The University of Southampton

First workshop on Semantic Web applications in higher education

Published: 14 October 2009

Dr Thanassis Tiropanis and Prof Hugh Davis of the ECS Learning Societies Lab and Dr Patrick Carmichael of the University of Cambridge organized the first international workshop on Semantic Web applications for learning and teaching support in Higher Education, which took place at the end of September.

SemHE’09 was held in Nice, France, and co-located with the European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning ECTEL’09. Twenty-five delegates from nine different countries took part in the workshop which the organizers hope will be the first in a series of workshops in this area.

‘Our aim is to look at semantic applications in the context of higher education,’ says Dr Tiropanis. ‘In the era of Web 2.0 and Linked Data, with increased requirements for interoperability on a large scale, we need to establish the value of semantic technologies in the higher education context.

‘We want to look specifically at areas such as curriculum development and course creation and examine ways in which semantic technologies support existing or emerging pedagogical approaches in HE such as collaborative learning, critical thinking or case-based learning.

According to Dr Tiropanis, the outcome of the Nice workshop shows that recent developments in Linked Data and Web 2.0 technologies can demonstrate significant potential for supporting higher education challenges and fostering pedagogical innovation.

He believes that the potential for innovation will be further advanced if institutions adopt linked data formats for information they already make public on their Web pages.

During the workshop the potential of enabling approximation in queries for more efficient searches was presented and a number of challenges were identified, relating to the provenance, sustainability, licensing and reliability of today’s linked data cloud. Presentations also focused on how case-based learning can benefit from semantic technologies across a number of disciplines, and how searching learning resources within or across universities can be made more efficient and personalised.

The need to examine further how people relate and interact with resources and with one another in today’s linked data cloud was highlighted in the discussions that followed the paper presentations and the panel session.

'It was a very successful workshop both in terms of the number of delegates and their participation in the discussion,' said Dr Tiropanis. 'Looking at semantic technologies for higher education in this new context will hopefully be fruitful for institutions, teachers and learners.' This workshop was jointly organised and supported by the JISC-funded project SemTech and the ESRC/EPSRC-funded project ENSEMBLE.

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

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