In this week's (informative as ever) Higher Education Academy Education for Sustainable Development e-Bulletin we find news of another ambitious EAUC initiative to set alongside its LIFE project. This is the Sustainability Exchange which is a 2 year HEFCE-funded project led by Staffordshire University in partnership with EAUC .
The Exchange promises to
"facilitate the sharing of information, best practice and resources through online communities, online learning and an interactive repository, in as many appropriate formats as possible. The site will use emerging and innovative ways to reflect the changes in how we now work and learn. This includes: webinars, downloads, online CPD, podcasts, videos, process development, e-learning, forums, ask the Expert and other interactive mediums. The focus will be on interactive, flexible and accessible information and communication systems."
... with all this to be accomplished through a website, it seems. It is certainly ambitious:
- "It will be a powerful one stop shop for the English HE sector ... on sustainability, to aid cross organisational collaboration, co-ordination and a more efficient and cost effective approach;
- It will be a repository and gateway of knowledge, information and contacts which will improve access to sector resources and expertise;
- It will be an online community (and sub communities) that communicate and share information on sustainability;
- It will be an online tool providing best practice advice and support.
- In the first instance the Sustainability Exchange will benefit institutions in England but it has the potential to grow UK wide and meet the needs of all in the tertiary education sector.
- It is the sector stepping up to meet [its] current and future needs ..."
In terms of links to externally held resources, the website specification makes it clear that the this is more than about mere signposting with the repository having to:
- be fully taggable and searchable enabling users to filter with advanced searches
- enable access to content held externally by third parties without additional logins / passwords by users (the SE will need to enable access of some third party content, i.e. through an automatic hidden login/password system)
- enable third parties to upload and share their content through the SE repository, securely (with third party control over Copyright/Creative Commons Licenses)
- provide content providers with a promotional interface that acknowledges their provision of content, includes contact details, links and an automatically updating list of repository content provided by them
- enable content to be scored in terms of number of views/downloads and be simply rated by viewer i.e. ‘Like’, and
- have RSS feeds to notify of new content.
Wow! I think my earlier use of "ambitious" now looks wholly inappropriate. Actually, I am unsure what to make of this (and whether, indeed, to welcome it), and I certainly wonder what the effect will be on existing organisations and activity. I also wonder what success criteria Hefce have demanded for such a huge initiative.
My last point is to note that there seems to be no aim to capture blog activity and don't know whether to be relieved or affronted. Ah well, such existential dilemmas pale into insignificance compared to the problems EAUC will have in getting all this to work in a meaningful, comprehensive and useful way, and that's before working out what to do when Hefce's ready cash runs out after 2 years.