Characterisation of data collectors use of course advertising information
One of the primary reasons for the development of XCRI was as an aid to data collecting organisations (aggregators), as explained here:
“Aggregating XCRI-CAP: value is generated in the form of strategic capability as the institution better understands the nature of its offering portfolio when combined into a single XCRI catalogue, leading to opportunities for improved quality assurance, standardisation, and consolidation of duplicate offerings.”
From eXchanging Course Related Information Overview leaflet
Data collecting organisations
There are many such organisations and their characteristics vary, if anything, more widely than those of learning providers. They range from commercial organisations publishing on the web (for example Hotcourses Ltd) through small, medium and large government funded local, regional and national services (for example Lifelong Learning Networks (LLNs), Connexions, AimHigher, or UfI, which delivers the learndirect service) to specialist public service oriented sectoral organisations like UCAS and Graduate Prospects. Some of these organisations are “for profit” businesses, others are charities, while others have funding which is dependent on recurrent government grant or via a government agency and may have a specific remit in terms of target group of learners or type of course.
As each data collecting organisation has its own aims and objectives, the courses information it collects varies, in terms of number and type of courses, depth of information and data structures. Crucially the vocabularies (coding and classification systems, sub-divisions of descriptive text) vary significantly. For example an organisation may collect heavily coded information for a higher education Clearing vacancy information service, typically codes or abbreviations for each course presentation and each institution, or it may collect descriptive text in depth on many topics together with tightly controlled search terms for a service providing extensive information and searchability.
Current data collection methods
These organisations use one or more of three main methods to collect course advertising information:
- Re-keying from paper prospectuses or paper data collection forms;
- Off-line electronic forms, usually spreadsheets;
- On-line web-based data collection forms.
The paper methods are inefficient, time-consuming and produce variable quality of output. The two electronic methods impose a considerable burden on learning providers, because the data collecting organisations expect them to key the information, using a format and coding form particular to that organisation. The advent of XCRI is expected to revolutionise the data exchange processes by providing a standard electronic format for learning providers and data collecting organisations.