Case study: Building the E-archaeology Content Repository

The E-archaeology Content Repository contains didactic resources in the field of archaeological heritage protection and management and can be accessed online at www.e-archaeology.org/contentrepository. It was created using the Content Repository tool and contains multimedia and interactive e-learning courses which, after being imported into and installed in the LMS/LCM (Learning Management System/Learning Content Management System), may be used in distance learning.


The repository includes material developed as a result of work carried out as part of two Leonardo da Vinci projects. In the first project: “E-learning as a tool of knowledge transfer in the field of the protection and management of archaeological heritage” (2007-2009), content was developed to fulfil the requirements of the “Protection and management of Archaeological Heritage in contemporary Europe” training programme and a set of e-learning courses was created based on this content. In the second project “Vocational training system in archaeological heritage based upon e-learning resources” (2010-2012), the content was expanded and supplemented.



Resources


Any user online can search the resources contained within the E-archaeology Content Repository. Depending on the level of access granted to them, users who are logged in are able to download content as a SCORM package, create new courses and add further content to the repository.

The repository contains didactic content available in 5 languages (English, Spanish, Latvian, Polish, German) and there are nearly 4500 SCOs, including (approximate values):

- 15 training programmes (Curricula)

- 60 components in the form of Modules (in English),

- 175 components in the form of Units (in English),

- 700 SCOs (in English).


A similar amount of Modules, Units and SCOs are available in Polish, Spanish and Latvian. A smaller number can be accessed in German.

The content of the E-archaeology Content Repository can be used in teaching in the field of the protection and management of archaeological heritage. It may form part of the didactic process in the following ways (Marciniak, 2009):

- The material may form the basis of an assisted web-based training programme,

- It may supplement synchronised distance learning (eg., by video conferencing) or a traditional training course.


       Creating a repository of didactic material

       A repository of didactic material is an IT solution which is used to store, process and download didactic content in digital format. To ensure the modification of learning material is simple and that it can be reused multiple times, the material must be built appropriately. Above all, it should be in a form which enables the creation of larger structures from smaller parts. Materials should be saved using a technical standard to make flexible processing possible. SCORM and the division of content into Learning Objects fulfil this requirement. It is also necessary to have a mechanism which enables didactic interpretations to be assigned to those parts of the material which are essentially cohesive and useful in the teaching process. Such chunks are designed to be used in various (numerous) educational contexts, different from the training programme where they were initially located. In the creation of the E-archaeology Content Repository it was decided to apply the UCTS (Universal Curricular Taxonomy System) in classifying didactic interpretations. This system defines the location of the materials used in the teaching process on three levels (Unit, Module, Curriculum).


       Interpretation of didactic content

        Structuring material as SCORM conformant Learning Objects is a good starting point for the creation of repositories where content is reusable. Actually, it is insufficient to only refer to its structure, as certain elements of its structure (SCO, block, e-learning course) do not carry any information about the position of content within the teaching process. SCORM does not propose its own taxonomic system which could be used to describe the role of components from the point of view of their position in the teaching process. However, in LOM (Learning Object Metadata) TaxonPath metadata exists and it is used to denote this information. TaxonPath can be used to attribute various taxonomic systems to any component. SCORM documentation presents various ways of interpreting content (Dodds, 2006):

U.S. Army                U.S. Air Force           U.S. Marine Corps         Canadian Armed Forces
Course                     Course                     Course                          Course
Module                     Block                       Phase                            Performance Objective
Lesson                      Module                     SubCourse (Annex)      Enabling Objective
Learning Objective   Lesson                      Lesson                           Teachning Point
Learning Step           Learning Objective    Task   
                                                                Learning Objecive   
                                                                Learning Step   

         The taxonomic systems above refer to intuitively interpretable notions connected to the role of the material in the didactic process. In place of the above systems it would be possible to use other descriptions taken from the organisation of teaching processes at school (subject, class, lesson), or university level (subject, lecture, exercises). The presented method proposes UCTS as a solution which does not refer to a specific educational context for the interpretation of didactic content.

 

       UCTS (Universal Curricular Taxonomy System)

         UCTS (Universal Curricular Taxonomy System) is a taxonomic system developed for the interpretation of didactic material in digital format. The system supplies the language of description thanks to which didactic material can be structured on a number of levels of detail. It can also be used to describe SCORM conformant material as well as to structure material in any other form as desired.

UCTS supplies the following concepts which can be used to describe didactic content:
- Curriculum,
- Learning module (also Module),
- Learning unit (also Unit).

         A Curriculum marks content which can be considered a training programme in that it contains a set of materials presenting a given subject in depth and which realise particular teaching objectives. A Curriculum is comprised of any number of Module-type components. The components are organised in the order in which they are supposed to be accessed by the learner. The Curriculum can be supplemented by an Exam element, which is the final exam for the entire training programme.
A Module can be comprised of a number of Unit components or other modules forming a complete whole dealing with the given subject in detail. This component should be supplemented by a Exam element which will enable assessment of learner progress.
The Unit component is the smallest didactic component and it introduces coherent content and contains elements allowing the learner to assess their own knowledge. A Unit is a content structure which cannot be divided further.

Example materials described by UCTS are able to structure content as follows:

Curricula   Archaeological heritage in contemporary Europe
               Teaching of the past – archaeological heritage for teachers

Modules   Theorizing Cultural Heritage
               Geographic Information System as a method of management of spatial data
               International conventions and legal frameworks

Units        Cultural Heritage – concepts and problems
               Cultural Heritage – management through time
               GIS applications and history
               GIS in archaeology
               UN and UNESCO conventions
               European conventions