To Shibbolise or not to Shibbolise…

Chrissie Turkington, Senior Advisor at JISC Regional Support Centre in the Northwest, talked about the basics of Shibboleth, and played JISCs Introduction to Federated Access Management video (embedded below). I hadn’t seen the video before and was impressed with the simple manner it explains something that is usually so confusing.

Chrissie then split us into groups to discuss the benefits and issues of implementing Shibboleth from different points of view; senior management, lecturers/teachers, IT staff, and learners. Interestingly, she had set up a FE Federated Access Management wiki before the session, and added to it as we gave feedback after our group discussion. Have a look at the wiki if you would like an idea of the discussions we had, and if you would like to add/edit the wiki I’m sure Chrissie would be happy to add you, she was happy for anyone in the session to collaborate on the wiki. The main focus was FE as the majority of the audience were from colleges, but similar principles also apply to HE.

e-books for FE: getting beyond handouts to providing a 24/7 digital library

I went along to this session more for information purposes, as I’m interested in e-books and how they are being used in education. Obviously, many of our prospective students are currently in FE and their experiences of e-books in FE may well shape their views and opinions coming into HE.

I was unaware of the e-books for FE project before the session, so it was interesting to hear that almost 3000 e-books covering core areas in FE are now available for all FE institutions for 5 years with ulimited concurrent usage. Even better, FE colleges has been consulted throughout the project to see what their needs are and which books they would appreciate having access to. Anna spoke about the project itself, including the consultation phase (over 80,000 votes were made regarding which e-books to purchase) and the details of the license the e-books are available on.

The books are available on the Ebrary platform, so a representative from Ebrary showed a demo of some of the main features. There were a few features which impressed me, such as opening as a web page rather than pdf (which means even mobile devices can open e-books), ranking  relevance from a search shown in the tables of contents (i.e. more relevant chapters easily identified), and including a citation and URL automatically when adding copied text to a document (although of course this may not be the referencing style you use). The issue of copyright was raised, and Ebrary has set up a restriction of 40 pages copy/print (i.e. if you copy 10 pages, you would only be able to print 30 pages), however this is per session which I think needs clarifying as it could potentially open it up to abuse. Ebrary can also customise the page for each college free of charge, and are looking at a pricing model to enable colleges to purchase extra books or newer editions to expand the collection.

The project sounds like a really great oppportunity for FE colleges, and something I hope will support them and their teaching as well as introducing students to using e-books for their studies.

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