Endings and new beginnings

This post highlights some recent updates from individual project blogs which are authored as part of JISC’s current Content Programme. The programme is divided into strands, some of which will be completing in January 2013 and projects were asked to articulate what they perceive as their value and to describe their strategies for sustainability, topics which are red-hot at the moment.  There are too many recent updates to fully summarise here, so the following provides only a flavour of what is happening in the programme. You can find all programme blogs aggregated here.

A recent blog post from The Welsh Experience World War One project based at the National Library of Wales highlights the truly national nature of the resulting digital resource. The project has worked closely with academics, the Welsh Government, museums and the library and archive community in Wales to ensure the resource becomes fully embedded. This demonstrates how projects can reach out widely in order to disseminate and hopefully secure their future by becoming key national resources. The content, created over the lifecycle of the project, presents a multitude of opportunities for new research in a variety of disciplines. The post highlights themes which might be developed by research communities in subjects such as sociology, languages and art history.

By unearthing and re-purposing interview material that had been produced as part of a research project with political Spanish émigrés, the OpenLives project, at the University of Southampton has developed innovative approaches to curriculum design and the creation of student-centred teaching resources. The project has taken great effort to engage students in the process of content creation.  It also curates its content on platforms such as Humbox, a resource created as part of a previous JISC initiative. This is a prime example of projects using existing resources as part of their sustainability strategies.

Manufacturing Pasts, a project which is being delivered by the University of Leicester’s Centre for Urban History, proposes that contributing to ‘something bigger’ (beyond the project) should enable its Open Educational Resources (OERs) to remain relevant and become sustainable long-term. So sustainability is not necessarily about identifying resources (people, material and time) or developing business models; it could equally be about reaching out and finding others to help disseminated and embed resources created during a project lifecycle. The article goes on to say that dissemination is also aided by becoming part of larger aggregations, such as JISC Media Hub and iTunesU; ultimately this too should support a sustainable future. The post suggests that the project has contributed to the University’s strategy for digitising its special collections.

The impact on institutional capacity and strategy is something we are keen to measure and this post from the Object-Based Learning for Higher Education project at the University of Reading indicates that the programme has contributed to the university’s strategic objectives. This again demonstrates that content creation projects might be a catalyst for improving an institution’s overall capacity to deliver digital material to its users.

The Old Maps Online project, at the University of Portsmouth, suggests it has started to influence how libraries think about their geographical holdings. This illustrates how content projects can create impact beyond the delivery and use of materials. The project has delivered fantastic results, not least an early launch of the website back in March 2012. The post highlights the implementation of new map software, persuasion of digital map libraries from around the world to contribute, helping UK libraries to add geo-metadata to collections and encouraging map libraries to think about improving their geographical map metadata. Hopefully these achievements will have a longer term impact on the discovery and access of maps in the UK and internationally.

As we head towards the conclusion of this programme, it is becoming evident that these kinds of project are becoming savvier about adding value and are building on the lessons learned from previous work to build a digital portfolio for the HE and FE sectors. We can now look forward to some very exciting resources and enhancements to the UK capacity for digital teaching, learning and research.


By Peter Findlay

Subject Matter Expert, Digital Scholarship, Content and Discovery, Jisc

Working with Jisc's Higher Education members to improve access to to their special collections in the age of data-centric arts, humanities and social science research.

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