Why can’t learning respositories be more like Slideshare

Over the past year we’ve been migrating our online learning content for the early years of our undergraduate curriculum from Blackboard to WordPress.  This move to using WordPress for our learning portal (VLE) was made after a series of pilots led to a bit of a snowball effect with growing numbers of our clinical teachers calling into the office and asking if they could have a WordPress site for their areas of the curriculum.  Staff and students preferred WordPress because it was much more like their everyday experience with the Web, they found it quicker and more user friendly.  WordPress didn’t present them with folders to click on like the old VLE, but webpages that looked like the rest of the Web and a number of students felt it better supported self-directed learning.

In parallel with the move to WordPress we’ve got another project running developing a timetabling and calendaring application which will deliver a personalised calendar to each of our students and tutors.  A key feature of this development is going to be linking teaching resources to each timetabled session so we’re linking the timetable application to a learning repository and we’re currently working on this integration.

Whilst we’ve been discussing learning repositories and possible solutions as a team I’ve been thinking about learning repositories and how I’d like them to work as a user.  The important thing for me is what’s the user experience like, how does it compare to everything else I engage with on the Web, is it going to be easy for my colleagues who are still a bit intimidated by technology to use.  Also how intuitive is to for students to use and does it easily inetragte with other tools that they are likely to use to support their learning.

I know that some have a complete aversion to learning repositories and might question why we’re bothering with one.  There are good reasons including the need for a system to manage and track the increasing numbers of learning assets such as videos, illustrations, animations, e-tutorials created in Articulate etc that we need to manage and keep track of.  We also want to avoid duplication and encourage sharing and reuse of resources across the medical school.  A repository will also help us to more easily produce reports for the GMC about where we are teaching various topics and themes across the curriuclum.  We also want it to support student learning and the dicoverability of resources.

Nationally we have repositories like Jorum, I’m not sure what the usage stats for Jorum are (Mark Hawksey has pulled some data off but I’ve not had chance to look at the detail but you can take a look if you’re interested), but I remain to be convinced that the majority of lecturers have even heard of it.  If I mention Jorum or other repositoies to colleagues I’m generally met with a blank expression and have to explain what it is.

In one of my thinking out loud moments with the team I was saying why can’t we have a learning repository that looks like Slideshare, YouTube/Vimeo, Flickr and Scribd rolled into one.  A platform where students and staff could

  • actually see and play a video, or quickly click through the slides or through a study guide or handbook without having to download it to view it
  • share the resource with their peers via social media buttons or post to social bookmarking tools, Instapaper etc
  • embed the resource on their own blog, Tumblr site etc that serves as an online notebook for their learning
  • rate and comment on the resource and give feedback on how it could be improved to their lecturers
  • see other resources recommended on similar topics to support their learning.

Thinking about this reminded me of a blog post Martin Weller wrote a while ago ‘Slideshare is the best OER site?’, in which he higlighted that Slideshare gets way more traffic than educational sites such as MIT’s OpenCourseWare or the OU’s OpenLearn.  Martin posed a number of questions asking why this might be the case including were individuals more likely to share through Slideshare, could it be considered as an OER repository of sorts and are commercial operations just better than educational ones.

I wonder if sites like Slideshare work well as an OER repository because of their usability and the ability to find the resources easily via web search engines.  Repositories like Jorum and Hum Box do have social sharing buttons but on the whole you have to download the content to view it.  If I go to Flickr, Vimeo or Slideshare I can preview the content, I can then easily embed that content/resource into another webpage and then share it in another context or download it for local use.  When I share it others can easily see the resource, engage with it and share it again, they don’t have to download it either.  That’s how the social web works, but it’s not how most learning repositories seem to work. It’s also easy to engage with these resources on a mobile device and share them whilst you’re on the move.

So why can’t we have learning respositories with this sort of functionality?  Perhaps there are some out there and I just don’t know about them.  Has anyone got an institutional learning repository that presents content like Slideshare and Vimeo, if you have it would be great to see it.


    1. I agree it’s the learning assets that we need to share, but again searching flickr so much easier and nicer than searching something like Jorum.

  1. I agree with your frustrations regarding the limitations of learning repositories.

    Last year I wrote a post entitledEvidence of Slideshare’s Impact which described how the popularity of Slideshare can help in the sharing of ideas – in this case ideas presented to about 1,000 people over five years at UKOLN’s IWMW annual event to a much wider audience with, at the time, there being over 240,00 views.

    More recently a post which asked Is Web Interoperable Being Led By Global Social Media Services? described how institutionally-hosted services tend to lock content (such as slides and audio and video resources) within the host institution’s web site, whereas if you use services such as Slideshare, YouTube and Vimeo the content can be more easily reused elsewhere,

    1. Thanks for these links Brian. I think the first post is particularly relevant to ‘scholarly recognition’ for teaching staff in HE. Staff sharing resources on Slideshare, YouTube and iTunesU etc can show evidence of how many others are using their resources and how people rate those resources, I guess a sort of scholarly impact factor. Teaching is always seen as the poor relation to research so how can we use technology to help raise the profile, showcase good stuff and ideas and share it. Your second post for me touches on the big problem with educational technology solutions, they aren’t like how we use the rest of the web, when I’ve asked about an institutional learning repository the solution is Blackboard. Maybe I’m being too idealistic and simplistic but with all the money that’s been thrown at OER projects can’t we work at getting the underlying tecnhology right and learning from the success of Slideshare, Vimeo, Flickr etc.

    1. I think it’s both. But having the functionality would be a major step forward and perhaps help get content appearing in Google search results as individuals share and embed a resource.

  2. Hi Natalie,
    very interesting post. I sense that your views mirror that of the wider community. As part of the OER visualisation project I prepared this bubble diagram of the technologies recorded as being used in the projects for phase 1 & 2 of the JISC/HEA OER Programme http://www-958.ibm.com/v/129719
    You’ll see that YouTube, Slideshare and Flickr all dominate the chart

    One of the processes I think at play is more academics moving to digital scholarship, becoming more aware of the benefits of putting content in web services where they might get increased referral/related content traffic or search discoverablity.

    As part of the JISC/HEA OER Programme 15 Rapid Innovation projects have been just funded (I’ve posted a summary of the technical side of these projects here http://wp.me/p1twQQ-3rm ) You’ll see a number of these projects are linking with external web services.

    University of Lincoln have an interesting project (Bebop) which instead of looking at how things can be pushed to services is looking at how information about resources distributed on different services can be recentralised into an academics profile page.

    This model seems to reinforce the notion of publish where you like and we’ll try and aggregate this information in one place to help you as the academic monitor/evidence impact, but also promote your activity to the wider community and perhaps make things easier to find.


    1. Hi Martin
      Thanks for the link to the bubble diagram, it’s reassuring that I’m not alone! Very interesting to read about the latest OER projects too and in particualr what Lincoln are doing with Buddy Press for the Bebop project. I’m all for being able publish where you like, but in terms of the learning environment we’re developing locally some sort of local learning repository is key to what we need to help us keep track of our learning assets and also to help us meet our reporting requirements for GMC. So my dream is to have a local system with the functionality of Slideshare, Flickr, Vimeo etc in terms of viewing content and searching for content. Where it’s appropriate and possible (given we have some resources that we can’t share) it would be great for these resources to be viewed and shared publicly as OERs. If Jorum and Hum Box etc together with other instituional repositories were like this too that’d be even better. Couldn’t JISC put some money up to develop a system like this?

  3. Hi Natalie,

    Spotted this post via G+ and wanted to comment here directly.

    Are you aware of the BBC Digital Public Space project ?? Details are in one of my posts from last year:- http://www.science3point0.com/mcblawg/2011/08/05/repository-fringe-2011-review/ If you can spare 20 minutes, do check out the video of the BBC’s Mo McRoberts who is in charge of it 😉

    When that project is released, that’s going to be an absolutely massive OER resource of previously unshared material.


    1. Hi Graham – thanks for stopping by and commenting and passing on the link to your post. I wasn’t aware of the BBC public digital space project so many thanks for sharing it. I’ll look forward to watching it 🙂

  4. I’m not one to defend repositories (i’d be happy if they went under a rock and died – mostly because everything they are supposed to do, they just don’t do, at all) but why can’t Jorum be more like slideshare is a slightly unfair comparison. Jorum has to deal with all manner of media types – Slideshare, only one really. Humbox does a good job with a variety of forms, but I could see why you’d say it wasn’t perfect.

    Also, I am not surprised content on big sites gets more traffic – surely this is logical. Sainsburys bakery section will get more visits than the bakers on the corner, but does this mean the bread is better? Just means more people. That sort of measurement seems to be vague and a bit of a golden cow. More people visited the page on which my presentation was available does tend to lead to the follow up question – and that means?

    The point I find interesting is leaving a VLE for WordPress (I was talking last week with some one about how VLEs are a typical University Big IT system, like repositories, which tend to exist because we think they need to) – suggesting that perhaps a repository plugin for WordPress might make sense?

    1. Hi Pat, yes perhaps a bit unfair on Jorum, but would be nice if a repository cold deal with different content types. We’re actually looking at using ePrints and the EdShare plugin that HumBox is built on for ours.
      We did think about whether we could use WordPress as a repository, but a repository plugin for WordPress could be worth exploring :)At the end of the day what I want to see is a good user experience for our students and teachers and have a system that enjoy engaging with.

  5. That’s the main thing – engagement is key – and more often than not services (such as embedding) or rich content display (such as slideshare) help make something engaging.

    I think most repositories and VLEs suffer because the UX (user experience) is so poor. But if you want poor UX, try a library system.

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