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FACETED SEARCH OF OPEN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES USING THE DESIRABILITY INDEX

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The open educational resources (OER) movement has gained considerable momentum in the past few years. According to the Paris OER Declaration, OER can be defined as “teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions. Open licensing is built within the existing framework of intellectual property rights as defined by relevant international conventions and respects the authorship of the work”. With this drive towards making knowledge open and accessible, a large number of OER repositories have been established and made available online throughout the world. However, the limitation of existing search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, and Bing to effectively search for useful OER that are useful or fit for teaching purposes is a major factor contributing to the slow uptake of the movement. As a major step to solve this issue, the researcher has designed, developed and tested OERScout, a technology framework based on text mining solutions. Utilizing the concept of faceted search, the system allows academics to search heterogeneous OER repositories for useful resources from a central location. Furthermore, the desirability framework has been conceptualized to parametrically measure the usefulness of an OER with respect to openness, accessibility and relevance attributes. The objectives of the project are: (i) to identify user difficulties in searching OER for academic purposes; (ii) to identify the limitations of existing OER search methodologies with respect to locating fit-for-purpose resources from heterogeneous repositories; (iii) to conceptualize a framework for parametrically measuring the suitability of OER for academic use; and (iv) to design a technology framework to facilitate the accurate centralized search of OER from heterogeneous repositories. The major contributions of this research work are twofold: The first contribution is a conceptual framework which can be used by search engines to parametrically measure the usefulness of an OER, taking into consideration the openness, accessibility and relevance attributes. The advantage of this framework is that, using the well-established four R’s and ALMS frameworks, it can restructure search results to prioritize the resources which are the easiest to reuse, redistribute, revise and remix. As a result, academics practicing the Open and Distance Learning (ODL) mode of delivery can locate resources which can be readily used in their teaching and learning. The second contribution is a search mechanism which uses text mining techniques and a faceted search interface to provide a centralized OER search tool to locate useful resources from the heterogeneous repositories for academic purposes. One of the key advantages of this search mechanism is its ability to autonomously identify and annotate OER with domain specific keywords. As a result, this search mechanism provides a central search tool which can effectively search for OER from any repository regardless of the technology platforms or metadata standards used. Another major advantage is the utilization of the conceptual framework which can parametrically measure the usefulness of an OER in terms of fit-for-purpose. As a result, academics are able to easily locate high quality OER from around the world which best fit their academic needs.
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FACETED SEARCH OF OPEN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES
USING THE DESIRABILITY INDEX
ISHAN SUDEERA ABEYWARDENA
THESIS SUBMITTED IN FULFILMENT OF THE
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
FACULTY OF COMPUTER SCIENCE AND
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
UNIVERSITY OF MALAYA
KUALA LUMPUR
MALAYSIA
2015
ii
Abstract
The open educational resources (OER) movement has gained considerable momentum
in the past few years. According to the Paris OER Declaration, OER can be defined as
teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that
reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits
no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited
restrictions. Open licensing is built within the existing framework of intellectual
property rights as defined by relevant international conventions and respects the
authorship of the work”.
With this drive towards making knowledge open and accessible, a large number of
OER repositories have been established and made available online throughout the
world. However, the limitation of existing search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, and
Bing to effectively search for useful OER that are useful or fit for teaching purposes is
a major factor contributing to the slow uptake of the movement. As a major step to
solve this issue, the researcher has designed, developed and tested OERScout, a
technology framework based on text mining solutions. Utilizing the concept of faceted
search, the system allows academics to search heterogeneous OER repositories for
useful resources from a central location. Furthermore, the desirability framework has
been conceptualized to parametrically measure the usefulness of an OER with respect
to openness, accessibility and relevance attributes.
The objectives of the project are: (i) to identify user difficulties in searching OER for
academic purposes; (ii) to identify the limitations of existing OER search
methodologies with respect to locating fit-for-purpose resources from heterogeneous
repositories; (iii) to conceptualize a framework for parametrically measuring the
iii
suitability of OER for academic use; and (iv) to design a technology framework to
facilitate the accurate centralized search of OER from heterogeneous repositories.
The major contributions of this research work are twofold:
The first contribution is a conceptual framework which can be used by search engines
to parametrically measure the usefulness of an OER, taking into consideration the
openness, accessibility and relevance attributes. The advantage of this framework is
that, using the well-established four R’s and ALMS frameworks, it can restructure
search results to prioritize the resources which are the easiest to reuse, redistribute,
revise and remix. As a result, academics practicing the Open and Distance Learning
(ODL) mode of delivery can locate resources which can be readily used in their
teaching and learning.
The second contribution is a search mechanism which uses text mining techniques and
a faceted search interface to provide a centralized OER search tool to locate useful
resources from the heterogeneous repositories for academic purposes. One of the key
advantages of this search mechanism is its ability to autonomously identify and
annotate OER with domain specific keywords. As a result, this search mechanism
provides a central search tool which can effectively search for OER from any
repository regardless of the technology platforms or metadata standards used. Another
major advantage is the utilization of the conceptual framework which can
parametrically measure the usefulness of an OER in terms of fit-for-purpose. As a
result, academics are able to easily locate high quality OER from around the world
which best fit their academic needs.
iv
Abstrak
Seja akhir-akhir ini, pergerakan Sumber Pendidikan Terbuka (SPT) telah mula
bermomentum. Menurut Deklarasi SPT Paris , SPT boleh ditakrifkan sebagai
"bahan-bahan pengajaran, pembelajaran dan penyelidikan dalam berbagai jenis
medium, digital atau sebaliknya, yang berada di domain awam atau dikeluarkan
sebagai lesen terbuka yang membenarkan akses percuma, digunakan, disesuaikan dan
diedarkan semula oleh orang lain tanpa sekatan atau sekatan minima. Pelesenan
terbuka dibina dalam kerangka hak-hak harta intelek seperti yang ditakrifkan oleh
konvensyen antarabangsa yang berkaitan dan menghormati pengarang kerja itu".
Dengan kewujudan pemanduan baru ini ke arah menjadikan ilmu pengetahuan lebih
terbuka dan mudah diakses, banyak repositori SPT telah dibina dan disediakan dalam
talian untuk kegunaan seluruh dunia. Walau bagaimanapun, pembatasan enjin carian
yang sedia ada seperti Google, Yahoo!, dan Bing dalam carian SPT yang boleh dipakai
atau yang menetapi ciri-ciri pengunaan untuk tujuan pengajaran merupakan satu faktor
utama yang menyumbangkan kepada kelembaban pergerakan itu pada keseluruhannya.
Sebagai langkah utama dalam penyelesaian masalah yang tertera, projek ini
mengesyorkan OERScout, satu rangka kerja teknologi berdasarkan pengunaan
perlombongan teks. Mengunakan konsep carian pelbagai aspek, sistem ini
membolehkan para akademik mencari beraneka repositori SPT untuk sumber-sumber
yang berguna dari satu lokasi utama. Tambahan pula, rangka kerja keinginan adalah
berkonsep pengukuran secara berparameter kesesuaian SPT berdasarkan sifat-sifat
keterbukaan, akses dan sifat-sifat berkaitan.
Objektif projek ini adalah (i) untuk mengenal pasti secara terperinci sebab, dari
perspektif pengguna, yang menyumbang kepada ketidakupayaan mencari SPT untuk
v
tujuan akademik, (ii) untuk mengenal pasti batasan kaedah carian SPT yang sedia ada
khususnya bagi carian sumber yang tepat dari pelbagai repositori, (iii) untuk
mengkonsepsikan satu rangka kerja bagi mengukur secara berparameter kesesuaian
SPT untuk penggunaan akademik; dan (iv) untuk mereka bentuk satu kerangka
teknologi yang akan memudah dan memusatkan carian SPT yang berupaya memberi
keputusan tepat dari pelbagai repositori.
Sumbangan utama kerja-kerja penyelidikan ini adalah berlipat ganda:
Sumbangan pertama adalah rangka konsep yang boleh digunakan oleh enjin carian
untuk mengukur secara berparameter kebergunaan SPT, dengan mengambil kira
keterbukaan, akses dan sifat-sifat berkaitan. Kelebihan rangka kerja ini adalah dengan
penggunaan rangka kerja 4'R’ dan ALMS yang termuka, ia boleh menyusun semula
hasil carian dengan mengutamakan sumber yang paling mudah diguna, diagih, disemak
dan dicampurkan semula. Ini akan membolehkan , ahli akademik yang mengamalkan
kaedah pengajian secara terbuka dan jarak jauh (ODL) mengesan sumber yang sedia
digunakan dalam pengajaran dan pembelajaran mereka.
Sumbangan kedua adalah mekanisme carian menggunakan teknik perlombongan teks
dan berbagai carian antara muka dalam menyediakan satu alat carian terpusat SPT
untuk mencari sumber-sumber yang berguna daripada pelbagai repositori untuk tujuan
akademik. Satu kelebihan utama mekanisme carian ini adalah keupayaan untuk
mengenal pasti secara autonomi identiti SPT melalui anotasi SPT yang menggunakan
kata kunci domain tertentu. Hasilnya, mekanisme carian ini menyediakan alat carian
terpusat yang mampu mencari dengan berkesan SPT dari mana-mana repositori tanpa
mengambil kira platform teknologi atau standard metadata yang digunakan. Satu lagi
kelebihan utama ialah penggunaan rangka kerja yang mengukur secara berparameter
kebergunaan SPT dari aspek tepat diguna. Hasilnya, ahli akademik terutama mereka
vi
yang berada di Selatan Global akan dapat mencari dengan mudah SPT yang berkualiti
tinggi dari seluruh dunia yang berupaya memenuhi keperluan akademik masing-
masing.
viii
Acknowledgements
Research Supervisor:
Dr Chan Chee Seng, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Computer Science and
Information Technology, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
This doctoral research project is funded by:
The Grant (#102791) generously made by the International Development
Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada through an umbrella study on Openness and
Quality in Asian Distance Education. The principle investigator of this project
was Tan Sri Dato’ Emeritus Professor Gajaraj Dhanarajan, Chairman, Board of
Governors, Wawasan Open University. I acted as the co-investigator of this
project. The items on OER search was designed by me for the larger survey
instrument. The survey responses by individuals to these items have been used
as a part of this Thesis with the permission of the principal investigator.
The Education Assistance Program (EAP) of Wawasan Open University,
Penang, Malaysia.
I acknowledge the support provided by:
Tan Sri Dato’ Emeritus Professor Gajaraj Dhanarajan, Chairman, Board of
Governors, Wawasan Open University.
Dato’ Dr Wong Tat Meng, Member, Board of Governors, Wawasan Open
University.
Professor Dato’ Dr Ho Sinn Chye, Vice Chancellor, Wawasan Open University.
Professor Dr Tham Choy Yoong, former Dean of the School of Science and
Technology, Wawasan Open University.
ix
Dr S. Raviraja, formerly of the Faculty of Computer Science and Information
Technology, University of Malaya.
Professor A. Kanwar and Dr. V. Balaji of the Commonwealth of Learning
(COL), Vancouver, Canada through an Executive Secondment (4th 25th May
2012).
Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (A) to Tsuneo Yamada at the Open
University of Japan (JSPS, Grant No. 23240110) as partial sponsorship to attend
the 26th Asian Association of Open Universities (AAOU) annual conference,
Chiba, Japan.
Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University as partial sponsorship to attend the
57th World Assembly of International Council on Education for Teaching (ICET
2013), Thailand.
Commonwealth of Learning (COL) in the form of a grant to attend the 7th Pan-
Commonwealth Forum in Abuja, Nigeria;
Dr David Murphy and Puan Kamsiah Mohd Ali with respect to proofreading
and editing.
Alex Jean-wah Wong, Bharathi Harishankar, Choo-Khai Lim, David Porter,
Farzanah Ali Hassan, Jose Dutra de Oliveira Neto, Khoo Suan Choo, Kin-sun
Yuen, Li Yawan, Li Ying, Minh Do, Naveed A. Malik, Patricia B. Arinto,
Tsuneo Yamada, Vighnarajah and Yong Kim.
I thank my family for the moral support provided.
x
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 : Introduction ......................................................................................................... 2
1.1 Problem Statements and Research Objectives ............................................................... 4
1.1.1 Problem Statements ............................................................................................... 5
1.1.2 Research Objectives ............................................................................................... 6
1.2 Research Approach ...................................................................................................... 7
1.3 Research Contributions ................................................................................................ 9
1.4 Outline of Chapters .................................................................................................... 11
Summary ......................................................................................................................... 12
Chapter 2 : Literature Review .............................................................................................. 14
2.1 Open Educational Resources ...................................................................................... 15
2.1.1 Definition ............................................................................................................ 15
2.1.2 Copyright............................................................................................................. 16
2.1.3 Media Formats ..................................................................................................... 18
2.1.4 Creation and Curation .......................................................................................... 19
2.1.5 Delivery ............................................................................................................... 21
2.1.6 Funding and Sustainability ................................................................................... 21
2.1.7 Impact ................................................................................................................. 22
2.1.8 Future Direction ................................................................................................... 23
2.2 The OER Search Dilemma ......................................................................................... 25
2.2.1 Issues Related OER Search .................................................................................. 25
2.2.2 Metadata .............................................................................................................. 28
2.3. Important OER Search Initiatives .............................................................................. 35
2.3.1 Federated Search.................................................................................................. 35
2.3.2 Semantic Search .................................................................................................. 38
Summary ......................................................................................................................... 42
Chapter 3 : Methodology ..................................................................................................... 44
3.1 Empirical Research .................................................................................................... 45
3.1.1 Overview ............................................................................................................. 45
3.1.2 Survey Instrument ................................................................................................ 47
3.1.3 Data Collection and Analysis ............................................................................... 47
3.2 The Conceptual Framework ....................................................................................... 49
xi
3.2.1 Rationale ............................................................................................................. 49
3.2.2 Definitions ........................................................................................................... 50
3.2.3 The Scales ........................................................................................................... 52
3.2.4 Calculations ......................................................................................................... 54
3.2.5 Verification of Concept ........................................................................................ 55
3.3 OERScout Technology Framework ............................................................................ 59
3.3.1 The Algorithm ..................................................................................................... 61
3.3.2 Keyword-Document Matrix ................................................................................. 63
3.3.3 Calculation of the Desirability ............................................................................. 64
3.4 Prototype Development .............................................................................................. 66
3.4.1 System Architecture ............................................................................................. 66
3.4.2 User Interface ...................................................................................................... 67
3.4.3 Faceted Search Approach ..................................................................................... 69
Summary ......................................................................................................................... 74
Chapter 4 : Results .............................................................................................................. 76
4.1 Survey Results ........................................................................................................... 77
4.2 Desirability Framework Results ................................................................................. 81
4.3 Prototype Implementation Results .............................................................................. 85
4.4 User Test Results ....................................................................................................... 88
Summary ......................................................................................................................... 91
Chapter 5 : Discussion ......................................................................................................... 93
5.1 The Issues .................................................................................................................. 95
5.2 Finding Useful Resources ........................................................................................... 97
5.2.1 Application and Limitations ................................................................................. 98
5.3 Centralized Search Mechanism ................................................................................ 100
5.4 Users’ Perspective .................................................................................................... 109
Summary ....................................................................................................................... 113
Chapter 6 : Conclusion ...................................................................................................... 115
6.1 Research Objectives ................................................................................................. 117
6.2 Research Contributions ............................................................................................ 121
6.3 Future Work ............................................................................................................. 123
References ......................................................................................................................... 125
xii
List of Figures
Figure 1.1 Six phases of the research project. This figure documents the flow and the
relationships between the phases. ........................................................................................... 8
Figure 2.1 Increasing openness of the four R’s: adapted from (Hilton et al., 2010). .............. 16
Figure 3.1 The three attributes used in the calculation of the desirability of an OER. ........... 52
Figure 3.2 Calculation of desirability as a function of access, openness and relevance. ........ 54
Figure 3.3 The flow of activities in searching for suitable OER on heterogeneous repositories
based on personal experience (Abeywardena, 2013). These activities will need to be repeated
on multiple repositories until the required resources are located. .......................................... 60
Figure 3.4 The List of Terms is created by Tokenising the Corpus using the stop words found
in the Onix Text Retrieval Toolkit. ...................................................................................... 62
Figure 3.5 The KDM, a subset of the TDM, is created for the OERScout system by matching
the autonomously identified keywords against the documents. ............................................. 63
Figure 3.6 Formation of the KDM by normalizing the TF-IDF values of the terms in the
TDM and applying the Pareto principle empirically for feature selection. ............................ 64
Figure 3.7 OERScout deployment architecture which has a web server hosting the KDM, a
web service for accessing the KDM, and a Microsoft Windows based client interface. ........ 66
Figure 3.8 OERScout client interface used for testing the system. ........................................ 68
Figure 3.9 The Open Directory Project (captured June 7, 2013 from http://www.dmoz.org/ ).
............................................................................................................................................ 70
Figure 3.10 OERScout faceted search user interface. The figure shows a search conducted for
Physics: Astrophysics: Stars. ............................................................................................... 73
Figure 4.1 OER downloading habits of the participants........................................................ 79
Figure 5.1 Google Advanced Search results for resources on “chemistry” which are free to
use, share or modify, even commercially (27th November 2012). ...................................... 102
xiii
Figure 5.2 Google Advanced Search results for resources on “calculus” which are free to use,
share or modify, even commercially (27th November 2012). ............................................. 103
Figure 5.3 A search result for resources on “chemistry: polymers” conducted on OERScout.
.......................................................................................................................................... 104
Figure 5.4 Search results generated by OERScout for the term “calculus”. The desirable
resources returned are from Capilano University, The Open University and African Virtual
University. ......................................................................................................................... 106
xiv
List of Tables
Table 1.1 Duration and deliverables for each of the research phases. ..................................... 8
Table 2.1 Creative Commons 3.0 unported licensing scheme: adapted from (Creative
Commons). .......................................................................................................................... 17
Table 3.1 Collaborators of the project representing the various regions and HEIs in Asia. ... 46
Table 3.2 The level of openness based on the four R’s of openness. ..................................... 52
Table 3.3 The level of access based on the ALMS analysis. ................................................. 53
Table 3.4 The level of relevance based on search rank. ........................................................ 54
Table 3.5 Openness based on the CC license........................................................................ 56
Table 3.6 Selected search results at post-secondary level returned by the OER Commons
search mechanism for the search term “calculus”. ................................................................ 57
Table 3.7 Parameters required for calculating the D-index. .................................................. 57
Table 3.8 After applying the D-index to the same search results shown in Table 3.7. ........... 57
Table 3.9 Accessibility based on the file type. ..................................................................... 65
Table 4.1 Participation rates of academics in the regional study conducted to elicit an
understanding of the OER landscape in the Asian region. .................................................... 77
Table 4.2 Academic and institutional profile of the survey respondents. .............................. 77
Table 4.3 The extent of use of OER by the survey participants. ........................................... 78
Table 4.4 Attitudes towards using OER in teaching. ............................................................ 78
Table 4.5 Comparison between the search methods used by academics for locating OER. ... 80
Table 4.6 The importance of locating specific, relevant and quality OER for teaching. ........ 80
Table 4.7 Top 10 search results returned by MERLOT for the keyword “calculus”. ............. 81
Table 4.8 Top 10 results when D-index is applied to the results returned by MERLOT. ....... 82
Table 4.9 Top 10 search results returned by JORUM for the keyword “calculus”................. 82
Table 4.10 Top 10 results when D-index is applied to the results returned by JORUM. ........ 83
Table 4.11 Top 10 search results returned by OER Commons for the keyword “calculus”. .. 83
xv
Table 4.12 Top 10 results when D-index is applied to the results returned by OER Commons.
............................................................................................................................................ 84
Table 4.13 Resources indexed in the KDM based on the initial input. .................................. 87
Table 4.14 Consolidated feedback gathered from the OERScout test users. ......................... 89
Table 5.1 Representation of Asian sub-regions in the survey responses. ............................... 95
Table 5.2 Key Features of OERScout in contrast to Google, Yahoo! and Bing. .................. 107
Table 5.3 SWOT analysis of OERScout based on user feedback. ....................................... 110
xvi
List of Abbreviations
African Virtual University (AVU) ...... 4
Application Programming Interfaces
(API) ............................................ 39
Blended Learning Open Source Science
or Math Studies Initiative
(BLOSSOMS) ................................ 4
China’s Open Resources for Education
(CORE) .......................................... 4
Commonwealth of Learning’s (COL) . 2
content management systems (CMS) 40
Creative Commons (CC) .................... 2
Creative Commons Attribution (CC
BY) .............................................. 17
Creative Commons Attribution-
NoDerivs (CC BY-ND) ................ 18
Creative Commons Attribution-
NonCommercial (CC BY-NC) ...... 18
Creative Commons Attribution-
NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-
NC-ND) ........................................ 18
Creative Commons Attribution-
NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC
BY-NC-SA) .................................. 18
Creative Commons Attribution-
ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) ............... 17
Digital Talking Books (DTB) ........... 21
Directory of Open Educational
Resources (DOER) ....................... 85
Dublin Core Metadata Initiative
(DCMI) ........................................ 21
extensible markup language (XML) . 66
Flexible information Access using
Metadata in Novel COmbonations
(Flamenco) ................................... 70
Free and Open Source Software (FOSS)
..................................................... 20
Global Learning Object Brokered
Exchange (GLOBE)...................... 37
Higher Education (HE) ..................... 15
Higher Education Institutions (HEI) . 46
IEEE Learning Object Metadata (IEEE
LOM) ........................................... 21
information retrieval (IR) ................. 69
intellectual property rights (IPR) ...... 16
International Council of Distance
Education (ICDE) ......................... 15
Japan’s Open Courseware Consortium
(JOCW) .......................................... 4
Keyword-Document Matrix (KDM) . 44
Korea National Open University
(KNOU) ........................................ 46
Learning Object Metadata (LOM) ..... 30
learning object repositories (LOR) .... 36
learning objects (LO) ........................ 20
Learning Resource Metadata Initiative
(LRMI) ......................................... 33
Massachusetts Institute of
Technology’s (MIT) ........................ 2
Massive Open Online Courses
(MOOC)........................................ 23
Microsoft Visual Basic.NET (VB.NET
2010) ............................................. 66
multi agent system (MAS) ................ 36
open content licensing (OCL) ........... 16
Open Courseware (OCW)................... 2
Open Educational Resources (OER).... 2
Open e-Learning Content Observatory
Services (OLCOS) .......................... 4
Open Learning Objects (OpenLO) .... 21
Open University of China (OUC) ...... 46
Open University of Hong Kong
(OUHK) ........................................ 46
Open University of Japan (OUJ) ....... 46
Organisation for Economic Co-
operation and Development (OECD)
...................................................... 15
Organisational View (OV) ................ 36
Portable Document Format (PDF) ..... 49
Quality Assurance (QA).................. 119
Really Simple Syndication (RSS)...... 21
research assistant (RA) ..................... 48
stored procedure (SP) ........................ 66
strengths, weaknesses, opportunities
and threats (SWOT) .................... 109
Teacher Education for Sub-Saharan
Africa (TESSA)............................... 4
term document matrix (TDM) ........... 62
term frequency–inverse document
frequency (TF-IDF) ....................... 62
uniform resource locators (URL) ...... 66
United Nations (UN) ........................... 4
Universitas Terbuka Indonesia (UTI) 46
University of the Philippines Open
University (UPOU) ....................... 46
Vietnam Open Educational Resources
(VOER) ......................................... 20
Wawasan Open University (WOU) ... 46
World Wide Web (WWW) ................. 4
xvii
List of Appendices
Appendix Description
A
Abeywardena, I.S., Chan, C.S., & Tham, C.Y. (2013). OERScout
Technology Framework: A Novel Approach to Open Educational
Resources Search. International Review of Research in Open and
Distance Learning, 14(4),
214
-
237
.
B
Abeywardena, I.S., Raviraja, R., & Tham, C.Y. (2012). Conceptual
Framework for Parametrically Measuring the Desirability of Open
Educational Resources using D-index. International Review of Research
104
-
121.
C Abeywardena, I.S., Chan, C.S., & Balaji, V. (2013). OERScout: Widening
Access to OER through Faceted Search. Proceedings of the 7th Pan-
Commonwealth Forum (PCF7), Abuja, Nigeria.
D Abeywardena, I.S., & Chan, C.S. (2013). Review of the Current OER
Search Dilemma. Proceedings of the 57th World Assembly of
International Council on Education for Teaching (ICET 2013), Thailand
.
E
Abeywardena, I. S., Tham, C.Y., Chan, C.S., & Balaji. V. (2012).
OERScout: Autonomous Clustering of Open Educational Resources using
Keyword-Document Matrix. Proceedings of the 26th Asian Association of
Open Univers
ities Conference, Chiba, Japan.
F
Abeywardena, I. S., Dhanarajan, G., & Chan, C.S. (2012). Searching and
Locating OER: Barriers to the Wider Adoption of OER for Teaching in
Asia. Proceedings of the Regional Symposium on Open Educational
Resources: An Asian Perspective on Policies and Practice, Penang,
Malaysia.
G
Abeywardena, I. S., Dhanarajan, G., & Lim, C.K. (2013). Open
Educational Resources in Malaysia. In G. Dhanarajan & D. Porter (Eds.),
Open Educational Resources: An Asian Perspective. Commonwealth of
Learning and OER Asia (ISBN 978-1-894975-61-2), 119-132.
H
Dhanarajan, G., & Abeywardena, I. S. (2013). Higher Education and Open
Educational Resources in Asia: An Overview. In G. Dhanarajan & D.
Porter (Eds.), Open Educational Resources: An Asian Perspective.
Commonwealth of Learning and OER Asia (ISBN 978-1-894975-61-2), 3-
18.
I Survey Instrument: A study of the current state of play in the use of Open
Educational Resources (OER) in the Asian Region.
J User Manual: OERScout
K User Test Feedback Form and User Feedback Summary: OERScout
1
CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
2
Chapter 1 : Introduction
With the new drive towards accessible and open information, Open Educational
Resources (OER) have taken center stage after being first adopted at a UNESCO forum
in 2002. An early definition of OER is “web-based materials, offered freely and openly
for use and re-use in teaching, learning and research(Joyce, 2007, p. 1). The Paris
OER Declaration (UNESCO, 2012, p. 1) provides a more comprehensive definition:
“teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that
reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits
no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited
restrictions. Open licensing is built within the existing framework of intellectual
property rights as defined by relevant international conventions and respects the
authorship of the work”.
The global demand for education is currently not met through existing conventional
educational institutions, especially in the developing countries or the ‘Global South’.
This deficiency is further heightened when ‘excluded communities’ which have limited
access to education due to geographic, demographic and sociographic circumstances
are considered. OER initiatives such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s
(MIT) Open Courseware (OCW) initiative, the Rice University’s Connexions initiative
and the Commonwealth of Learning’s (COL) WikiEducator initiative have provided
high quality learning material for use and re-use through the Creative Commons (CC)
licensing scheme. The ability to freely use and modify the content for teaching and
learning purposes has boosted the drive towards OER for educating the masses.
Asian countries such as India, China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam have made the move
towards the use of OER but are still in the process of making the use of OER ‘accepted’
3
practice among academics, due to various inhibitors. One such inhibitor is the inability
to effectively search for OER that are academically useful and of an acceptable
academic standard. This limitation is further amplified by the heterogeneity of the large
number of repositories available and their constant expansion.
During the past decade, various technologies and platforms such as Wiki and Rhaptos
have emerged to support the OER repositories. Although such technologies provide
native search mechanisms, searching for useful OER is still predominantly done using
mainstream search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing. This has added to the
inability to locate academically useful OER as these search engines are not specifically
designed for this purpose. In addition, there is as yet no measure available for search
engines to parametrically measure the usefulness of a resource for academic purposes.
Furthermore, there exists no search engine capable of allowing academics to easily
navigate through the search results to pinpoint OER of an acceptable academic
standard. As a solution to these issues, this research project proposes a technology
framework which can parametrically measure the usefulness of an OER for academic
purposes. In addition, it utilizes text mining techniques to provide a mechanism for
easily navigating through the search results to pinpoint OER of an acceptable academic
standard.
This chapter is organized into four sections. The first section provides a general
overview of OER, introduces the problems to be addressed and the research objectives.
Sections two and three discuss the proposed research approach and the significance of
the research project respectively. Section four provides an outline of the other chapters.
4
1.1 Problem Statements and Research Objectives
The World Wide Web (WWW) provides cost effective information, rapid revision and
democratized access (Crowley, Leinhardt, & Chang, 2001). Modern day education is
very much dependent on technology and the global flow of information which is
underpinned by the accessibility of technology. In this new global paradigm, OER play
a major role, as academics have to increase their competitiveness both for obtaining
funding and for improving knowledge (Rawsthorne, 2007). In recent years, global OER
initiatives have been established by many organizations, including UNESCO, COL and
the United Nations (UN). Among these initiatives are ‘Education for All’ from the UN
and World Bank (Geith & Vignare, 2008), the Open e-Learning Content Observatory
Services (OLCOS) (Baumgartner, et al., 2007), OER Africa (OER Africa, 2009), the
African Virtual University (AVU) (Bateman, 2006), China’s Open Resources for
Education (CORE) (Downes, 2007), Japan’s Open Courseware Consortium (JOCW)
(Fukuhara, 2008), Teacher Education for Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA) (Moon &
Wolfenden, 2007), the European educational digital library project 'Ariadne' (Duval, et
al., 2001), eVrest, which links Francophone minority schools across Canada (Richards,
2007), and Blended Learning Open Source Science or Math Studies (BLOSSOMS)
(Larson & Murray, 2008). Over the past decade, these initiatives have accumulated
large volumes of OER which are made openly available to the public for use and re-
use. However, ironically, the sheer volume of the resources available and the increasing
number of repositories have become a major stumbling block in terms of locating fit-
for-purpose (Calverley & Shephard, 2003) resources for academic purposes.
The most common method of OER search is via generic search engines such as Google,
Yahoo! or Bing. Even though this method is the most commonly used, it is not the most
effective, as discussed by Pirkkalainen & Pawlowski (2010, p. 24) who argue that
5
“…searching this way might be a long and painful process as most of the results are
not usable for educational purposes”. Consequently, alternative methods such as
Social-Semantic Search (Piedra, Chicaiza, López, Tovar, & Martinez, Finding OERs
with Social-Semantic Search, 2011), DiscoverEd (Yergler, 2010) and OCW Finder
(Shelton, Duffin, Wang, & Ball, 2010) have been introduced. Semantic web based
alternatives such as Agrotags (Balaji, et al., 2010) have also been proposed, which
build ontologies of domain specific keywords to be used for classification of OER
belonging to a particular body of knowledge. However, the creation of such ontologies
for all the domains discussed within the diverse collection of OER would be next to
impossible. This research project attempts to provide viable solutions for these
problems.
1.1.1 Problem Statements
A majority of the existing OER initiatives are based on established web based
technology platforms and have accumulated large volumes of quality resources which
are shared openly. However, one limitation inhibiting the wider adoption of OER is
the current inability to effectively search for academically useful OER from a
diversity of sources (Yergler, 2010).
This limitation in locating fit-for-purpose resources is further heightened by the
heterogeneity of the vast array of OER repositories currently available online. As a
result, West & Victor (2011) argue that there is no single search engine which is able
to locate resources from all the OER repositories.
According to Dichev & Dicheva (2012), one of the major barriers to the use and re-
use of OER is the difficulty in finding quality OER matching a specific context as
it can take as much time as creating one’s own materials.
6
Unwin (2005) argues that the problem with open content is not the lack of available
resources on the Internet but the inability to effectively locate suitable resources
for academic use.
The Paris OER Declaration (UNESCO, 2012, p. 1) states the challenge for more
research in this area as a need to encourage the development of user-friendly tools to
locate and retrieve OER that are specific and relevant to particular needs”.
In sum, this research project aims to demonstrate how to facilitate the effective
centralized search of Open Educational Resources (OER) from heterogeneous
repositories for academic purposes.
1.1.2 Research Objectives
The objectives of this research project are to:
Identify user difficulties in searching OER for academic purposes;
Identify the limitations of existing OER search methodologies with respect to
locating fit-for-purpose resources from the heterogeneous repositories;
Conceptualize a framework for parametrically measuring the suitability of an
OER for academic use;
Design a technology framework to facilitate the accurate centralized search of
OER from the heterogeneous repositories.
7
1.2 Research Approach
The research approach adopted in this project consists of six distinct phases, as shown
in Figure 1.1.
Phase 1 of the project conceptualizes the problem by identifying the key issues which
need to be addressed. In addition, a literature review explores existing findings within
the problem domain.
Based on the literature review, a survey instrument is developed in Phase 2. This
instrument is used to gather information from key stakeholders on their experience in
OER search. The key variables are identified through the survey data analysis. Parallel
to the survey, desk research is conducted to review past research projects which had
attempted to address similar or related issues.
The variables identified from the survey and the insights gained from the desk research
are fed into Phase 3, where a conceptual technology framework is developed. This
framework addresses the problem of measuring the usefulness of an OER for academic
purposes.
Phase 4 concentrates on the implementation of the conceptual framework, using a
software based prototype system. The prototype system is tested and evaluated in a
controlled environment during Phase 5.
The project lifecycle is documented in Phase 6 in the form of a thesis. The complete
research project spans a duration of 36 months. The duration and the deliverables for
each phase are shown in Table 1.1.
8
Figure 1.1 Six phases of the research project. This figure documents the flow and the
relationships between the phases.
Table 1.1 Duration and deliverables for each of the research phases.
Phase
Activity Duration Deliverables
1 Conceptualization 6 months Problem statement, Literature review
2 Variable definition 3 months Web based survey instrument, Set of
variables
3 Framework design 6 months Conceptual framework
4 System design 9 months Prototype system
5 Evaluation and testing 6 months Test results
6
Thesis write
-
up
6 months
Thesis
9
1.3 Research Contributions
Section 1.1.1 discussed the main problems encountered in terms of effective OER
search. In this regard, the contributions of this research project are twofold:
1. A major problem in OER search is the difficulty in finding quality OER matching a
specific context suitable for academic use. This is due to the lack of a framework
which can measure the usefulness of OER in terms of fit-for-purpose, taking into
consideration the key attributes of an OER. The first contribution of this research
project is a conceptual framework which can be used by search engines to
parametrically measure the usefulness of an OER, taking into consideration
the attributes of openness, accessibility and relevance.
o The advantage of this framework is that, using the well-established four R’s
and ALMS frameworks, it can restructure search results to prioritize the
resources which are the easiest to reuse, redistribute, revise and remix. As a
result, academics practicing Open and Distance Learning (ODL) can locate
resources which can be readily used in their teaching and their students’
learning.
2. Another major problem encountered is the inability to effectively search for
academically useful OER from a diversity of sources. The lack of a single search
engine which is able to locate resources from all the heterogeneous OER
repositories further adds to the severity of this issue. The second contribution of
this research project is to develop a novel search mechanism which uses text
mining techniques and a faceted search interface to provide a centralized OER
search tool to locate useful resources from the heterogeneous repositories for
academic purposes.
o One of the key advantages of this novel search mechanism is the ability to
autonomously identify and annotate OER with domain specific keywords.
10
This removes human error with respect to annotation of metadata as it is
done in a consistent and uniform manner by the system. As a result, this
novel search mechanism provides a central search tool which can effectively
search for OER from any repository, regardless of the technology platforms
or metadata standards used.
o Another major advantage of this novel search mechanism is the utilization
of the conceptual framework which can parametrically measure the
usefulness of an OER in terms of fit-for-purpose. This ability allows the
search mechanisms to restructure the search results returned from numerous
repositories, giving priority to the most open, most accessible and most
relevant resources. As a result, academics are able to easily locate high
quality OER from around the world which best fit their academic purposes.
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1.4 Outline of Chapters
This introductory chapter provides a brief overview of the concept of OER followed by
the research problem within broader domain of OER. It then defines the research
objectives and discusses the methodology used. The chapter also outlines the
significance of the research within the academic community.
Chapter 2 reviews recent literature relevant to the problem domain. The first section
explores the concept of OER in detail with respect to definition, copyright, resource
formats, creation, curation, delivery, policy, funding, sustainability, impact and future
direction. The key focus of the remaining sections are on current issues with OER
search, OER curation, existing OER search approaches and approaches to knowledge
extraction. The chapter also provides a detailed discussion of existing methodologies
and technologies while establishing the need for an improved methodology for OER
search.
Chapter 3 is a detailed discussion on the methodology used in this research project. The
key areas covered are the initial survey study, the design of the conceptual framework,
the design of the technology framework and the prototype development.
Chapter 4 provides the results of the project. Four sets of results are discussed with
respect to the survey, conceptual framework, prototype implementation and user tests.
Chapter 5 is the discussion chapter. This chapter critically reviews the complete project
with respect to the problem statement, objectives, methodology and results.
Chapter 6 provides conclusions of the project. It also highlights the contributions,
advantages and the applications beyond the scope of this project. It also discusses the
future direction of the project.
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Summary
OER comprise a relatively new phenomenon which is widely regarded as a means of
increasing access to education. The free and open nature of OER allows the academic
community to legally use, reuse, remix and redistribute material without paying
royalties to publishers. This distinct characteristic of OER is of special benefit to
developing countries in the ‘Global South’ which are struggling to meet increasing
demand for education. It should also be noted that in common law countries small
portions of copyright material can be used, reused, revised and remixed under “fair
dealing” or “fair use”. However, this rule does not allow full use of the material.
Despite generous funding by governments and non-governmental organizations alike,
OER are still yet to become mainstream academic practice, due to a range of inhibitors.
One of the major inhibitors contributing to the slow uptake of OER is the inability to
search for materials which are suitable for academic purposes. A key aspect of this
limitation is the current inability of mainstream search engines such as Google, Yahoo!
and Bing to locate OER which are of an acceptable academic standard. As a solution to
this issue, this research project proposes a conceptual technology framework which can
parametrically measure the usefulness of an OER for academic purposes. It also
proposes a technology framework which utilizes text mining techniques to facilitate the
effective zeroing in on materials which are of acceptable academic standard.
This chapter has provided a general introduction to the problem domain, a brief
overview of OER, the problem statement, research objectives and the significance of
the research project. It has also outlined the research approach adopted for the project.
The next chapter will review the relevant literature describing the concept of OER,
problem domain and the technology research which address related or similar issues.
13
CHAPTER 2
LITERATURE
REVIEW
14
Chapter 2 : Literature Review
There have been many research initiatives, both academic and commercial, in the
recent past with respect to providing a viable solution to the OER search problem.
These initiatives range from standardization of metadata to innovative approaches such
as the semantic web. However, many of these projects haven’t proceeded beyond the
prototype stage, indicating of the difficulty of the issue and the volatile nature of the
whole concept of OER.
This chapter looks at how the academic community has attempted to provide solutions
to the OER search dilemma. The literature review will explore the extent of the current
problem, some established standards and a few important technologies which can be
directly utilized to provide alternatives to the existing OER search mechanisms.
The rest of the chapter is divided into five sections. Firstly, the constantly evolving
concept of OER is discussed with respect to definition, copyright, media formats,
creation, curation, delivery, funding models, sustainability, impact and future direction.
This provides a backdrop to the current OER search dilemma addressed through this
research project. The second section tries to identify the extent of the current OER
search problem and the reasons behind the inadequacy of existing mainstream search
engines. The third section discusses existing OER metadata standards used for OER
curation. The fourth section looks at some of the more promising initiatives in OER
search. The last section highlights a few technologies which are utilized in this research
project to provide an innovative solution to the problem.
15
2.1 Open Educational Resources
With the dramatic changes taking place in Higher Education (HE) within the past 10
years, academics have had to adopt new cost effective approaches in order to provide
individualized learning to a more diverse student base (Littlejohn, Falconer, & Mcgill,
2008). In this context, OER have the potential to become major sources of freely
reusable teaching and learning resources, especially in higher education, due to active
advocacy by organizations such as UNESCO, COL, Organization for Economic Co-
operation and Development (OECD); and the International Council for Open and
Distance Education (ICDE).
2.1.1 Definition
The definition of OER has evolved since its inception in 2002. However, it is generally
accepted that OER are web based educational materials which are freely and openly
available for use, reuse, remix and redistribution. It is noted that OER can exist in
forms other than web based material.
The openness and freedoms of OER are governed by a set of globally accepted
conventions. These can be best explained through the four R’s model proposed by
Hilton, Wiley, Stein & Johnson (2010).
The four R’s model:
Reuse the most basic level of openness. People are allowed to freely use all or
part of the unaltered, verbatim work.
Redistribute – people can share copies of the work with others.
Revise – people can adapt, modify, translate, or change the form of the work.
Remix people can take two or more existing resources and combine them to
create a new resource.
16
The openness of a resource increases with the number of ‘R’s governing the freedoms,
as shown in Figure 2.1.
Figure 2.1 Increasing openness of the four R’s: adapted from (Hilton et al., 2010).
2.1.2 Copyright
With the opening up of content to a global audience come the challenges of managing
copyright and intellectual property rights (IPR). According to Fitzgerald (2006, p. 4)
“…while the new digital technologies possess an enormous capacity to disseminate
knowledge, copyright law will play a key role in determining the legality of any such
act”.
Currently there are several open content licensing (OCL) schemes such as the Creative
Commons (CC) and GNU Free Documentation Licensing, among others (Hylén, 2006).
These schemes introduce certainty and clarity in terms of obtaining permission to
legally use the work of others. There are also institutional or group specific licenses
17
such as the BC Commons (Stacey, 2006) which limits the usage of published resources
to a particular group or institution.
Among the various licensing schemes available, the CC licensing scheme is arguably
the most widely used due to its simplicity, legal robustness and the large number of
regional chapters. This licensing scheme is currently in its fourth generation as
‘Creative Commons 4.0which was officially launched at the end of 2013. However,
‘Creative Commons 3.0’, which was its immediate predecessor, is by far the most
widely used at present. The Creative Commons 3.0 licensing scheme can be divided
into two forms: (i) unported, which abides by international copyright law and is not
subject to regional jurisdictions; and (ii) ported, which is a version customized to suit
the copyright laws of a particular region or jurisdiction. The Creative Commons 3.0
unported license grants six specific freedoms as shown in Table 2.1.
Table 2.1 Creative Commons 3.0 unported licensing scheme: adapted from (Creative
Commons).
License Freedoms Granted
1. Attribution
(CC BY)
This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak,
and build upon your work, even commercially,
as long as they credit you for the original
creation. This is the most accommodating of
licenses offered. Recommended for maximum
dissemination and use of licensed materials.
2. Attribution-ShareAlike
(CC BY-SA)
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build
upon your work even for commercial purposes,
as long as they credit you and license their new
creations under the identical terms. This license
is often compared to “copyleft” free and open
source software licenses. All new works based
on yours will carry the same license, so any
derivatives will also allow commercial use. This
is the license used by Wikipedia, and is
recommended for materials that would benefit
from incorporating content from Wikipedia and
similarly licensed projects.
18
3. Attribution-NoDerivs
(CC BY-ND)
This license allows for redistribution,
commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is
passed along unchanged and in whole, with
credit to you.
4. Attribution-NonCommercial
(CC BY-NC)
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build
upon your work non-commercially, and although
their new works must also acknowledge you and
be non-commercial, they don’t have to license
their derivative works on the same terms.
5. Attribution-NonCommercial-
ShareAlike
(CC BY-NC-SA)
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build
upon your work non-commercially, as long as
they credit you and license their new creations
under the identical terms.
6. Attribution-NonCommercial-
NoDerivs
(CC BY-NC-ND)
This license is the most restrictive of our six
main licenses, only allowing others to download
your works and share them with others as long as
they credit you, but they can’t change them in
any way or use them commercially.
2.1.3 Media Formats
Despite the fact that OER were initially limited to text based material and are still
predominantly in text based formats (Wiley, 2006), they are not restricted by the media
types or the file types used. Many modern OER are released as images, movie clips,
animations, datasets, audio clips, podcasts etc., providing rich multimedia based
material for use and reuse. These multimedia resources are made available through
large repositories such as YouTube (video), Flickr (images) and iTunesU (podcasts)
under the CC licensing scheme. Repositories such as YouTube even provide native
software applications such as the YouTube Video Editor which facilitates the easy
reuse and remixing of these multimedia based resources in an online setting. However,
the accessibility of these resources, with respect to the four R’s, needs to be considered
before using them for teaching and learning purposes.
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The accessibility governing various formats of OE