Tiropanis, Thanassis, Davis, Hugh, Millard, David, Weal, Mark, White, Su and Wills, Gary
Semantic Technologies in Learning and Teaching (SemTech) - JISC Report.
This report presents and discusses the findings of the SemTech (Semantic Technologies for Learning and Teaching) project that was funded by JISC and commenced its activities in September 2008. SemTech addressed the following questions: • What are semantic technologies? • Which tools that make use of semantic technologies are, or could be, relevant to education? • What is the actual use of semantic tools and services in UK HE and FE? • What is the value of such tools in the context of learning, teaching and support? • How do we envisage the adoption of semantic tools in higher education in the future? Although a definition of semantic technologies was not in the scope of the project it was considered necessary for the survey of semantic tools and services and their adoption. SemTech distinguishes between (i) soft semantic technologies like topic maps and Web 2.0 applications, which provide lightweight knowledge modelling in formats understood by humans and (ii) hard semantic technologies like RDF, which provide knowledge modelling in formats processable by computers. The outcomes of an extensive survey of semantic technologies relevant to learning and teaching are documented online (http://semtech-survey.ecs.soton.ac.uk). A total of thirty-six relevant tools and services have been identified by SemTech and the community at the moment of writing. Most of the surveyed tools were not purpose-built for education and they find value in semantic technologies for well-formed metadata or data interoperability and integration. The surveyed tools can be classified to (i) collaborative authoring and annotation, (ii) searching and matching, (iii) repositories, VLEs and authoring tools or (iv) infrastructural technologies for linked data and semantic enrichment. The existing use and uptake of related tools and services by UK HE institutions was investigated and has been documented online (http://wiki.semtech.ecs.soton.ac.uk/). Repositories that are widely adopted in UK HE provide well-formed metadata using semantic technologies. A potential transition from soft semantic modelling in institutional wikis to hard semantic technologies could be implemented given the wide adoption of wikis and recent examples of wikipedia.org and dbpedia.org. Repositories and collaboration ware in HE could enable advanced searching and matching in line with HE requirements identified in this report. Analysis of the findings of this report suggests that building a field of linked open data across UK HE/FE institutions by selectively and securely exposing repositories and institutional data (often data that can be found on institutions’ web pages) can provide significant value and pave the way for pedagogically meaningful applications powered by application-wide or community-wide agreed ontologies in the future. Encouraging institutions to use linked open data technologies and to document successful adoption of semantic technologies is considered of critical importance in this report. HE/FE challenges can be addressed by efficiently linking information across institutions. SemTech engaged with the JISC CETIS Semantic Technology Working Group and the UK HE community for this report including a workshop in January 2009 during which use cases of semantic technologies were constructed from both an educational and an institutional perspective.
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