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Educational Metadata FAQ launched

Everything you always wanted to know about data about educational data, maintained in a Wiki, with an initial kernel of answers by a roll-call of experts in the field.

The moment a resource gets shared, there's a need to describe what the resource is and what it is good for. When that file or package is on just one machine, to be used by one person only, there is little need for that. Assuming the user has a good enough memory, there's no need to signal a resource's existence, or describe what it is and what it is good for.

Fortunately, the problem of describing a learning resource is not new. Lots of people have been worrying about what you might want to say about a learning resource, in such a way that a) other tools understand it and b) other humans understand it.

Since what is useful to know about a resource differs per community and by purpose of the resource, different groups have come up with different specifications about how to structure your description. More than that, the number of choices you can or should make when you describe resources can be pretty bewildering for the uninitiated.

This was recognised a long time ago by people who had been working on various specifications in the area of learning resource description, or metadata. Specifically, the people who did the Dublin Core spec got together with the folks from the IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee (LTSC) who were working on the Learning Object Metada standard and signed a co-operation deal. Between them, a lot of other organisations in the same area were also involved: IMS, the International Standards Organisation's Sub-Committee for learning technology (SC36), the European CEN-ISSS workshop for learning technology and various other acronyms.

This coming together led to first, a communique, and, second, an article in d-lib that outlines some principles about metadata.

More importantly, however, the various people involved realised that they tended to come across the same questions about metadata all the time. At the same time, as Jon Mason of Australia's Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) put it, "there was a recognition that neither the Dublin Core nor the e-learning orthodoxy of IMS and ADL would be the only game in town", hence the decision to make an informal and collaborative effort to answer all these questions.

As Jon also points out, there is little point in aiming the Frequently Asked Questions at the "acronym literate"; there's a lot of people out there who simply have no time or inclination to learn about all of that, but just need to describe their stuff.

The initiators also realised that, just as there is no-one who has all the answers, not are there answers that are true for everyone for ever. Hence the fact that the FAQ has been turned into a Wiki, just to be able to catch more input and questions as time goes on.

Consequently, any further questions or input are extremely welcome.


The MetadataFAQ wiki

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