Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Competence-Related Metadata for Educational Resources That Support Lifelong Competence Development Programmes

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Competence-Related Metadata for Educational Resources That Support Lifelong Competence Development Programmes

Article excerpt

Introduction

In the context of the emerging paradigm of Lifelong Learning, competence-based education and training is gradually attracting the attention of the Technology-Enhanced Learning community, since it provides important benefits for both individuals and organisations. At the individual's level, a competence-based learning approach may help in identifying and targeting competences that need to be developed in order for an individual to reach certain levels of competences defined by an individual career plan and/or by the human resources department of an organization for a given job description. At the organizations' level, competence-based training bares the potential for designing competence development programmes that targets organisational performance improvement and enhances human resource potential (Hustad, Munkvold & Moll, 2004).

A typical Competence Development lifecycle aims at the continuous enhancement and development of individual and/or organizational competences and consists of the following key steps: (a) the creation of a reference competence description through the identification of required job and task roles together with their associated expected competences and competence levels, (b) the assessment of existing competences at individual or/and organisational level, (c) the gap analysis between existing competences and the required competences for a specific job or task role, (d) the definition of competence development programmes or units of programmes to minimize the identified gaps and (e) the continuous performance monitoring and assessment to confirm improvement (Sinott et al., 2002).

Competence Development Programmes refers not only to Training Programmes that lead to some kind of formal recognition (that is, certificates or degrees), but also to informal learning activities which facilitate competences' acquisition by practice rather than intentional learning (European Commission, 2001; Dodero et al, 2007). Learning Activities are defined as "the explicitly designed or loosely performed activities that are directed at the attainment of an explicit or implicit learning objective" (Koper & Specht, 2007; Prins et al, 2008) and they are supported by appropriate educational resources (typically referred to as learning objects). As a result, the issue of finding, selecting and assembling digital resources which are suitable for the particular learning activities in hand, is a key issue in the learning technologies literature (Ullrich, 2008).

In this context, Learning Objects can be defined as "any digital resource that can be reused to support learning" (Wiley, 2000) and they are typically described with metadata using the IEEE Learning Object Metadata (LOM) (IEEE LOM, 2002), that is, an IEEE standard for the explicit description of educational resources. The IEEE LOM provides an hierarchy of properties for learning resources in nine different categories which include technical, educational and other characteristics. However, the descriptive nature of the IEEE LOM metadata has lead to problems with lack of precision in description within the given metadata categories (Sanchez-Alonso & Frosch-Wilke, 2005) which does not facilitate efficient machine-based search and selection of learning resources. Furthermore, IEEE LOM does not include metadata elements that are specifically designed for the description of learning resources in terms of their relevance to Competence Development Programmes. In particular, it does not provide metadata elements that would describe the suitability of a given learning resource for supporting learning activities that are designed to meet competence-based educational objectives within competence development programmes.

This issue has been identified as a potential problem and there are some works that aim to address it, that is, to propose extensions of the IEEE LOM in order to support the description of competence related characteristics of learning resources (Sanchez-Alonso & Sicilia, 2005; Van Assche, 2007; Ng & Hatala, 2007). …

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