Dev8D – Linked Data Trend in Learning Technology
I was recently at the JISC-supported Dev8D conference for software/web developers working in UK Higher Education. It was a very useful experience for me because it was an opportunity find out what is happening on the ‘Bleeding Edge’ of Learning Technology and its related fields. Much of the work that I do is necessarily operational (e.g. supporting Moodle, looking into issues, assisting people with Learning Technology questions) and when it isn’t operational it tends to be tied to specific needs, so it was good to go and see what people at other institutions are doing.
The sessions were a mix of introductions and in-depth hands-on sessions and the main theme that came out was Open Linked Data. This is the idea that open data sets can be made available for people to use in innovative ways beyond those conceived by the original author. It is what makes it possible to do many of the ‘Mash-ups‘ that you see on the web today, because it provides a structured way of describing data that can be used by any software that understands the structure. A fictional (and fairly useless!) mash-up might take information about facilities available at different supermarkets nearby and ask you which you require, it could then work out your location, get live bus timetables and finally tell you the quickest way to do what you need to do by identifying the supermarket you could get to fastest. Other examples could allow you get information about neighbourhoods by typing in a street name (in fact, UpMyStreet has been doing just this for years with house prices, school and crime info). There is a lot of potential and, as government funded institutions, universities should be at the vanguard of opening up our data – e.g. module descriptions that can be used to produce customised course specifications? Events like guest/open lectures that can easily be pulled into listings web pages such as Time Out? There are plenty of possibilities that don’t involve private data.
In an increasingly linked world it makes sense to get our data to link together and work harder for us.
The Dev8D site has more info and the files from all of the sessions for anyone that way inclined. The Linked Data site has lots of info too and dbpedia is a good place to start looking for open datasets
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