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CEN WS-LT Unfunded NWI Proposal, version of 2011-07-21

This was the original proposal – see now the New direction for MELOI

Modelling European Learner-Ownable Information (MELOI)

Contributors (intending to contribute to the work itself):

  • Marc Van Coillie, France
  • Cleo Sgouropoulou, ELOT, Greece
  • Erik van den Broek, National Europass Centre, NL
  • HP Köhler, Kennisnet, Netherlands
  • Jos van der Arend, Kennisnet, Netherlands
  • José Janssen, OUNL, Netherlands
  • Tore Hoel, Oslo University College, Norway
  • Simon Grant, JISC CETIS, UK (lead proposer)

Interested parties (may be able to contribute, but without specific promises):

  • Crispin Weston, SALTIS, UK
  • Eleni Kargioti, Software Engineer, Quality & Reliability S.A., Greece
  • Rob Englebright, JISC, UK
  • Christian Stracke, Germany

Other contributors and interested parties will be welcome to participate in any way that works for all.

Scope

The motive for this work is that it is valuable for learners to be able to locate, collate, read, and reflect on any significant information relating to them, their abilities and characteristics, so as to be able to control the presentation of this information, or derivatives of it, to third parties. The original information is not necessarily under the direct control of the learner. It may be "owned" by any of the many other parties the learner interacts with, but the learner typically has rights to see it, and have it corrected if false. Data protection laws often forbid those other owners reusing the information for different purposes, so effectively in any case it will be the learner who controls the presentation of the information to third parties, while respecting copyright, privacy, and commercial interests. This outlines the meaning of the concept, "learner-ownable". It is information that the learner may want to "own" as true, and associate with themselves as part of their presentation of themselves and their abilities.
This work aims towards one or more CWAs relating to conceptual and information models for this information. The intention is that the models will provide the foundation for specifications and standards to be used both by the original systems, where the information is first held, and by the learner-controlled systems (e.g. "e-portfolio" tools) that enable its effective reuse and re-presentation by the learners themselves to third parties.

The motives for the proposal

Needs arising from current and future usage

There are many very widely used ICT tools that hold – and allow learners and others to manage, organise and present – at least some of: work that they have done; outputs or artefacts created; information about and reflections on those artefacts, their learning, their abilities, their achievements, their activities and experiences; relevant discussions, comments, feedback and reactions from others. The most obvious tools include both those that manage and present CV information, like the Europass CV builder, and those tools often labelled as "e-portfolio" tools, whether similarly used as a platform for formulating and presenting extended CVs, or for personal or professional development, promoting reflection, supporting learning, facilitating assessment, or other purposes.
Several other kinds of tool and system that hold some of this kind of information, alongside other information of different kinds, may also be managed either by educational institutions of all kinds (e.g. LMS, VLE, Student Records Systems); or by employers (e.g. their systems for training and HR management); companies (including retailers) who do business with the learner; branches of local or central government; even possibly clubs and societies to which the learner belongs.
If learners/employees are to benefit from the existence of this information, to support their lifelong learning, mobility and development, they need to be able to access it; and one barrier to access is that there may be no effective interface between the systems in which it is held and the systems learners can use to manage, view and present the information to others.
There have been a number of attempts to address this lack of interoperability, and the lack of ability to communicate the information across diverse systems, by devising interoperability specifications, but none have been universally adopted.
Originating in the UK, but increasingly used elsewhere, Leap2A is a specification for representing this kind of information, developed first for e-portfolio systems in education and training. Starting from similar roots, the IMS developed their "ePortfolio" specification, which has been profiled and adopted in the Netherlands as NTA2035. Representations of information contained in Europass instruments, particularly the Europass CV, have been devised with the intention of providing a common format. In the commercial world of employment, HR-XML provides ways of representing some of this information, as a small part of a set of specifications covering a great range of HR scenarios. Other bodies have their own formats.
Though there is considerable overlap in intention and coverage across these specifications and local formats, there are also substantial differences that need to be addressed and resolved, to provide an effective common information model that can serve as the basis for interoperability.
A common information model could be a major formative factor in the development of interoperability for the tools that learners use, such as e-portfolio tools, but to be successful it also needs to be able to be adopted by the other tools and systems that handle the same kinds of information, albeit outside the direct control of the learner.

Motives from EU policy

The EU has clear policy referred to in the 2010-2013 ICT Standardisation Work Programme, and in particular, COM(2010) 682: "An Agenda for new skills and jobs: A European contribution towards full employment". As part of supporting job creation, it is essential that people can access and present evidence of their actual skills, to support the aim of matching "people's skills and job opportunities". First, learners need to be aware of the skills that they actually possess, but this is limited by the range of information they can effectively access. An interoperability standard will help the tools and systems that hold the original information to provide that access. Second, learners need to reflect on the evidence they have, and present selected appropriate evidence to potential employers. An interoperability standard will help facilitate communication of the desired information from systems used by learners to systems used by employers.
This work is therefore a vital step towards matching job opportunities with people's skills.

Motives from the work of standards bodies

The CEN WS-LT has over recent years developed several CWAs that have emerged as European Standards. This area of e-portfolio-related information is a clear gap in the "family", and development of CWAs and standards could follow a similar track to that followed in the creation of MLO (Metadata for Learning Opportunities).
ISO SC36 has a current work item, initiated by the Korean NB, initially entitled "E-Portfolio Reference Model", for which use cases are being gathered and material assembled. In the light of this, it is timely to promote European consensus on the issues, so that European needs can be properly represented at an international level.

Objectives and Impact

Objectives

  • To establish consensus about the kinds of information, and information about resources, that it is most useful to group together under the heading of this proposal. The kind of information initially envisaged, to be reviewed as part of this process, includes what people have done, made, achieved, written, or are proud of; what or who helps or has helped them; what they aspire to; what they are good at; evidence for and reflections on any of these; and input from other people.
  • To establish consensus on a conceptual model of the learner-ownable information and resources as agreed in the previous objective, and if consensus allows, to document that in a CWA. This conceptual model is envisaged to be primarily in terms of concepts, agreed common definitions of those concepts, and the relationships that are commonly recognised to exist between instances of those concepts. The CEN WS-LT may then use the CWA as the basis for further development and wider consensus building.
  • To formulate and document an agreed information model covering those parts of the consensus conceptual model that are recognised as relevant for information systems, portability and interoperability. This information model shall be built taking fully into account existing adopted and implemented specifications in this area, and shall provide the best basis that can be devised for their harmonisation. The opportunity should be taken to document the emergent principles that are found to work in this approach. This information model is initially envisaged as taking the form of entities and relationships, or classes and properties, rather than having a hierarchical tree structure. This would be broadly compatible with the W3C's RDF and the "linked data" approach. The CEN WS-LT may then use the work done to develop a further CWA and as the basis for wider consensus building.

The binding of this information model to any specific implementation technology will not be an objective of the work at this stage.

Relevance

Currently learners can store information in various diverse systems, and these different systems may have different ways of structuring and representing information that is essentially the same. Working towards more extensive but appropriate control of this information and its presentation, the first step is to harmonise the way in which that information is represented and held, so that different systems can more easily communicate and share the information.

  • Individuals need to be able to upload and download their information between the systems that they use. This is to ensure that they are able to collect the information they wish using the services that they prefer.
  • They need to be able to manage the presentation of this information to third parties; to preserve privacy appropriate to the different contexts in which they participate; and to define and control representations of their own identity.
  • They will derive considerable benefit from being able to input information relevant to themselves to other systems, without the need to re-key that information.
  • Their development as responsible, reflective, autonomous learners, employees and citizens depends on the ready availability of appropriate information relevant to them that may have been collected by themselves, or have been created or added by others.
  • Their effective mobility depends on tools to help them gather and present information, relevant to their application to opportunities that they wish to engage with, to those who control access to those opportunities.
  • Appraisal and review of individual learning, achievement and performance in any setting depends on the availability of evidence for the application of individual abilities, and the reflection of the individual on that evidence. Relevant evidence can be gathered from many, diverse sources, and there is a need to facilitate the transmission of that evidence.

Impact

  • Citizens will have more access to, and have greater control over, information relating to themselves, and will thus be more empowered as well as satisfied.
  • More appropriate evidence will be available to guide selection processes, with the result that both jobs and courses may be expected in the longer term to accept people that are even better suited than currently, or similarly suited with a saving on selection and recruitment resources. The work will continue the process of widening the effective candidate base.
  • Software vendors and developers will have a basic common model to inform any developments in systems and services processing the kinds of information discussed.
  • Education and training institutions, and employers, will benefit from better quality, more timely information about and evidence concerning their current and prospective learners or employees.

Description of the different tasks

Introduction

The work can be divided into broad stages, earlier ones providing the foundation for later, but working in a continuous revision process through which initial work on later stages prompts the revision of earlier stage outputs. These stages reflect the objectives above.

  1. A: Establishing a common knowledge base. This stage will consolidate participant collaboration, bringing together all their current knowledge and research. Any initial ideas of the conceptual model that are present will guide this stage in the selection of examples and the range of information gathered. It is vital that at this stage a good selection of scenarios and use cases are gathered and acknowledged as the ones that will form the target set.
  2. B: Agreeing a draft conceptual model. This stage will benefit from previous experience of WS-LT members in conceptual modelling, and it will harmonise, extend and refine the conceptual models developed to date. It is acknowledged as vital that this is done well before developing an information model. However, developments of the information model may also lead to refinements of the conceptual model.
  3. C: Agreeing a draft information model. This is the end goal of this work, which in turn will support further work on interoperability specifications and standards in this area, and thus the development of interoperable tools, and the introduction of interoperability to existing systems and services.
  4. D: Preparation for further work. This work will aim towards a subsequent funded project in the coming year, to consolidate and formalise the outcomes.

Workplan and Milestones

Revised 2012-01-04 to add 6 months to all activities.

Task ID Time period Activity
A1   Document currently well-used systems that use the general kinds of information envisaged.
A2   Document in detail standards and specifications used by these systems, together with other apparently relevant specifications.
A3   Document and evaluate any existing mappings and transformations between relevant formats.
A4   Document the range of applications (and scenarios, use cases) that the relevant systems and services support.
A5   Document the current views of SC36 WG3 as from their Shanghai meeting.
A-B WS-LT Discuss documentation, confirming choice of significant target systems, scenarios and use cases, and next stage plans.
B1   Create an initial draft conceptual model of the common ground established in stage A.
B2   Clarify the mapping of information from existing systems to the conceptual model.
B3   Refine conceptual model in the light of mapping to systems.
C1   On the basis of the conceptual model, agree points towards an outline initial information model covering the chosen use cases.
B-C WS-LT Present and discuss the conceptual model, and its relationship to the initial information model, with the WS-LT.
C2   Construct and agree a fuller draft information model capable of covering information from the chosen use cases etc.
D1   Prepare proposal for further funded work.
D2   Input models to SC36 discussion.
D3 WS-LT Present models to WS-LT seeking support for continuation work.


Outputs

  • Discussion and consultation with WS-LT members throughout the process.
  • A draft conceptual model submitted to WS-LT, formulated as a CWA.
  • A draft information model submitted to WS-LT.
  • Some input to ISO SC36.
  • NWI proposal for funding under the ICT standardisation work programme, to work towards any further needed CWAs, and subsequent European Standards.

Proposed working methods

The initial concept has be approved in principle at the CEN WS-LT in June 2011, and will now go out for comment and formal acceptance. The team is being established and will work together as time and opportunity allow to complete the tasks and produce the outputs.

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