Interoperation Among Teaching Tools & Digital Archives

Content Flow


In this scenario, MIT’s OpenCourseWare (OCW) is the instrumental producer of educational content, namely ‘courseware’ websites of all of MIT’s course materials, rendered as static websites to the publicly available World Wide Web.

Digital Archive

MIT’s DSpace is a digital archive newly outfitted with two key technology enablers: 1) Web Services (‘WSvcs’) – to expose central functionality to remote systems, and 2) Content Packaging (‘PKG’) – the ability to work with the more useful, coarse-grained “content package” (vs. only individual files). The digital archive serves as a final repository for much digital material, and thus as a clearinghouse and reliable access point to serve that content to a variety of consuming applications.


In this set of scenarios, there are various types of Consumers of the educational content from OCW. These range from end users at common desktop tools (e.g. browsers), to online collaboration and learning environments (CLEs) like Sakai, to automated robots and spiders crawling the web for content (e.g. Microsoft’s Live Academic).

Newly Applied Technologies

Web Services

Beyond search of records & retrieval of files, the new Web Services permit remote systems to engage with the digital archive and work with a more fundamental building block: the complete archival entry of a complex digital object (many files), along with all metadata. This now permits other digital archive functionality to be exposed , by means of a service oriented architecture, to include submission (import) and dissemination (export) of items, as well as other administrative functions not before possible remotely.

Content Packaging

Adoption of an industry standard for dictating how any content provider ought prepare their materials for exchange was a critical part of the entire project. From the domain of higher education, the standard from the IMS Global Learning Consortium for Content Packaging (IMS-CP) was selected as the best choice for interoperability amongst OCW, DSpace, and the other educational technology entities that will in turn consume this content.

From the domain of libraries and repositories, the Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard (METS) is another example of a content packaging standard that the DSpace digital archive is now able to extend to content providers and consumers as an option.

Plugins for Import & Export of Packages

Thanks to the new plugin architecture within DSpace for content packaging, it is now relatively easy to choose among IMS-CP, METS, or another packager that could be created as a new plugin.

Previously Applied—Still Germane—Technologies

Web Crawling, esp. of Digital Archives

World Wide Web search engines and similar tools can crawl publicly available websites, of course, but in engaging with the special case of digital archives and repositories, special arrangements ca be made regarding collections, records, metadata, and so forth. OCW content can come under particular treatment in these cases, lending additional utility to its dissemination beyond traditional website crawling.

Web Browsers & RSS Readers

Naturally, the end user with her browser, RSS reader, or e-mail subscription can engage with the DSpace digital archive directly.

Metadata Harvesting

A specialized protocol has been developed to permit digital archives to share their content more widely: from the Open Archives Initiative (OAI), the Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (PMH) is a way for remote systems to invoke requests for some or all records from remote digital archives or repositories, with which they may construct new functionality or virtual collections in applications for their own local purposes.

OCW content will now enter into this stream of interoperating connectivity.