I just finished an interesting project developing a Knowledge base to support a new graduate certificate program in Research Commercialization and Innovation for a Toronto Community College. The program incorporates a problem based learning methodology where students are assigned problems they must solve collaboratively. The problem based learning method relies heavily on available learning and information resources to help students to research and generate their solutions.
Our task was to develop a usable knowledge base to support the curriculum. We began by creating a number of matrices: objectives by learning resource, course by learning resources, problem by learning resources. When we started to think of a tool to support the knowledge base we realized early the existing college WebCT environment just wasn’t going to cut it and we started exploring simple knowledge database tools. While some would work fine, none seemed true to the spirit of collaborative problem based learning.
Looking for a more collaborative tool that would allow students and instructors to add learning resources over time we started looking at possible Web 2.0 solutions and eventually landed on something deliciously simple–the social bookmarking tool Delicious. Some of the features, among others, that made Delicious our choice were:
“Tag bundles” allowed us to cluster tags into a group and give it a label. We used this to cluster tags into course names. This simplifies the search when students want to access resources we have assigned to specific courses.
Individuals with a delicious account can add another user to their network (they can also bundle networks). Students (and instructors) are given instructions for adding the resource repository to their network. This gives users access to the learning resources and enables the collaborative features of Delicious
The Delicious “inbox” feature gives students, instructors and external experts the ability to contribute new learning resources to the repository. They simply include the user name of the repository as a tag. The new (recommended) resource sits in the inbox of the repository account until a program administrator approves it. This allows administrators to check on the integrity of the resources and ensure the tags are consistent with the tagging structure used for the repository.
Delicious can bookmark anything on the web, which gave us the opportunity to research and use a use a wide variety of resources both internal (library resources and links) and external (expert resources on research and innovation) and in a variety of media formats.
We expect the resource repository to grow collaboratively and continue to be useful for students beyond the time they spend in the program. In this way we hope it will extend the program into the community of entreprenuers developing their research concepts into viable products and services.
Update, March 9/2009:
The applied research group at George Brown College (the client on this project) has posted a item on this project on their blog–New online resource for RCI program.
I will be presenting a paper on this at the upcoming This Is IT conference (May 20-22/09) with Robert Luke, Director of research at George Brown College.