VLEs have proved to be useful tools in facilitating staff in organising educational resources and activities in a hierarchical structure representing the structure of programmes and modules. However, while they are excellent vehicles for delivering materials, they are not in themselves ideal mechanisms for managing and curating materials. What we require is a repository of educational materials that can be used to populate VLEs.
The University of Southampton has taken the strategic decision to develop a repository for educational materials using its well established EPrints research repository software as the framework. The reason we have chosen this route is embedded in our understanding that excellent technical specifications alone will be unlikely to facilitate the cultural change necessary throughout the institution; it is the co-design process of specifying and implementing the details of the system that will be most important in ensuring community and uptake.
The EdShare repository will be a central part of the educational infrastructure as envisaged in the recently implemented e-Learning Strategy. This strategy focuses on enabling student centred research-led learning, inclusivity and employability.
The EdShare repository will be a social site allowing staff and students to share resources; it will provide for metadata, tagging, and semantic mark-up of stored items. A range of local and external tools will access the repository using services interfaces. Between the tools and the repository service layers will be presented to allow users to annotate items according to an educational ontology or according to other metadata schemas, to set the access policies which will apply to items, and to create and access versions of items.
The University will use this project to accelerate the process both in implementing technical changes to the EPrints interfaces and providing the personnel to engage academics and students in the co-design process. Both the University of Southampton and the wider JISC community will benefit from extending EPrints into the educational domain, and from the case study of the institutional change and integration.