We have grown used to the instant availability of information, and when a swift web search doesn't return the results we need or expect the assumption is that the subject of the search doesn't exist.
"Information about online programmes is lacking and often difficult to find, both for distance courses and for the online learning elements in blended programmes. This has a significant impact on student choice, domestically and internationally. Only with better information can prospective students find what they want, judge value for money and make more accurate decisions about where and how to study. Better information will give institutions competitive edge " recommendation 1 : Collaborate
to compete, Seizing the opportunity of online learning for UK higher education.
Report to HEFCE by the Online Learning Task Force January 2011
Recent JISC funded research into the structure of institutional websites indicates a lack of a common model http://lncn.eu/toolkit/institution for institutional URIs. Course information is often spread across systems for different purposes, and in a variety of formats. Finding the course that covers the areas you are interested in is tricky, particularly for online, part-time and post graduate offerings.
Finding out whether it covers your areas of interest, in a way that suits your mode of learning is even harder.
At a recent DevCSI Hackday Tony Hirst (@psychemedia), David Kernohan (@dkernohan) and others worked on Course Detective which provides a custom Google Search of a list of 165 University websites gathered manually and entered into a Google spreadsheet.
If the sites held their data in a common location, the harvest of that data would become trivial.
Even better would be if the data were available in a machine readable common format, as this would allow the information to be easily rendered and compared.
XCRI-CAP 1.2 conforms to the European standard: Metadata for Learning Opportunities (FprEN 15982) and provides an information model and Schema for marking up course descriptions for advertising purposes. It has been a community led development to enable learning providers to publish online prospectus information in a standard format that facilitates efficient collection by aggregator and broker agencies. The common structure facilitates the systematic comparison of learning opportunities, and the promotion of new integrated information, advice and guidance services.
Services might include a location restricted search, or like Course Detective support discovery of Open Educational Resources (OER), free online resources which can allow you to get a wider perspective of what study will entail.
Alan Paull, one of the authors of XCRI-CAP explains that for some organisations adopting the standard will be straightforward whereas for others there may be some initial time to organise their course information first. “If the location of information is already known, particularly if it is centralised in a database, and its quality is high, then writing code to create an XCRI feed can take as little as a day for an experienced developer. However, as with all things sometimes there is an initial time investment up front to organise the information. Many universities and colleges are doing this so they can adopt the Government’s open data policy as well as for quality assurance purposes.”
The XCRI Knowledge base contains a wealth of information to support institutions planning to implement the standard, including an XCRI-CAP self assessment framework
XCRI_CAP provides an institution with a common way to describe their course offering, which can be re-used to support other initiatives.
XCRI-CAP and KIS
The Key Information Set (KIS) is the result of a HEFCE consultation on public information about HE.
The consultation found that institutions should standardise the way they publish key pieces of information about each course they offer.
Their research showed that the KIS should include indicators of student satisfaction, information about the different teaching, learning and assessment methods used on the course, fees and accommodation costs.
The KIS is an aggregation of disparate information from a range of sources, and is more than just course-level information - it may also contain institutional-level data (such as accommodation costs), and historic subject-level data (such as NSS scores).
In it's basic form XCRI-CAP does NOT cover these elements,rather it acts as a signpost to the KIS data. XCRI_CAP can be extended to include other data including KIS elements, and JISC work is beginning to focus on this.
XCRI-CAP and HEAR
The HEAR is a means for recording student achievement in higher education (HE) and is intended to provide more detailed information about a student’s learning and achievement than the traditional degree classification system. It will be issued to students on graduation and will include and extend the existing record of academic achievement - the academic transcript - and the European Diploma Supplement.
The Centre for Recording Achievement, the Higher Education Academy (the Academy), and the Joint Information Systems Committee are developing the HEAR. This is being overseen by the Burgess Implementation Steering Group.
The HEAR will conform to FprEN 15981 European Learner Mobility - Achievement information (EuroLMAI), and will use XCRI-CAP as the course description component promoting interoperability.
For more information check the JISC Course data strand, which will be updated to include details of funding.
To support institutions in making better use of their course data, JISC is funding a large-scale programme of investment.
“Course data: making the most of course information” is open to all institutions eligible for HEFCE CAPITAL funding, HEIs and FECs with over 400 HE FTEs, and will be a 2 Stage process:
Stage 1: Review and Plan of course data Sept-Dec 11
Stage 2: Implementation Jan 12- Mar 13
JISC is holding an online community briefing event to provide information about the background to the call, its objectives and the funding process. Attendees will also have an opportunity to ask questions of JISC executive staff. The online meeting will take place on 19th July at 15:00-16:30. The link for this meeting and full details of the call can be found on the JISC funding site: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/fundingopportunities/funding_calls/2011/07/coursedata.aspx