunti Editore now
includes 20 companies in the publishing sector.
Giunti Labs, which has its global headquarters in Italy and offices in
London (UK), Frankfurt (Germany), Lund (Sweden) and in Boston (US),
provides a wide range of services, in response to any content, learning
and knowledge management need, covering:
solutions for content, learning & knowledge management
technological solutions for mobile & wireless
Giunti Labs provides
the learn eXact® suite, Europe's leading e-learning and mobile learning
content management technology. This suite is interoperable with all
major vendor-driven and open source LMS and VLE solutions in the market
including Plateau, Oracle, SumTotal, Saba, WebCT, Blackboard, Sakai,
LRN and Moodle.
Moreover, Giunti Labs does not just adhere to the international
standards relating to the LMS/LCMS world, it is one of the
organisations that helps to determine and drive these standards:
co-writing and developing them. Giunti Labs plays a key role in most of
the international institutions for the definition of eLearning
specifications (IEEE LTSC, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC36, CEN/ISSS WSLT, AICC, IMS,
ADL-SCORM and OKI).
Further information from:
Minna Leikas, Giunti Labs, +39 3489 399127
Bob Little, Bob Little Press & PR, +44 (0)1727 860405