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E-learning content to hook up around the world

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The US-based Masie Center reports this week on an initative to catalogue and code all of the e-learning material across the World. The Learning Object Metadata working group will specify the syntax and semantics needed to describe technology-supported learning globally, including computer-based training systems, interactive learning environments, intelligent computer-aided instruction systems, distance learning systems and collaborative learning environments.

The potentially enormous task was given a boost by the finalising of an international agreement on learning standards and metadata (a way of identifying data_. The Learning Technology Standards Committee Learning Objects Metadata Working Group and the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative have agreed to work towards developing data which can be used to identify and describe different parts of e-learning materials. Members of several other organisations including ARIADNE, the Alliance of Remote Instructional Authoring and Distribution Networks for Europe, EdNA, the Education Network Australia and the IMS Global Learning Consortium have also signed up to the agreement, known as the joint Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The idea behind the work of these organisations is to set up a system where all e-learning content can be searched, managed or linked together by learners and trainers. At the same time accredited standards will be developed for the content, which should help to clarify what learners and those purchasing e-learning can expect from content providers. Although bringing together content providers from around the globe is a huge undertaking, Stuart Weibel, Director of the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative says it's worth the trouble: "No matter how many search engines or information retrieval systems we use today finding a needle in the data-haystack can be a fruitless effort. This enormous problem will not be solved overnight, but LOM and DCMI are building the path that will make information retrieval and exchange a much more rewarding process." Professor Erik Duval, Chair of the CEN ISSS Learning Technologies Workshop says that "having a common approach to educational metadata is crucial...that in turn is the first, crucial step on the long road to open learning infrastructures."

Here in the UK UKOLN, the UK Office for Library and Information Networking is working on a number of projects related to the formation of Metadata. More information can be found on their website at

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