Development Update: Texas Learning Object Repository

TXLOR logoThe TxLOR project has entered a new phase of development this month, as investigators at UT San Antonio release a beta version of the software for testing and feedback.

The Texas Learning Object Repository (TxLOR) is a project to create a statewide system which stores and disseminates high-quality digital learning materials used in higher education instruction across both academic and health institutions. The project, which is led by a team at UT San Antonio, is funded by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) and the UT System Office of Health Affairs. The Texas Digital Library has provided software development services on the project for several years.

According to Michael Anderson, Director of Online Learning at UT San Antonio,  TxLOR will be made accessible to a small group of testers  and then to a wider user group over the next several weeks. The beta group will report software bugs and proposed enhancements back to UT San Antonio and the TDL, as well as review and provide feedback on documentation. After any detected bugs are fixed by TDL developers, the TxLOR team will release the repository to full production.

History of the project

The project got its start after THECB and the UT System Office of Health Affairs separately approached what was then UT TeleCampus with similar needs for a tool that could house reusable learning objects in an easily accessible fashion.

Both organizations had been funding course development and redesigns and wanted to make the results of these projects widely available. Additionally, they wanted to be able to keep track of the projects they were funding in order to eliminate duplication.

The academic courses funded by THECB and medical education courses sponsored by the Office of Health Affairs had distinct needs, particularly for metadata creation and maintaining privacy.

UT TeleCampus suggested a joint project to create a statewide learning object repository using open-source DSpace software that would be flexible enough to meet the differing needs of the academic and medical education communities. The project later transferred to the team at UT San Antonio.

Customizable  institutional workflows

One challenge of creating a usable repository for TxLOR has been creating configurable workflows for each institution. The TDL’s recent software development efforts with TxLOR have focused on creating these customizable workflows.

In the beta version released this month, for instance, an “institutional administrator” at each TxLOR institution can create multiple customized workflows for different classes of submitters or objects. Any object may go through several approval steps before finally being published to the online repository. Additionally, institutions will have the capability to limit access to learning objects if they choose.

Next steps: After the beta

After beta testing is complete and any bug fixes are resolved, the TxLOR team will recruit interested institutions to use the repository and build a sustainable funding model. They will also set up an informational website with documentation about the system.

Anderson believes there is significant interest in having a place to publish learning objects, as attitudes toward “open access” continue to evolve.

“There are an increasing number of faculty members who support the idea of open educational resources,” Anderson said. “They see the success of MIT’s OpenCourseWare and similar initiatives from other universities.”

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