Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Office of the Information Commissioner

Special Minister of State, Senator John Faulkner has announced draft laws to establish an Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) The Minister invited submissions via the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet website by 15 May 2009. But unfortunately the invitation did not include a copy of the documents to be commented on, nor any information on how to obtain a copy, making comment difficult.

In October 2007 I set the design of a computer system to speed FOI requests as a workshop exercise for students of Electronic Document Management at the Australian National University. The problem is that the volume of material could overwhelm manual FOI processes in the relatively small OIC. A system using XML and web technology could be used to speed the process.

The standards established in the National Archives free open source "XML Electronic Normalising of Archives" (XENA) and "Digital Preservation Recorder" (DPR) software tools could be used to process electronic records extracted from agency systems, such those based on Tower Software's Trim.

The OIC staff could use an online system to coordinate requests with agencies. OIC staff could then automatically check the conformance of agency staff with the new laws.

The CSIRO developed FunnelBack search system has already been interfaced to Trim to allow the searching of records in an agency.
This and similar tools should make it possible for agencies to deal with FOI requests. If those requests use a common electronic format across government, it will considerably speed the process, reduce costs and simplify compliance monitoring.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Office of the Information Commissioner Online?

I wrote 14 October 2007, that a group of academics and politicians had suggested Australian government documents in electronic format should be released by default. That was an idea which was not likely to be approved, but I set it as a workshop exercise for students on my Electronic Document Management course. The Australian Labor Party then announced its policy for the reform of Freedom of Information (FOI) laws, creating a new Office of the Information Commissioner. So I set that as an examination question. Most of the students on the course are public servants and if the ALP is elected they will likely have to implement whatever they proposed.

The problem is that the volume of electronic records will overwhelm the current manual FOI process. The proposal from academics was to go to the other extreme, by making all electronic government records available automatically. That proposal has its own problems, which the class pointed out in their answers to the exercise.

One of the class suggested setting up a new government agency to handle the release of records. Coincidentally, during the course the ALP released its policy proposing just such an agency: The Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC). So for the examination on Saturday, I asked the class how to implement the IT system for the OIC, using XML and web technology.

The obvious way to do this is to use the same tools and techniques as now used for transferring electronic records from agencies to the National Archives, but speed it up. The National Archives free open source "XML Electronic Normalising of Archives" (XENA) and "Digital Preservation Recorder" (DPR) software tools are now used to process electronic records extracted from agency systems, such those based on Tower Software's Trim.

The OIC staff could use an online federated system to search the records of all agencies. OIC staff would then place an automated request for relevant records with each agency for retrieval. It would only need a few seconds for the system to extract the records, but perhaps a day would be allowed for the agency to review the records and release them to the OIC. XENA and DPR would catalog and format the records.

The OIC staff would need to be security cleared and their systems would need to be secure. However, this is something that oversight commissions already have to deal with day-to-day in government. When at the Commonwealth Ombudsman's Office I had to look after IT systems for dealing with with sensitive materials from agencies, including security agencies.

ps: Today I bumped into one of the staff from FunnelBack, who mentioned they had already implemented an interface to allow searching Trim.
Their approach would need some tweaking for a government wide service, due to security issues, but would be a start.

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How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 13 - How it Went

In Part 12 I looked at the first day of the course on Electronic Document Management course. Most of the problems with room setup were fixed for day two and day three went well.

The computer lab used had no dedicated instructor's workstation. On day one I had used my own laptop, but found that the different setup of software on it caused some confusion when demonstrating to the students. On day two I found that I could plug the video projector into one of the front row student workstations and (after lowering the screen resolution) use that as the instructors system. To allow me the freedom to move, I used a wireless keyboard and mouse, plugging the USB transceiver into the workstation (no problems with Linux).

This could be a very good arrangement to use for rooms which are only occasionally used for presentations. Instead of having one workstation dedicated full time to the instructor and thus unusable for students most of the time, one of the student machines could be used.

What could also be of use is a mobile lectern. This need not be as sophisticated as RSISE's triple boot lectern. The main point would be that the lectern could be placed where the instructor wants it and then moved out of the way when not needed. A wireless keyboard and mouse could be fixed to the podium and the USB transmitter and video plug attached to an available workstation. By not relying on a workstation in the podium, this would increase flexibility and ensure compatibility with the student machines.

Problems with Moodle on the first day were resolved on day two. The Moodle system provided very effective at administering an open book examination. The examination questions were supplied as a Moodle "assignment". The system was set to provide the examination and accept submissions during a set period. The examination was carried out in the room under supervision (not remotely). The students were instructed to copy the question sheet into the answer window and modify it to add their answers. This was done in preference to using Moodle's "quiz" facility as the student had no used that during the course and so would not be familiar with its use.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 12 - First Day

In Part 11 I looked at the first draft of the material for an Electronic Document Management course. The first four hours of the course was last night and overall it worked.

There were some difficulties with the physical layout of the room and equipment, which confirms my wish for designed flexible learning spaces. Having a room with the equipment in place and no doors to get locked out of by the security system would greatly improve efficiency.

The computer lab used is designed for individual students working each at a computer. While there is a projection screen at the front of the room there is no projector installed and no provision for placing one, nor for a presenter to present from. I improvised by standing the projector on a overhead projector trolley and my laptop on a cardboard box. The result was I was stuck in a dark corner of the room with the fan from the projector blowing hot air on me, while stopping my laptop from falling off the box. This should be sorted out for the next session.

Only one student had used Linux before, but none had difficulty logging in and starting the Firefox web browser. Once in the web browser they had few difficulties navigating the Moodle course ware system. One glitch was that some of the exercises were not opening the HTML editor to allow the students to type (this appears to be a problem with how I configured with Moodle student access). At that point I had the students work in groups with the working screens.

The students were far more reluctant to type exercise answers into the system than I have experienced with previous courses. This may be that as public servants they are reluctant to commit an opinion to writing, even when assured it is just a class exercise. As a result we used more discussion, and less typing, which worked well.

As expected there was far more content than the time allowed. I was difficult to choose which material to concentrate on, given the diverse backgrounds of the class.Three students are very inexperience in records management, working in senior capacities in major government agencies, one is working on e-archives and the others have less experience. What they all appeared to appreciate were learning about the details of Wikis, blogs and the details of thew web. The problem here is to retain the focus on business document use, rather than entertainment.

One aspect which worked well was the student access to the notes. The students opened the notes accompanying my screen slides and explored some of the links, while listening to presentations.

What might be useful for subsequent courses is to have part of it by distance education. The students might, for example, come for a one or two hour group class, then have the equivalent of eight hours of distance education, then another group session.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 11 - First Draft

In Part 10 I looked at requirements. Now I have incorporated that into a first draft of the course web site in Moodle. All are welcome to read and review the course, using "guest" access". The students expect a printed set of notes, so I copied and pasted the 12 units into to make 70 pages of notes (not including the exercises or reading material).

Electronic Document Management

By Tom Worthington FACS HLM

Module 2 of Systems Approach to the Management of Government Information, ANU, 2007

The Electronic Document Management course introduces two topics: metadata and data management (digital library, electronic document management). Use of the technology for practical e-commerce and e-publishing applications is emphasized using case studies and anecdotes drawing on the lecturer's experience.

Identifying steps that can be taken to accelerate the uptake of e-commerce by Australian small- and medium-sized enterprises, this course enables the participant to learn practical skills for incorporating e-commerce into their businesses.

This course is based on Tom Worthington's lectures on Metadata and Electronic Document Management for IT in e-Commerce (COMP3410/COMP6341) 2007.

Structure: The course is 12 hours in total spread over 3 days with 4 teaching hours per day. The course consists of 6 hours of lectures, 2 hours of practical classes, 2 hours of tutorials and 2 hours of assessment exercises.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 10 - Requirements

In Part 9 I looked at how to turn eight exsiting units in Electronic Document Management. into twelve new ones.

In the first unit I thought the introduction should cover legal and administrative requirements: essentially the why of EDM, before getting into the how. Some useful reference materials are:
  • Report on recordkeeping in the Australian Public Service
  • Improving Electronic Document Management - Guidelines For Australian Government Agencies
  • Records management - Why records matter- National Archives of Australia
  • Management of Electronic Records - Victorian Electronic Records Strategy (VERS)
  • RMAA Professional Status Guidelines
  • Model requirements for the management of electronic records (MoReq)
  • DoD Electronic Records Management Software Applications Design Criteria Standard
Some of this is a little frustrating. As an example NAA are offering "Check-up: A Tool for Assessing your Agency’s Information and Records Management". However, this is only available to Australian Government agencies, as a result it can't be used for educational purposes, even for in teaching potential users of the tool.

To divide up the material I thought I would start with the skills identified by the RMAA:
  1. Legislation, standards, administrative policies and procedures
  2. Compliance auditing
  3. Archival Science
  4. Recordkeeping Ethics
  5. Classification
  6. Metadata
  7. Recordkeeping Systems: DIRKS (Designing & Implementing of Recordkeeping Systems) or VERS (VictorianElectronic Recordkeeping Strategy)
  8. Record creation and Capture
  9. Storage and maintenance of records
  10. Vital Records
  11. Business Continuation Plan / Disaster Response / Recovery Plan/Risk Management
  12. Access to records: Security, Privacy, FOI, Access determinations
  13. Appraisal and Disposal
Concentrating on those aspects most relevant to EDM:
  1. Legislation, standards, administrative policies and procedures
  2. Classification and Metadata
  3. Recordkeeping Systems: VERS (VictorianElectronic Recordkeeping Strategy)
  4. Record creation and Capture
  5. Storage and maintenance of records: Vital Records;Business Continuation Plan / Disaster Response / Recovery Plan/Risk Management
  6. Access to records: Security, Privacy, FOI, Access determinations; Appraisal and Disposal
Adding some extra topics:
  1. Digital Library and E-Publishing
  2. Basic Web technologies: HTML, XHTML, CSS, XML
  3. Web publishing: Document Formats, RSS, Podcasting, Wikis
  4. Advanced Web technologies: XSLT, Web Services
  5. eGovernment/ eCommerce,
  6. Search engines: e-discovery
  7. The Future
Blending these together:
  1. Legislation, standards, administrative policies and procedures
  2. Record creation and Capture
  3. Basic Web technologies: HTML, XHTML, CSS, XML
  4. Classification, Metadata and Search engines: e-discovery
  5. Recordkeeping Systems: VERS (Victorian Electronic Recordkeeping Strategy) and NAA e-Archive
  6. Digital Library and E-Publishing
  7. Storage and maintenance of records: Vital Records;Business Continuation Plan / Disaster Response / Recovery Plan/Risk Management
  8. Access to records: Security, Privacy, FOI, Access determinations; Appraisal and Disposal
  9. Web publishing: Document Formats, RSS, Podcasting, Wikis
  10. Advanced Web technologies: XSLT, Web Services
  11. eGovernment/ eCommerce,
  12. Advanced applications: EDM for mobile and emergency applications

One interesting item I came across was the Attorney-General's speech at the E-Discovery 2007 Conference, 26 September 2007

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Friday, October 12, 2007

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 9 - Units

In Part 8 I looked at how to repackage traditional lectures, tutorials and labs for flexible learning. Now I am thinking about what are the 12 units for Electronic Document Management. What I have to start with are six one hour lectures, two one hour tutorial/labs and several assignment questions. In fact the lecture notes do not divide up neatly into the six notional lecture slots, but are in eight units:
  1. Introduction
  2. Metadata
  3. Standards for eCommerce
  4. E-commerce Examples
  5. Electronic Document Management
  6. Digital Library
  7. Publishing
  8. Future Use
In addition, the National Archives of Australia recently changed their web site, with a simplified description of records management, similar to the style introduced by AGIMO with their Web Publishing Guide. With this approach there is a short web page with a few key points in non-technical direct language.
Records management
The reader is then directed to the detailed technical guides. These guides appear to have been changed from the previous HTML versions to PDF and Microsoft Word documents, which is unfortunate. The HTML documents were easy to read and refer to online. The PDF and DOC versions are a step backwards to a much harder to read and use format.

This change happened just as I was preparing to present the material to ANU students. As a stopgap measure I changed links in the notes to refer to an archived version of the material at the Internet Archive. But I now need to redo all the links to the new version. It is not clear how I am going to point to material which is now somewhere in the middle of hundreds of pages of PDF.

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How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 8 - Lectures?

In Part 7 I looked at how provide course notes in a web friendly fashion. Now I am thinking about how to take the one hour lectures and make them into smaller units suitable for small group teaching. The approach at the MIT TEAL flexible learning center has been to use "... 20-minute lectures interspersed with discussion questions, visualizations, and pencil-and-paper exercises ...". This agrees with advice from Flinders University which suggests changing the pace, medium, or importance of the material every fifteen minutes.

The course is 12 hours in total spread over 3 days with 4 teaching hours per day, with 6 hours of lectures, 2 hours of practical classes, 2 hours of tutorials and 2 hours of assessment exercises. So I started to divide this up into units of 15, 20 or 30 minute units. The idea being each unit would be self contained and of the same length. However, this would result in a very large number of units:, if 20 minute units were used:
  • 18 lecture units (6 per day)
  • 6 Practical sessions (2 per day)
  • 6 tutorials
  • 6 assessment exercises
That would make for a timetabling nightmare. My experience of short course plans is has been from courses for local government staff and museum staff in Samoa is that an overly complex plan does not survive more than the first few minutes. Also it would be useful if the units of instruction would fit into the usual university format.

The MIT Teal material is divided into one or two hour blocks, made up of the 20-minute lectures, discussion, exercises and assessment. I was disappointed not to find any guidelines for the instructors on how to prepare and deliver a block, but I did find some criticisms from students of the early versions of the TEAL delivery. From this it would seem to make sense to structure the content more like traditional delivery.. The ANU uses one hour units of instruction, so it would make sense to use either one or two hour blocks, with the content of mini lectures, tutorials and labs. This also makes the timetabling easier.

So now I plan 12 one hour units, each with a 20 minute lecture, plus a discussion/tutorial, practical session, and/or assessment exercise. This format differs from that being used by Peter Christen for his Data Mining and Matching module. That has Six lecture sessions and four practical sessions. This is a more traditional format, also with a change of venue between a small presentation room and computer lab.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 7 - Notes?

In Part 6 I looked at Moodle in more detail as an example of a CMS. But one of the practical realities of a course is that you have to tell the students what the course is about. The usual method for doing this would be to provide them a set of printed notes (commonly known as a "brick").

Usually the notes for courses are in the form of some introductory text, printed versions of the Powerpoint slides and some readings. But produing this material for printing can be remarkably difficult. While it is possible to print handouts from Microsoft Powerpoint, there does not seem to be any efficient and easy way to incorporate this with a word processing document. The same seems to apply with the OpenOffice word processor and slide program.

You can insert a whole slide presentation as an object into a word processing document , but then you just see an image of the first slide (or in MS Word one selected slide). If you want all slides to appear in the WP document, you appear to need to insert each slide, one by one.

A better option may be not to. While compound documents are feasible, something always seems to go wrong at the last minute, when the final version is due at the printer, but someone wants to change something on one slide and then the formatting of the whole document goes haywire.

A better approach might be to accept the limitations of the software (and our ability to handle complex arrangements of information) and simply arrange the document as a sequence of pages from different software packages. Usually this would be a word processing document with the introductory text, followed by the slides and then possible a web page with some references. This could be simply done by manually printing each document from the appropriate program, or using some sort of automation and desk top publishing.

But first two other potions should be considered:

  1. Don't use printed notes: Use an online course management system
  2. Course Content Genrator: Use specialist software for course notes.


According to the Microsoft documentation, you should be able to link to each Powerpoint slide from within the word processing document. See: "Insert a linked object or embedded object from a PowerPoint presentation". You would have to do this once for each and every slide, but when done any changes to the slides can be automatically be reflected in the document with "Update linked objects".

Note that you need to use the "linked" option, otherwise you will be creating lots of "embedded" copies of the Powerpoint slides.

As far as I can tell OpenOffice allows similar linked objects, but not selecting a specific slide (you always see the first slide).


An option is to not have any printed notes at all. For the course I ran for local government staff, all the notes were online. All that was provided on paper was a one page timetable for the course. The students were able to look at the notes on the screen in the classroom and on the web (using a password) when they got back to the office. I used the Moodle Course Management System, but others, such as Web CT could be used.


USQ's "ICE" system is specifically designed to prepare content for courses. This allows the slides to be created inside the word processing document, without the need for Powerpoint. But that requires redoing all the slides for an existing course. ANU is working on more general purpose systems based on ICE.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Fixing Electronic Record Keeping in the Australian Government

Ross Gibbs, Director General of the National Archives of AustraliaThis morning Ross Gibbs, Director General of the National Archives of Australia launched the course "Systems Approach to Management of Government Information". He said a Management Advisory Committee (MAC) report on study on recordkeeping in the Australian Public Service (APS) will be released "in the very near future". The courses are intended to address the government requirements which will be detailed in the MAC report.

The DG said:
"The clever part of this course will be having people who understand these systems and can create reliable electronic evidence of government processes".
The need for better record keeping has been identified in several Australian National Audit Office reports and by the Australian Public Service Commission's State of the Service Report.

The DG also mentioned Xena, NAA's open source e-document software and their prototype electronic archive. NAA is working on open file formats to be used for long term electronic storage in the archive. It will make their job easier if agencies use open formats and standard metadata to create their documents, so they are easily maintained and transferred to the archive.

I am teaching the ANU units on "Information Architecture for E-Documents" and "Electronic Document Management". As with other units these are adapted from existing university courses, but with an emphasis on practical application to the Australian Government. My bit is not hard to adapt as I already reference the electronic copies of the Government's guidelines and standards. I have been looking at how much of the course should be online and how this would be done. Rather than produce a completely online course, where the students never see anyone, or conventional classroom lectures, it should be possible to blend the best of both approaches.

The launch was at the historic "West Block" behind Old Parliament House, in the same room where the "Advances in Digital Preservation International Working Meeting" was held in2005. That was a memorable occasion as NAA trumped their UK and US colleagues: rather than talk about how e-archiving might be done in the future, they handed out CR-ROMS with free open source software to actually do it.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Launch of Systems Approach to Government IM

The course "Systems Approach to Management of Government Information" course which is being offered by the ANU later in 2007. There will be a launch of the course on 20 June in Canberra.

I am providing Module 2 of the course: "Electronic Document Management" and have been agonizing about the issues of how to turn what I teach computer science students into something suitable for industry, in this Blog.

All those with an interest in information management in government agencies are welcome to attend the launch:

What: Launch of the Systems Approach to Management of Government Information (SATOMGI) course

When: Wednesday 20th June 2007 Where: Menzies Room, The National Archives of Australia Time: 10.15 for 10.30am

Why attend?

Human Resource Managers, career advisers and other senior administrators involved in the professional development of key personnel in the public sector will learn how they can assist people in government agencies to acquire the critical skills they need to manage government information and records that keeps pace with international trends, and increasing technological change.

Records Managers and Information Management professionals interested in developing and improving their skills would also find this event of interest.

What does this new program have to offer?

These postgraduate short courses are designed for senior executives, senior and middle managers, chief information officers, IT systems managers, records managers and information managers, as well as senior administrative personnel to help them to:
  • lead organisational thinking for the strategic and technological management of materials;
  • plan, organize and control the implementation of a systems based approach to this management.
Presenters: Mr Ross Gibbs, Director General of the National Archives of Australia Dr Zbigniew Stachurski, Director, ANU Centre for Science and Engineering of Materials

This event is jointly hosted by ANU and the National Archives of Australia and ANU and NAA staff will be available during the event to answer your questions. Morning tea will be served from 11.00am to 11.30am.

RSVP Online only by Friday 15th June 2007 for catering purposes. <>

Heather McEwen
Marketing Manager
ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science
The Australian National University
Canberra ACT 0200
T: + 61 2 6125 6601


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Trying Amazon.Com

e-Learning by Design By William Horton (Book Cover)After detailing how works, someone asked me what it was like as a bookstore: Are the prices good? Do the books take a long time to arrive? I had to admit I had never bought anything (just taken commissions). I thought I should try Amazon, so ordered a copy of William Horton's e-Learning by Design.

At the local ACT Library had I found "Designing Web Based Training" by William Horton (2000). This is a very useful book on
how to set up online courses. But it is a bit dated and does not include the recent development with standards for web based courseware. If you are using a package such as Moodle, you need to worry less about the web design of the course as that is largely set by the package.

The same author had the
more recent "e-Learning by Design" (July 2006), so I ordered a copy via Amazon. As well as be useful for creating a course it would allow me to test the Amazon ordering process.

The book was offered for $AU77.95 by bookstores in Australia. Amazon charged $US39.50. At the current exchange rate, even allowing for shipping (
$US11.98), this is a total of $AU65.52, which is 16% less than the Australian bookstore. I bought the book via my own Amazon store, so I will get a commission on the sale, reducing the price by another 6%.

I ordered the book last Friday morning and Amazon sent me a message shortly after to say the book had been shipped and was expected to arrive 9 March. The book actually arrived on the following Thursday morning, taking less than a week. This was using the lowest cost, slowest method of shipping. It is a very impressive result and I can now confidently say of Amazon that the prices are good and the books do not take a long time to arrive.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 6 - More on Moodle

In Part 5 I looked at Moodle as an example of a CMS. Some of the issues of pedagogy for an online course are covered in Doherty, C. (2005). Understanding trouble in paradise: Intuitive natives and
screaming aliens
. A paper presented to the OLT 2005 Conference, QUT, Brisbane, 71-80.

Heres is more detail on Moodle as an application. I mentioned that Moodle should be usable on small screen and smart phones without many changes . I was able to get it work okay on Opera web browser in small screen mode (this emulates a PDA type device), but on with the Openwave SDK Mobile hone emulator. The web pages displayed on the mobile phone, but each column of text was squashed to fit on the small screen and so was unreadable.

The Moodle team need to install an alternate CSS style sheet for mobile devices, to tell the web browser to use just one column (this is what the Opera browser does for its small screen mode).

Leaving that to one side, a good way to see if the advocates believe what they are saying is to see if they use their own tools. So I tried the Moodle Features Demo Course. The is a Moodle course to show off the features of Moodle.

The course first presents you with a typical three column screen. The screen is a bit too busy for my tastes, but that may be because the designer is trying to show off all the features of Moodle in one place, or perhaps because this the page the student will keep coming back to. I found a box offering to enroll me, so I clicked on it and was then presented with a "Topic outline", equivalent to about one A4 page of text (which is not too big).

What I found disappointing was that the course gets immediately into the details of Site, User and Course management. The stuff about the philosophy has been left behind and there doesn't;seem to be anything about how or why to prepare a course.

Interestingly there were 975 people enrolled in the course, 14 of whom had used it in the last 24 hours and four of who were in Canberra (including me). I noticed that participants had Blog entries to introduce themselves, so I created one. The Blog function uses a web based editor, much the same as ones used for other Blogs. This worked fine, even on my slow (64 kbps) wireless link.

While providing a Blog and user profile is useful in getting the students to get to know each other, there is also a danger they will say too much. Participants in courses need to keep in mind that they cannot entirely trust their fellow students and should not reveal too much.

The demo course has a "news" forum. This had nothing in it, but would be typically used for course announcements. There are also "Learning forums" for group discussions . The forums can have RSS feeds, making it easier for the students to keep up with developments. In the past I have found such on-line forums a bit overwhelming. Moodle has options such as allowing each student only one discussion topic, to stem the flood.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Marketing Free and Open Source Software

Pia WaughSome will recall assembling at the Hotel Kurrajong in Canberra for drinks and discussion of the Internet and Web in 1995. FOSSACT are continuing the tradition, with talks on Free and Open Source Software. This week's talk was by Pia Waugh on Marketing Your Business and FOSS Advocacy In The Enterprise.

Before the talk there were announcements, during which I mentioned the Sahana open source disaster management system is working on a Geographic Information System module (GIS) (to keep track of people needing help) and a mobile phone version (for wireless disaster management). Sahana was built for the Asian Tsunami and has been expanded for use in earthquakes and other disasters. I have proposed it be used for any bird flu pandemic.

Pia's talk was about how small companies (which ones specialising in FOSS typically are) could promote their business and FOSS at the same time. Essentially this involves using the same principles of shared development used for creating the software to the marketing as well. Pia argues that businesses can help themselves by promoting general knowledge of FOSS amongst the community and customers.

It can be difficult for dedicated IT geeks to come to grips with the idea of marketing. Pia provided examples from her work on advocacy.

Some other points of interest were that it was proposed to run a course on writing responses to Government tenders for Open Source. The course may even workshop some real joint responses to read government tenders.

Pia mentioned HR-XML and its standardized XML based resume format as an example of an industry coming together to do work for the common good. There was discussion of what sort of projects might be useful and how to get them done. Earlier the same day I had attended a meeting at ANU looking for projects for information systems students to do. These have to be less about programming and more about business needs. The benefits and needs of open source and tailoring for specific industries would seem to make good student projects. Anyone who has an idea for a project can send it to the Course coordinator: Peter Christen.

There was a bit of good natured grumbling about proprietary products, as usual at a FOSS meeting. One issue was the use of proprietary word processing formats by government agencies locking them into one vendor's software. The work by National Archives of Australia on standard long term preservation formats for government documents was seen as a positiver change. At NAA's request, the ANU has created a course on "System Approach to Management of Government Information". My bits of it are based on my e-records and information architecture lectures. I hope to put the content into the Moodle course management system for general use.

Pia mentioned a census of FOSS companies in Australia. This is an ambitious project and I suggested consulting the ABS. They are working on specific measure of the contribution of ICT to the Australian economy. There is an ICT Reference Group, which consults with government and industry (I represent the ACS on it).

Pia is taking part at some work at Oxford University on openness of open projects. It is an interesting place to visit and a little challenging. In 1994 sunk into the Oxford Computer Center, but the Director Alex Reid forgave me and invited me to give a seminar in 2000. Alex is now on the ASK-OSS Steering Committee and Oxford runs a similar organisation in OSS Watch.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 5 - On-line Courseware

In Part 4 I discussed if e-records as part of decision making in eGovernment and eBusiness. The program of courses entitled "System Approach to Management of Government Information" are now being offered, so I tought I should look at tidying up my content to get ready.

One option I would like to try is using a course management system (CMS). Not because the students will be studying on-line remotely, they will be on the campus at live sessions, but because it might be a useful way to make sure the material is well structured.

The Moodle product looks like a good option; it is Australian developed, free Open Source, and people keep mentioning it to me. The ACS use it for their new Computer Professional Educational Program and appears to be going well (thankfully as I am in charge of Professional Development at the ACS as of 1 January 2007).

The Moodle people claim it is based on "sound pedagogical principles", specifically "social constructionist pedagogy". Which they say involves: Constructivism, Constructionism, Social Constructivism, Connected and Separate.

Constructivism says you have to integrate what you are learning into what you already know. Constructionism says you learn better if you have to do something with the knowledge. For example I am writing this as I read about Moodle and so I am learning by having to write about it. Social Constructivism is about a group assembling ideas. As an example when people respond to what I have written and suggest changes. Connected and Separate is about understand the person's other point of view versus being "right": people will point out spelling errors in what I wrote (Separate) and others will suggest better ways to word it (Connected).

I am not sure how widely accepted these concepts are (it is all new to me), but it seems these are really two ideas: Learning through doing and working together.

Most computer based learning systems seem to be designed to support an isolated individual learning "facts". This would be Separate non-Constructivism in Moodles' language.

With that out of the way, lets look at Moodle, the software. It is released under a GNU General Public License, so it can be freely used and modified (free as in beer and speech). It is written in PHP and requires an SQL database to hold the content.

There are roles defined for admin, course creators, teachers , non-editing teachers (ie: adjuncts and tutors) and students. Moodle uses much the same software and philosophy as Open Journal Systems for e-publishing. There the roles are administrators, editors, reviewers and readers.

CMS systems are mostly about administering a course, not creating learning content. The CMS is used to keep track of the students, learning materials and activities (such as assignments). They are not about creating the actual materials the students read. This is much the same as e-publishing systems don't help you write a document, just publish it.

The current release of Moodle was 1.7, but Version 1.8 is just out (January 2007). This is supposed to have improved web accessibility features. They are specifically aiming for compliance with Italian Legislation on Accessibility. I am not exactly sure what that legislation covers, but it is likely to be much the same as Australian requirements under the Disability Discrimination Act and involve use of the W3C WAG, as used worldwide.

The Moodle developers are also aiming to implement XHTML Strict (after some debate). Use of XHTML Strict will help with accessibility and make for very clean and efficient web pages. It should also make it possible to use them on hand held devices, such as my proposed learning PC for developing nations and for different languages.

There is a Wiki with extensive documentation about using Moodle. Each Moodle course created has a course homepage, which is the place the students first come to. The home page has a typical Wiki style with blocks of mostly text laid out in columns.

The course can be formed of sections, usually in an order which the students work their way through (each week for example). Moodle has its own web based editor, including a "Clean Word HTML button" to remove extranious code from HTML which has been generated by Microsoft Word.

A course consists of essentially of resources and activities. A resource will typically be a web page with some content on it, a link to some content web based content somewhere else. At this point you realize the CMS doesn't write the course for you: the actual content you are teaching has to be somewhere. It might be on web pages, in PDF documents, or Powerpoint slides.

The content might be in an IMS content package. This is a standard format for learning content which is also supported by other CMS systems such as Web CT. An IMS Content Package is a Zipped directory of XML files, much like the OpenXML and Open Office word processing formats.

Exactly how you create a package, (with Moodle?) or how standardized they are between different CMS systems I am not yet clear on. But it appears to work as the government funded Australian Flexible Learning Framework has dozens of IMS content packaged learning objects in its Flexible Learning Toolboxes. These can be previewed online.

There are a bewildering array of standards underlying these systems, most of which the user never has to know about. As an example IMS uses a different metadata format to describe its learning objects to the IEEE Standard for Learning Object Metadata IEEE Std 1484.12.1-2002 (which I get a mention in, as I was on the balloting group). So IMS provide a set of Guidelines for Using the IMS LRM to IEEE LOM 1.0 Transform
to turn IMS metedata into IEEE metadata using XSLT transformations.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

System Approach to Management of Government Information

Having grumbled for several years about the poor way organizations create and manage electronic documents, I have decided it is time to do something about it. In the first half of 2007 the ANU will be offering a program of short courses on a "System Approach to Management of Government Information":
Record keeping and data management are essential requirements needed to support efficient and accountable performance of business and government. The Australian National University, in step with leading international trend, is establishing a new program that addresses aspects of records management and preservation of archives in a systems approach.
The program was designed in consultation with the National Archives of Australia.

This includes my own modules on:

* Information Architecture for E-Documents, and
* Electronic Document Management

These are intended for middle to upper level executives in public service agencies and companies. They are a less technical version of my lectures for IT students on e-document management and web design.

The presentation format is based on the one I used for the International Council of Museums/UNESCO workshop on IT in 2005.

ps: Of course some may argue the electronic brochure for the program exhibits the faults I am claiming the course will fix. Perhaps that will be an exercise for the class. ;-)

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Sell me a $100 Laptop

B1 Model $100 LaptopLast November I criticized the project to build a low cost educational computer for developing nations. But the first production units are out, and from the photographs and specifications they don't look too bad. I would like to buy one, but can't and that is the major problem with the project.

One Laptop per Child is a non-profit association, with MIT Media Lab providing design and Nicholas Negroponte the PR skills. The idea is to build a low cost robust computer which could be distributed widely for education, to schools under government supervision.

Lot to like about the Plamtop
Zeos Palmtop PCHaving criticized the $100 laptop, there is a lot to like about the new model. The unit is about the size of the Sphere/Zeos Palm Top PC I travelled around Europe with in 1994. This was a little larger than a VHS video tape, ran on two AA batteries and used the MS-DOS operating system, with a copy of Microsoft Works in RAM. It was a clamshell design with a 7 inch screen and a miniature keyboard. This unit suffered from having a very dim monochrome screen, no modem and a volatile memory. The $100 laptop improves on all this in a palmtop computer.

The $100 Laptop has a 7.5” Dual-mode TFT display screen: it is high resolution monochrome for outdoor use and book reading and color indoors for games. The screen is about the size of a paperback book and the 1200 × 900 pixel resolution should be good enough for reading. The team are a bit vague about what the resolution is in color, but my guess would be at least VGA resolution (640 x 480 px), which would be acceptable:
... the color resolution is lower, but exactly how this works out in effective resolution is very complex. Mary Lou Jepsen is planning to write document to explain the effective resolution, which is higher than if we simply reduced the size of the frame buffer and used the red, green and blue channels.

from: Hardware_specification
The unit has only 512 MiB of flash memory and no hard disk. This keeps the cost and power consumption down and makes the unit more robust, but shows it is really an upsized PDA, not a laptop. There is a SD Card slot which could be used for more memory.

There is Linux in another 1024KB flash ROM and the unit is intended to be used with the usual Open Source Linux software. The first units will include a web browser, document viewer, music synthesis tool, musical memory game, eToys, RSS reader and, most importantly, the Abiword, a word processor.

What seems to be lacking is the content for educational purposes for the computer. There is a manifesto on constructionist education, one Wikibook text in progress on Algebra in Simple English and that is about all. The philosophy behind this may be worrying to some, such as the use of Simple English. This may been seen as imposition of a foreign culture, rather than a way to deliver efficient education.

Problems remain

A mockup was displayed to the media by Nicholas Negroponte and the Secretary-General of the UN last November. This looked very attractive in the TV news, but clearly was not a working unit. The hand crank (to charge the battery) fell off when the Secretary General tried to use it.

I had reservations about the $100 Laptop:

1. It isn't really a laptop.
2. It is too expensive and there are better things to do with the money.
3. There are better things to do with the technology
4. The developing world has already designed and built better computers.
B1 Model $100 Laptop compared to normal laptop
It isn't really isn't a laptop

The $100 Laptop is really a PDA with a larger screen and a keyboard. Many such devices have been made and sold for educational and other purposes, but have not been successful. I have owned several and while they work, they are looked at as a curcuriosity most people.

It is too expensive and there are better things to do with the money

At $100 the computer will still be too expensive for many in developing countries and they could find better uses if offered the money. One computer per school or village, might be a more realistic and useful goal.

There are better things to do with the technology

Computers can be used to help with agriculture, business, civil administration, disaster management and defence, as well as education. As an example I have helped get the Sahana Open Source Disaster Management System to run on handheld computers.
The developing world has already designed and built better computers.

Devices such as the Indian developed Simputer PDA have already investigated the idea of a computer for developing countries. The Simputer uses innovative open source hardware, Linux software approach. A non-profit organization designed the computer and then licensed it to manufacturers. Unlike the $100 Laptop, the Simputer is a commercial product and the customer can choose to buy it or spend the money on something else.

An other Indian computer, the Mobilis, is essentially a Simputer PDA with a bigger screen and rubber keyboard and is very similar to the $100 laptop. It has not been successful. One unusual use is in the dashboard of an Indian Electric Car. But Encore Software Limited, who make the Mobilis seem more intent on more profitable uses of the tectechnologyhey have the SATHI (Situation Awareness and Tactical Handheld Information) which is essentially a battlefield version of the Simputer.

Combine First World Marketing Hype with Developing Nations' IT Expertise

My suggestion was to combine the powerful marketing ability of the MIT Media Lab with superior technology skills of developing nations. Some suggestions I made were to:
  • Omit the hand crank charger and have an optional separate hand cranked charger like the Freeplay unit, or the Freeplay foot powered "Weza" portable energy source shared by a school.
  • Use a rugged rubber keyboard.
  • Sell the units, so the user can decide if they want them.
The first unit shows that the project team have adopted some of these ideas:

No hand crank, but the team m are still talking about having individual human powered generators:
Where's the Crank? (you are asking...) Human power is still a major program priority! Inside the laptop isn’t always optimal as human power is not always required. Human power stresses components. The crank is great symbol, but not the most efficient for actual generation. We are performing human motion studies: legs are stronger than arms, but arms may be free while walking to school. AC Adapters are already located on the ground/ and floor. Several types of generators are under development, including one integrated with AC Adapter. More freedom of motion will allow for optimum power generation.

More practial be a shared generating source. This could be human powered or solar or wind powered.Cambridge Z88

* Rubber keyboard: The unit has a rubber keyboard, similar to the Cambridge Z88 computer I had about 15 years ago. Unlike the Z88 which had a black keyboard and case, the $100 computer has a bright green keyboard and white case. The team have obviously never used a computer in the field, or they will have seen how dirty they get. The white and green will quickly show dirt and a more muted color scheme would have been better.

Also the use of a swivel screen is questionable; this is designed to allow the screen to be rotated 180 degrees and have it lie flat over the keyboard, to make a tablet computer, or e-book. Table computers and e-books have failed as a mass market products and the hinge makes the computer much less robust. Also there are two rabbit ear covers over ports on each side of the screen which look like they would break off with kid use.

The business model for the computer remains unchanged: they will be given or sold at a subsidy to governments and then distributed to children. This does not sound alike an efficient way to distribute and may be impractical. The government of a developing nation which cares for its citizens will have much higher priorities than computers for each child. It would be better to accept these priorities than try to regulate the use of the computers by children.

I would like to have one of the computers and would be willing to pay for it, with the profit used for education.

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How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 4 - Is it part of decision making?

In Part 3 I had a quick look to see if any ANU courses had content on electronic records/archives management and found some with some relevance. But I wonder if this goes far enough in addressing the overall problem.

When teaching e-Document management and e-Archiving to the ANU students, I have a lot of difficulty keeping them interested. Similarly, the worthy reports on the subject I helped produce as a public servant, were not that exciting to my public service colleagues. The problem is that record keeping is a very dull topic, until something goes horribly wrong. An example what can go wrong is shown by the Oil-For-Food Inquiry.

Perhaps consideration should be given to teaching more on e-records as part of decision making in eGovernment and eBusiness. The emphasis would be on how you can use electronic systems to run a government or business, with record keeping to support that, not keeping records for the sake of keeping records.

An example of how this approach could help is with electronic mail. NAA have advised agencies that electronic mail messages can contain important evidence and must be preserved. However, this advice is mostly ignored. The staff of the AWB may well got to jail as a consequence of treating email as ephemeral, with copies of embarrassing messages they thought deleted being exhibited in the hearing.

An example of a system for handling a decision making process which incorporates record keeping is the publishing system I have helped install for ACS academic journals. We have switched on the option to record all correspondence between the editors, reviewers and authors. This was so we could keep track of correspondence in the event of an error or deliberate fraud. But it may prove useful in convincing DEST that the publications are rigorously refereed and high quality.

ps: Last week I was elected Director of the Professional Development Board of the ACS. The ACS runs on-line postgraduate and short training courses for IT professionals. There may be scope for ACS to provide some e-document courses for IT professionals who have to incorporate it in systems.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Document Security Issues for Government

Security seems an issue after the Australian National Audit Office released report on "Recordkeeping including the Management of Electronic Records" on 12 October 2006. IXC, NICTA and Canon are holding a free forum on 6 December 2006 in Canberra, on:
  • Emerging document security threats
  • Information leakage and its impact on corporate reputation
  • Policy-driven document rights management
  • Paper security – the forgotten frontier
  • Document security innovations
  • Ashley Cross – General Manager, Security Branch, Department of Communications, Information
  • Technology and the Arts (DCITA)
  • Dr Renato Iannella, Program Leader, Smart Applications for Emergencies, NICTA
  • Tim Conway, Strategic Business Group, Canon Australia
  • Kylie McKinley, Head, Community Engagement and Communications Unit, ACT Government
Details and registration at IXC.

Also see my "How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving": Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Some books:

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Did the Australian National Audit Office Recommend E-Records Training?

I had an anonymous comment from someone in a government agency on my post "How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 1 - Why?":
You say in the first paragraph, 'The ANAO recommended training in recordkeeping.' And, it seems that you have been asked to create new courses based on this recommendation. Since none of the recommendations in the Report refer to training specifically, would you be able to post a comment explaining what where the ANAO made this recommendation. The [agency name deleted] has a policy of trying to comply with all recommendations, hence our interest.
The Audit report didn't actually say Archives should provide "training", it said "further practical guidance":
22. To assist entities in meeting their recordkeeping responsibilities, the ANAO considers that Archives should, in consultation with relevant entities, set minimum recordkeeping standards and requirements and develop further practical guidance. Archives should also coordinate, and periodically publish, details of the legislation, policies, standards, and guidance that impact on entities recordkeeping responsibilities. ...

3.7 The ANAO also considers that Archives should coordinate, and periodically publish, details of the range of legislation, policies, standards, advice and guidance that impacts on the recordkeeping responsibilities of individual entities. This task would require ongoing liaison with those entities that periodically issue, in the context of their particular responsibilities, such material. The coordination of existing material may also offer opportunities to identify any duplication or overlap that warrant its rationalisation. ...

3.49 To assist entities to improve their recordkeeping guidance, the ANAO considered that Archives should supplement its existing range of guidance, with more practical guidance. Such guidance could usefully address issues relating to the handling and management of email, documents in shared folders and information in electronic systems, as well as the use of scanning in an electronic recordkeeping environment. The guidance may also assist entities to:
  • determine for a particular business activity the information that should be created and received, and then determine the information that needs to be maintained as a record of the business activity in entities’ recordkeeping systems; and
  • how the record of a business activity is best managed in the context of entities’ recordkeeping responsibilities.
But from having chaired an interdepartmental committee which previously wrote such guidance, I think few are going to read it, unless you rub their faces in it, by sitting them down and telling them about it. Thus the need for training courses.

The report did say government agencies (called entities in the report) should provide training:
5.42 To assist with the implementation of a recordkeeping framework it is important for an entity to provide appropriate training to record users. This should include a combination of formal training and awareness raising activities that alerts and reminds staff of their recordkeeping responsibilities.Recordkeeping training should address the management of both paper and electronic records, IT security awareness, and assessing and assigning appropriate security classifications to sensitive information.
But it would seem difficult and wasteful for each agency to prepare and provide its own training program on what is essentially a standardized government wide function.

The courses need not be face to face, for example senior executives might like a few slides on their Blackberry they could read during the dull bits in meetings.

As an incentive to have them complete the course, the Public Service Commission could suggest each agency publish the number of staff who had completed the course. The Audit Office could then use that information to decide which agencies to audit and in what detail, on the assumption that those agencies with untrained staff were at higher risk. This would also make it easier to prosecute senior executives when there was unlawful destruction or falsification of records in their agency.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 3 - What does ANU offer?

Following on from Part 2 - What else is out there?, I had a quick look to see if any ANU courses had content on electronic records/archives management. Apart from my own lectures I couldn't find any.

Some courses which have relevant content and might be used in a Graduate Certificate (made up of three to four courses) or a Graduate Diploma (made up of six to eight courses) were:
  1. COMP1130 Data Structures and Algorithms I
  2. COMP1710 Tools for New Media & the Web
  3. COMP2410 Networked Information Systems
  4. COMP3410 Information Technology in Electronic Commerce
  5. COMP3420 Advanced Databases and Data Mining
  6. COMP3760 Project Work in Information Systems
  7. COMP6442 Software Construction for eScience
  8. SRES2015 Introduction to Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems
  9. INFS1001 Foundations of Electronic Commerce and Information Systems
  10. INFS2024 Information Systems Analysis
  11. INFS3024 Information Systems Management
  12. INFS7003 Databases and Information Systems
  13. INFS7006 Information Systems And Communication Technologies
  14. INFS7007 Information Systems Analysis and Modelling
  15. INFS8004 Information Systems Management in Organisations
  16. INFS8205 Strategic Information Systems
For the purposes of short in-service training these courses would be each divided into 2 or 3 "modules", which could be undertaken individually.

Added to this would need to be new modules specifically on the problem area.

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How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 2 - What else is out there?

Following on from Part 1 - Why?, I had a quick look around to see what courses there were on e-arching and records management. Several people also make useful suggestions.

What I found was that Monash University seemed to be most active in this area, along with the TAFEs and some US content. What this tells me is that there is some university material for records management professionals and a lot of vocational material for business people. There is US material orientation to public service records management. But there wasn't anything I could find aimed at Australian government needs nor for senior executives.

Monash: MIS5906 Advanced Topics in Electronic Recordkeeping and Archiving ( 6 points, SCA Band 2, 0.125 EFTSL) Postgraduate (IT)
Synopsis: This unit is designed to provide students with an in-depth understanding and knowledge of the role of electronic recordkeeping and archiving in contemporary organisations and society, and exposure to the latest thinking, best practice and research initiatives. Emphasis will be placed on exploring key issues, challenges, and trends relating to the effective management of records and archives in electronic, networked environments. Students will be equipped with understandings, knowledge, strategies, and skills, which will enable them to develop and implement effective solutions that meet these challenges, and also plan for the future.

Assessment: Publishable paper: 40% Class presentation: 20% Supervised assessment: 40%

Contact Hours: 3 contact hours per week

Prerequisites: Must have completed Part A of Master of Information Systems
IMS5033 Electronic document management and recordkeeping systems ( 6 points, SCA Band 2, 0.125 EFTSL) Postgraduate (IT)
Synopsis: This unit reconceptualises document management activities so that modern technologies can be better used to implement electronic recordkeeping solutions. The emphasis is upon designing, building, and using document management systems. Existing physical models for document management and systems are compared and contrasted with logical models and future architectures. Research into workplace applications and leading edge implementation of recordkeeping strategies for document management will be covered and shape the course.

Assessment: Assignments: 50% + Formal Supervised Assessment: 50%

Contact Hours: 3 hours per week
OLI TAFE " BSB30401 Certificate III in Business (Recordkeeping)"
This qualification allows students to work in a wide range of Recordkeeping activities within business sections in an organisation. It includes medium to higher-level key business skills required by organisations who are responding to rapidly changing business environments.
ATPL: "BSB01 Business Services Training Package" V4 (Volume 3):
Volume 3 contains units of competency for: - Record Keeping

Certificate III

BSBRKG301A Control records
BSBRKG302A Undertake disposal
BSBRKG303A Retrieve information from records
BSBRKG304A Maintain business records

Certificate IV

BSBRKG401A Review the status of a record
BSBRKG402A Provide information from and about records
BSBRKG403A Set up a business or records system for a small office
BSBEBUS406A Monitor and maintain records in an online environment


BSBRKG501A Determine business or records system specifications
BSBRKG502A Manage and monitor business or records systems
BSBRKG503A Develop and maintain a classification scheme
BSBRKG504A Develop terminology for activities and records
BSBRKG505A Document or reconstruct a business or records system

Advanced Diploma

BSBRKG601A Define recordkeeping framework
BSBRKG602A Develop recordkeeping policy
BSBRKG603A Prepare a functional analysis for an organisation
BSBRKG604A Determine security and access rules and procedures
BSBRKG605A Determine records requirements to document a function
BSBRKG606A Design a records retention and disposal schedule
BSBRKG607A Document and monitor the record-creating context
BSBRKG608A Plan management of records over time
Utexas: 2003 LIS 389C.14 Introduction to Electronic and Digital Records
The management, preservation, and use of electronic records and other digital objects with enduring value are all as yet problems with only partial solutions. There are two reasons for this: the supporting technologies are changing constantly and change is accelerating; and creators and users of these records (if not the records’ potential managers and preservers) are themselves caught up in a culture of immediacy that makes the problems with electronic records invisible until some legal entanglement brings them into sharp focus. Yet as governments and other human institutions have depended upon technologies of memory to assure their longevity in the past, it is a safe bet that they will continue to do so in the future. For that reason these problems must and will be solved by those who are charged with the custody and preservation of such records, at least in a way that will be good enough to achieve the ends of the institutions in question.

School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, INLS 165 ­ Electronic Records Management, [Last Updated: 2006-04-13, 20:30]
COURSE DESCRIPTION The management and preservation of electronic records is essential for maintaining institutional accountability; protecting the rights of citizens, employees and customers; supporting the efficient operation of contemporary organizations; perpetuating valuable forms of social memory; and helping individuals to integrate aspects of the past into their sense of identity.

Current electronic recordkeeping is in a state of relative neglect. At their most basic level, electronic records problems are related to proper configuration and management of computer components (hardware and software). The good news is that actual and potential solutions to the technological issues abound. The bad news is that the behavioral, organizational, institutional and professional underpinnings are generally not yet in place to implement the technological solutions. This places a profound set of challenges and opportunities in the hands of SILS students about to enter the workforce.

In this course, we will begin by consider the messy recordkeeping environment in which we currently live. We will then gradually build up a set of concepts, tools and strategies that information professionals can use to help shape more appropriate, valuable and sustainable recordkeeping systems.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 1 - Why?

In October 2006 the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) released a report on recordkeeping in government agencies. This found problems, particularly with electronic records, as had two previous reports. The ANAO recommended training in recordkeeping. As I give lectures in electronic document management at the Australian National University (ANU), I have been asked to help create new courses for agencies.

Also of relevance is work by the Australian Public Service Commission and the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) obtaining sufficient skilled staff for the Australian Public Service. Cadetships and apprentice schemes to train new public servants could incorporate the electronic document management material. Those for IT professionals could include more technical content.

This the first of a series of notes intended to document the process. Please note that these are not an official record, nor do they represent a commitment by any organization to conduct a course. Comments, corrections and contributions would be welcome.

The Content

As the ANAO report noted, there is no shortage of material to work from, with Australian government agencies issuing legislation, standards, policies and guidance on recordkeeping.

There are guidelines issued by the National Archives of Australia (NAA) for records handling. NAA also helped develop the Australian and International standards in this field. NAA's also distributed open source software for e-archiving called "Xena" and an electronic arching system.

Previously, as a public servant, I chaired the committee which prepared "Electronic Document Management: Guidelines for Australian Government Agencies". This is used in the ANU course "Information Technology in Electronic Commerce" COMP3410/COMP634. There is also relevant material on web site design in "Networked Information Systems" (COMP2410 / COMP6340). However, these courses are intended for IT specialists who develop software for records management. More suited may be material prepared for a five day workshop for staff from museums of the Pacific Islands Region.

The Technology

The intention is to run the courses as conventional small classroom events. However, it seems reasonable to prepare the courses so they could be easily adapted for on-line distance education, if needed. This could use course preparation systems such as the Integrated Content Environment (ICE), an on-line course management system, such as Moodle and Podcasting. Also an open access license, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs, can be used. This will allow the content creators to prepare and distribute their material for comment, while retaining commercial rights to use it in a course.

On-line delivery may be provided in unconventional ways, such as to Blackberry and other smartphones/PDAs issued to senior executives. This could deliver on-demand training in very small units, as required.

The Process

The intention is to create short in-service courses for use by staff of government agencies and others who need knowledge of e-records management. However, the material may latter be used for a full university course. It therefore seemed prudent to first look at the formal guidance and requirements for a course. This proved to be much easier than expected. A web search of "ANU Course Proposal" found "The ANU Official Course and Program Proposals Site". This contains links to detailed procedures for new courses, forms to be used and examples.

The ANU course web site is publicly available. the procedures page has an overview of the process is provided, complete with flowcharts. Whoever prepared it clearly has a sense of humor; including a reproduction of Munch's "The Scream". But at this stage I only need to worry about the first step: "First draft of the proposal: Course proponent proposes and designs draft for a new course in consultation with the relevant academic area according to that academic area'’s internal procedures. This is usually done by a lecturer at a school/departmental level. ...'.

Some books:

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