Linked Data for Open and Distance Learning

by Mathieu d’Aquin (Author)
Publishers: COL (June 2012)
ISBN: n/a
Format: PDF (Portable Document Format)/Acrobat Reader
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Executive Summary

Implementing the full vision of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) raises immense technological challenges. The goal is to move from current localised, restricted and locked proprietary content towards the open discovery, use and combination of resources independent from their geographic and institutional origins. It is therefore natural that existing initiatives have taken the Web as a base platform, to publish and share open educational resources (OER) in the form of online documents. Beyond this first step however, new technological barriers to the full realisation of the ODL vision appear: How to discover these open resources? How to connect resources located in different repositories? How to relate these resources to the context, interest, cultural and technical environment of the learner?

In this report, we introduce a recent development in the area of Web technologies which has the potential to revolutionise the area of ODL: The Semantic Web. While the Semantic Web has been, until now mostly considered from a research perspective, we focus here on the concrete benefit that can today be obtained from applying the set of principles and technologies that have emerged from the most pragmatic part of the Semantic Web field: Linked Data.

Linked Data relies on the simple idea that the mechanisms used nowadays to share and interlink documents on the Web can be applied to share and interlink data and metadata about these documents, as well as the concepts and entities they relate to. On the Web of Linked Data, every “data object” (representing for example a person, a place or a topic) is identified by a Web address, and characterised using Web links that can connect to representations of other data objects, identified by other Web addresses, thus using the Web as a giant data graph that openly draws from any contributing source.

In this report we describe how this idea is being realised and how it can be adopted by organisations willing to contribute, interlink to and take advantage of the Web of Linked Data for ODL. We describe the tools, technologies and processes to publish and use Linked Data in a concrete way, focusing in particular on learning and teaching applications. Understanding both the costs and benefits of adopting Linked Data and Semantic Web technologies is, of course, a critical part of the process. Alongside the description and explanation of the technological notions related to this area we show how such notions can be applied to solve some of the specific problems faced in ODL and present a number of case studies in which such benefits have been concretely achieved.

Table of Contents


Executive summary

The semantic web and ODL, a common goal: the global sharing of knowledge

  • Linked data = data on the web
  • What (linked) data for open and distance learning?

Using linked data and the semantic web for open and distance learning

  • Resource delivery and navigation
  • Resource discovery and recommendation
  • Personalisation and social learning

Implementing linked data for educational resources

  • Base standards and technologies
  • Representing learning related information with linked data vocabularies
  • Workflow for linked data publication in education

Towards a web of educational data


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