Earlier this month word came of a revision to schema.org: Version 1.0a additions, according to this posting from Dan Brickley, include the Datasets vocabulary, and some supporting utility terms for describing schema.org types, properties and their inter-relationships. One of the gems in the update are additions related to the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI), an effort led by the Association of Educational Publishers and Creative Commons, which has as its goals making it easier to publish, discover and delivery quality educational resources on the web. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation helped fund the work.
With schema.org serving as a catalyst for its work, the LRMI developed a common metadata framework for tagging online learning resources, with the idea of having that metadata schema incorporated into Schema.org. With that now the case, it’s possible for publishers or curators of educational content to use LRMI markup and have that metadata recognized by the major search engines.
“One of the reasons why education was one of the first extensions of schema.org is that the education industry is going through some very interesting times,” says Madi Weland Solomon, head of Data Architecture Standards at education company Pearson plc, one of the LRMI project launch partners.
“Education is transforming, and it's no longer just about books. It really is about modular content, about personalized content. Educational resources, whether book, chapter, text, video, podcast lecture, or simulation, needs to be delivered to multiple platforms on the fly. That’s really the future of education.”
Over the course of a year since its inception, LRMI developed in the neighborhood of about a dozen metadata properties for learning resources (see here). That common ground provides a solid foundation of what kind of information is needed to describe educational resources for online content creators and learning platforms, nonprofit educational organizations and even open educational resources that have had fairly similar but not quite the same ways of engaging in descriptions about what they are delivering.
That’s important given that today’s students are more likely to look to the web rather than visit the bookstore for materials to augment their studies – that means their access to information is through a search window, and they want those searches to offer up quality educational resources. “It’s all about search. LRMI is so important because it standardizes how we mark up our learning resources, so all the major search engines can recognize them and deliver results,” says Solomon. “Now we’re all on the same bus together.”
How the business and pricing models will shake out as more educational resources move to the web is still an unknown. But one thing is for sure: With so many educational resources online, the need to make it easier to find the best of the material is growing, and having resources described in a uniform and consistent manner should help return more relevant results. But brand will count, too. “Information isn’t the commodity anymore. It’s really the attention – the time to the content,” Solomon says. “How much would you pay extra not to have to go searching for something, to get to a trusted brand that you know will provide the right educational resources to achieve your goal, whether that’s to get that certificate, graduate from that school, or ace that test, in just a few clicks?”