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May 17

Open Course Data – Initial Assessment of Data Availability

The XCRI feed requires a variety of course data, generally at programme (course) and presentation[1] level, with common data relating to the provider.

This summary is supplemented by an annotated sample XCRI feed for an undergraduate programme at Loughborough University (BSc Geography with Economics), the production of which helped inform the findings. This sample feed should be consulted for information on specific data locations and gaps.

Data sources

  • Currently, no central course/programme database exists at the University.
  • Data is generally held in disparate locations in a format/system from which it is not easily extractable, such as in the University’s online web-prospectus where it is entered as text (not against a field), for instance.
  • A small amount of data is held in LUSI or related systems (e.g. LUSI VLE Support database).

Data availability

  • The availability of the University’s data to be used in XCRI feeds is limited; much of the data is either currently not held or, as noted above, it is not straightforward to obtain the required information.
  • Where data is held, it is generally at course or module level, rather than presentation level, as is often required.
  • Data is generally not standardised – there is much variation between study levels, departments and programmes.

Recommendations

  • The most straightforward approach to providing the data required for the feed would be to develop a central courses database (which could be used to supply data to the web-prospectus). This could be within LUSI, the content management system or a bespoke alternative system and no recommendation is given here as to which would be most appropriate.
  • Once a suitable course database exists, this could be populated with the relevant data through a combination of extracting data from existing systems, scraping data from the University’s web-site and manual input.

Considerations

  • The above approach would be a considerable undertaking and some consideration needs to be given to whether this is both viable and desirable. Whilst it would confer many advantages for storing, maintaining and sharing data on our own systems, until external organisations with which we must share course information are able to accept XCRI fed data, it would have limited benefits for the provision of such data to these organisations.
  • Some consideration needs to be given to:
    • The level at which data should be held, for example, course versus presentation
    • The data which should/can be included in the feed. Entry requirements, for instance, are a complex set of data, although XCRI permits only one such field per presentation. Should they, therefore, be excluded, or included but simplified for this purpose?

CJC/GM

30 September 2011


[1] A presentation is a unique instance of a programme, for example, the same programme running in 2011 and 2012 would be classed as two separate presentations – one for each year.

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