“Enovation proved to be an expert and helpful partner on this project. At all times they worked closely with our team and were able to overcome any issues we encountered. We are delighted to have been able to meet our deadlines and that the project has been so successful.”
The National Digital Learning Repository (NDLR) provides services and support to enable the sharing of digital learning content and teaching experience across Universities, Institutes of Technologies and associated Colleges supported by the HEA. The NDLR mission is "to promote and support Higher Education sector staff in the collaboration, development and sharing of learning resources and associate teaching practices". The NDLR provides an online repository and community portal to support collaboration and sharing of teaching and learning resources within the Irish Third Level Education sector.
DSpace, the best technology for the job
The team running the NDLR is dedicated to enhancing the standards of teaching and learning in Ireland. This includes using the best possible technology to support their initiatives. Following an initial pilot between 2004-2009, the project team conducted a project review to identify areas for improvement during the roll-out stage. As a result of the evaluative feedback during the NDLR pilot service, a number of changes have been implemented to support the full NDLR services. These enhancements were implemented to strengthen the NDLR support infrastructure and usability as part of the roll out of the repository as a National service. The objectives of the NDLR are to:
- Encourage individual staff members as well as group and community higher education sector staff to share, develop and reuse digital learning resources and associated teaching practices.
- Promote technology enhanced learning via shared expertise in digital content development & technology.
- Promote the quality application of technology enhanced learning via sharing expertise in digital content development and technology.
- Promote the development of open access digital rights teaching resources.
DSpace technology supports easy search, access, reuse activities as well as making the task of contributing digital content to the repository less onerous. New developments in the DSpace repository through creative commons licensing supports open access, increased sharing, effective collaboration and attributions of use for the content creators.
“We expect DSpace to be instrumental with helping us to make huge advancements as we move from pilot to full national service and advance to the next level, “said Catherine Bruen, NDLR Project Coordinator. It has improved infrastructure, search, storage and bulk upload facility. It integrates with our subject discipline portal as well as being directly accessible via Institutional and University learning management systems. It’s now possible to use federated user authentication (e.g. Eduroam) for uploading resources to the NDLR repository.”
Key DSpace Features:
- Manage content in any format text, video, audio.
- Publish/share content in a controlled manner.
- Provide standards-compliant metadata.
- Persistent handle support.
- Workflow preservation.
Bring in the Bespoke Experts
The NDLR project team chose to work with Enovation Solutions because of their extensive repository expertise with other Universities in Ireland and their proven background meeting client’s specific business and technology requirements with open source technology and managed services.
Catherine Bruen, NDLR Project Coordinator: “Enovation Solutions excel at open source development support in the education sector. We have worked with them on other projects over the years and they are experts at delivering bespoke solutions.”
Enovation worked with the NDLR team to deliver the DSpace enhancements as outlined in their project review documentation. The main requirements included providing a community interface to the site by adding a social peer review element, enhancing the storage capability and allowing access through separate websites. Enovation started working on the project in August 2009 and are due to be finished in time for the official launch in April 2010. An outline of requirements and services are detailed below.
- General Site Design - Enovation created a new DSpace front page.
- Development - Enovation customised the site in line with the NDLR’s project requirements to include metadata, workflows and specific searches.
- Training - Enovation provided DSpace training to the NDLR team.
- Testing - Enovation performed unit and system testing on the site in the run up to the launch.
- Project Management - Enovation managed the project in line with its proven project management methodologies.
- Support - Enovation provide on-going support to ensure the stability of the repository.
Referencing - all about Creative Commons
The success of a repository depends largely on the synergies within the community of users and the digital content and materials being shared through the repository and portal. It is also about making people aware that by bringing together their collective resources and sharing their expertise they can raise the profile of their work both in Ireland and abroad. Up to now, the NDLR pilot has been a closed entity for use by the Irish higher education community only with a bespoke license. Collaborative partnerships with national and international institutions, organisations and industries have been restricted.
Enovation Solutions have worked with the NDLR team to implement creative commons licensing allowing them to embrace the Open Educational Resources (OER’s) movement. OER’s are a fantastic resource for teaching because they are free to use or share and share again. The creative commons licensing via this new environment means that anyone, anywhere may view and utilise the resources therein under the creative commons license permissions. Looking to the future, the NDLR OER service should enable the collaborative development of resources across the education sector in Ireland and internationally.
Gavin Henrick, solutions consultant at Enovation Solutions who worked on the project had this to say about the NDLR: “Ireland is now ahead of its European counterparts in terms of the repository technology. This is evident when you look at the NDLR project and their approach to not just the technology but teaching and learning practices. The success of the project has everything got to do with the team’s energy and enthusiasm for collaborative learning and their belief in the power of the collective.”