Promotion of innovation and flexibility in the development of learning objects. The Your Agora platform

The development of educational resources for e-learning is a complex activity for any beginner or novice teacher and in exercise. Structuring content for dissemination and use in a learning management system involves a management process that is not normally supported by software applications. The reuse and interoperability of digital resources between different e-learning solutions will be a consequence of innovation and flexibility in learning, as proposed by the educational and academic model of the Autonomous University of Yucatan. The objects of learning constitute an innovative and interesting proposal to address the question of the use of educational technology by university professors. The learning programs such as ESL lesson plans propose the construction of small components of knowledge that can be reused and assembled in different learning contexts, all without losing their functionalities. A management platform for this type of resources is presented, called Your Agora, whose main characteristic is to use an assistance and recommendation approach for the development of learning objects like teach English online . It offers, at the same time, an integrated set of tools for storage, search and reuse of educational resources. Interoperability is guaranteed by complying with specifications and standards defined in e-learning.

YOUR AGORA, A PLATFORM FOR OA MANAGEMENT

For the development of an educational program, the professor who works in e-learning performs a series of activities and processes that, together, define a management model. In general, the result is an educational resource distributed as an OA. The teacher performs these processes empirically and using independent tools designed for specific tasks, which limits and complicates their use (the teacher must efficiently handle many tools to obtain a useful product).

The existing solutions do not consider the management process in an integral manner and focus on specific activities, which causes problems that not only affect their use, but also interoperability between them. For example, repositories use particular formats; the search and retrieval of objects is not easy, due to the lack of integration between search engines, repositories and existing e-learning platforms; the dissemination and distribution of OA is limited, among other drawbacks.

The management can be improved with an environment that integrates the editing, transformation, storage and collaboration features present individually in the tools for the development of OA which would take advantage of opportunities for collaboration between authors to obtain greater quality.

In Mexico, there have been notable collaborative efforts to solve these problems. The Common Space for Distance Higher Education or the Mexican Society of Computing in Education are some of the university organizations that have undertaken actions to promote the development and exchange of OA, generally in the form of training networks and implementation of repositories.

Our proposal is oriented to a comprehensive work framework for the management of OA. All the activities and tasks related to the management of the objects are interconnected, which facilitates their control and promotes the reusability of the published resources.

The Your Agora platform aims to assist the teacher in the process of finding and building resources for learning; is defined by a collection of components that provide different functionalities:

  • Incorporate educational resources located in a computer or on the Internet
  • Offer support to the most common file formats (ppt, pdf, doc, jpg, zip, to name a few), which can be easily extended to incorporate new ones.
  • Store and recover resources as OA (digital resources and associated metadata) or in its original format.
  • Edit and generate metadata through an assistance mechanism.
  • Establish a federation of repositories, which allows a distributed search of OA.
  • Employ e-learning standards for packaging and distribution.
  • Provide communication mechanisms between users for collaborative work.
  • Have a service-based interface for interconnection with other applications.

Each user registered in Your Agora has a work space where they can manage their educational resources: edit them, publish them, locate them or evaluate them. An assistant for the generation of OA has been developed that suggests metadata based on the similarity of a resource with others already existing in the repository. It also offers a metadata viewer to consult the values ​​that other users have assigned for a metadata. These tools facilitate the cataloging process and create uniform sets of resources that can then be located more quickly by other users.