eLearning Network Meeting – Social Bookmarking – MOOCs

The first e-learning network meeting of 2013 took place on Thursday 31st January. Over thirty staff with an interest in learning technologies from across the University met for lunch, to hear about some of the interesting and innovative activities in which colleagues are involved, and of course an opportunity for some informal discussion and networking.

The main part of the meeting was given over to an excellent presentation and discussion led by Dr Tim Bullough and Dr Andrew Green from the School of Engineering on the JISC-funded ENGrich project. This project has developed a set of student tools that greatly improve the facility of their online searches for rich multimedia resources that are discipline relevant. The returned resources can then be bookmarked and rated by the students for their usefulness for a specific module and these ratings shared within the institution and year groups. This set of tools is planned to be made available directly from the University’s student portal and whilst currently set up for Engineering students, with further development work could be repurposed for any discipline, particularly those that utilise a lot of visual resources and which also employ technical terms that have different meanings in other fields.


The initial driver for the project was the finding in Engineering that the majority of students will first turn to searching online for lecture slides and videos of lectures from any  reasonable-looking source for further information on the subject of a lecture. Two main problems were identified with this behaviour:

  • Students spent far too much time looking for relevant and useful resources (especially where basic search methods only are deployed and technical terms are also used by completely different disciplines so that irrelevant results are returned).
  • Before the project began, there were no tools in place for students to be able to share these resources between themselves where they found something particularly useful.

The first part of the project harnessed the Google Custom Search facility to create a search box which would allow students to enter simple search terms but filter out irrelevant results (Engineering uses technical terms such as stress, fracture, fatigue and strain which are common to medicine and veterinary science as well). The search can be categorised by resource format such as video or slide presentations, and the added power here is that individual resources can be quickly searched on the page without having to open them up separately.

ENGrich search and results

The second part of the project was to develop a closed space (specific to Liverpool) where students can rate resources that they found most useful and share these ratings with each other, grouped by module and programme. The ENGrich team have chosen the Learning Registry toolkit (an open source system for sharing, amongst other data, ‘ratings, reviews, comments, and other annotation data’) and used it to create a private University of Liverpool ‘Node’ where the resource ratings can be created, accessed and shared by the students.

Here’s the link to the project website and this link is to the JISC page for ENGrich. Thanks to Tim and Andrew for a superb contribution to the eLearning Network and we look forward to hearing how this project progresses in the future as it moves from its test phase. The session was videoed and a link to this will be added here when available.

We also had a quick discussion on MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) about which there has been a lot of media and academic interest, with major universities offering free online modules and programmes (mostly unaccredited) and attracting learners in the tens of thousands. The elearn-net mailing list at Liverpool has already seen a lot of interesting discussion about the value and variety of MOOCS and the eLU are planning at least one lunchtime event to explore this topic further. From the network meeting there was a positive response to the notion of MOOCs, that it would be a useful thing for Liverpool to engage with if done well, and some staff very keen to run one themselves.

Look out on our events calendar for the next eLearning Network meeting as well as for the MOOCs event, and if there is anything you would like to bring along and present or discuss at a future meeting please do get in touch with the eLU.

Please also contact the eLearning Unit if you would like to be added to the e-learning mailing list ‘elearn-net’ at the University of Liverpool.


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