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An Overview of the D+ Project

15 Jun, 2005
Resource discovery supports the core functions of Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and digital repository systems, as well as enabling existing resources to be identified and repurposed for teaching. The project (d+) developed a toolkit corresponding to three common services areas of the proposed services oriented JISC e-Learning Framework, i.e. federated search, search and resolver services.

Resource discovery supports the core functions of Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and digital repository systems, as well as enabling existing resources to be identified and repurposed for teaching. While considerable advances have been made in enabling the reuse of existing online resources, accessing deep and distributed resources ("deep web") remains an essential requirement for the e-learning communities. The provision of editing tools for learning objects per se does not necessarily lead to the widespread creation of learning objects unless these tools are able to access the vast amount of legacy metadata and digital resources as "raw materials" to re-purpose.

The project (d+) developed a toolkit corresponding to three common services areas of the proposed services oriented JISC e-Learning Framework, i.e. federated search, search and resolver services. The toolkit consists of a core (d+) framework, a reference services consumer (web application) and an OpenURL resolver. The framework mediates the discovery of deep resources in distributed and heterogeneous repositories from portals, tools and VLEs. It exposes the functionalities of repositories via a web service interface. The functions are based on the reference models of the IMS Digital Repositories Specification. The repository systems searchable by the toolkit: standard Z39.50 (e.g. library catalogues, BIOME, SOSIG, ePrints UK, RDN, British Library, Copac, ZETOC), SRW/U bibliographic databases, Xgrain/GetRef (EDINA), DSpace (open-source institutional repository), learning objects repositories (COLIS, Adlib), IntraLibrary, PubMed, Amazon, Google.

Scenarios of Use

1. Institutional Context d+ services and toolkit (brokerage) can be utilised to support resource discovery functions of digital repository systems, VLEs and portals. For example, it can provide basic use cases such as searching, browsing of library resources from within VLEs and portals. The brokerage enables resources from various repositories to be cross searched via a standardised system interface and exposes the search results (resource metadata) in XML format. The results can subsequently be rendered in a presentation style appropriate to the (extrinsic) portals and VLEs, e.g. see WebCT resource list exemplar, MVM VLEs exemplar. d+ can be used as a shared service (proxy) within an institutional setting, to underpin the resource discovery services among a range of institutional departmental portals, e.g. Wi-Fi portal exemplar. In addition, d+ can also mediate the fusion and mapping of metadata from distributed sources for "data enrichment" purposes. For example, see an e-book metadata which is originated from a dynamic (runtime) combination of library bibliographic metadata and user annotations (from Amazon).

Other use scenarios may be derived from the interoperability context of X4L (JISC Exchange for Learning Programme) tools. For example, searching, importing and re-purposing library metadata within learning object editor such as RELOAD; facilitating movements of learning objects packaged in metadata containers (e.g. IMS Content Packages) among the tools and repositories such as the Jorum test bed and E3AN.

2. Binding d+ services within VLEs and Portals The College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine (MVM) at the University of Edinburgh runs a cluster of in house VLEs: EEMeC, EEVeC and EEPoP, to support the MBChB and other courses. Compared to the WebCT approach of embedding a web widget, the MVM VLE developers implemented a client-side resource discovery application that consumes or binds the d+ SRU search services directly. The search results are rendered and controlled according to the requirements of the MVM VLE cluster . Since the MVM VLE cluster is implemented and hosted on a Microsoft .NET infrastructure, and d+ on a Java application server environment, this exemplar also demonstrates the interoperability of web services among different technological platforms

D+ services can also be embedded within web portals, for example as a channel in UPortal. This scenario is currently being piloted by the MyEd (www.myed.ed.ac.uk) portal which is based on UPortal.

3. WebCT Integration d+ brokerage facilitates the underlying search service of the DEVIL (Dynamically Enhancing VLEs with Information from the Library) utilities. The utilities are represented in a minimised portal ("portlet" or "widget") customised to blend in with WebCT . The widget provides a seamless and simple way of searching a number of different catalogues and databases for resources (books, journals, single articles, and web sites) relevant to the WebCT courses. Users can also embed the widget as a course tool.

4. Wi-Fi Portal for Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) Mobile devices are becoming essential means of accessing online information. The availability of wireless broadband (Wi-Fi) internet hotspots also augments this trend. There is an increasing demand for portals developed specifically for PDA usage. d+ brokerage can be developed to provide search services for a minimised portal customised to screen size of the PDA display. It provides a basic search facility for library (Edinburgh University), RDN (peer-reviewed websites) and ePrints UK databases. The latter enables journal articles to be downloaded directly into the PDA for reading.

 

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