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Archive for March 2012

Data visualisation and advanced MUSKETry

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One of Jamie Mahoney’s ON Course blog posts suggested this train of thought. It was started by a quote from Edward Tufte’s ‘Visual Display of Quantitative Information’:

“What is to be sought in designs for the display of information is the clear portrayal of complexity. Not the complication of the simple; rather the task of the designer is to give visual access to the subtle and the difficult, that is – the revelation of the complex.”

This doesn’t apply just to data visualisation of course. What we’re trying to do with XCRI-CAP I think is ‘the clear portrayal of complexity’ of provision, albeit primarily in textual form. Much of the design work in XCRI-CAP is intended to provide a relatively simple way of modelling some highly complicated course structures.

For those familiar with Middlesex University’s MUSKET tools, the MUSKET approach gives us the opportunity to use data visualisation techniques in course comparison. MUSKET can assess and give quantitative values to similarities between textual descriptions of courses. These quantitative values can then be displayed graphically for ease of initial comparison. Subsequently the user can investigate in more detail, by reading the textual content, those areas that the graphics suggest would be the highest priority.

I guess there is an obvious link to the KIS initiative here, as that deals explicitly with course comparison. I wonder if the principles expounded in Tufte’s book can be applied to KIS data sets, and also to XCRI-CAP data sets?


Written by benthamfish

March 28, 2012 at 8:23 am

Posted in XCRI

Look before you Leap2A

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We were engaged in January 2012 by JISC to carry out a review of the current status of implementations of the Leap2A specification. Leap2A is a spec for e-portfolio data exchange.

With the excellent help of practitioners from Pebble Learning, Nottingham’s CIePD, University of Glasgow, ULCC and others we summarised the benefits. Leap2A:
• enables data exchange;
• promotes use of e-portfolios by learners;
• promotes high quality data;
• eases upgrade and migration;
• promotes interoperability; and
• encourages innovative service development.

We made some recommendations to JISC for activities in the short, medium and long term, which will have to await the publication of the report. We also came up with some use cases, which I’d like to share in this blog post.

In some senses the “problem” with Leap2A, if there is one, is an implication of the relative lack of take-up of e-portfolios; they’re not yet mainstream, so practice has tended to be within relatively small communities. If there’s not a huge amount of usage, then a spec for exchanging the data won’t get much usage either.

We felt that there were some useful use cases in any event. Improving the current use case of data transfer from one system to another, so that it becomes seamless from the point of view of the learner is a fairly obvious one – currently Leap2A based data exchange is mainly via separate export and import routines, and not always under learner control.

There’s also aggregation – the requirement to import several extracts from different portfolio systems into a common system, for example so that an employer or university can review learner
activities across many different e-portfolio types from within one common interface. Nottingham’s CIePD is currently experimenting with this type of usage.

I also wonder whether there is mileage in what I’ve termed “wrapped data transfer”. The requirement here is to map and export selected information from an e-portfolio into an externally-provided wrapper or template. For example a professional individual transferring CPD or other relevant information automatically to a professional body, mapping evidence and experience to the context indicated in the template, or an applicant selecting specific information for transfer into an application form. I suspect that this linked to competence specifications too (see our earlier work on the InteropAbility spec).

This use case depends on some form of (preferably standardised) template – possibly akin to a HEAR template. The e-portfolio would need some form of template service that will render the template in its interface for the learner to drag-and-drop stuff into. Although this type of use case requires (i) data exchange, (ii) template, (iii) data selection, there might be the possibility in the longer term of a seamless dialogue between systems, so that eventually we get to continuous update processes, rather than ad hoc single activities.

Written by benthamfish

March 6, 2012 at 9:20 am

Posted in Leap2A

Round 2 of data definitions continues

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As part of the JISC funded Course Data Programme (XCRI-related activities) I’ve been amending v1.6 of the Data Definitions document and v2.0 of the Vocabulary Framework for a few days now. Rather more has come up than expected – therefore it’s a bit later than I’d originally wanted.

Current burning issues include:

  • Licencing
  • Namespaces and how to use them correctly – introduction of a schema (and associated namespace) for CourseDataProgramme extensions and new data types
  • Which items should be mandatory and which preferred (qualification >> identifier, provider >> description in particular)
  • How to handle postal addresses * Phone numbers for international students
  • Use of markup (or not) in descriptive elements
  • Should presentation >> title inherit from course >> title?
  • Publication of the first VDEX vocabularies for the Course Data Programme
  • Difficulties of using URIs as identifiers
  • Content of <cost> element
  • Use of entity references in XML instances

There’s also a vocabularies meeting run by CETIS this week, at which those interested in practical action have an opportunity to offer ‘motivating pitches’ about why vocabularies are important, and to engage in discussions about a way forward for managing them.


Written by benthamfish

March 5, 2012 at 9:11 am

Posted in XCRI