Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Characterization of Educational Resources in E-Learning Systems Using an Educational Metadata Profile

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Characterization of Educational Resources in E-Learning Systems Using an Educational Metadata Profile

Article excerpt

Introduction

Metadata are "machine-readable information about electronic resources or other things" (Berners-Lee, 1997) and are used to describe the features of a resource, thus making easier its management and retrieval. A set of metadata elements combined so as to serve a specific purpose, constitute a metadata schema.

Although the adoption of a single metadata standard would assure reusability of resources and interoperability among applications, there exists no metadata schema yet, appropriate to fulfil the requirements and needs of every application. Some schemas focus on technical metadata, other on educational metadata while some other on more specialized elements. When existing approaches are not sufficient enough to cover the special requirements of an institution or organization, the use of application profiles is suggested. According to Heery & Patel (2000), an application profile is an aggregation of metadata elements selected from one or more different schemas and combined into a new compound schema.

Particularly, in the case of educational recourses, the set of metadata used to describe their characteristics, should be able to capture their educational and pedagogical aspects. Therefore, apart from author, title or type--fields that are common in all metadata schemas--an educational metadata schema should also include information regarding the resource's particular learning type, its intended end users, the instructional context and many more.

A kind of educational resource that is increasingly used by Educational Institutions in recent years is the Learning Object (LO). According to Nikolopoulos, Solomou, Pierrakeas & Kameas (2012) LOs are pieces of educational material that directly correlate the knowledge they convey with specific objectives (learning outcomes) of the learning process. But although LOs constitute a common trend in organizing educational material and have been utilized by many modern e-learning systems (Schreurs & Al-Zoubi, 2007), they cannot be used effectively because there exists no metadata schema capable of capturing all of their characteristics.

This insufficiency becomes even greater in the case of LOs that are designed for use in the context of distance learning courses, where the proper handling and dissemination of LOs is crucial for the success of the learning process, because in most cases, contrary to what happens in a classroom, no human tutor would be continuously available to monitor students' path or progress through the educational process.

Hellenic Open University (HOU) is a Higher Education Institute specialized in distance and lifelong learning that the last two years seeks to re-organize its material and to provide its students with advanced services for delivering knowledge. Such services require the consumption of adequately characterized LOs, using a metadata schema that is capable of capturing as many as possible of their pedagogical aspects and especially those considered to be important according to distance learning principles. To the best of our knowledge, no such a schema or application profile exists, able to satisfy these requirements.

Consequently, through this work we propose an application profile of the IEEE LOM standard with special focus on the field of distance learning. After reviewing existing approaches for describing educational resources, as well as several binding methods (section Background), we move on to the presentation of our proposed Educational Metadata Profile (EMP), in section EMP: New Elements and Modifications. Its ontological binding is given in the subsequent section (The EMP ontology), whereas section Evaluation of the EMP ontology presents an evaluation of this ontology model, through its application for characterizing real LO instances. Conclusions follow, in our last section.

Background

In literature, several metadata standards and profiles have been proposed, each serving different purposes and needs. …

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