Developer Roadshows/Events/wa/Tracks/Digital Resource Bank
Challenge: build on this.
- George Appiah
- Sandra Okyere
- Roberta Tentsil
- Walter Kaba
- Aelaf T Dafla
Digital Resource Bank was one of the tracks during West Africa Developers road-show. The group’s task was to study a successful resource bank implemented by SchoolNet in Uganda and look into possibility of adapting it in other African countries. Resource bank is a repository of electronic learning material that could be used by teachers and students in their regular education. The bank’s content which ranges from text and pictures to audio and video, are collected through the contribution of its users. The group looked at some of challenges faced by implementation of resource bank in Uganda. Some of the challenges were software for distribution of resource, sustaining the project for long term, interesting schools to participate etc. The Resource bank group tried to address these challenges during the workshop.
This track is based on an existing project which is running in Uganda successfully under SchoolNet program. The project was started with the aim of getting content into schools’ ICT center. It works using a simple idea. Student, teachers and other individuals collect digital learning material (video, audio, image, text etc) and store it in a depository(resource server) in their local network. The depository is just an FTP site
running on the resource server in the local area network. A core team collects the submitted digital material from all schools participating in Resource Bank project and
brings it to the projects central office. After reviewing the content, the team decides wheatear they should be included in the distribution. Then the resource that was submitted by all the schools in addition to resource gathered by the team itself is redistributed back to the schools. Each school in the program has a resource server in their LAN.
The above concept is very simple and easy to implement when considering the technologies around us like Internet, broadband etc. But in situation where Internet and high bandwidth network is not available, the implementation on such idea becomes very difficult. How do you collect the digital material from the contributors and bring it central location? Once it is organized for distribution, how do you distribute it? If participating schools were linked with high bandwidth network, the material could be uploaded and downloaded by participants. Hence the implantation should consider such limitations.
The main aim of the group is to look at how Resource Bank project, similar to SchoolNet Uganda project, can be started in other African Countries. After the first discussion session, this group set the following target for the period of the workshop: to develop a program that any of the participants could take and implement with in their domain (country, region, community, school etc). This program should have a well defined model and sustainable business plan and all the required tools. The group also decided to setup a small demo as proof of concept that it can be done. The following objectives were set to achieve the above aim.
Finding a resource management software : Uganda implementation of Resource Bank did not use any software to compile the resources for distribution. The core team designed an html table of content that organized the resources with in the distribution CD by subject and other parameters. As the volume of material increases, the table of content becomes in adequate. Finding resource which is useful for discuss in class a particular topic will be a difficult task. Hence, resource management software which could index the data and allows full text searching is required.
Business Plan: The Resource Bank in Uganda was implemented as a child project of SchoolNet. The project was funded and managed by SchoolNet. If similar project is expected to run in other countries it has to either find a parent organization/project which will adapt it or it has to raise enough funds from donors for its operation. Both scenarios don’t guarantee the projects long term operation. Therefore one of the objectives of the track was to develop a business plan for the project to sustain itself in the long run
Develop a Demo Resource Bank: To demonstrate the feasibility of Digital Resource Bank, the group decided to implement a demo digital resource bank and document the challenges faced and their solution.
Planning and Implementation
Planning and Schedule
The track members meet during the first session of group discussion and draw up a plan and a schedule for achieving their task with in the workshop period (3 days). After setting the objectives listed above, the group came up with schedule to meet its target.
|2||Thursday||Find a tools that could be to manage the resource bank|
|3||Friday||Gather some resource for the demo|
|4||Saturday||Design distribution method|
Resource Management Software
Five software management software recommended for the purpose of digital resource bank were studied. The criteria set for selecting the suitable software for the job were the following:
- The software has to be open source.
- It has to be platform independent.
- It should support wide range of content type (text, audio, video, image, etc).
- It should independent from Internet for collection and distribution of resource.
- It should be easy to install and use.
The five recommended potential resource management software we looked at were DSpace, Wiki Educator, Greenstone, Rhaptos. The grouped divided in three groups and studied each one of them in detail. It was found that Wiki Educator, Merlot and Rhaptos are actually on-line services for resource management rather than resource management software. We were left with DSpace and Greenstone. After critically looking at the two software, Greenstone was the voted to be the best suitable software based on the above criteria set.
Greenstone is platform independent software with two interfaces: librarian interface and user interface. The library interface is a java application and its main purpose is managing the content. The software organizes the digital content in a unit called collections. Collection is actually a folder containing an archive of content, metadata and it’s index. When compiling a collection, a metadata could be defined by librarian that will used for searching. The software will index the content of collection to allow search using full text search or metadata search.
The user interface is a CGI that could be installed into Apache web server. The user interface allows access of the content over the network using Internet browser. It allow the user to explore the content using subject, keywords and other parameters defined when the collection was built. The user could also search the content using the search page.
The main advantage of GreenStone is, when the collection folder is copied from one resource server to another, the receiving software will add the new collection with out any intervention for system administrator. After collection the core team could compile the collection with on their local resource server. During distribution, the resource team just have to copy the new collation folders into the distribution media. At the schools, the collection folder could just be copied in the resource server and made available without compiling.
Greenstone software could be downloaded from www.greenstone.org
Business Plan (sustainability)
Starting Fund: The following ways of getting the initial funds have been proposed:
- Look for donors that will fund the initial stage of launching the project.
- Starting it as a child project of another well established program like SchoolNet of Uganda or Computer Aid .
The second proposal will be followed through with in case of Ghana. School Net project in Ghana may adopt digital resource project
Generating Income: The program needs to have steady flow of fund to be successful. It cannot depend on the generosity of donors for its operations. As source of income the following have been proposed:
- Subscription Fee: Schools subscribing to access the Resource Bank will pay a subscription fee of about $20 per month. If the program attracts about 50 schools for its service, the subscription fee will generate enough fund for its operations
- Startup Fee: A school will pay a start up fee of limited amount when it joins resource bank.
- Service Charge: The scope of the project is limited to providing content to schools with required basic infrastructure. But the program could provide infrastructure setup as service for payment.
Demo Digital Resource
After selecting a resource software and drawing up on the business plan, the next step was to setup a resource server. For this task Digital Resource Bank track group was divided into two sub groups. The first sub-group was tasked in prepare a content for the demonstration. The subject selected for the content was Winneba town. The second sub-group was tasked to study the Greenstone software and over come the limitations observed during sessions in the second day of the workshop.
Sub-Group 1, which consisted of Educators, went to the town of Winneba equipped with digital video camera and to gathered video and picture material. The information they gathered was centered on the economic activity of the Winneba’s community. They captured live video and digital pictures of fishermen in fishing activity; fishing boat building and trading activity in the local market. The sub-group compiled these multimedia resources into a web page. The educators used their professional senses in compiling the resource to produce learning content. During this exercise the educators learned basics of web pages designing and processing multimedia content.
In the mean time sub-Group2, which consisted of developers, spent some time studying Greenstone software. They were able to build a test collection into the system they have setup and view the content using web based user interface. It was found that there are many undocumented features of the software that are very useful for the planed resource bank. The main stumbling block for this sub-group was to get multimedia content into collection and successfully access them through a user’s web interface.
Evaluation of Activity
The track group manage to setup a resource server test it. The resource server meets the following goals
- It is open source
- Collection and distribution can be done using removable media
- Content organization and indexing was possible
- Content could be searched
- Educators were able to build content for the resource server
The main goal which was not achieved during the workshop is the process of adding video and audio content into collection for distribution. After studying developer’s manual of the software, it was realized that plug-in are required for each resource type that will be added into collection archive. The plug-ins can be developed using Perl.
The Resource bank track during the workshop was able to prove in concept that a resource bank project like SchoolNet Uganda could be implemented. It has found the right tools for such project and test it. It has also developed a basic business plan that makes the project feasible.