Cambridge OAE: Engineering Syllabus Widget

15 08 2011

For the deployment of OAE at Cambridge we needed and easy way which institutions could embed syllabus information into the Courses and Group pages. The Uniersity of Cambridge has many departments, each of which operates largely autonomously when it comes to the provision of teaching and learning information to its students. The Engineering department, which will be one of the early adopters maintains this information as web pages with a reasonably well defined structure. Other departments may have a simular approach. This widget enables a user to embed content from the Engineering Teaching pages directly into any page within the Sakai OAE instance at Cambridge, simply by selecting the year and lecture from a set of drop downs. The functionality is implemented as a widget using a template configured proxy on the back end. We use Google’s Javascript Caja implementation to sanitize the HTML, part of the Sakai Widget API and we parse the html to remove headers and footers. Development for this widget took about 6 hours to complete. No back end functionality was required.

The following sequence of screenshots shows a Sakai Doc being created in a Group, then the inline content widget being added and configured to inline the Lecture information in question.

Insert the Inline Content (Engineering Syllabus) widget into a Sakai Doc added to a Group

Select the year and paper to be displayed, from a set of configured papers.

Verify that the paper is correct from the preview that is presented.

The Configured widget appears as an Icon in edit mode.

 

Saved page contains the Page from the Year 1 Syllabus fetched from the Engineering Department Teaching pages.

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6 responses

15 08 2011
Bruce

There’s a lot of structured data in this example that it’d be nice to be able to pull out in time.

15 08 2011
Ian

We have a project in progress to identify the structured data at Cambridge. The one thing we have learnt so far is that each department has a slightly different ontology, and there is a low level of conformity in the content of data from different sources. Rooms are a classic example. Departments know rooms by one set of names but dont know where the rooms are. Estates know the rooms by a totally different name, and do know which building they are in, but not where they are. Building administrators know where a room is, but dont use the same name as Estates or teaching administrators (most of the time). Fortunately they all call a room a room…. but there is a wide range of definition beyond that. So we can extract the structured data but its highly specific to where it was extracted from.

24 08 2011
Bruce

I realize I was a little cryptic, but I in particular like the notion of breaking down the monolithic syllabus into core learning-based concepts like outcomes (a list of course goals; allows you to tie rubric categories to them), schedule (a list of topics, which in turn is a list of tasks), etc.

There was some group that was working on similar ideas, which I think quite good.

https://confluence.sakaiproject.org/display/3AK/Syllabus+Manifesto

24 08 2011
24 08 2011
Ian

Yes, agreed, it would be better if we could persuade departments creating the Syllabus to use a model to create it. We will get there eventually at Cambridge, but it will take time, perhaps 10 years.

Other institutions are more fortunate having sophisticated centralization of this function. Where there is a service, like the one you referenced, then this widget will be able to consume and place its output. It may also be appropriate to consume that information in models form (read json feed) and present it via OAE rendering.

Ian

24 08 2011
Bruce

There’s always a chicken-egg problem with this stuff. My own opinion is that if it’s well-implemented and easy to use (e.g. even easier than writing it out free form in MS Word), and also provides obvious benefits to faculty and students, that they will mostly happily use it.

But key to making that possible will be really elegant and seamless sharing (instructor creates a course template with the outcomes, etc. embedded, and shares it with the department, department iterates it, and then later another instructor borrows and adapts it), which will be hard.




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