Posts Tagged ‘education’
From looking back over Mike’s presentation slides, he seems to be advocating “let’s do what we can, as soon as possible”, particularly with respect to sharing things like information about courses and events, as well as other data from university information systems. That emphasis seems to me to be on syndicating information already available on university websites in a more data-like way (RSS news feeds, for example, or calendar feeds); this is similar to the approach taken by the new DirectGov API, I think?
(By the by, I came across this related presentation earlier today, something I’d prepared for the SocialLearn project,as was, as couple of years ago: Portable Course Data.)
As part of the same conversation, Brian Kelly suggested that just as the open data lobby had been calling for government to open up it’s data, government might well respond by calling up public sector organisations to open up their data. This has already started to happen, for example with a letter from Downing Street last week calling on local councils to get ready to open up some of their financial and organisational chart data.
I think Brian is right in suggesting that Higher Education should brace itself to expect similar treatment… (A lot of this data is already out there, it has to be said. For example, here’s a spreadsheet detailing VCs’ pay.)
So what is my take on how to get started with data.ac.uk, or a more local version, such as data.open.ac.uk?
To my mind, the quickest start is to just republish data that is already available in data form. So for example:
- student satisfaction data is available from the Direct Gov Unistats service (OU data [XLS]; general download list);
- funding data about current grants is provided on research council sites. The EPSRC, for example, provide a way of accessing spreadsheets for funding received by various OU departments: OU Awards from the EPSRC (see more generally the full list of funded organisations; (if you know similar ways of getting similar data from other research councils, or funders such as JISC, please post a link in the comments to this post:-)
- financial data, where already published; the OU’s public financial statements can be found on the Freedom of Information minisite, for example (OU FOI: financial statements);
- organisational data, where already published. Again the OU seems to be ahead of the game on this one via the FOI site: OU FOI: organisational structure; (the FOI site also includes pay grade details, so you’ll be able to see just how overpaid I really am, despite all my wittering;-)
- RAE (Research Assessment Exercise) data: one possible source of this information is the Guardian DataStore (Guardian datastore: RAE data, original data from rae.ac.uk [XLS]).
(From that quick list, the OU seems to be doing really well via the OU FOI website. Are other HEIs as far on as this, I wonder, or does having Open in the university name create raised expectations around the OU on matters such as this?!)
The Guardian has also republished quite a range of additional HE related data in its datastore, some of which I’ve even played with before… e.g. Does Funding Equal Happiness in Higher Education? (though there have been one or two, err, niggles with the data… in previous spreadsheets;-) or for a fuller list: OUseful visualisations around education data.
Another possible source of data in a raw form is from the data.gov.uk education datastore (an example can be found via here, which makes me wonder about the extent to which a data.ac.uk website might just be an HE/FE view over that wider datastore? (Related: @kitwallace on University data.) And then maybe, hence: would data.*.ac.uk be a view over data.ac.uk for a particular institution. Or *.sch.ac.uk a view over a data.sch.ac.uk view over the full education datastore?
As to how best to publish the data? That’ll probably take another post, though a really quick win could be achieved by just grabbing the appropriate data from a Guardian datastore spreadsheet on Google docs, putting it into another Google doc, and then just embedding it in a page…;-)
PS In his post, Mike mentioned an old hack of mine that searched for autodiscoverable RSS feeds on *.ac.uk websites. I’d also done one that puts up screenshots of 404 pages… Maybe I need one that looks for the existence of data.*.ac.uk subdomains?!
PPS Finally, it’s probably worth just paying heed to notions of Good and bad Trasnparency. The line I’m suggesting above is one of convenient discovery as much as anything else, pulling (links to) all the data sets related to an institution into an area of the institution’s own website. Cf. the similar approach taken by data.gov.uk, which is to act primarily as a directory layer, as well as hosting national level datastores for particular datasets.
Trying to scope out ideas for a talk I’m due to give in Manchester next week on open civic data, I came across quite a few examples of local councils making map based “data” available – on a map. For example, Milton Keynes Council has a nice collection of links to interactive maps :
The maps look very pretty, when they load… I don’t know if it was my connection that was particularly slow when I tried to grab the screenshot, but I never did manage to load any hi-res tiles…
Manchester City Council also offers a range of map based navigation for identifying local schools:
And if we tunnel down:
The point I wanted to make here is that what the councils are doing is more to do with displaying map based information than geocoded data. That is, it’s still hard for me to create my own map based views based on the stuff the councils are publishing.
The valuable goods for me in the role of a developer is flexible access to the raw data so that I can re-present it and make sense of it in a way that I decide.
So for example, in the case of the Manchester schools data, where I might decide to throw caution to the wind and plot all the schools on one map rather than present the information in the form of schools contained in arbitrarily drawn regions, it would be nice to be able to get a raw data feed of schools under the control of the Manchester local authority…
…which I seem to remember is something I can get from the data.gov.uk education datastore.
Looking through my own hacks, I found a description of a Yahoo pipe (that appears to have rotted:-( that will return schools given a local authority code… but what is the code for Manchester?
A quick google turned up a post by Simon Hume entitled Using SPARQL & the data.gov.uk school data which points to a handy service that uses a query of the National Statistics SPARQL endpoint to list council ID codes (I’m not sure if this can be extended to return a Council ID code based on a user-supplied postcode? If you know how to do this, please post a clue in a comment to this post;-)
Simon’s post also contains another rather handy example of a SPARQL query over the education datastore that will “call back all the schools in your local authority”, including the lat/long coordinates, so they can be easily placed onto a map.
This is the data, the useful stuff. The maps the councils have published that are shown above display some useful information, for sure, but it’s not data…
So here’s a thought: suppose that where councils feel they’re adding value by producing maps like the ones shown above (and I think that sort of display can provide a valuable service on a council website), wouldnlt it be great if:
1) the data they used to create the map came from a public datastore, such as one of the datastores on data,gov.uk, or maybe a queryable datastore local to the council; and
2) as a footnote to the page, or more likely on a page linked from it, a description was given of the query used to generate the data rendered on the information page.
Just a thought…
A blog post on the Google GeoDevelopers blog last week announced:
Currently we are in the process of piloting certifications for several new APIs. We are building out certifications for KML, Google Earth Enterprise, and 3D in preparation for our first master certification, the Google Qualified Geo Web Developer. We’re also working on certifications for the AJAX Search API, Enterprise Apps, and Android.
(It seems like I was a little ahead of the curve when I blogged this almost 4 years ago: Google/Yahoo/Amazon Certified Professionals…;-)
There are already certified programmes for Cisco and Microsoft, of course, so it was only a matter of time before we started seeing badges like this one:
I wonder when we’ll be seeing a Google curriculum for computer science degrees too, building on the resources collected as part of the Google Code University? It seems they’re already trying to compete with the OU’s new short course Linux: an introduction with their Tools 101 tutorials, which includes intros to the Linux command line and grep;-) (It would be no loss to HE, of Google did take on compsci education, of course, because Computer Science degrees are ever harder to find, and much harder to do (too much reliance on logic and algorithm design) than Computing degrees… (Hmmm, a case of HE dumnping the academic in favour of the, err, more practical?!;-)
Of course, it may be that the Goog will get into delivering teaching qualifications?
One school subject area I think they could drive curriculum development is in geography – you do know they have a Geo Education website, don’t you…?;-)
Why does this matter? The internet based communications revolution hasn’t yet had a huge impact on the way we examine, assess and validate learning in formal academic education or on the curricula that are delivered. Maybe it shouldn’t. But whilst corporates have always produced educational promo packs, their reach has been limited to those students studying under teachers who have made use of those materials. And now we have search engines, and students will be coming across learning materials with corporate branding in the course of their own research. Maybe the kids will discount these materials as ‘tainted’ in some corporate way? Maybe they’ll see them as training materials and discount them as irrelevant to their academic educational studies? Or maybe they’ll see them as part of that userguide to the world that they’ll be referring to for the rest of their lives?