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ISO SC36 'Metadata for Learning Resources' working group approved

Following a ballot of its national members, the ISO JTC1 SC36 educational standards body will set up a working group for "Metadata for Learning Resources". But hang on, didn't we already have IEEE's LOM as a standard for data about learning objects? We do, and how IEEE's LOM and ISO's LRM will relate is going to be interesting.

Given the similarity between what the new SC36 working group will do, and what rival standards body IEEE LTSC's LOM working group has already done, the newly adopted proposal says that "The text will adopt, correct, amend, and/or improve upon the technical work in a related IEEE standard called "Learning Object Metadata"." Which sounds laudable, until you realise it might result in two slightly different versions of basically the same thing.

This could be bad, as both the existing LTSC LOM standard and the proposed ISO SC36 LRM standard are essentially about semantic interoperability. That is, they both define a hierarchy of elements which describe a learning object. If the terms don't mean the same thing, or if different concepts are used, searching and categorising learning objects will be difficult across both standards*. If, for example, a repository is built for LOM derived metadata like those used in IMS content packages, then it might not handle any elements or attributes that ISO SC36 put in.

I doesn't need to turn out that way, of course. As noted in our report on IEEE LTSC plans, they are quite anxious to cooperate with ISO SC36, and ISO SC36 says that it "Expect[s] contributions and coordination with IEEE LTSC, CEN/ISSS/WS-LT, and DCMI". It is, therefore, conceivable that both organisations would work on a single future revision of the LOM that would leave LOM 1.0 largely untouched.

Trouble is, even if IEEE LTSC would dearly like to cooperate, it is even more anxious to avoid "any conditions that create the perception or reality of conflicting or multiple standards being developed for the same purpose.", and would therefore prefer to keep LOM maintenance in house. ISO SC36, meanwhile, notes that it is "Not yet sure if IEEE will contribute text for wording." (because of the ongoing uncertainty over the legality of works derived from IEEE standards).

The working group anouncement will appear on ISO/IEC JTC1 SC36 Home Page

*It might be possible to achieve a degree of semantic interoperability if both standards are bound to RDF. Should that come to pass, Stephen Downes might be proven right after all in a rather ironic manner.

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