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A Primer on Metadata Standards. From Dublin Core to IEEE LOM. Julia Innes Rory McGreal Toni Roberts TeleEducation NB. I never met a meta metadata I ever really liked. (Dorman, 1999). Like any early inception of any standard, just understanding the landscape is difficult. (Luh, 1999).

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A primer on metadata standards

A Primer on Metadata Standards

From Dublin Core to IEEE LOM

Julia Innes

Rory McGreal

Toni Roberts

TeleEducation NB

I never met a meta metadata I ever really liked.(Dorman, 1999)

Like any early inception of any standard, just understanding the landscape is difficult. (Luh, 1999)


data about data

Metadata standards are agreed-on criteria for describing data to support interoperability

Example: January 31, 2001

31 janvier 2001





Author: Banathy,B.H.

Year: 1973

Title: Developing a Systems View of Education: The Systems-Model Approach

Publisher: Lear Siegleer, Inc./Fearon Publishers


A system needs to be adaptive If it fails to deliver expected outcomes: 1. it adjusts 2. expectations adjust 3. it terminates

Call Number: H#X


  • Facilitate information sharing

  • Enable search engines on the Internet

  • Support intelligent agents & Push

  • Minimises data loss

  • Metadata describes learning objects

No one can sift 100 million docs

Every day

Learning objects

any entities, digital or non-digital, which can be used or referenced in technology-supported learning

  • Discoverable

  • Modular

  • Interoperable

Learning objects

  • Segment

  • Lesson

  • Topic

  • Course

  • Programme


Why learning objects?

  • COST: 1000s of colleges have common course topics

  • large numbers of courses are going online

  • World does not need 1000s of similar learning topics

  • World needs only about a dozen

  • Expensive to develop so sharing is essential

  • (From Downes, 2000)

Design courses as a collection of learning objects NOT HTML

Who inputs METADATA?

  • Two Camps:

    • Internal referenced - Users input their own metadata

    • External referenced – Professionals input metadata

  • number of electronic objects is growing rapidly

  • metadata required is too much for third-party indexers

METADATA characteristics

  • a data dictionary of commonly defined elements;

  • a method for manipulating and communicating elements electronically;

  • rules for identifying and extracting content;

  • an official standards body;

  • tools for creating, transmitting, and storing.

  • Ahronheim (1998)

METADATA conditions

  • Mandatory fields (small subset)

  • Optional fields

  • Extensible

  • International interoperability

  • Adapted from Griffin and Wason (1997)

METADATA challenges

Too much concern with FIELDS NOT enough with TERMS

  • Fields need a common terminology

  • Described by a content expert BUT

  • TERMS must fit into a universe of knowledge

  • AND

  • Not be only useful to content experts

  • Cross-searching requires compatible vocabularies

What is RDF?

(Resource Description Framework)

RDF is an infrastructure that enables the encoding, exchange, and reuse of structured metadata (Bearman et al., 1999)

RDF is syntax independent, and can be expressed in both XML and HTML. -- World Wide Web Consortium

What is RDF?

  • a generalised format for online resources

  • expresses all vocabularies with one model and syntax

  • schema can work in XML

Warning: RDF does not solve interoperability problems with legacy metadata AND a variety of RDF description schemas are possible

Start designing as a knowlege base not HTML

see autonomy.com

Online Community Why? Improved learning; Sense of commitment; Learning beyond the content; Reduced workload; Administration; Content; Interaction

What is XML?

(eXtended Markup Language)





  • Extends HTML without complexities of SGML

  • XML is the underlying syntax for the transport of information for exchanging structured data




What is XML?

  • any level of complexity

  • functions without the server

  • vendor independent

  • user extensible

  • validation & human readability

Warning: possible Pandora's box of incompatible metatags

Why XML?

  • standardized

  • uses schemas

  • machine-readable

  • two entities can use the same data

Metadata and RDF/XML

XML = syntax

RDF = structure

Metadata =

semantics & resources

METADATA standards

  • Dublin Core

  • Warwick Framework

  • IMS



  • AICC


  • Merlot?

Dublin Core

. . . the HTML of Web metadata (Bearman et al., 1999)

. . . lingua franca for metadata, . . . at a basic level (Milstead & Feldman, 1999)

. . . the most broadly based consensus on resource description on the Web"(Weibel, 1999)


Dublin Core

  • coexists with other metadata sets

  • all elements are optional

  • all elements are syntax-independent

  • tagged in HTML, raw XML, or RDF/XML

Dublin Core Fields

Title Creator Subject

Description Publisher Contributor

Date Type Format

Identifier Source Language

Relation Coverage Rights

All fields are optional, none are mandatory

Warwick Framework

  • a higher-level context for the Dublin Core

  • modularization of metadata

  • facilitates interoperability

  • permits selective access & manipulation of data

WARNING: It can create complexity that is not needed.(Lagoze, 1996)



Educause: Instructional Management System


  • catalyst for development of instructional software

  • creation of an online management infrastructure for learning

  • facilitation of collaborative learning activities

  • certification

Partners: ARIADNE (Europe), NIST LOM,

Members:Apple, Cisco,ETS, IBM, Indust.Canada, Microsoft, Oracle, Sun, US Defense,etc.

IMS Metadata Schema

NOT just a metadata schema

  • incorporates & extends Dublin Core

  • mandatory fields

  • simple controlled vocabulary

  • sets dictionary values

  • reference schemas

  • domain-specific taxonomies




Alliance of Remote Instructional Authoring and Distribution Networks for Europe

  • fosters the sharing and reuse of electronic pedagogical material, by universities and corporations.

  • a Europe-wide repository for pedagogical documents (Knowledge Pool System)

  • co-author of IMS Metadata structure


IEEE LOM P1484.12

Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Learning Object Management Protocol


  • To enable learners or instructors to search, evaluate, acquire, and use Learning Objects

  • focus on the minimal set of properties needed



Aviation Industry CBT (Computer-Based Training) Committee

Provides guidelines for interoperability for systems to share data online


AICC Guidelines & Recommendations (AGR)


Sharable Courseware Object Reference Model

Advanced Distributed Learning Network

a set of interrelated technical specifications built upon the work of the AICC, IMS and IEEE to create one unified content model



Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching

California State University system’s Distributed Learning and Teaching Initiative & Multimedia Repository Initiative

  • a collection of high quality interactive online learning materials & people

  • an example of a learning object repository

  • does not adhere to universal metadata standards


International Metadata Standard for Learning Objects

IEEE LOM P1484.12


Dublin Core

Expressed through RDF> XML/SGML


Portal for Objects Oriented to Learning

a customizable, intelligent, learning object repository

POOL Metadata Project

New Brunswick Distance Education Network Inc.

University of New Brunswick Electronic Text Centre

  • Specifications for applying IMS to POOL learning objects including:

  • A base schema & schemas for describing video, audio, and still images at different levels of granularity

  • Application of schema to the TeleCampus online course database