Breaking the Barriers Workshop Review

CADARN’s first educational media production workshop last week was a big day for the project. The culmination of weeks of work by our small production team, it went very smoothly and provided us with a great many learnings. By all accounts, it was also a fun and informative day for the 15 people who attended.

Lizi presenting 04/09

The workshop was a great chance for me to put names to faces, as most of those attending were people who have been closely involved with the project since it began. With representatives from all our partner universities, including Aberystwyth, Bangor, Grwp Llandrillo Menai, Glyndwr, and the Open University of Wales, it was a good spread.

We held the workshop in the Aber Academy, next door to the CADARN offices. This made things so much easier for us, considering that this was our first workshop, but it was an early start and a long trek for many of those attending. Next time it will be us making the trek, as we plan to visit all our partner institutions for future workshops (and I’m looking forward to it!).

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Why should I be open?

The best investment we can make is education and that too must be open.

— Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for Digital Agenda, 16/07/2014

When considering the need for openness in all aspects of information society we must start from the very beginning in both awareness and culture. The open ideal stretches from the creation of a single open educational resource ( OER ) right through to the highest government. The openness of data and content has a comprehensive definition described by OpenDefinition and summarised as;

A piece of data or content is open if anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it — subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and/or share-alike.


Those opening up any type of data should only be concerned with the content, just present what you have in a readable form, keep it relevant to your work and make sure it’s all legal both for your and other users protection. How people will find your project or resource depends on what you say about it, the metadata. The value of such data is found in how it is used. To your project this task may be a quick side note but to the next consumer in the information chain, someone that wants an archive of all educational resources in an institution or even country, your meta data is invaluable. They will use your data for their own projects, adding to the collective knowledge.

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Data Based Open Educational Resource Creation

The Data Tools Discussion

The Data Tools Discussion, OKFest 2014, Berlin

During the two days of the Open Knowledge festival we were invited to contribute to a growing list of tools and resources that enable data management. Often turning static and proprietary data into accessible open data requires significant work. Such data could be tables in old book based ledgers that have been scanned as images and need analysis. These tools and processes can help so you hopefully won’t be typing the figures by hand. When producing data based educational resources, getting the correct data presented in an informative and interesting way means we should consider the many tools to get this raw data visualized for consumption and use by viewers.

The Pipeline

The 5 stages of the data extraction pipeline are;

  1. Acquisition – gaining access to data, via downloading or buying, or by generating fresh data, through survey or observation.
  2. Extraction – converting from whatever input format has been acquired (e.g. XLS files, PDFs or even plain text documents) into a form that can be used for further processing and analysis.
  3. Cleaning and Transform – involves removing invalid records and translating into a sane set of values. You may also combine many different data sets into one, remove duplicate entries, apply any number of other normalizations or remove of inconsistencies. Processing, augmenting and cleaning the data is very likely to be the most time and labour intensive aspect of your project.
  4. Analysis – What you use the now clean data for will depend entirely on your individual needs and knowing the tools to match.
  5. Presentation – Data only has impact when it is packaged in an appropriate way for the audiences it aims to inform. As you model a data pipeline, it is important to take care that each step is well documented, granular and ideally automated.

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Geoff Constable


Further Details

It is with great sorrow that I must write to inform you of the recent sudden death of Geoff Constable, whom I know many of you have worked with on the CADARN Learning Portal and read his informative blog posts here. Geoff was warm, generous and a passionate supporter of our project with a huge amount of input into shaping its direction. The team here in Aberystwyth will miss him deeply.

I will of course pass on any messages of support to his family and am available to speak to on 01970628436.

Geoff was a qualified teacher and graduate of the University of Kent, Canterbury and Aberystwyth University where he completed an MSc in Computer Science in 1994. He had a long and varied career in the areas of IT, communications technology, video, networking, and technology enhanced learning. This included working for the Post Office, Powys County Council, the National Library of Wales, and various companies based in Machynlleth. In 1995 he joined the University on the “MICE-NSC” project in Computer Science, promoting and evaluating the use of multimedia communications over multicast IP, the Welsh component of a larger project involving, amongst others, UCL, Exeter and Glasgow.

In addition to MICE-NSC Geoff worked for Computer Science in many other roles and projects including webmaster, multicast IP deployment, UK-wide Video Technologies Advisory Service, IP “Quality of Service” studies, rural network deployment, and the use of communications and IT.  Much of this work was funded by UKERNA, JANET and JISC. He also worked on a large European-funded software engineering project called SCREEN.

A study produced by the United Kingdom Education and Research Network Association (UKERNA) in 1999 demonstrated evidence of the demand for an integrated national video network embracing both Further and Higher Education. ELWa (then the Welsh Funding Councils) contracted UKERNA to deliver the video conferencing network. The Welsh Video Network (WVN) Support Centre was established with staff based at Swansea and Aberystwyth. A pioneering and global leading initiative, Geoff joined the WVN in 2001 when he was appointed Video Services Support officer, working there until 2012 supporting many thousands of users of the WVN. During this time he contributed to a number of national projects initially at UKERNA then the Joint Academic Network (JANET).

Geoff had been a long standing member of the local UCU Exec and the Health, Safety and Environment representative. He worked tirelessly in these roles supporting the Union and the interests of its members at Aberystwyth. A champion of green and environmental causes he was successful in raising the profile of these issues at a University level. Geoff was involved in two Green ICT projects exploring the carbon emissions savings that can be made by using information and communications technologies effectively. During 2010-11 he worked on a project exploring the use of video conferencing technology to reduce travel-related carbon emissions. After this, during 2011-12, he worked on the PAWS (Power down And Wake System) project, funded through the JISC Greening ICT Programme, which reduced power consumption from computers. Recently, in Information Services, he was responsible for setting up the organic vegetable box scheme and was a central part of the IS Green Impact team.

Most recently Geoff played a key role working as Liaison Officer for the CADARN Learning Portal, a national project working with academic staff creating educational media to inspire new students into higher education. Geoff was instrumental in securing the £1.5M project funding from HEFCW and, working with the CADARN network, in shaping the direction of this ground-breaking initiative. Additionally, Geoff branched out into video journalism maintaining an informative blog showcasing innovative teaching from across Wales.

Geoff will be greatly missed by us all.

A funeral will be held on Wed 6th August at 9.45 am at the Aberystwyth Crematorium.

Dress is informal.

Geoff wished for no ceremony so the service will be very brief. He didn’t want any words or hymns or such at the funeral.

Any donations are to be made to Wales Air Ambulance charity and are preferred to flowers. Donations can be made either here : or at the funeral.

Everyone is welcome.


OER and Widening Access

Guest blogger: Gayle Hudson, Widening Access Manager North Wales – The Open University in Wales. Many thanks to Gayle for publishing her thoughts here – we’d love to hear your comments.


Gayle Hudson, The Open University

I come to the Cadarn Learning Portal project from a community widening access perspective.

I’m not a learning technologist or a natural techie person and I’m not an academic, I’m very interested in how all this ‘stuff’ reaches and impacts on real people, particularly adult learners and young people from communities who are under-represented in our great HE establishments.

I’ve been with the OU in Wales for the past 6 years and have seen a real shift in that time; from academics and technologists creating all this wonderful OER content for our OpenLearn website, to people starting to question who’s using this content and how is it helping to widen participation to HE. It is no longer good enough to say we ‘do’ widening participation because we offer OERs, we also need to look at practice and evidence.

In the past our OER activity was something happening ‘over there’ and as widening access practitioners we were busy in the community promoting our ‘real’ courses. Now we are seeing a much more integrated approach and a strategic commitment to putting human resource behind our ‘journeys from informal to formal learning’ workstream (or JIFL as the OU likes to call it).

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