Semantic Technologies in Learning and Teaching

A JISC funded report on the use of Semantic Technologies in HE Learning and Teaching has recently been published, along with a range of materials presented at various conferences. The project, led by Thanassis Tiropanis at the University of Southampton Electronics and Computer Sciences Department examined the current use of Semantic Technologies to support all aspects of the learning process in UK Higher Education.

The semtech project drew a distinction between “hard” and “soft” semantic technologies.

  • [The report defines] soft semantic technologies as those that let people document certain concepts in formats that are easy to communicate to other people. These concepts can be communicated as part of learning and teaching processes. Examples of soft semantic annotation are folksonomies and topic maps.
  • [The report defines] hard semantic technologies as those that support efficient exchange and processing of semantic data between programs and machines. An example would be linked data constructed from RDF statements.
  • [The report distinguishes] between linked data that express the existence of relationships between resources and “traditional” metadata that express such relationships using ontologies.

It was found that “there is extensive use of soft semantic technologies in HE at the moment. Hard semantic technologies like RDF are initially used in some HE/FE repositories for interoperability.”.

Drawing on a wide ranging survey (with data available), the report identifies and critiques several potentially relevant semantic technologies that could be used to support and streamline learning related systems in HE around ideas of collaboration content authoring/annotation, searching and matching, repositories/VLEs/authoring tools, and infrastructure.

Detailed recommendations are made concerning a “roadmap” for Semantic Technology adoption, which spells out a route to the realisation of the benefits that such technology could offer the sector.

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