New project could improve results from school web searches

The Learning Resource Metadata initiative aims to help students by returning more relevant internet search results.

A new partnership between the Association of Educational Publishers (AEP) and Creative Commons aims to improve internet search results for teachers and students by creating a metadata framework designed specifically for learning resources.

The organizations announced the partnership at the 2011 Content in Context conference in early June.

“Educators and students miss out on education resources available online because it is takes too long or is too hard to find appropriate content,” said Catherine Casserly, CEO of Creative Commons. “A common metadata schema will make this search more efficient and effective so educators can quickly discover the educational resources they want, including those they can reuse under Creative Commons licenses.”

Several other leading organizations, including Curriki, Pearson, Promethean, and the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, have voiced support for the Learning Resource Metadata initiative and have agreed to help develop the specifications.

The Learning Resource Metadata initiative will work with, a web metadata framework. Major search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft Bing recently announced the project, which will create a universal framework for tagging web-based content to make internet searches faster. Google Shopping and Google Recipes are prototype examples of how metadata can improve search results and presentation.

An explanation from notes that structured data stored in databases helps to make up many websites. But when that information is turned into HTML coding, it is sometimes lost in the translation process.

“Many applications, especially search engines, can benefit greatly from direct access to this structured data,” the site notes. “On-page markup enables search engines to understand the information on web pages and provide richer search results in order to make it easier for users to find relevant information on the web. … A shared markup vocabulary makes easier for webmasters to decide on a markup schema and get the maximum benefit for their efforts.”

Search engines and content providers will not be required to adopt the education metadata schema, but project organizers believe that it will receive widespread acceptance owing to the large number of major search engines and other providers who have expressed support.

“This is a watershed project for our industry,” said Charlene Gaynor, CEO of AEP. “It benefits both users and content providers, because improved discoverability expands the market. Being part of the process with Creative Commons allows publishers to address issues such as quality and suitability as dimensions of educational content.”

AEP and Creative Commons will lead the project together. AEP will handle communication, and Creative Commons will supervise development of technical specifications. Creative Commons will convene and manage a working group, which will include an array of representatives.

“The great promise of Open Educational Resources (OER) to provide access to high-quality learning materials is limited by the discoverability of those resources and the difficulty of targeting them to the needs of specific learners,” read a Creative Commons blog post announcing the initiative. “Creating a common metadata schema will accelerate movement toward personalized learning by publishers, content providers, and learners, and [it will] help to unleash the tremendous potential of OER and online learning.”

When a draft of the metadata framework is complete, it will be posted online on a project website, developed by AEP, for public comments and review. Organizers expect the specifications to be complete by Feb. 1, 2012. The draft is expected to cover content for the Common Core State Standards.

Pearson has said it will adopt a common meta-tagging strategy to optimize its web content for searching and storage.

“This new capability will be extremely helpful to educators everywhere in identifying appropriate educational materials for their classrooms,” said Peter Cohen, Pearson School CEO.

Creative Commons promotes creative re-use of intellectual and artistic works, whether owned or in the public domain. Through its free copyright licenses, it gives authors, artists, scientists, and educators the choice of a flexible range of protections and freedoms that build upon the “all rights reserved” concept of traditional copyright to enable a voluntary “some rights reserved” approach.

Educators say they find Creative Commons helpful if they need images or other resources to add dimension to presentations or projects.

The Learning Resource Metadata project is funded by grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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