This project is supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation under grant DUE-0737821.

Disclaimer: Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Where Have We Come From and Where Are We Going? Learning the Lessons and Disseminating Exemplary Practices From the Projects of the NSDL

The National Science Digital Library (NSDL) is a unique National Science Foundation (NSF) program in that over 200 individually funded projects have joined together to collaboratively build this valuable resource (www.nsdl.org). Arguably, it is one of the largest and most complex collaborative educational projects funded by NSF to further Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM or SMET) education. After almost nine years of funding, NSDL has entered into a transition phase where it is leaving, using a lifecycle metaphor, its early childhood developmental stage entering into that of young adulthood. As the organization matures and stabilizes it is becoming increasingly important to know where we have come in order to better plan where we are going.

The project will result in:

  • A growing, open knowledge collection gained through the creation and development of the NSDL as a collection of promising practices and lessons learned consisting of:
    • reflections, stories and recollections (formal and informal) about what participants learned, and
    • an annotated bibliography of articles, papers, presentations associated with the project.
  • An open mechanism for collecting, creating and sharing knowledge within a collaborative research community.
  • The broad dissemination of this collection to the NSDL communities themselves as well as the digital library and technology enhanced learning communities.

Intellectual Merit
The time to act is now. We have already begun to lose the collective wisdom of those that developed the NSDL. The investigators are uniquely qualified because of their extensive experience with the NSDL, their individual backgrounds and their relationships with past and current funded NSDL projects, both of which are necessary to begin to tell the story of the NSDL. The work is not intended to be an evaluation of the NSDL, the NSDL program or the individual projects—but rather a means to highlight the successes, experiences and sometimes failures of the builders of the NSDL. The project plan builds upon well-known mechanisms to collect and organize the stories and experiences of those involved with building the NSDL. As the NSDL continues to evolve it is increasingly important to know where we have come in order to better plan where we are going.

Broader Impact
The impact of this project extends beyond the NSDL—thought the past and future NSDL participants are a prime audience of this work. As NSF and other agencies and organizations (e.g., the Open Educational Resources Movement supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation or the nascent cyberinfrastructure projects underway at NSF) undertake large-scale technology enhanced learning initiatives involving multiple institutions and collaborative projects, the NSDL’s story has an important place. Through broad dissemination mechanisms in recognized digital library venues, and an openly available discussion and synthesis, the project will provide an invaluable base upon which future projects can develop and grow.

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