UnAPI as a basis for Web 2.0 course sites

Background Problem

Everytime someone is introduced to Webfuse they wonder why we haven’t sold it, made it available to other organisations.

Apart from being lazy, the real reason doesn’t seem to be accepted all that easily. i.e. that the whole idea behind Webfuse is that it is the “glue” between the various bits of software and the CQU context and consequently very specific to CQU isn’t widely accepted.

Making it more general

So with the web 2.0 course site idea (must get a better name – Webfuse 2.0?) need to think about a way of making it more portable to other institutions.

One approach would be to support the heavy weight education standards – IMS, SCORM and the like. I have a problem with that approach. Similarly, web services.

Some of the lightweight service stuff might work.

A solution?

UNAPI looks like it might be a solution. From the UNAPI description

unAPI is a tiny HTTP API any web application may use to co-publish discretely identified objects in both HTML pages and disparate bare object formats. It consists of three parts: an identifier microformat, an HTML autodiscovery link, and three HTTP interface functions, two of which have a standardized response format.

The idea would be that obtaining all the institutional information (course codes, names, students? etc) would be done via an UNAPI service. So porting it to another institution would be implementing that API for that institution.

Enterprise Web 2.0

Making the rounds of the blogosphere, or at least the little part I’m currently following, is an Enterprise Web 2.0 blog – “examining leadership and people issues raised by next-generation of web technologies”.

It includes a post Top 10 Management Fears about Enterprise Web 2.0. It includes a long list of comments and various other folk are posting about it.

These are issues that will need to be considered.

Experiment with Google and open course content

Webfuse has always been based on the premise of open content, where ever possible.

On of the reasons for that is so that it can raise the profile of the organisation by our good content bringing people to CQU.

While teaching COIS20025 in the second half of 2006 I googled “entity relationship diagram”.

Imagine my surprise when the #1 hit was, and still is, an old Webfuse course site. Or at least a page on it.

This was a page from a course offered in the 2nd half of 2000. It’s 6 years old.

The content is good, I’ve used it again. That’s why it’s a top hit.

The Experiment

The plan is

  • Modify the page to point to a more recent page which containts some of the same content that has been reworked.
  • Observe whether or not the new page can climb the Google rankings.

The, very simple, measure I’m using is a simple Perl script that

  • Grabs the first 1000 Google responses to a search for “entity relationship diagram”
  • Lists all the URLs in that first 1000 that are in the cqu.edu.au domain.

I plan to run that script at regular periods over the next few months. I’ll modify the following list each time I run it.

Results

Web 2.0 Course Sites and the organisational challenge

Derek Morrison raises the spectre of organisational response to the idea of Web 2.0 course websites. In part, this looks like the challenge of losing control facing IT support divisions and management.

The open content nature of services like Google Video would create a related issue for academics.

I slipped mention of self-organising systems into this slide just to remind myself and the delegates (one of several such reminders) that the richness and availability of provision is now so high (at least in our part of the world) that it has become relatively easy for individuals and groups (academics and students) to function in an ICT universe that lies far outside any institutional provision. The implication being that those responsible for institutional learning technology provision will need to work much harder to stay relevant to its users than it has had to do so in the past. It will be necessary to think beyond the natural inclination to ban technologies and services that don’t fit in with, sometimes narrow, current conceptions of what are learning technologies and how they should be used, e.g. the banning of weblogs for use by staff and students.