Semantic Technologies in Learning and Teaching (SemTech)

SemTech will identify and quantify the benefits of semantic technologies and outline a roadmap for their adoption in the context of HE/FE education, informal learning and exploratory learning. Addressing the HE/FE institutional perspective will involve case studies based on existing work.



Semantic technologies appear to hold the promise of significantly enhancing formal and informal learning but certain issues such as building ontology consensus, the logistics of annotating large volumes of learning content and the underpinning pedagogy have been frequently questioned. Although a lot of progress has been made and the use of standards like RDF, OWL and SPARQL are gaining popularity, a global semantic Web remains a long-term vision.

However, progress towards a more modest machine-readable Web has been made, and pragmatic solutions to interoperability based around REST and XML have emerged in the last few years along with prototypes of SPARQL server implementations and new RDF/OWL annotation tools. In addition, Web 2.0 systems have encouraged a lightweight knowledge modelling approach (sometimes called folksonomies) based around techniques such as tagging, clustering, and community authoring. These are strong indications that consensus on ontologies can be achieved within a virtual community and that content can be efficiently annotated by community members provided adequate tools become available. Seen in this broader context it can be argued that Semantic Technologies are already impacting on the way in which we learn and teach, and will have an increasing impact as the sophistication of the tools increases.

A number of open issues, however, deserve further analysis and discussion, such as:

Addressing these issues can have a significant impact on Higher Education (HE) and Further Education (FE) institutions. A detailed analysis of specific benefits of semantic tools for informal and exploratory learning will identify additional business opportunities for entrepreneurs active in this area and provide public and private research funding bodies with an insight into the application of semantic tools. A roadmap for the development and adoption of semantics-based applications can serve as a point of reference for the developments in this area and the open challenges to be addressed.

SemTech will report current work on semantic technologies in education, provide a roadmap for further developments in this area and address the institutional perspective on semantic technology use by engaging in discussion with other HE and FE institutions in the UK.
University of Southampton, School of Electronics and Computer Science
Start date: 01/09/2008
End date: 28/02/2009
Funded by: