Tag Archives: cloud

Is it in the Cloud?

For some, the cloud provides flexibility for learning and teaching while on the move but for many large companies they see this as unsafe and systems are locked down so tight you feel your hands are tied.

For example, this weeks episode of CSI (Season 14 – Episode 21: Kitty) has a severe case of identity fraud leading to murder which makes you wonder how much of us is out there for everyone to see and access?  The more we do online the more information there is for the unscrupulous to possess, you can see why some are cautious.

For many who may be in the middle of expansion and are recruiting heavily this can bring many challenges.  A continuous flow of new recruits who require training in their first weeks means that often courses are ‘thrown’ together.  A steady stream of training requirements with limited resources often means that there is little time to develop new content so it becomes a necessity to establish alternative learning solutions as quickly as possible.

In many areas of learning and development, technology has been embraced and is already well established as acceptable learning aids but when there are secrets at stake what is appropriate?

In some situations the classroom scenario has become either obsolete or reduced to a minimum so alternatives need to be found, this could mean combining the classroom with other modes of study.

Meanwhile, the learning environment is changing and technology is rapidly evolving.  One minute you’re ‘keeping up with the Jones’s the next, it’s old news and you feel you’re being left behind, what you know is no longer relevant.

So what should you do?  Be objective and ask yourself the following:

  1. How do you develop new content with limited resources?
  2. How do you develop yourself to deliver this training?
  3. How do you maintain your experience?
  4. How do you keep abreast of what’s happening in your chosen field?

Sharing ideas with ‘the outside world’ is one of the best methods of discovering what’s new and what’s happening today.  The learning community are excellent listeners and make great sounding boards, bouncing ideas around and testing principles.

Developing possible solutions to tricky learning situations is what it’s all about, we learn from others experiences and can take that into our own situations to produce very effective and appropriate learning solutions.

While smartphones make it easier to keep in contact and network, not everything in the World Wide Web is worth spending lots of time on so accessing bits of information quickly and easily while on the move is essential, you never know where the next great idea will come from.  Use whatever resources you can, network with the learning community, pilot learning solutions and just see what happens.

For example, some of the worst training I have seen delivered proved the old adage of ‘death by powerpoint’ as the presenter had well over 120 slides!  Some of the best and most engaging have been delivered using http://www.pechakucha.org/ and Prezi.

Finally, it doesn’t hurt to try something out, what’s the worst that can happen – it doesn’t work, so what, try something else – you never know your solution may be the one that everyone else adopts.

Repositories

There are a number of off the shelf resolutions for a central storage system for all the resources that someone creates which may include images, audio, video and eLearning resources.  The key criteria for all of the repositories is that it supports the file types you use, has an easy web interface and is easy to search and, possibly, tag with metadata and above all it needs to be scalable.

Commercial Options

Media silo
http://www.mediasilo.com/
They offer a Cloud Based storage solution which will allow online access at any time with a batch upload facility.  Used mainly for video but could be used for other formats and has a very simple interface.

Packages available:

  • Home Package (FREE): 1GB monthly bandwidth, 1GB monthly storage, 1 workspace, 1 channel and 2 users
  • Studio ($79.00/month): 5GB monthly storage, upload files up to 100MB, 5 workspaces, 2 channels and 10 users
  • Hollywood ($99.00/month): 100GB monthly storage, upload files up to 2GB, ftp upload, 5 channels, 10 concurrent projects and unlimited users
  • Enterprise ($299.00/month): Custom branding and URL, final cut server integration and increased bandwidth and storage

Sendspace
http://www.sendspace.com/
No login and password required you just send the link for a direct download.  There are no tagging or search functions and it would only be used for a quick fix when sending the odd big file to someone.

There are a number of packages which give you unlimited uploads with no advertising pop-ups and a free hosting package.

Available packages:

  • 300MB for free uploads
  • $6.99 per month
  • $29.99 for 6 months
  • $39.99 for 12 months

Dropbox
http://www.dropbox.com
File sync from anywhere with a web interface and you can either download the app for your PC, use a desktop icon where you can “click and drag” files from your pc to the drop box for sharing, or just access the files from the web interface.

It works really well and any changes show instantaneously.

However, there are no tagging/meta data features and only users invited to the area have access to the files, but you can work on them locally and save them directly to the online drop box.

Functions avaialable:

  • Online storage
  • Sync
  • File Sharing
  • Online Backup
  • Web Access
  • Security & Privacy
  • Free Mobile apps

Open Source

Language Box
http://languagebox.ac.uk/
JISC funded system designed, built and run by the Faroes project team at the University of Southampton and the University of Portsmouth.

Used for storing, managing and publishing language teaching resources on the web.  This is free and has a very simple interface and categorisation system.

This free repository is for language teachers and students alike so they can share resources, learning materials and links on web sites.  These resources can be reused as is or to create new activities.

Fedora Commons (DuraSpace)
http://www.fedora-commons.org/
“The Flexible Extensible Digital Object Repository Architecture is a conceptual framework that uses a set of abstractions about digital information to provide the basis for software systems that can manage digital information.  Developed by researchers at Cornell University as an architecture for storing, managing, and accessing digital content in the form of digital objects”.

Some of the categories are:

  • broadcasting and media
  • consortia
  • corporations
  • government agencies
  • IT-related institutions
  • medical centers and libraries
  • museums and cultural organizations
  • national and public libraries and archives
  • professional societies
  • publishing
  • research groups and projects
  • semantic and virtual library projects
    • university libraries and archives

Key features of Fedora Repository Software.

  • Store all types of content and its metadata
  • Digital content of any type can be managed and maintained
  • Metadata about content in any format can be managed and maintained
  • Scale to millions of objects
  • Access data via Web APIs (REST/SOAP)
  • Provide RDF search (SPARQL)
  • Rebuilder Utility (for disaster recovery and data migration)
  • The entire repository can be rebuilt from the digital object and content files.
  • Content Model Architecture (define “types” of objects by their content)
  • Many storage options (database and file systems)
  • JMS messaging (your apps can “listen” to repository events)
  • Web-based Administrator GUI (low-level object editing)
  • OAI-PMH Provider Service
  • GSearch (fulltext) Search Service
    • Multiple, customer driven front-ends.

Once the resources have been uploaded they can be searched through from a webpage.

intraLibrary
http://www.intrallect.com
It was originally developed for University practice about 10 years ago, it is now very much a commercial enterprise and although perhaps more expensive than the others it does offer a very extensive system for uploading and searching resources.

There are 2 licensing options as follows:

  1. “contributor” is aimed at small projects or cross-organisation collaborations.  Licensed for any number of users but limited to the amount of users who will actually be putting up the content
  2. “institutional” is designed for adoption by a whole organization and the number of contributors is not constrained, so that a large proportion of staff can contribute.

Can be used as an image bank and when searched thumbnails are displayed as well as a lightbox view while NISO z39.87 image metadata can automatically be extracted and populate the metadata fields using a template.  Digital objects such as video and audio are also supported as well as star ratings, advanced search, RSS feeds in a personal profile area, external resources either by download or by making the URL public, giving access to the resource to someone who does not have a user account.

Stores individual files, IMS and SCORM, existing elearning, portal and desktop infrastructure and file upload is through a web-based upload page.  It has a web-based metadata and classification editor tool and the administrator can configure which fields a simple search looks int.  It also supports the following metadata:

  • IMS and SCORM package manifest
  • IEEE LOM
  • IMS Learning Resource Meta-data
  • NISO z39.87 technical image metadata
  • ODRL rights expression metadata
  • Dublin Core metadata by allowing export metadata in Dublin Core XML format
  • Other types can be developed if necessary
    • Individual imported files can be exported as IMS content packages with any created metadata.

Metadata subsets can be created to allow only certain fields to be completed by the user/contributor.  Workflows exist so that a better quality of metadata can be created rather than non or poor quality information is provided.

Groups and collections with specific taxonomies or classifications for contributors to upload to can be set up and allow for different access.

Benefits:

  • Access to regular software updates
  • simple installation
  • inline configuration
  • painless upgrades
  • continuous improvement
    • long-term commitment

An alternative to intraLibrary is ePrints (University of Southampton)
http://www.soton.ac.uk/library/research/eprints/index.html
ePrints is a free software developed by at the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton.  A number of documents are supported including electronic copies of journal articles, book chapters, conference papers etc and multimedia and may include unpublished manuscripts and papers.

“Other institutions are invited (and encouraged) to set up their own open repositories for author self-archiving, using the freely-distributable EPrints software used at this site. The Southampton EPrints team can also provide hosting, training and consultancy services.”

DSpace
http://www.dspace.org
This is another open Archive initiative digital repository, similar to intraLibrary and ePrints and was developed by HP and MIT.  It is freely customisable and also allows for public files to be indexed on popular search engines such as scholar.

It can be set up to host and manage subject based repositories, dataset repositories or media based repositories.

Key features include:

  • Downloaded from sourceforge the open source software repository
  • Customise the interface, while the metadata (default is Dublin core) with MARC and MODS, tools required include crosswalk and some technical capability to map transfer of data.
  • Standards compatible – complies with OAI-PMH, OAI-ORE, SWORD, WebDAV, OpenSearch, OpenURL, RSS, ATOM
  • Configurable Browse and Search
  • Configurable database – PostgreSQL or Oracle, DSpace manages its metadata
  • Installed out of the box, on to single Linux, MAC OSX or Windows box (DSpace Demostration Site)
  • Supports PDF, Word, JPEG, MPEG, TIFF files – also has a simple file format registry

Conclusions

There were many possibilities for repositories, the best of which have been detailed above, it all comes down to Free, or paid for and if paid for how much are we willing to spend as this will govern the features and/or functionality of the repository.  Some of the more complicated systems such as intraLibrary will take a great deal of setup time and will need an administrator controlling access, metadata etc but in the long run when all of the resources are stored in one place, easy to search, download and re-use, the initial effort will be worth it.

I believe that the 3 top open source options are intraLibrary, eSpace and DSpace and they are all worth a closer look, but there are many more commercial options available…basically you pay your money and take your choice.  In the end it comes down to what criterias will be best served with the money you have to spend 🙂