Jorum Blog

It's All Coming Together - Jorum's 2012 Summer of Enhancements

Posted by on 30th August 2012

Jorum fans watching closely over the past year or so will have picked up a whisper here, a blog post there, a Tweet somewhere else, hinting at improvements coming. You'll have seen me (Sarah Currier) and Dr Ben Ryan (Jorum's Technical Manager) come into post, and you'll have seen us building a new team of technical and educational experts, alongside Jorum stalwarts like Laura Skilton (nee Shaw), now Jorum Business Development Manager and Jackie Carter, Jorum's Director.

New Jorum is coming Tweet by Nick Sheppard

So far we have been ...

... working since last year on a new, user-friendly interface for Jorum, to sit in front of the standard DSpace interface. Hedtek did the initial development on this (and wrote the blog post linked to), alongside our previous Web Developer Steven Cook.

... grappling with improving on the old DSpace API; we've promised great things for developers wanting to extract and expose Jorum content.

... working on perfecting (or at least easing) the use of OAI-PMH and SWORD to get your content into Jorum in convenient batches.

... giving you a wee glimpse of the possibilities for a statistics and paradata Dashboard, with, again, initial work by Steven Cook.

All of these things deserve their own individual blog posts, and we will be updating you in more detail over the coming months. But we haven't properly filled you in yet on our Summer 2012 programme of enhancements around these and other aspects of Jorum. Partly because we've been working so hard we've barely had time to breathe, and partly because the technical requirements for making stuff happen have evolved swiftly with each passing week as we delve deeper and deeper into the innards of the old version of DSpace we inherited.

We're ready now to give you a glimpse: more will come, so keep watching our blog, Twitter stream or Facebook page.

Jorum Enhancements for Summer 2012 - An Overview

In January this year, JISC OK'd work on four Jorum Enhancements Projects, to proceed over the summer in concert with our work on the new front end and other technical improvements. Around the same time, we took the decision to port our repository platform from a very early version of DSpace to DSpace 1.8.2, which offers a considerable range of advantages for our users, not least for the developments planned within the Enhancements Projects.

DSpace logo We are also providing a repository platform for Scotland’s Colleges’ new open repository Re:Source, which is being built on DSpace 1.8.2, and which will allow Re:Source users to access all Jorum OERs, and Jorum users to access Scottish FE OERs. Technical compatibility is essential for this.

Note that we are offering other communities like Scotland's Colleges, e.g. subject communities and institutions, their own "lenses" onto Jorum content tailored for their members. So we need a good flexible underbelly topped with usable APIs and other interfaces, to make those happen, and the most recent version of DSpace provides that. Please contact Jorum Business Development Manager Laura Skilton (laura.skilton[at] if you are interested in talking about a Jorum lens tailored for your community.

Big job, all of this!

Breaking down the Jorum Enhancements Projects

With the Jorum technical team still under construction, we have been extremely fortunate in securing the help of not one, not two, but three expert DSpace development houses. We are working with: Cottage Labs logoEnovation logoAtmire logo

  • local company Cottage Labs.

  • from Ireland, Enovation Solutions (who, among other projects, work with the Irish National Digital Learning Resource service NDLR).

  • well-known international DSpace developers, @Mire.

We originally started with four Jorum Enhancements Projects, but as you will see, we added a fifth Project Zero, top-sliced to provide an improved infrastructure in support of the other Enhancements.

Jorum Enhancement Project 0: JPort - Supporting all the Jorum Enhancements Projects

What JPort Means for Jorum's Users: You won't see much from the outside, but future improvements will be much easier to build on this flexible, robust platform. We're hoping there will also be new widgets and interfaces built by all you developers and hackers out there in our community

As noted above, a significant amount of development work has been required to enable the features under development by the Enhancements Projects. DSpace development company Enovation has been engaged for the bulk of this development work:

  • Jorum port to DSpace 1.8.2 including content migration and migration of Jorum DSpace modifications (required for Projects 1, 3, 4).

  • Integrating the old RESTful API with the new DSpace (required for Projects 1, 3, 4).

  • Integrating the new Jorum front end interface (required for Projects 1, 3, 4).

  • Implementing Apache SOLR and UIMA (another Apache project related to semantic technologies, specifically NLP (natural language processing)) (required for Projects 1 and 4). Ruby on Rails logo

  • Cottage Labs' Ruby on Rails expert Martyn Whitwell has helped with the port by improving a couple of small front end interface issues with Jorum's modifications, namely display of OERs held in Jorum as external Web links, and correct display of IMS Content Packages.

Jorum Enhancement Project 1: JDEP - Improving discoverability through semantic technology

What JDEP Means for Jorum's Users: A variety of new, more effective ways to discover the content you need, quickly and easily. And more people finding the content you share via Jorum.

This project is highly dependent on the successful port to DSpace 1.8.2 as this makes available much enhanced database functionality and an improved API. Autonomy logo

  • The project has utilised inhouse Mimas expertise in Autonomy IDOL.

  • Autonomy IDOL expert Phil Cross and DSpace experts @Mire are providing technical consultancy exploring the possibilities for making DSpace content more discoverable via Autonomy IDOL.

  • Cottage Labs have investigated and reported on underlying indexing technology to use for both discoverability and statistics provision (the latter relates to Project 3: JPEP below). Their report, recommending we move to Elastic Search, Elastic Search logo a cutting edge, JSON-based advance on Apache SOLR, is available here.

  • Work on this project and Project 3: JPEP also identified a serious barrier to making some aspects of our Enhancements work: deficiencies in the quality of metadata in Jorum. Again this affects both discoverability and statistics provision. Cottage Labs will advise on and provide metadata clean-up later in the programme, and Jorum will roll out DSpace 1.8.2 with the improved metadata schemas, vocabularies, workflow and guidance that this version supports.

Jorum Enhancement Project 2: JEAP - Expanding Jorum’s collection through aggregation projects

What JEAP Means for Jorum's Users: More quality content for you to discover, and easier ways to share your collections via Jorum

WWI Centenary project banner

A short term Jorum post was created to bring content into Jorum, and FE e-learning expert Steve Smith was recruited for four months. He has been extremely effective, increasing Jorum's collection by ca 1400 OERs so far, with many from FE, an area that needed development. Steve is staying with Jorum for an additional two months to 30 September.

Some of Steve's content adventures include Blackburn College and University Centre's video collections; Oxford University's WWI OER collection; The Saylor Foundation's OERs (with acknowledgement to the groundwork done on this by Frank Manista and Jackie Carter); Saylor Foundation logo and some excellent OERs from Oxford Brookes University looking in-depth at topics related to the Olympic Games (user story coming soon!).

Jorum Enhancement Project 3: JPEP - Exposing activity data and paradata

What JPEP Means for Jorum's Users: You'll have access to statistics about use of Jorum content via an API, Dashboard, and individual OER pages.

Cottage Labs, a development company specialising in UK HE repositories and virtually all of the technologies currently required by Jorum, was engaged for this project. The project is progressing using Agile project management, in two parts:

  • Workpackage 1 determined specific requirements, which incorporated user stories gathered by the Jorum team over previous years, plus community feedback on the Dashboard Beta this year.

  • The remaining work runs until end of September 2012. The core requirement is the building of a new system architecture, which will also support the provision of vastly more flexible READ APIs than the simple DSpace native API. More on this in another blog post soon!

  • On top of that, a new Dashboard providing a wide range of statistics will be developed, as well as provision for statistics to be exposed through individual OER pages, and to order search results lists by popularity.

  • As noted above, a requirement emerged for investigation of indexing systems underlying Jorum, and data cleanup to ensure implementation and rollout to the community go smoothly.

  • We're hoping to find time to also work with the IRUS-UK project to implement their new DSpace code for capturing and exposing Counter-compliant statistics for Jorum.

  • We're also hoping to find time to support the JLeRN Experiment in providing further Jorum metadata and paradata for the Learning Registry Alpha node at Mimas to play with. And we're hoping to provide case study material for possible upcoming JISC CETIS investigations into activity data and paradata. Learning Registry logo

Jorum Enhancement Project 4: JUEP - Improving the front-end UI and user experience (UI/UX)

What JUEP Means for Jorum's Users: A smoother, easier and more accessible experience using Jorum

Initial elements of this project are taking place with community feedback on the new Jorum front end interface and Dashboard. The remainder (including an accessibility review) is on hold, as it is not practical to invest in UI/UX and accessibility expertise in evaluating the features arising from Projects 0, 1 and 3, while so much complex, inter-related development is still going on. The Jorum team still feel that this work is vitally important, and JISC agree; they have generously allowed us to commission this work by the end of September, and carry it out later in 2012.

And just as a final teaser: we are hoping to zhuzh up our look-and-feel for final roll-out too! Watch this space!

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