Breaking Down Barriers: Grand Finale

In a nutshell

The project aimed to complete the following two tasks:

Task 1: Open-up 8 courses in the Landmap Learning Zone through Creative Commons BY-NC-SA and redesign the Learning Zone area of the Landmap website, linking through to the ELOGeo repository at Jorum.

Task 2: Transfer the hosting of the ELOGeo repository to Jorum from University of Nottingham ensuring the sustainability of the ELOGeo Project outputs. Technical solutions will be sought in developing a specific community repository site within Jorum which will be transferable to other communities that may have a similar requirement in the future.

Project outputs:

  • (Task 1) The project has exceeded the delivery of providing 8 courses in the Learning Zone through Creative Commons BY-NC-SA by providing an additional course called ‘Image Processing for GRASS GIS’. GRASS is one of the most well know open source freely available GIS softwares in the geospatial community and will be a welcomed addition to the other 6 image processing courses now openly available.
  • (Task 1) The Learning Zone redesign is now complete incorporating links to new content for the Open Educational Resources; Spatial Science for Schools (open to all) and ELOGeo repository
  • (Task 2) The transfer of the ELOGeo repository to Mimas from the University of Nottingham has been achieved including applying the new theme to the repository (blue colour) from the old theme (orange colour). The next step is to add this new theme into the Jorum DSpace 1.8 architecture. The overall aim is to produce a DSpace sub-site within Jorum for the GeoKnowledge Community branded as ELOGeo. This part of the work has been very challenging due to Jorum never before providing community specific sites within its’ service, with a number of technical issues causing hold-ups. The ELOGeo community specific site within Jorum will go live not long after the new Jorum service (using DSpace 1.8) launches in mid November 2012. A sneak preview of the new ELOGeo interface can be seen in the short video post below.

Showcase of outputs so far…

Impact for the GeoKnowledge Community
The following project impacts are as follows:

  • The international geospatial community wanting to gain knowledge on how to use satellite, airborne and other spatial datasets in their research/work can now obtain these key skills through the new Open Educational Resources available through the Landmap Learning Zone.
  • Lecturers seeking e-learning content to support their lectures can now refer to the OER materials at Landmap.
  • UK industries/local councils seeking materials for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for new members of staff or staff who have not used spatial data before can now make use of the ‘open’ materials.
  • European and worldwide academic institutions seeking high quality courses on image processing for leading commercial software’s such as ENVI, ERDAS, Idrisi, Definiens and PCI now have access to the open ‘Image Processing Courses’, such courses can cost at least £1,000 per person to attend.
  • Promoting the importance of OER to the geospatial community at key events such as INSPIRE 2012, RSPSoc 2012 and the Geoforum 2012. Explaining how providing OER is a two way process, encouraging members of the audience to contribute content to the ELGeo repository and Learning Zone OER.
  • Providing the technical challenges of creating a sub site within DSpace 1.8 at Mimas for combining the ELOGeo repository with the Jorum repository through the project blog.

Project Recommendations

  • As JISC have also funded a project at the University of Nottingham to build on the work of the ELOGeo project at that location we would recommend additional funding is provided to set-up a mirroring infrastructure to keep automatically in sync the two ELOGeo repository instances (Jorum & Nottingham).
  • Usability testing of the ELOGeo interface within Jorum to obtain user feedback and establish areas of improvement.
  • Run a project to encourage further contributions to ELOGeo from the user community so that the facility is used regularly in the geospatial open data, open software and open standards arena.
  • Establish a  quality assurance system for ensuring materials are up-to-date and still relevant to the GeoKnowledge Community.

Jorum and ELOGeo: a geospatial community window onto Jorum


The ELOGeo OER Rapid Innovation project (AKA Breaking Down Barriers: Building a GeoKnowledge Community with Open Educational Resources) was proposed by the Landmap team at Mimas shortly after Ben Ryan and I started working at Jorum, and, crucially, just as Jorum was embarking on a big programme of enhancements to make a great leap forward before the end of 2012. This blog post will review how ELOGeo has been a crucial part of Jorum’s emerging plans to provide a JISC-funded shared service, and the journey the Jorum team went on with the Landmap team to make the ELOGeo vision for a repository happen with Jorum as the back end. I should note that, at this moment, due to a number of factors, the ELOGeo repository is not quite ready to launch to the community: more on that further into this blog post. And watch this blog for future announcements re timeline and roll-out for ELOGeo.

Back to the start: early plans

When Gail Millin-Chalabi and Kamie Kitmitto of Landmap approached us with their draft project proposal, we were excited by the possibilities for trialling something that is very important to Jorum: the idea of providing community-specific interfaces, or windows, onto Jorum, tailored for the needs of that community. The two main areas we had been thinking about for this were institutional OER repositories, and subject communities. At the time, we were also in negotiation with the FE community in Scotland, represented by Scotland’s Colleges, about providing them with an OER repository as they moved from a closed model to completely open content. We are now fully engaged in a project to deliver this repository, known as Re:Source, in mid-November; it is our first foray into providing tailored services for a fee, as we move toward a business model of co-funding between JISC and external organisations. Showing that we can offer value to the UK HE and FE community is crucial to us as JISC moves forward into its new structure. And offering added value that communities and organisations will be willing to pay for is part of the vision.

Where we were in early 2012: Jorum and DSpace

As we developed the project proposal with Gail and Kamie, Ben had only just got his hands on Jorum’s DSpace platform, and neither of us were particularly familiar with the technical possibilities. At that point Jorum had been delivered on a very old version of DSpace for a relatively short period of time, with some modifications developed to customise DSpace as a repository for educational resources. None of the developers who had made this happen were in the team when we arrived, so there was some catching up to do. One thing we gathered was that DSpace has READ and WRITE APIs – perfect, you’d have thought, for building a customised front end with Jorum’s main database behind it. Not so, as it turned out.

There were many problems with the old version of DSpace, with the modifications, and with the APIs. In the meantime, we stepped into the middle of a project to deliver an entirely new front end web interface, built on Ruby on Rails, and intended to avoid the DSpace interface altogether and give folk a much more friendly and usable experience of Jorum. This was meant to be built on the READ API and possibly SWORD for ingest, and a good deal of work had already been achieved – but there were things that needed ironing out. Not to mention the requirement that was asserting itself very rapidly: for users and other stakeholders to be able to access stats and other data about the OERs in Jorum and their use. The old Jorum DSpace used an open source stats package that was limited in terms of what we needed to achieve.

New DSpace, new Jorum

With the support of our Jorum Steering Group and some very timely enhancements funding from JISC, we embarked on our Summer of Enhancements 2012. Knowing that we would soon need to deliver really good repository services for Scotland’s Colleges and ELOGeo, and that we needed much better ingest, discoverability, APIs and stats, we set out to take the necessary step of porting DSpace 1.5.2, with the mods needed for OER support, to the most recent version of DSpace – DSpace 1.8.2. We had the funding, but not yet the full team in place, so we packaged up the work and brought in some DSpace expertise from Cottage Labs, Enovation and @Mire to assist Ben. We have monitored the risk associated with the upgrade and kept our programme manager informed throughout; and have not compromised the service to our users at any stage. We know that the resulting service will be a superior offering, and well worth the effort involved.

We have a lot to deliver on this year, and, despite the relatively small size of ELOGeo, this project is absolutely central to our business case to our community:

Jorum can help you meet your subject community’s need to share, promote and access relevant OERs – we can save you the costs of supporting the software and providing the information management expertise in-house – we can give your academics access to the wealth of OERs shared by others via Jorum, while foregrounding your own resources, vocabularies, priorities.

How do we provide these community windows?

When we signed up for ELOGeo, we didn’t yet have a clear set of technical options or services to offer. The really clear use case to us, and to Scotland’s Colleges, Landmap, and other communities and organisations we talk to, is:

* We want a community view onto Jorum that allows access to both the community’s specific resources, and, when required by the user, access to all of Jorum’s resources.

* And we want people using Jorum’s own interface (including searching and browsing, using our APIs and feeds, and harvesting or aggregating from Jorum) to have access to Jorum’s core collection and the OERs provided by the communities that have their own interfaces.

At the start we discussed a few ideas, in varying shades of “lightweightedness”, for providing tailored windows onto content held within Jorum.

1) Lens onto Jorum: This is the simplest concept: putting something specific onto the end of Jorum’s URL and getting a page with the relevant content, e.g.: giving a view on resources tagged or classified ‘history’, or showing all Jorum resources submitted by people working at Strathclyde.

2) DSpace Community within Jorum: One of the features of moving to a recent version of Jorum is the ability to set up different Communities, within which you can have Collections. Actually, the old DSpace allowed Communities and Collections too- they just weren’t as configurable. With the new version of DSpace we can customise the DSpace interface for each Community, both in terms of theme and text and in terms of browse and search features and other aspects of the user experience.

3) Customised front end built on an API: This assumes a good working set of APIs and standard interfaces (e.g. SWORD) to allow search and deposit to be presented through a website completely designed from scratch. In theory, the ideal; in practice, a lot more resource intensive.

4) Two DSpace instances sharing content: Still not sure how viable this is, but the ELOGeo content was originally held on another DSpace instance at Nottingham University, so we thought about just having two separate instances, and making sure users could access content from both by regular mutual aggregation of the database contents.

Best laid plans: a change of technical direction mid-project

As can be seen in this blog’s introductory post, we originally went with option 3) Customised front end built on an API:

ELOGeo OER diagram

Building a GeoKnowledge Community at Mimas

Boy, were we wrong! Rest assured, thanks to the Jorum Paradata Enhancement Project with Cottage Labs, Jorum will, when we roll out the results of our Summer of Enhancements, have an excellent API for READ and for stats, and we will be providing some usable ingest interfaces, and we will be eating our own API dogfood in providing our own new front end, but at the start of the ELOGeo project, we quickly determined that we would move forward with implementing ELOGeo as a Community within Jorum, with its own URL, visual identity and interface.

As required, ELOGeo users will be able to:

(a) Deposit content through this interface into the ELOGeo Community collections – but this content will be available to anyone accessing Jorum content also;

(b) Browse and search, using their own community-specific vocabularies etc., the ELOGeo-specific content held in their Community collections; and

(c) Expand any search or browse to include all relevant Jorum content in their search results.

At the time of writing we don’t have a screenshot to show you of the ELOGeo interface, but to give you an idea of what a DSpace Community interface built onto Jorum might look like, here is a screenshot of the current Beta of Scotland’s Colleges’ Re:Source repository, which, as you can see, has sub-communities within this Community in Jorum. NB: this will be a lot more developed with faceted browse vocabularies and so on by the time they launch in November.

Re:Source Beta: screenshot example of customised DSpace Communities interface

Re:Source Beta: screenshot example of customised DSpace Communities interface

But it’s the end of the project: why haven’t we delivered?

Unfortunately, Landmap and hence the Breaking Down Barriers project lost their key developer (and the knowledge she had gained) at the start of the project; this led to overall delay and a project extension. Jorum received word of being funded to July 2013 in June and was able to begin the recruitment process for our own development team – but this was only partially successful and took us right to nearly the end of the project, with our first new developer not starting until mid-September.

Add to this the massive complexity of Jorum’s own in-house development task: pulling together the port to DSpace 1.8.2 with the requirements of Scotland’s Colleges, a few small-scale projects (of which ELOGeo was one), completing our own new front end, and developing and integrating a new stats dashboard, underlying search technology, and APIs, all managed by one Technical Manager. Our new Repository Application Developer started in mid-September, and we still have no Web Application Developer.

Technical lessons learned

To launch ELOGeo, we need to roll Jorum out on DSpace 1.8.2 in order to make the whole ELOGeo window-on-Jorum concept work. Technical complexities (I won’t say “unforeseen” because there are always technical complexities, you just can’t say in advance how onerous they will be) included:

  • working out how best to get the ELOGeo DSpace content out of its old repository into Jorum (see Landmap developer Bharti Gupta’s excellent technical post on this);
  • difficulties in porting the DSpace modifications needed to support the particular requirements of sharing OERs;
  • with some banality: difficulties in implementing different visual design themes into DSpace at the Community level. As you can see from the picture above, it is definitely possible to do- but it breaks stuff that then needs to be followed up and fixed.

We hope to follow up with a more detailed post on, in particular, the technical barriers and solutions to delivering an OER sharing services built on DSpace Communities. Keep an eye out for that one. NB: Landmap developer Will Standring has done some excellent posts on his technical achievements – really useful for anyone working with DSpace.

Meanwhile, I can say that I am thrilled, as Jorum Service Manager, that we have one method trialled and true for providing community and organisational windows onto content with Jorum – certainly the process will be a lot slicker going forward, and the wider HE and FE community will benefit from an increased wealth of open content for education. And we are happy to be openly sharing what we have learned so that others implementing educational content services using DSpace (or indeed, any community doing something similar) can move with ease through some of the barriers we encountered.

We welcome comments, questions and feedback, and would like to encourage you to get in touch with Jorum if you need further information on any of the above.

Launch of the enhanced Learning Zone

The 29th August 2012 marked the launched of the enhanced Landmap Learning Zone providing a hub of e-learning resources:

Enhanced Learning Zone

Highlights the four new sections of the Landmap Learning Zone.

Open Educational Resources: Provides courses on image processing, classification methods and the use of spatial data for a wide range of applications. These courses are authored by academics and the commercial sector and are provided free-of-charge to the global geospatial community. (Relicensed as CC BY-NC-SA as part of the JISC Rapid Innovations Project).

Protected Educational Resources: Provides courses on aerial photography, 3D modelling, LiDAR, landuse mapping and UKMap for registered users of Landmap (UK academic community only).

ELOGeo: Provides a repository for the global geospatial community for materials covering the themes of geospatial open data, open software and open standards. Students, researchers and lecturers are all welcome to contribute content to this repository to facilitate sharing of GeoKnowledge in the wider community. (The ELOGeo repository will be provided soon through Jorum).

Spatial Science for Schools: A range of tutorials aimed at 9 – 18 years to encourage the use of remote sensing in Geography, Biology, Mathematics, Geomatics and Physics. Tutorials were authored as part of the FIS Project (University of Bonn) and are funded by the DLR German Aerospace Centre and Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, Germany.

Spatial Science for Schools

See the world as you have never seen it before. Using exciting information from satellites and Google Earth.


The INSPIRE 2012 Conference kicked off with a great two days of workshops. I especially enjoyed Debbie Wilson’s presentation ‘INSPIRE Essentials – Back to Basics’. This workshop had a few multiple choice questions to test the audiences knowledge on INSPIRE. One of the interesting points Debbie made was the fact that many geoportals have popped up on the scene but that there appears to be alot of redundancy and replication. This is one of the key problems INSPIRE is trying to address so that datasets are harmonised and knowledge can easily be shared between and within organisations.

INSPIRE 2012 Opening Plenary

Another workshop attended is M. Taner Aktas ‘Geospatial Knowledge Sharing and Transfer, Innovation & Future Trends in Geo-Information’. Taner explained  how the transfer of knowledge may not be the same as what is received but some modified version of it. This could be because of: lack of trust; different cultures, language, mental mode; lack of time and meeting places; status and rewards issues or lack of absorptive capacity.

Tomorrow I will be presenting a poster on ‘Breaking Down Barriers – Building a GeoKnowledge Community’ to help promote the work being achieved as part of this JISC funded Rapid Innovations Project.To see a PDF of the poster please view the link below.


Project Plan

Thought it was time for a project update by providing you with a plan for project outputs that have already been achieved over the past couple of months and the planned project outputs for the forthcoming months:


April 2012

  • Confirmed the re-licensing of 8 Learning Zone courses to Creative Commons
  • ELOGeo content migration successfully transferred from Nottingham to Mimas
  • Abstract submitted to the INSPIRE 2012 Conference
  • Submit abstract for RSPSoc Annual Conference 2012, University of Greenwich
  • Checked that graphic design requirements for the DSpace ELOGeo interface have been fulfilled with the DSpace developers

May 2012

  • Started consultation with Zumm (web consultancy) regarding the restructuring of the Learning Zone landing page for the Landmap website (incorporating the ELOGeo and OER)
  • Abstract accepted for INSPIRE 2012 Conference and asked to do a lightening talk at the Geoforum 2012
  • Development of an online survey to ask the geospatial community about the barriers of contributing OER and the benefits of providing OER

June 2012

  • Appoint a developer to replace Bharti Gupta for the DSpace development work within Jorum
  • Poster presentation at INSPIRE 2012 showcasing Landmap, Jorum and ELOGeo on iPad (23/06/12 – 27/06/12)
  • Lightening talk at Geoforum 2012 (20/06/12)
  • Provide Zumm with a wireframe for the Learning Zone landing page redesign incorporating the new OER, ELOGeo repository and Spatial Science for Schools

July 2012

  • Arrange with RSPSoc organisers to do a short usability study as part of the Landmap workshops at the event (to get user feedback about the Learning Zone and ELOGeo repository embedded in Jorum) confirm dates for this.
  • Appoint a developer to do the DSpace work for the project  – begin to build the ELOGeo interface within Jorum for the GeoKnowledge Community
  • Collate any feedback from the community from the June outreach events.

August 2012

  • Release the OER for the Learning Zone (8 courses) with new Learning Zone landing page
  • Release the new Landmap – Spatial Science for Schools OER to increase usage of the project outputs of the FIS Project (partnership project withthe University of Bonn and the German Space Agency DLR)
  • Testing of the ELOGeo repository in Jorum checking search functionality etc.

September 2012

  • Launch ELOGeo repository hosted by Jorum and link to Learning Zone landing page
  • Promote at RSPSoc Annual Conference (12/09/12 – 14/09/12) via conference stand and oral presentation (if abstract accepted)
  • Run usability study as part of Landmap workshop at the RSPSoc conference
  • Write a report to summarise project outputs and findings of the online survey/ usability study

Any new work will be posted on the blog including photos from the outreach events.

Database migration

Following my last post, we investigated the import/export mechanism, and discovered that the database dump from Nottingham University will be easier to import into the Postgres database at the test version of DSpace 1.7.2.

After much discussion and effort we managed to get the database dump in sql format which is around 2 gb in size. Following commands were executed to load the data and then the dspace user was updated to elogeo in <user directory>/elogeodspace/config/dspace.cfg file. The Apache and tomcat were stopped and restarted.

-bash-3.2$ createuser -U zzelogeo -d -P
Enter name of role to add: elogeo
Enter password for new role:
Enter it again:
Shall the new role be a superuser? (y/n) y
-bash-3.2$ createuser -U zzelogeo -d -P postgres
Enter password for new role:
Enter it again:
Shall the new role be a superuser? (y/n) y
-bash-3.2$ createdb -E UTF8 -T template0  dspacelm

-bash-3.2$ psql dspacelm < <user directory>/db_dump/elogeodump.sql

We noticed there is a memory issue, so we ran the following command, stopped and restarted Tomcat, but it did not help much.

-bash-3.2$ JAVA_OPTS=-Xmx2048m

This is a very common Java problem of heap space and we should be able to sort this out very soon. We will keep you posted on further developments.

Re-licensing of Learning Zone Content

The authors of the following courses contained within the Landmap Learning Zone have agreed to re-license their content as Creative Commons (CC) Attribution Non-Commerical Share Alike (BY-NC-SA)License
Learning Zone
Dr Peter Bunting (Aberystwyth University) – agreed 14/03/2012
1) Object-Oriented Classification
2) Python Scripting for ArcGIS

Neil Quarmy (IS Limited) – agreed 03/02/2011
3) Image Processing for ERDAS Imagine 2010
4) Image Processing for ERDAS Imagine v.9
5) Image Processing for Idrisi Kilimanjaro
6) Image Processing for ENVI
7) Image Processing for PCI Geomatica

Dr Andrew Sowter (University of Nottingham) – agreed 14/03/2012
8) Introduction to Radar

CC BY-NC-SA Explained

This allows users of the materials:

  • to Share — to copy, distribute and transmit the work
  • to Remix — to adapt the work

Under the following conditions:

  • Attribution — You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).
  • Noncommercial — You may not use this work for commercial purposes.
  • Share Alike — If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.

This license allows the GeoKnowledge Community to reuse and repurpose the materials if desired but still adheres to the terms and conditions of use of the sample spatial data provided in the courses.