Where Course Data Would Help…

Some fragments that possibly make for a useful jigsaw, based on a use case of trying to think up possible projects for an OU Masters course, and wondering what other modules students taking the project course are likely to have – or are required to have – already taken:

  • The OU Masters level Computing Project course (T802) is a compulsory course in several qualifications:

    I would like a list of other modules associated with those qualifications, and a rank of how many of those qualifications each appears in. A handful of graphs come to mind too: a bipartite graph showing connections between each of those qualifications and their compulsory modules; a bipartite graph showing connections between each of those qualifications and their eligible (“defining, but not compulsory” modules); collapsed versions of the bipartite graphs showing modules with edges between them where they co-occur in a qualification.

  • Clicking through on one of the qualification links, eg to the MSc in Information Systems, I see this:

    …but no link to the Postgraduate Diploma in Information Systems (E10) (http://www3.open.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/qualification/e10.htm). So, first up, I’d like data relating to precursor qualifications required for the Masters. And second up, information about the modules with those qualifications:

I’m not sure if this info is available in either the OU Linked Data store or via the OU XCRI feed but I’m not minded to waste the rest of my Sunday finding out. All I wanted was a list of modules that potential students on T802 might be expected to have taken…

PS fwiw, here’s a qualification entry from the OU XCRI feed:

            <title>Postgraduate Diploma in Technology Management</title>
            <subject>Engineering, Technology and Design</subject>
            <description xsi:type="xcri:metadataKeywords">E08,
      Postgraduate Diploma in Technology Management,
      Postgraduate qualification,
      Open University
            <description xsi:type="xcri:abstract">
                <div xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
                    <p>This diploma provides an analytical view of strategic issues in technology management, equipping you for senior technology management roles.</p>
            <description xsi:type="xcri:aim">
                <div xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
                    <p>This postgraduate diploma course represents the second qualification level in the technology management programme. The diploma builds on the operational focus of the postgraduate certificate by providing you with concepts and tools to support the effective strategic management of technology. The compulsory modules in the diploma link the fields of strategic management and technology strategy. There is also the opportunity to extend your technology management studies by choosing optional modules relevant to your particular interests. The qualification provides an analytical view of strategic issues in technology management, and will equip you for senior technology management roles.</p>
            <description xsi:type="xcri:learningOutcome">
                <div xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
                    <p>The technology management programme develops analytical skills and provides practically relevant knowledge that will equip you well for a variety of management and leadership roles. The competent technology manager is a highly valued professional, capable of ensuring that the organisation reaps all the potential rewards from its investment in technology of whatever type. You will develop a range of job-related and transferable skills such as critical thinking, creative problem solving, and the ability to cope with rapid technological change. The capabilities in research and problem-solving developed can be exploited in all professional situations at all management levels. Employers are also impressed by the commitment and determination it takes to succeed with the OU while keeping up family and work commitments. These benefits, together with the opportunities to add value by applying your learning to the workplace as you study, make technology management programmes very attractive vehicles towards success in senior management roles.</p>
                    <p>There is more information about how OU study can improve your employability in the OU’s Employability Statement from our Careers Advisory Service. You can also read or download our publication OU study and your career and look at our subject pages to find out about career opportunities.</p>
                <title>Postgraduate Diploma in Technology Management</title>
                <type>The Open University</type>
                <scheme>The Open University</scheme>
                <level />
                <description>See individual course components for details of presentations of OU courses.</description>
                <duration>Please refer to individual modules or contact the Student Registration &amp; Enquiry Service for details.</duration>
                <studyMode>The Open University offers part time distance education - known as supported open learning - which allows students to work at home in their own time, usually with the support of a personal tutor.</studyMode>
                <attendancePattern>Part time distance education course</attendancePattern>
                    <description>The Open University offers part time distance education - known as supported open learning - which allows students to work at home in their own time, usually with the support of a personal tutor. </description>
                <cost>Costs are paid per unit not per qualification.</cost>
                <enquireTo>Contact name: Student Registration &amp; Enquiry Service, Contact phone: 0845 3006090, Contact email: general-enquiries@open.ac.uk</enquireTo>

So, no information there – let alone data – about what modules are involved…? (I also wonder about the quality of some of the data that is being published (start date of 1900-01-01, for example?) and how/where some of the semantics are defined, such as: what sort of credit points are the 120 unspecificed level points associated with the qualification?)

Of course, the intention behind the XCRI feed is not to provide scaffolding mapping out the module structure of OU offerings (it’s published as a marketing info syndication feed – thoughts on how well it might, does or doesn’t fit that purpose via the comments, please;-), but I was hoping that it might be repurposable/appropriatable as such ;-)

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

3 thoughts on “Where Course Data Would Help…”

  1. Hello. I have some sample data (for one qual which contains 4 pathways – http://www3.open.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/qualification/q01.htm) which would help you with (most?) of this but we haven’t yet had discussion with the data owner about modelling it or making it available on data.open.ac.uk.
    Re ranking how many of those qualifications each course appears in I think http://data.open.ac.uk/sparql is SPARQL 1.1 so you could maybe just do a count? Once the data is queryable of course!

  2. Tony, I sympathise. I’d like to be able to make more information available on the XCRI-CAP feed, and I’m working closely with OU colleagues to address the issues. Currently it’s not having a great deal of use (this *should* change with the progress on the JISC funded Course Data Programme), and the quality issues are largely related to consumption by particular past consumers (hence the 1900-01-01 issue).

    However, to be more positive, we’re due to update the feed to XCRI-CAP 1.2 in the near future. This should enable a lot more flexibility (and additional data), and has much better defined data content. I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t add in module data of some sort – titles and credits at least ought to be possible. It depends on the technicalities of where that data is stored, and any political sensitivities about publishing it (the latter ought to be small beer).


    1. I suspect problems in part come from there being no use made of the XCRI feed (or is it being used somewhere/somehow?), which itself is part of a chicken and egg problem (what use could be usefully made of the feed?).

      The rare occasions I’ve looked to the XCRI feed as a possible source of information about eg how courses relate to each, or to qualifications, it’s not been relevant. And I know that’s not what it was originally intended for…;-)

      However, there are other issues with it eg if the use case was to feed an aggregating course choice site, such as the amount of unstructured free text and the lack of identifiable *data* points that could be used in a third party, referral generating site (which might typically be expected to offer a *normalised* view over course data from different institutions. As it stands, such a site would have to scrape the XCRI feed elements to try and extract data points.)

      There are also problems with the XCRI feed simply from the point of view of syndicating marketing produced course info. For example, I can offer course choice tools or qualification pathway modelling because I can’t (even with effort) work out what courses are associated with what qualifications. Aside from that is a lack of business model – if I as a third party service am going to syndicate course descriptions as a way of generating referrals back to the OU site, I might expect to be able to add in affiliate or tracking codes so you can pay me for leads generated ;-)

      Out of interest, do you have any examples of how the OU XCRI feed has actually be used/consumed *anywhere*, and how much to date has been invested in producing the feed?;-)

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