George Auckland (BBC Factual & Learning), Phil Barker (Heriot-Watt University), Hazel Beazleigh (Open University), Eddie Boyle (SeSDL Project, University of Edinburgh), Jackie Carter (MIMAS, University of Manchester), Clive Church (North Lincolnshire College), Mike Collett (Education Online), Sarah Currier (Centre for Digital Library Research/High Level Thesaurus Project), David Dawson (Resource), Sue Edwards (MicroCompass Systems Ltd), Neil Evans-Mudie (FDE Ltd), Fred Garnett (Community Programmes, BECTa), Milton Grimleigh (QCA/National Curriculum Online), Jennifer Henley (General Teaching Council for England), Steve Jeyes (North Lincolnshire College), Pete Johnston (UKOLN), Paul Lefrere (Open University), Neil McFarlane (Scottish Executive), Paul Miller (UKOLN) Chair, Ronan O'Beirne (LINA/UK Online), Fiona O'Brien (BBC Factual & Learning), Kevin Riley (IMS), Jenny Slater (LTSN Engineering, Loughborough University), Aida Slavic (LITC, South Bank University), Alan Slevin (Learning & Teaching Scotland), Patrick Towell (Simulacra), Bill Urwin (Somerset LEA), Robin Wilson (RWES Ltd)
This meeting was arranged under the auspices of Interoperability Focus. Bruce Royan of SCRAN sent his apologies, and in his absence the meeting was chaired by Paul Miller. The venue was generously provided by LTSN Engineering of Loughborough University.
Paul Miller noted that discussions on how MEG might contribute to the educational metadata work being conducted within the e-Government Interoperability Framework were still pending.
All other matters arising were included on the agenda for this meeting.
Fred Garnett of BECTa presented an overview of the development and current work of the UK Online initiative, with its roots in the Policy Action Team 15 target of increasing "the availability and take-up of information and communications technology (ICT) for people living in poor neighbourhoods", and particularly the UK Online "centres" initiative.
UK Online has a target of creating some 6000 centres, through three bidding rounds. The criteria for funding include requirements that centres provide academic "additionality" (i.e. offer activities not provided for in the National Curriculum or FEFC Schedule 2) and academic "progression" (i.e. point users towards formal education paths). All existing centres created as ICT Learning Centres will automatically become UK Online centres; also, institutions may be "branded" as centres as well as being funded to develop one.
The issue of resources created by learners themselves prompted some discussion of approaches to the creation of the metadata associated with theses resources: what metadata could be generated by the resource creator and what may require the input of resource managers with expertise in the area? The usefulness of the Pan-Governmental Thesaurus, presently used for MPs' Knowledge Base and for the citizens' portals, in classifying such resources was also raised.
David Dawson of Resource introduced the Culture Online initiative, which has the objective of providing digital access to culture and the arts, with virtual tours of many major resources. It will be launched by Chris Smith with the publication of a "vision report" on 15 March, and the creation of a new body to deliver Culture Online will guarantee its continued funding. One of the main aims is to make these resources useful for educational purposes, and metadata requirements have been considered from the start. Culture Online will also build on the experience gained in creating technical standards for the NOF-digitise programme.
David also noted that the Resource IT Strategy will be available soon.
Some discussion followed on the England-only coverage of the project, and on the role of a regional emphasis.
Paul Miller reported that the Concord had been published in November, and there were now 43 signatories. Expressions of interest had also been received from outside the UK.
Paul also noted that version 2 of the e-Government Interoperability Framework was available for public consultation at the UK GovTalk site. Related to this is the work of the e-Envoy's Metadata Working Group. The formal publication of this group's Government Metadata Framework is expected soon. It represents a high-level view recommending the use of Dublin Core, and further work is in progress to develop thesauri and to explore domain-specific requirements. The question of implementation costs was raised and Kevin Riley drew attention to research at Sheffield Hallam University by Paul Bacsich.
In response to the request at the last meeting for more information on IMS Europe, Kevin Riley of IMS presented an introduction to its work. The IMS Global Learning Consortium is a non-profit consortium creating (XML-based) specifications to support e-Learning, not only in the area of metadata for learning resources but also in areas where learning applications interface with other administrative systems, such as those for the management of student records.
Kevin stressed that IMS concentrates on producing specifications rather than standards. Specifications are generated through pragmatic, six-month blocks of work and are intended to capture a rough consensus and be experimental and "enabling" rather than conclusive or regulatory. IMS places emphasis on dissemination of the specifications, which are publicly available, with support from a mailing list and a developer network. Kevin outlined the activity of the existing IMS Working Groups, and highlighted work being initiated in the areas of comptenency modelling and digital repositories.
The recent launch of IMS in Europe was a direct response to the rapid growth in the e-Learning market. There is a growing recognition that implementing e-Learning is a "complex, multidisciplinary engineering task", and approaches are evolving rapidly from a content-centred model towards a learner-centred one.
This point generated some discussion of the "content-centred" nature of the IMS Learning Resource Metadata specification, which Kevin acknowledged would require augmenting in the future.
The European launch had resulted in several new members, including some individual educational institutions, and UK universities may wish to consider IMS membership.
Pete Johnston from UKOLN reported on progress with registering namespace schemas and application profiles used by MEG members in the DESIRE registry.
Some new entries have been created and some minor changes in presentation have been made to address concerns expressed at the last meeting about highlighting the status and version of the specifications from which the entries in the registry are derived.
There was some discussion of how best to describe/publish an application profile, and Ronan O'Beirne highlighted the second SCHEMAS project workshop on this topic. Although the DESIRE project itself has come to an end, the registry created as part of that project will continue to be made available by UKOLN, and Pete asked members to notify him if they wished entries for their schemas/profiles to be added. [ACTION: ALL]
Paul Miller asked the group to consider whether they wished MEG to establish more formal relationships with other bodies work in in the area, and if they did, which bodies might be involved and what form that link should take.
It was agreed that Patrick Towell should report to and from BSI IST/43 on behalf of MEG. [ACTION:PT]
Discussion followed on the nature and status of MEG, and the advantages and disadvantages of its flexibility and informality. There was a risk that central government may create a formal body to take on the role currently played by MEG. This moved on to discussion of the practical contributions which MEG could make in its existing form. Several members expressed the need for greater consensus regarding best practice in the way existing specifications/standards are implemented in the UK context. While the specification/standards designers need to accommodate such "localisation", it is not their remit to define it. MEG was in a position to survey that practice, to present its findings to members and to encourage/facilitate convergence, and to publish the results of that process to the broader community.
One such localisation issue was the use of controlled vocabularies for the values of key elements/properties common to many schemas/profiles. It was agreed that Paul Miller and Pete Johnston should gather together the lists of values which MEG members are using for "audience level" and present a consolidated view of current practice with the objective of trying to reach consensus on usage. [ACTION: ALL, PM, PJ]
In the first instance, dialogue on this process will be conducted on the existing UK-MEG mailing list, rather than on a special-purpose list. Depending on the volume of traffic, it may be necessary to review that choice in the future.
Phil Barker from Herriot-Watt University gave an introduction to the FAILTE project (Facilitating Access to Information on Learning Technology for Engineers), which is creating an internet catalogue of digital resources for use by HE engineering lecturers. Such resources are not exclusively Web-based (e.g. CD ROMs) but do have an associated Web-accessible description. The resources should be suitable for HE, transferable, self-contained and have significant coverage.
The project has developed draft resource description guidelines, based on the IMS Learning Resource Metadata specification and on Dublin Core, and developed draft data entry and query/retrieval tools.
Phil highlighted issues raised by the project's work to date, including the selective application of IMS and the problem of defining controlled vocabularies appropriate to the specific local use context.
Jenny Slater from LTSN Engineering, Loughborough University presented an introduction to the work of the CETIS Metadata Working Group, which is concerned primarily with gathering feedback on the IMS specifications and channelling it to the IMS working groups. Jenny suggested that this emphasis differentiated the CETIS MWG from MEG, which was more focused on practice and implementation, and that MEG could provide input to CETIS MWG regarding use of the IMS specs.
Steve Jeyes and Clive Church represent the FE sector on the CETIS MWG.
Neil Evans-Mudie of Fretwell-Downing Education presented the work of the EASEL project, which seeks to offer an environment in which existing digital resources can be repurposed to create new course offerings. The project is developing a Course Constructor Kit (CCK) to permit the iterative selection, storage and restructuring of resources; a digital repository for learning resources; a semantic registry to facilitate cross-walking between schemas; and a search gateway to query remote repositories.
Neil highlighted on the project's experiences of using/adapting/extending existing specifications for learning resource metadata, and some of the difficulties encounterd in mapping between Dublin Core and the IMS LRM/IEEE LOM metadata element sets. The problem of establishing best practice for controlled vocabularies associated with key properties in particular implementation contexts was also raised.
The project is presently trialling using content from four universities and one publisher, and has established focus groups for user feedback.
As chair of the committee, Mike Collett reported on the work of IST/43, which is responsible for standardization in the area of information technologies that support automation for learners, learning institutions, and learning resources. Current work includes a proposal for a BS for the delivery of assessments (BS7988). The work of IST/43 is complementary to that of organisations like IMS.
It was suggested that IST/43 offered a channel through which outputs from MEG might be considered for accreditation by the BSI. Membership of IST/43 costs £190 + VAT p.a.
Mike Collett reported on the activity of CEN/ISSS WSLT, and summarised the proposed programme of work covering extensions to the existing programme, internationalisation of the IEEE LOM, alternative language versions of resources in IEEE LOM, translation of the IEEE LOM specification, a repository of taxonomies, description of user's language capabilities, standardisation of copyright licences, quality assurance standards, and promotional activities.
Paul Miller drew attention to the ONIX International standard for exchange of bibliographic data between publishers and distributors, developed and maintained by EDItEUR jointly with Book Industry Communication and the Book Industry Study Group. Educational publishers have expressed an interest in developing interoperability with the IMS/IEEE LOM specifications, and Paul has arranged a meeting to explore this with Brian Green at the Publishers Association, London on 17 April. For further information, contact Paul Miller. [ACTION: PM]
The next meeting will be held at BECTa in Coventry on Tuesday 17 July.