The research and development (R&D) department of eXact learning solutions, the online and mobile learning content management solutions provider, has successfully concluded a project to develop tools and facilities to access a critical mass of management education and training open educational resources (OERs).
The breakthrough has come as a result of the OpenScout project, an EU-funded eContentplus project which concluded at the end of August. The project aims to promote the use, improvement and distribution of open contents about management education and training.
Specifically, OpenScout aims to:
- Provide skills-based search and retrieval web services within learning content management systems (LCMSs) and social network platforms to end users, increasing the use of open content within LCMSs as well as enabling access to web 2.0 social network platforms. The searched for, and retrieved, content originates from a large pool of content repositories. It can be used in a number of ways, either as part of formal learning scenarios or as informal learning content offered directly to end users.
- Support user-improved content, integrating a number of content management and use models with the potential for cross-cultural/national transferability to build an open community of providers. In this community, users are enabled and supported to localise, adapt and improve existing materials and also re-publish them.
This has been achieved via:
- Inter-connection of a large pool of open content repositories via a Content Federation, which provides integrated access to all learning resources from the consortium and to external management-related resources.
- Access and publishing service integration which integrates services for the publishing process.
- Improvement and adaptation services that enable users to adapt contents to their context, requirements and needs. This includes web authoring tools as well as metadata tools to make contents accessible to the public.
- Support for accessing contents from LMSs/LCMSs, other systems and social networks, via mash-ups, plug-ins, extensions and integrations into learning and social platforms.
- Large scale implementation and community building, via a cooperative design and validation of the proposed solutions.
Fabrizio Giorgini, Head of eXact learning solutions’ R&D department explained: “eXact learning solutions has led the integration of high level services within the target groups’ existing learning solutions. This has involved us in developing a ‘connector’ to gather, orchestrate and promote the OpenScout services.
“External services were also used in combination with the search service across the OpenScout federation of repositories to provide mash-ups that enrich the search results with further information, such as Google books, YouTube and RSS feeds – as well as services such as job offers.
“The project integrated OpenScout services with learning management and learning content management systems (LMSs/LCMSs), such as CLIX and Moodle LMSs, eXact learning’s LCMS, Liferay and ROLE – as well as other systems,” he continued.
“In some cases, widgets were developed and embedded – that is, packaging was conducted according to the W3C Widget specification.
“Wookie widgets can then be hosted in a container application, such as Drupal. In addition, a couple of Moodle blocks were developed that allow access to the OpenScout search services either directly inside the LMS or in a new browser tab.
“In addition, an iOS application was also developed to make OpenScout attractive to more potential users. There’s even the potential to develop mobile apps for Android as well as an iPhone version of the OpenScout Search Widget.”
To grant access to OpenScout content search and retrieval facilities, eXact learning solutions’ LCMS has been extended to allow the system administrator to add and/or remove OpenSocial compliant gadgets, using a customisable template form.
Fabrizio Cardinali, CEO of eXact Learning Solutions’ North America and Australia operations and Senior Vice President of the company’s Global Business Development, said: “In terms of social networks, the project’s members have integrated OpenScout search services with iGoogle, Facebook and Elgg. Furthermore, OpenScout RSS feeds can be shared to the social networks Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to alert users to the most popular learning resources and the most used search term each day – as well as newly uploaded contents.
“This exciting advance has the potential to further revolutionise the corporate learning world, making learning materials easily available via social media networks delivered to ‘static’ or mobile devices,” he added.