XCRI (Exchanging Course Related Information) is a JISC-funded project to get HE institutions to produce course data in a universally exchangeable format, so it can easily be accessed and used by other institutions, end-users, and aggregators. It’s a bit like an RSS feed for courses.
Kent University have a JISC-funded mini-project to produce an XCRI feed, and I’m running the project. I’m adding entries to my personal blog because at the moment we don’t have Kent blogs, so this will have to do for now.
One of the main problems we have at Kent – a problem shared by many other institutions seemingly – is that although we obviously have a reliable and structured source of course data, we don’t have a structured source of public-friendly information. The sort of stuff that goes into a prospectus for potential students. But XCRI is attempting to gather exactly that sort of information: the stuff you want to advertise to the outside world.
This isn’t just a data-mining exercise. Sure, the first practical hurdle is picking out the relevant bits from html and flat text held in our prospectuses and webpages, and putting all this into a structured format such as XML or a relational database. But the bigger problem is changing the way people work. I won’t go into the details of how the publications are generated at the moment, but suffice to say it’s largely paper- and Quark-driven. The webpages have to be manually created after this process, and there’s no source of data other than flat documents.
So the biggest hurdle is going to be setting up a new system where the data comes first, and from this web and print can be generated. This in turn means collaborative, workflowed systems (a CMS?!), pushing out XML. The XML can then be turned into whatever you want.
Well, that’s the theory. I’ll have to see what happens over the next couple of months…