Kate Lomax, Sara Wingate Gray

Submitted Entry for 2014 Competition


Methods of academic research and teaching in the humanities have often experienced periods of transition and the rise in use and applications of digital technologies marks arguably the latest shift, with more formalized models of research and learning developing most recently under the Digital Humanities banner (Gold, 2012).
Alongside new research methodologies folded into this domain (e.g. text mining, social network analysis), new models of teaching and learning have also come to the fore (e.g. Online Learning Communities, MOOCs) which place an emphasis on less rigid frameworks of instruction, instead focusing on self-directed learning strategies driven by the individual learner herself (Domínguez-Floresa &Wang, 2011). However, many researchers lack access to resources and the support to develop this skillset, while off-the-shelf tools are unavailable for this specialty. The rise in self-directed learning for humanities researchers using digital technology is also evidenced by recent initiatives of, amongst others, the Open Data Institute, offering informal instruction in this sector, demonstrating the ongoing demand by researchers to gain such new skills.
These rapid changes in the humanities research and teaching landscape present researchers with two distinct challenges: more than ever before individual researchers are under greater pressure to learn, adapt and adopt such new approaches to their research in order to utilise the (ever-increasing) digital and open data available to them; while at the same time, as methods of teaching and learner engagement shift, the need to ensure a robust and effective teaching model remains, especially since “[t]eaching the tool alone can lead to a tool-specific, rather than a theoretic approach to problem solving” (Johanson, Sullivan, Reiff & et al, 2012).
Constructivist approaches in the philosophy of education focus on engaging the abilities of a learner to use information and learning resources in authentic, problem-solving situations (Lebow & Wager, 1994). Such pedagogical frameworks have high relevance for digital researchers as they provide successful strategies for supporting individuals to develop and learn new digital skills and to participate in collaborative knowledge building (Gilbert & Driscoll 2002). Incorporating Constructivist learning methodology therefore is a non-trivial pedagogical framework for facilitating the development of digital research skills and expertise and new uses of digital resources and teaching in a digitally-enhanced environment.

The aim of this project is to build a digital toolkit for researchers, using British Library open collections as the basis for the educational resources and tools produced. The project team will create, develop and customise a set of digital learning resources and tools in collaboration with researchers and BL curators and digital scholarship staff. Project outcomes are twofold: by creating, designing and implementing a series of online learning modules, researchers will pursue task-based learning which enables them to attain new data management and technical skills; and by developing resources and tools based on BL open collections a valuable dataset will be produced demonstrating how researchers choose to explore and use BL open collections for research, teaching and learning.

Domínguez-Floresa, N. & Wang, L. (2011). Online Learning Communities: Enhancing Undergraduate Students' Acquisition of Information Skills. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 37 (6), 495–503.

Gilbert, N., & Driscoll, M. (2002). Collaborative knowledge building: A case study. Educational Technology Research & Development, 50, 59–79.

Gold, M. K. Debates in the Digital Humanities (University of Minnesota Press, 2012).

Johanson, C., Sullivan, S., Reiff, J., Favro, D., Presner, T., and Wendrich, W. “Teaching Digital Humanities through Digital Cultural Mapping” in Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Practices, Principles and Politics, ed. Hirsch, B. D (London: Open Book Publishers, 2012).

Lebow, D., & Wager, W. (1994). Authentic activity as a model for appropriate learning activity: Implications for emerging instructional technologies. Canadian Journal of Educational Communication, 23 (3), 231–244.

Assessment Criteria

The research question / problem you are trying to answer

Institutions such as the British Library are tasked with supporting academic research and teaching: how do they better enable researchers to learn new technical and data management skills and encourage them to explore openly accessible datasets and research collections?

Focusing on exploring the design and build of successful, productive online learning communities around open data collections, this project seeks to discover how to better utilise new digital learning technologies and collaborative learning goals, to support researchers in gaining new data management skills and in better using digital technology for their research. It also aims to explore how users go about finding, choosing and selecting specific digital humanities resources for learning, teaching and research use.

Please explain the ways your idea will showcase British Library digital collections

Please ensure you include details of British Library digital collections you are showcasing (you may use several collections if you wish), a sample can be found at http://labs.bl.uk/Digital+Collections

The project will focus on selecting and using BL collections that resonate with humanities researchers – who typically have a high degree of specialist knowledge – thereby enabling researchers to construct learning experiences that utilise and enhance their own existing experiences, skills and areas of expertise. We envisage specifically using, for example, the “Literary Landscapes” and “1 Million Images from scanned books” BL image collections to create and design digital learning resources and tools for researchers who are focused in the domains of English Literature, History, or Illustration; or drawing from the “Grimms Northumberland Sketchbooks”, “Topographical Drawings” and “Maps: Ordnance Surveyors’ Drawings of England and Wales (1789 - ca. 1840)” BL collections to build tools and resources for researchers with subject expertise in Geography and Architecture.

Using pre-existing data collections in the design and creation of educational resources has the additional advantage of strategically directing researchers to these specific open access collections, thereby encouraging greater use of British Library content. Facilitating access in this way also provides for the ability to collate feedback and track collections use, as well as to analyse user behaviour when accessing and using these collections, which will help the British Library and other open data providers better develop and provide open data sets and research tools. This also underlines the position of the British Library as a key skills and resource provider for academic researchers and teachers.

We will technically develop the digital research and learning tools and resources in collaboration with researchers, and BL curatorial and digital scholarship staff.

Please detail the approach(es) / method(s) you are going to use to implement your idea, detailing clearly the research methods / techniques / processes involved

Indicate and describe any research methods / processes / techniques and approaches you are going to use, e.g. text mining, visualisations, statistical analysis etc.

This project will be directed using a mixed methods approach to implementation.

[1] Development of the open education resources and tools will follow Constructivist approaches to learning, including rhizomatic learning methodologies and Connectivism (Tschofen & Mackness, 2011). This learning approach focuses on hands-on and collaborative learning activities: utilising real world examples and existing open data collections to teach digital skills reflects new models of networked pedagogy, which invite team-oriented research practices and methodologies for digital projects rather than traditional isolated independent scholarship (Johanson, Sullivan, Reiff et al, 2012). Curriculum and learning outcomes will focus on digital and technical skills that support and complement the curriculum provided by Higher Education Institutions. Researchers will work with material from existing open data collections provided by the British Library, and through a series of designed learning objectives and problem-solving activities, be steered and taught how to utilise predominantly open source, or otherwise freely available tools and resources, to analyse and research these collections. Sample digital skills and data management techniques to be addressed by our project’s educational tools and resources include the methods of text mining; text analysis; data cleansing, manipulation and refinement; quantitative analysis tools; and data visualisation. The proposed task-based online learning modules will include: a series of worked examples; videos and screencasts; collaboration tools integrated with forum/IM feedback mechanisms. Content, selected from BL open collections, will be developed to ensure it builds on existing knowledge and provides situative learning experiences, which reflect real-world uses for humanities researchers.

One of the most heavily cited issues MOOCs and other online learning initiatives are facing is low retention (Morris & Stommel, 2013) as well as a lack of using open resources (Baggaley, 2013). Gamification (e.g. Open Badges) will be implemented and tested with users to ensure high levels of engagement and completion rates, with the explicit use of BL open collections as the basis for researcher resources. Utilising collaboration tools to create communities of learning, this will present as small groups of researchers working through the courses, choosing to work as teams on larger tasks or completing smaller modules individually. Constructivist and Connected learning methodologies provide the framework to develop and customise the learning resources and tools for researchers, thereby enabling them to attain and further develop new technical digital skills and experience using emerging open access data sets and information sources.

[2] The project will be developed by combining lean (Hibbs, Jewett & Sullivan, 2009) and agile (Shore, 2008) methodologies to ensure productive workflow, using an iterative build approach which incorporates feedback from researchers and other key user groups during a series of user testing and platform/resource trial cycle phases. Through this process of continual development, the tools and resources will be developed in tandem with test user experiences, to provide for a final build version that best reflects the results of test user feedback. Testing will include a series of online user evaluations, learning analytics, and user interviews to gauge the success of the learning resources and tools and implementation of the project aims and goals.

Hibbs, C., Jewett, S., & Sullivan, M. (2009) The Art of Lean Software Development: A Practical and Incremental Approach (California: O’Reilly Media).

Johanson, C., Sullivan, S., Reiff, J., Favro, D., Presner, T., and Wendrich, W. (2012) ‘Teaching Digital Humanities through Digital Cultural Mapping’, in Hirsch, B. (ed.) Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Practices, Principles and Politics, London: Open Book Publishers.

Morris, S. M & Stommel, J. (2013) MOOCagogy: Assessment, Networked Learning, and the Meta-MOOC. Hybrid Pedagogy: a Digital Journal of Learning, Teaching, and Technology.

Shore, J. & Warden, S. (2008) The Art of Agile Development (California: O’Reilly Media).

Tschofen, C. & Mackness, J. (2011) Connectivism and Dimensions of Individual Experience. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl

Please provide evidence of how you / your team have the skills, knowledge and expertise to successfully carry out the project by working with the Labs team

E.g. work you may have done, publications, a list with dates and links (if you have them)

KL and SWG work together as co-founders of Artefacto, which is an emerging creative lab dedicated to enhancing, exploring and opening digital collections and materials for users and institutions in the cultural and heritage sectors <http://artefacto.org.uk/>.

From September 2013 through March 2014 Artefacto were the digital technology partners for an AHRC-funded project, produced as part of the AHRC Digital Transformations Network’s “Data-Asset-Method: Harnessing the Infinite Archive” work. We partnered with The British Library, University of Nottingham and their Horizon Digital Economy Research Hub and the University of Loughborough on this project, which investigated the creation, build and use of an open online narrative-building tool to engage with Arts and Humanities focused digital archives and researchers. As digital technology lead, we created, developed and built the primary digital technology tools for the project, explicitly using OSS, and worked in close collaboration with BL staff to curate relevant content from the BL’s open collections for use in the project. User testing cycles, user online evaluation and iterative builds were key components of our project work. A prototype of the platform can be viewed at <http://datatales.artefacto.org.uk>.

Artefacto are currently advising/working with Health Education England (HEE) and the Higher Education Academy (HEA) on development of a taxonomy/classification system for the HEE/HEA Technology-enhanced Learning (TEL) platform presently in development.

KL has more than seven years experience working as a web developer, with a specific focus on open source and library systems. She was previously eLearning Co-ordinator for the NHS, project managing and developing the NHS eLearning Repository including migrating it from a proprietary platform to Drupal. She also led on a London Deanery project in collaboration with the Institute of Cancer Research to develop a bespoke blog-based learning platform for delivering research skills training and has additional training and learning instruction experience from her role as ICT Librarian across Newham’s ten borough public libraries. She has a Graduate Diploma in Information Management and Systems (Monash University, Australia) and is an experienced library management systems and content management systems administrator.

SWG was project manager for a National Endowment for the Arts (USA) $100k archive digitization project by The Poetry Center and American Poetry Archives <http://www.sfsu.edu/~poetry/archives.html>, based at San Francisco State University. From 2007 through 2008 she worked with the Archive to devise digital cataloguing protocols, licensing terms for data/content (Creative Commons), and designed workflows for the ongoing digitization process, returning in 2011 to implement user-testing feedback sessions, help design the UX interface and publicly launch its first iteration as the Poetry Center Digital Archive: <http://diva.sfsu.edu/collections/poetrycenter>. She has also previously worked for the Open Knowledge Foundation <http://okfn.org/> on various open content/open data initiatives (2009-2011). She is currently a Teaching Fellow at UCL in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities <http://iris.ucl.ac.uk/iris/browse/profile?upi=SWING57>, and teaches on the newly-launched BASc degree at UCL, leading undergraduate seminars as a PGTA for the Interdisciplinary Research Methods module.

Please provide evidence of how you think your idea is achievable on a technical, curatorial and legal basis

Indicate the technical, curatorial and legal aspects of the idea (you may want to check with Labs team before submitting your idea first).

The learning resources will be developed in a way that utilises open standards and technologies that ensure the highest possible re-use, adaptability and remix-ability. These include, for example: Tin Can API; LRMI markup; Open Badges; OpenSource textbooks. We are committed to reusing existing tools, and making re-usable open resources, thereby building on the work of others in these areas, rather than attempting to reinvent the wheel.

Equally, the platform for delivery will move away from the traditional Learning Management System (LMS) to adopt new standards and a more flexible and aggregated approach to learning delivery (Yuan, Powell & Olivier, 2014). This will allow for collecting high levels of learning analytics and feedback but will retain the possibility for ‘repackaging’ for distribution through other learning platforms and channels in the future (including MOOCs, SCORM-based VLEs, video channels). Rather than a traditional LMS approach, the platform(s) adopted with have a focus on collaboration technologies. Platforms currently being scoped include: OERCommons; Canvas; eFront; edX; LearningLocker; Opigno; WordPress and Coursefork.

The technical implementation will focus on minimising friction for user access (i.e. user-experience, easy to register, profiles) including from both desktop and mobile devices. We will be using open source tools where possible to ensure future development and adaptability. While a single platform will be used for testing phases, the objective is to make the learning resources platform-agnostic, that is, standards-compliant, re-usable and as portable as possible.

Yuan, L., Powell, S. & Olivier, B. (2014), Beyond MOOCs Sustainable Online Learning in Institutions (Centre for Educational Technology, Interoperability and Standards). http://publications.cetis.ac.uk/2014/898

Using lean development principles, this project is based around developing and curating a series of task-oriented learning modules using agile/iterative development processes in collaboration with subject experts and curatorial staff at the British Library and with the researcher-learners themselves. Online learning provides a unique opportunity to develop and curate bespoke, specialist learning resources that scale in a way that allows institutions to support the learning objectives of advanced learners (e.g. PhD students, researchers), and we will be applying usability testing methods to learning content development (Summative & formative Usability Evaluation). Providing digital tools (such as open source software - OSS) and data in open formats <http://opendefinition.org/> enables innovative re-use, transformation and likely interoperability. This may also open up new avenues of research and investigation, as well as likely facilitating the interpretation of BL content for new audiences and making BL content more visible, easier to discover and more used. Using existing BL open data collections within education resources has the dual benefit of helping researchers make use of these collections while collating feedback to help the British Library and other open data providers to best develop and provide open data sets and research tools. This also promotes the position of the British Library as a key skills and resource provider for researchers as well as cementing the BL’s reputation for digital resource development and digital curation and scholarship.

We expect to work in close collaboration with BL curators, the BL’s digital curation and Labs team, as well as researcher-user group(s) to select and curate the BL content we implement for this project.

We will implement Creative Commons Share-Alike licensing to allow for remixing and repurposing of content, and publish software developed under the GNU General Public License (http://drupal.org/licensing/faq/)

Please provide a brief plan of how you will implement your project idea by working with the Labs team

You will be given the opportunity to work on your winning project idea between May 26th - Oct 31st, 2014.

May 26 2014- Onwards

Activity described here (e.g. what, when and by who)
[1] Final platform scoping & digital tool reviews/analysis conducted. By KL & SWG.
[2] Initial content/curriculum/learning outcomes outlined and BL open collections reviewed. Test user-researchers/groups identified. By KL, SWG & BL staff.
[3] Content wireframing. By KL & SWG.

June 2014

Activity described here (e.g. what, when and by who)
[1] Early content iterations with BL curators/subject experts and small group of test users. By KL, SWG, BL staff & test users.
[2] Platform implementation and customization. By KL & SWG (customization in consultation with staff/users).

July 2014

Activity described here (e.g. what, when and by who)
[1] Open registration for test user group(s). By KL & SWG.
[2] Phase 1 content piloted. By KL, SWG, BL staff & test users.
[3] Content development and instructional design continued. User evaluation cycle 1 occurs. By KL, SWG, BL staff & test users.

August 2014
Activity described here (e.g. what, when and by who)
[1] Iteration 1 based on test group cycle 1 feedback. By KL, SWG, BL staff & test users.
[2] User evaluation (online) process. By KL, SWG, BL staff & test users.

September 2014
Activity described here (e.g. what, when and by who)
[1] Iteration 2 based on test group cycle 1 feedback and user evaluation (online). By KL, SWG, BL staff & test users.
[2] User interviews conducted and learning analytics performed. By KL, SWG, BL staff & test users.

October 2014
Activity described here (e.g. what, when and by who)
[1] Additional resource/supplement materials embedded (according to user evaluation~feedback and perceived resource demands). By KL, SWG, BL staff & test users.
[2] Project review occurs; analysis of user interviews, user testing online evaluations and user experience performed to inform final report.
[3] Final build version (proto-type) released for future development by BL and wider community.