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Minutes of 18 April 2002


Sue Allcock (Reed Education & Professional Publishing), Chris Baker (Westminster Kingsway College), Bob Banks (FD Learning), Phil Barker (Heriot Watt University), Justine Bird (National College for School Leadership), Lorna Campbell (CETIS), Clive Church (Edexcel International), Grant Coates (Simulacra Media), Sue Edwards (Microcompass), Malcolm Forbes (Brixton Online), Fred Garnett (BECTa), Gerry Graham (Learning & Teaching Scotland), Milton Grimleigh (QCA), David Higley (Brixton Online), Dawn Holland (Open University), Ian Huckvale (Simulacra Media), Steve Jeyes (Edexcel International), Pete Johnston (UKOLN), Sarah McConnell (EDINA), Neil MacFarlane (Scottish Executive Education Department), Carlos Miguens (Tonidi), Paul Miller (UKOLN) Minutes, Ronan O'Beirne (Metadata for Community Content), Fiona O'Brien (BBC Factual & Learning), Dale Peters (Sparrowhawk & Heald), Andy Powell (UKOLN), Matthew Richards (TEEM Ltd), Julie Robinson (DfES), Bruce Royan (SCRAN) Chair, Paul Sandford (LITC, South Bank University), Jenny Slater (CETIS Metadata Special Interest Group), Alan Slevin (Learning & Teaching Scotland), Sandy Smith (Scottish University for Industry), Matthew Stiff (English Heritage), Bill Urwin (South West Grid for Learning), Sid Verber (National Extension College), Susi Woodhouse (Resource), Robin Yeates (LITC, South Bank University)


This meeting was arranged under the auspices of Interoperability Focus.

Financial support was generously provided by BECTa.

The Chair thanked BECTa for paying for this meeting's venue, and also thanked Fred Garnett for stepping in at short notice to Chair the previous meeting.

Minutes of Last Meeting

There were no matters arising not already addressed on the agenda.

BECTa Metadata Initiatives


Fred Garnett gave a presentation on metadata work underway within BECTa, and pointed to the new site being constructed at to disseminate their efforts.

Metadata for Community Content

[presentation]  [document]

Fred Garnett gave a presentation on the work being done within BECTa on community-based educational content. The presentation highlighted the importance of self-directed learning in this environment ("Androgogy, not Pedagogy"), and explored issues related to allowing users to progress from one resource to another on their own. Under such a model, there appears to be a need for classification of potential resources as 'easier', 'harder', 'more of the same', etc., in relation to the resource currently being used.

NOF-digitise and Learning


Susi Woodhouse from Resource spoke about the recent allocation of 50,000,000 to a wide range of projects, all of which are working to digitise material for use in a range of learning contexts. This NOF-digitise programme is funding more than 100 projects over the next year or so, and will result in a significant corpus of material from across the UK, all underpinned by a common set of core technical standards.

Report from IST/43

Patrick Towell was unable to attend the meeting, and the Chair requested that a short report be circulated to the mailing list. [ACTION: Patrick Towell]

BS8419: A British Standard for Interoperability between Curricula, Syllabi and Competency Maps

[presentation] [proposal]

Ian Huckvale from Simulacra Media spoke to this proposal, which aims to standardise an approach for sharing data of various forms between e-Learning systems, specifically those active in the UK marketplace.

DTI funding is available to progress this activity, and any MEG members interested in participating should contact Ian. [ACTION: ALL]

Concern was expressed that this standardisation activity may be taking place too soon; effectively trying to standardise interchange between a set of specifications (such as the IMS Metadata spec) that had yet to be formally standardised themselves. There was also a feeling expressed that the broader community had yet to arrive at any broad consensus in this area, and that attempting to pre-empt community-based consensus building by defining a new standard too soon might not be helpful in the long term.

The Chair suggested that members with opinions to express on this activity might like to become involved in the DTI-funded working group.

Survey of Learning Resources metadata usage

Jenny Slater reported on work within CETIS' metadata SIG to prepare a survey of the manner in which learning resources metadata is currently used by the community. This survey will be released during May, and MEG members are requested to give it their attention. [ACTION: ALL]

The survey focuses upon specifications such as IMS, IEEE, and SCORM, but is also interested in when and why people use alternatives such as the Dublin Core.

Controlled Vocabularies and Interoperability

Jenny Slater spoke briefly about the need for controlled vocabularies of various kinds, identifying this as the big issue in metadata at present. Current MEG work on educational levels caters for one important need, but the CETIS Metadata SIG would welcome feedback on other vocabularies in use or required by the community.

CEN/ISSS Learning Technologies Workshop prototype repository

Lorna Campbell spoke about work within the CEN/ISSS Learning Technologies Workshop to develop a repository of vocabularies, taxonomies and thesauri in use within the community.

A report will be produced, outlining a number of the issues arising from the use of these terminological tools, specifically within the context of IEEE LOM metadata elements.

In discussion, reference was made both to the ongoing work of the High Level Thesaurus project (HILT), and the Government Category List (GCL), use of which is mandatory in the UK public sector.

Competency Harmonisation


Clive Church suggested that IMS notions of competency do not fit well with current lifelong learning activities in the UK. Within this environment, there is a need to be able to present areas of competency and, importantly, actual learning outcomes. The Learning Outcome, he argued, is a concept which needs to have its profile raised, both in the UK and overseas.

Metadata schemas for Bolton Woods Local History project


Ronan O'Beirne presented results from the Bolton Woods Local History project, where members of the community had been involved in the creation of digital resources, and in compiling appropriate metadata for them. He identified difficulties in convincing project members of the value of the metadata they were being asked to create.

MEG Educational Levels Draft


Paul Miller described the difficulty in committing further UKOLN effort to completing this document. He explained that a number of organisations had expressed interest in using it once complete, and that two had offered to provide funds for its completion. A request was made for those with time and expertise available to make themselves known. [ACTION: ALL]

Gerry Graham reminded attendees that the Scottish Credit & Qualifications Framework, a draft of which is referred to in the MEG document, has now been published.

Learning & Teaching Scotland also expressed interest in working to complete at least the Scottish aspects of the MEG document.

MEG Concord

Paul Miller reminded attendees of the MEG Concord, which now has some 70 signatories, and asked those who had not yet signed up to consider doing so. [ACTION: ALL]

MEG Registry

Pete Johnston reported on the successful application to JISC and BECTa for funding to extend the functionality of the MEG Registry.

He asked for a small group of likely schema creators to volunteer for some testing and evaluation work, probably during May. [ACTION: ALL]

It is possible that this initial testing will be followed up with a larger workshop, probably in September.

MEG Directory

Paul Miller reported on the availability of a prototype directory of MEG members, provided in response to a number of requests.

The directory is experimental at present, and members are asked to try using it, and to report issues and enhancements. [ACTION: ALL]

MEG Futures


Pete Johnston introduced a document on the ways in which MEG activity might move forward in future, recognising current limitations on effort available for MEG activities.

It was suggested that the MEG Directory should be used to declare members' relationships with standards bodies and similar organisations, reinforcing the idea of MEG as a forum in which all of these activities could be represented.

The issue of the relationship between MEG and CETIS and its SIGs was raised. It was felt that CETIS and its SIGS were primarily concerned with the FE and HE communities (and with IMS and IEEE specifications), and that MEG had an important role to play both beyond FE/HE, and as an interface between FE/HE and the wider educational domain. This relationship and others might usefully be clarified.

It was stressed that effort should be expended - if available - in raising the profile of MEG.

It was suggested that MEG meetings might usefully become more theme-based, rather than attempting to cover such a broad range of issues as this meeting had. It was recognised that there was also a need for current awareness items on each agenda.

There was a suggestion that sub-groups might usefully progress work items in specific areas, and members were reminded that they were free to propose and establish such groups as the need arose.

The group expressed interest in a request for funding being prepared, in order to support a higher level of activity from the MEG 'secretariat'. [ACTION: Paul Miller]

Paul requested that funding bodies which might be prepared to consider such a bid get in touch. [ACTION: ALL] He also asked MEG members to advise him of appropriate contacts within potential funding organisations of which they were aware. [ACTION: ALL]

Curriculum Online

Milton Grimleigh reported that Curriculum Online would be releasing a draft metadata vocabulary in the middle of May, with a final version hopefully agreed by the end of June.

He also highlighted useful work on a new metadata tagging tool, capable of creating records for both Curriculum Online and the existing English National Curriculum Online site.

Metadata Integration and Content Packaging

Lorna Campbell introduced some work from the CETIS SIGs, where a need for greater commonality of practice and approach has been identified.

They are interested, for example, in the element sets that people use, the ways in which they actually use them, and the related tools such as terminology controls that are being applied.

Lorna suggested that it should be possible to identify communities of interest around different aspects of current practice, in order to work towards identification and definition of commonalities of approach.

Date of Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held on Tuesday 17 September, at the Scottish Executive Education Department, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh.