#DLNETChat | 5 November 2021: How long do digital learning resources last?

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Stuart Berry

Everything we create has a lifespan: some things continue to exist for longer than others, and some things continue to have use or relevance for longer than others.  In our next live Twitter chat #DLNETChat, on Friday 5 November, we will consider the question about how long the digital learning resources that we create might last, and whether it is possible to do anything to make them last longer.

It should be made clear at this stage that we are specifically discussing learning resources as opposed to digital collections or digital archives – although some of the issues might be the same when it comes to physical storage or digital formats.


Digital Storage and Digital Formats

In exploring this subject, it seems that quite rightly there is considerable work being done on the subject of digital preservation when it comes to (digital) artefacts that might be of historic significance, however there seem to be much fewer conversations about the lifespan of other digital resources. The one area where these two areas overlap is that of digital storage and digital formats, however when we save our digital resources to the cloud or back it up on the server at work, it is likely that there are fewer precautions or procedures in place than we might take with digital collections.

A few questions relating specifically to digital learning resources in this area might be:

  • If we are using online platforms or cloud storage, is there a risk that the platform might cease operating or material posted there will stop being available? What can we do about this?
  • As we create a larger quantity of more sophisticated outputs (e.g. high-definition or 4k video), does this put a strain on digital storage within organisations such as hard-disk or server space?
  • Is there a risk that the formats we use become obsolete? Can anybody access those CD-ROMs we made for schools, ten or more years ago?
  • At what stage should we embrace new or emerging technologies?
  • We are becoming more aware now of the environmental impact of our digital decision making, are there any ways that we can make more informed choices in this regard?



The other area that dictates how long something will last is that of how long it remains relevant or useful. The actual content, what we are saying in these resources or the way that we are saying it, might need to change over time as interpretations or communication methods change. Content aimed at formal learners might need to be adapted if the curriculum changes, or we may need to consider re-evaluating our resources, as we constantly re-evaluate the way we consider the heritage in our care.

Some questions dealing with content might include:

  • How long is the content relevant? How often should we re-appraise what we are saying or the way we choose to say it? How can we plan for this when we create new resources?
  • Are the digital resources we created during lockdown going to relevant in a post-lockdown world, will they need to be produced again, using the benefit of our experience, but also with more polish (rather than from our kitchen tables and made using dodgy broadband with software on free or open-source licenses)?

We certainly don’t promise to have any of the answers but we will look at some of these questions during our next Twitter #DLNETChat on Friday 5 November at 1.00pm.

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