18 December 2007
Engaging People with digital content
The Archival Sound Recordings (ASR) team is always looking for ways to expand the ASR site – not just in terms of content but in usability. And usability these days means a great deal more than having a clear design and easily navigated menus. What sites like ours really want to create is a community of practice around its content: a growing and dynamic body that will interact with the material, repurpose it, and share the results as widely as possible.
This is why two members of the team attended a seminar held by the Quality Improvement Agency (QIA) earlier this month. QIA describes itself as a champion of “excellence and innovation in the provision of learning and skills”. The seminar itself was the start of a four-month programme to see how the content of resources such as ours can be expanded upon and interacted with in Further Education colleges; in particular, how content can be recombined into multimedia learning “journeys”.
The other invitees to the seminar were teams from JISC-sponsored digitisation sites: the British Library 19th Century Newspapers, The Wellcome Institute Medical Back Files, the 18th Century British Parliamentary Papers, the Online Historical Population Reports, and Newsfilm Online. By the end of the programme, QIA will have engaged teachers and lecturers in Further Education to create learning packages from these resources. The learning packages will be presented at a national conference in March and will sit on QIA’s Excellence Gateway, a web resource for teachers.
With this in mind, Professor Tom Boyle of the Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning in Reusable Learning Objects (RLO-CETL) gave a presentation about Generative Learning Objects. This tool allows users to take material from websites and build presentations around them, embedding images, sound, video and animations. It also allows teachers and lecturers to create evaluation exercises for their students based on the material.
At the end of the seminar, QIA’s Kevin Burden pointed out that many teachers and students approach online resources in a spirit of strict inquiry rather than broad investigation. For a teacher, say, to get the full value from such resources, the key would be to ask, “How can I incorporate this material into my lesson plan? How can I use this to liven up my classes? It’s here – what can I do with it?”
While there’s a good deal in this from the point of view of the success of projects such as ours, there remains the fact that lecturers, teachers and students alike are both time and curriculum-constrained. We’re very interested to hear if any user has ideas about how we might make the site more adaptable to your needs. And we’re always interested to hear from people who have experience of using Archival Sound Recordings in teaching, learning and research.
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