Work in progress for Jorum

Jorum is a national repository that provides Open Educational Resources. Over the past five months, JISC has been funding Jorum to engage in extensive technical work aimed at bringing a better user experience to Jorum’s users. This post, adapted from a post written for the Jorum blog, describes work we’ve been engaged in to assist in bringing about this change.

Achieving some rapid gains in user experience

We’ve been doing some mods to the existing Jorum/DSpace user interface to tidy up some aspects of that interface. This, however, can only be only a partial fix: Beyond making a few simple but effective mods to the existing user interface, it rapidly becomes becomes too expensive to modify further.

Providing a new Jorum user experience

The most cost effective way of providing a better user experience is to start again.  The preferable approach is to use the DSpace REST API to enable the use of a new front-end service for Jorum. This architecture is shown in the first diagram.

So far, Jorum’s user-knowledgeable staff have been acting as user representatives in collaborative evaluation of incremental deliveries with co-design of improvements for the next incremental delivery. Our plans are then to provide a public beta, enlist test users, and provide a web-based user feedback mechanism to involve beta users in progressive enhancements.

As it stands, the new front end already offers more useful functionality than is available via the current version of Jorum.

Opening up the Jorum architecture

Proving an API also allows the use of specialist front ends with Jorum, illustrated in the second diagram.

This is great, because Jorum does get approached for and wants to support this kind of (specialist) functionality. In effect, the API opens up the use of Jorum at an architectural level, enabling others to create their own front ends to access and contribute to Jorum’s content.


Under the hood

The work here has been to extend the Jorum/DSpace architecture.

In order for a front end to obtain data from Jorum, the DSpace REST API was retrofitted to to the version of DSpace used by Jorum. The read side of the API was unit tested to ensure correct operation of the API.

Deposit into Jorum  is via DSpace’s SWORD 1.3 API, authenticating using Shibboleth.

The front end service is being built using Ruby on Rails and client-side technologies that include HTML, CSS3 and JavaScript.

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