The Learning Technology world discovers the Digital Library world and
it makes an enormous discovery. That the librarians are storing,
cataloguing and managing research content in one place using FREE
software. Not only is this software FREE but it is being adopted by
almost simultaneously by many Institutions in the UK and around the
world - hey even Google are doing it, ... it must be the next big
thing! And so the 'Institutional Repository' is born.
Hence, the Learning Technology world - who have been struggling to
manage any sort of teaching and learning resource in a consistent way
(learning objects, e-portfolios, assessment materials, plain old
PDF's), are starting to pay attention. Whilst trying desperately to
battle against the huge premiums and more and more corporate level
software of the dark-side (Commercial VLE's), some learning and
teaching people who 'dabble' in technology are starting hear Chinese
Whispers about this thing called an 'Institutional Repository'.
"What's this then, ... a place to upload digital resources that can
be accessed by anyone, .. and it's FREE!! Yes, we'll have one of
And so, the adoption of the term "repository" by the teaching and
learning community (and of course strategically it has to be
"institutional" - this lessens the risk of having no users!). So of
course, expectations of an Institutional Repository and it's purpose
is different for every member of this list and every member of staff
within the institution that has one. If you don't understand the
technology or the terminology of the underlying architecture, or how
the term 'Institutional Repository' came about - then of course you
will use the new 'buzz' terminology in conversations. What used to
called a 'content management system' is now a 'repository', ...
they're just new technology buzz words for people who don't
understand the technology.
For me the true definition, and the only distinction, of an
Institutional Repository compared to a content management system for
teaching and learning are the 'customers'. An IR is the 'shop front'
for an Institution's digital assets. It's the stuff that it wants to
show off to the outside world, mainly academic colleagues. It's the
stuff that's worth preserving too - so it has some importance above
the day-to-day outputs of an institution. Compared to this are the
customers of the teaching and learning resources. These are the
'students' and this content is constantly being updated or changed
(well, in an ideal world). Usually, this is the content that the
academics themselves don't want to go beyond the Institutions virtual
So, the checklist for content in an IR should be:
- Is it of value to the Institution?
- Is it worth preserving?
- Do we want to be recognised for this content?
If the answer is not 'YES' to these - then it's not appropriate to
put in an IR!
Learning Technology Co-ordinator