Why am I doing Web Science?

Day 1 – 079/DIVERSE2012 ©2012/All rights reserved (permission granted)

Last week I posted the “What is Web Science?” statement I submitted as part of my application to join the IPhD Web Science course at the University of Southampton. Along with this statement I was asked to provide a statement about my specific research interests – to indicate why I wanted to do Web Science.

My interests are primarily in finding ways to make it easier for teachers and learners to find useful video on the web to support their teaching and learning. This came about through 3 main influences: my experience of running a documentary film production module for Film Studies at the University of Southampton, the research I carried out for my Masters, and meeting researchers at the DIVERSE 2011 Conference in Dublin.

Essentially, not only did I find it difficult to discover useful content to share with my students, I also found out (through carrying out a case study) that learners had similar discovery issues, and that actually it appeared to be a universal problem.

This eventually led to my developing a prototype web platform (www.edmediashare.org) to try out a means of enabling teachers and learners to share the web-based video they found useful. Running this project gave me some insight into the issues around knowledge sharing and developing communities of practice, and has led to my interest in pursuing studies in Web Science.

Which brings us back to the research proposal I provided to support my application to join the Web Science IPhD course. This is what I said:

The Evaluation of Knowledge Sharing Practices to Enhance Web-based Video Learning Resource Discovery

Web-based video is a valuable resource in supporting teaching, learning and research. However, due to the large and growing amount of video available on the Web, searching for and finding useful content is extremely difficult and is restraining the use of these resources. The following aspects have crucial roles in aiding the discovery of relevant and useful content.


Initiatives led by the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI, 2013) and Schema.org (Schema.org, 2013) to extend metadata vocabularies that include educational terms are aimed at facilitating the discovery of learning resources via search engines and other services. Specifically, a newly adopted vocabulary includes the opportunity to align resources with an ‘established educational framework’. This is a critical development that has the potential to significantly improve discovery by allowing users to refine searches based on how they intend to use the resource in teaching and learning. However, despite initiatives to develop frameworks that elucidate the pedagogical use web-based video (e.g. Burden and Atkinson, 2008 and Young and Moos, 2012), an ‘established’ means of describing this activity has yet to emerge.

A more user-focussed approach may provide a better means of describing the pedagogic use of web-based video. Studies show that taxonomies developed from the collection, analysis and evaluation of vocabularies used in the social annotation of learning resources (referred to as ‘folksonomies’) have been shown to have the potential to improve resource discovery (Pirmann, 2012).

Knowledge sharing:

Although extremely useful in providing the means to facilitate the discovery of relevant digital content, creating useful metadata requires community involvement on a large scale in order to have a significant impact on improving learning resource discovery. In this context, the engagement of the academic community in using, rating, recommending, commenting on, and tagging relevant digital content is vital.

Studies of Web-based knowledge sharing within the academic community are rare (Ismail and Ashmiza, 2012), but those that have explored this area find that knowledge sharing is intrinsic within this group (Fullwood, Rowley, Delbridge, 2013) and that altruism, identification, and reciprocity have a significant and positive effect on knowledge sharing (Chang and Chuang, 2011), all of which present opportunities for motivating engagement. However, initiatives that attempt to build online communities to encourage educators to share their knowledge have not achieved the widespread adoption that would ensure long-term usefulness, and this is hindering the potential of the Web to effectively support learning, teaching and research.

My thesis is that online knowledge sharing practice related to the use of web-based video in academia is poorly understood. Because this engagement is crucial to the improvement of learning resource discovery, finding out what works in this area is vital to the future development of the Web for the benefit of education. Developing taxonomies that facilitate effective web-based learning resource discovery are dependent on the motivation of educational practitioners to share their knowledge and contribute to the trustworthiness and reliability of these resources. Further research in these areas can aid the development of effective and appropriate measures to enhance learning resource discovery.

The aim of this project is to design and implement a research strategy to find out the barriers and enablers that influence academics when engaging with online knowledge sharing communities, and to explore and evaluate the usefulness of emerging folksonomies in facilitating the discovery of web-based video learning resources.I anticipate spending part of the taught stage of the IPhD programme in exploring the potential for combining qualitative and quantitative research methodologies in this study. One area I am particularly interested in exploring is the use of paradata collection and other ‘data mining’ tools as a means of gaining insight into behaviour in online knowledge sharing environments.

  • Burden, K, and Atkinson, S (2008). Beyond Content: Developing Transferable Learning Designs with Digital Video Archives. University of Hull, UK. [pdf] Available at: http://www.sijen.com/reproduce/resource/beyond_content.pdf [Accessed 22 May 2013].
  • Chang, H and Chuang, S (2011). Social capital and individual motivations on knowledge sharing: Participant involvement as a moderator. Information & Management, 48 (1), pp 9–18. [Online] Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.im.2010.11.001 [Accessed 22 May 2013].
  • Fullwood, R, Rowley, J, and Delbridge, R (2013). Knowledge sharing amongst academics in UK universities. Journal of Knowledge Management, 17 (1), pp.123 – 136. [Online] Available at: 10.1108/13673271311300831 [Accessed 22 May 2013].
  • Ismail, M and Ashmiza, N (2012) Key determinants of research-knowledge sharing in UK higher education institutions. PhD thesis, University of Portsmouth. [Online] Available at: http://eprints.port.ac.uk/8492/ [Accessed 20 May 2013].
  • Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (2013). The Specification. [Online] Available at: http://www.lrmi.net/the-specification [Accessed 22 May 2013].
  • Pirmann, C (2012). Tags in the Catalogue: Insights From a Usability Study of LibraryThing for Libraries. Library Trends 61(1), 234-247. The Johns Hopkins University Press.[Online] Available at: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/library_trends/v061/61.1.pirmann.html [Accessed 20 May 2013].
  • Schema.org (2013). Thing > Intangible > Alignment Object. [Online] Available at: http://schema.org/AlignmentObject [Accessed 22 May 2013].
  • Young, C and Moes, S (2012). How to move beyond lecture capture: Pedagogy guide (Draft), Rec:all Partnership, University College London. [pdf] Available at: http://www.rec-all.info/profiles/blogs/rec-all-guides-draft-versions-ready-for-review [Accessed 22 May 2013].

This is what I hope to work on over the next 4 years. It will evolve as I find out more about the subject, and gain a more thorough grounding in Web Science. I’ll keep you posted…

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