Linked Data for Open and Distance Learning – Part 0
Mathieu d’Aquin (The Open University, UK) is one of the world’s most able experts in artificial intelligence, he had created a report “Linked Data for Open and Distance Learning” for the Commonwealth of Learning. The purpose is to utilize Semantic Web mechanism to help educators find the needle they want in the haystack of options.
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?
The key is the concept of Linked Data, a hot area of development based on the idea that the mechanisms used 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. One can thus speak about the Web of Linked Data in the way one talks about the current Web of documents and 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 characterized 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 the report, Dr. d’Aquin describes the tools, technologies and processes to publish and use Linked Data in a concrete way focusing on learning and teaching applications. As these approaches mature and pass into general use they will give a tremendous boost to the use adaptation of OER.
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.
The report is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Licence (international): http://creativecommons.org/licences/by-sa/3.0.
To promote Linked Data for education, we will share the report content with our readers here.