Open Course Data at Loughborough (Jisc Project)

The Open Course Data project at Loughborough University has been funded by Jisc to develop a machine readable version of our online prospectus.  We have also been improving the way that the prospectus is managed.  [The video above and accompanying text have been created for the January 2013 Open Course Data programme meeting, in case you were wondering!]

We had long recognised that it would be advantageous to bring our online and print prospectus management together as a single process.  You will see from these process maps that online and print had historically been treated as largely separate activities.  We wanted to see if we could change that, make our processes more efficient, and create new opportunities.

We mapped out an "ideal" process that brought the two together, using our Web Content Management System, Site Manager from Terminal Four:

Now we have a single canonical data source for both the print and online version of the prospectus.  We also have a range of formatting options via the Content Management System.

We are particularly pleased with our new online prospectus app, which is fed directly from the CMS:


Note the entry requirements for the Chemistry Masters degree.  Here they are as displayed in the online prospectus:

And here is the relevant page for managing this course's information in Site Manager.


We'll just scroll down to the bit where entry requirements are displayed...

Note how the entry requirements are broken down into individual entries on the form - this gives us a lot of flexibility in presenting the information.  Once the change has been committed and approved in the CMS, it will be automatically published.

We also create a machine readable version of the course information using the XCRI-CAP standard.  This is done using a CMS output formatter script, which you'll see from the excerpt below looks pretty cryptic:

The resulting data feed (see excerpt below) is actually fairly readable even by human beings.  The XCRI-CAP feed can be processed using hundreds of software packages that understand the industry standard XML data format:

This new approach means that we can make better use of staff time.  We can embed course data in School and Department websites, which lets us avoid errors and out of date information.  Perhaps most importantly, the University's support services came together to carry out the work as a team.

We have been delighted by the support provided by Jisc.  We particularly welcomed the opportunity to share experiences and ideas with other members of the community.  You can find out more about the Jisc course data programme from their website.

PS You can read more about this work at the project blog, and stay tuned for more information about downloading and processing the XCRI-CAP open data feed :-)

Martin Hamilton

Martin Hamilton works for Jisc in London as their resident Futurist.