Linked Data for Open and Distance Learning

by Mathieu d’Aquin (Author)
Publishers: COL (July 2014)
ISBN: n/a
Format: PDF (Portable Document Format)/Acrobat Reader
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Second Edition. First edition published June 2012.

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 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: 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.

Core to this overview of linked data for ODL is the description of applications that have been enabled by the adoption of the technologies and principles underlying linked data. These applications shows highly innovative ways in which issues such as the access to and discovery of resources can be made simpler through relying on web standard to obtain and connect data across the web. They also demonstrate how the current state of adoption of linked data by educational institution and distance learning providers, although still preliminary, is already enabling more open and flexible use of the information, and creating new opportunities for application developers to create tools supporting both learners and teachers. Indeed, through analysing the content of the LinkedUp catalogue of web data for education, we can see how the linked data approach enables an ecosystem of data where each individual provider contributes to a common, open and global network, rather than limiting themselves to a silo of information.

Of course, this promising, early states requires some effort from a wider range of organisation to join and adopt linked data. We therefore also describe how this idea is being realised and how it can be adopted.  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, and conclude on the need for the area to grow with the use of linked data, and the potential this has to enable a smart “web of educational data”.


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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