The University of Southampton

Semantic Technologies could link up UK learning

Published: 28 July 2009

A new report authored by ECS academics proposes using Semantic Web Technologies to link higher and further education learning and teaching repositories in the UK and calls for the technology to be used now.

The Semantic Technologies in Learning and Teaching Report, which was compiled by academics at the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS), for the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) looked at the existing or potential use of Semantic Web Technologies in the UK education system and proposed means of linking them up.

Semantic Technologies are designed to extend the capabilities of information on the Web and link information in meaningful ways. The authors of the report believe that these capabilities can address higher and further education challenges, such as student retention, curriculum alignment and support for critical thinking.

The report, which distinguishes between soft semantic technologies, like topic maps and Web 2.0 applications, and hard semantic technologies like RDF (Resource Description Framework), identified over 36 tools which are relevant to the education sector.

The surveyed tools can be classified as: tools for collaborative authoring and annotation; searching and matching; repositories and infrastructural technologies for linked data and semantic enrichment.

The researchers recommend that by evolving and disseminating deeper understandings of the potential for Semantic Technologies across the education sector, JISC can work with its stakeholders to establish and develop good practice which enhances the value of its investment in innovation and infrastructure in this sector.

The report sets out a roadmap for developing the identified tools for use in education, with an overall objective of the emergence of a linked data field across UK higher education and further education institutions.

‘We hope that this project will influence the research agendas and budget allocations of institutions in the UK and of the funding councils,’ said Dr Thanassis Tiropanis, one of the authors of the report from ECS’s Learning Societies Lab. ‘Semantic Technologies are available to us now and we already have lightweight knowledge models in institutional repositories as in internal databases, virtual learning environments, file systems and internal or external Web pages; these models can be leveraged to make a big difference in learning and teaching. Let’s start using the technology now rather than waiting for some time in the future.’

The Report was produced as part of the SEMTECH project.

For further information contact Joyce Lewis; tel.+44(0)23 8059 5453

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