The development of the "Open Data for Education: Linked, Shared, and Reusable Data for Teaching and Learning" collection dates back to 2013, when ITMO University started to make its first attempts at creating massive open online courses (MOOCs). At the time, the university was just starting to create an online course platform ECOLE (Enhanced Course Ontology for Linked Education), it was also beginning to collaborate with European colleagues from the Linked up project, and organizing research seminars regarding educational open platforms. The main idea they are trying to promote is even greater transparency than is possible in existing platforms: courses currently offered on well known world-wide educational platforms such as Coursera and edX can be used by anyone from anywhere in the world. However, from the point of view of software interfaces, this information is not convenient for secondary use.
“When you create online courses, it is important not to disregard the fact that while a person can read a text and understand what it is about but a machine cannot and requires information to be presented in a structured form. So that programs and apps can use resources for different purposes, for example, to create integrated courses, taking information from various sources, it is necessary to solve a whole heap of technical and scientific problems. Questions arise about who and what should be published, how should it be described and how to link information, which interfaces are required to access them, which information models are needed to describe the structure, course content and so on,” – explained Dmitry Muromtsev, head of the Chair of Informatics and Applied Mathematics at ITMO University, and member of the Council on open data of the Russian Federation Dmitry Muromtsev.
The “Open Data for Education” compilation is designed to to help solve problems, associated with semantics, methodology and ontology open data in education. The publication includes three sections: the first explores the idea of open data in education and describes the current use of linked data, the second section deals with technologies and existing solutions in this area, and the third is about the experience of the organization with open courses. The document includes the works of staff at ITMO University, teachers from several European universities, as well as representatives of commercial companies, one of the chapters describes the experience of using semantic web technologies by the BBC, which is involved in the development of educational solutions for over 20 years.
“Open data is a requirement of the 21st century, as they say, if something is not on the internet, it doesn’t exist at all. If we want postgraduate students, university graduates, R&D clients, ranking agencies, auditors, and global partner education industries, to have an opportunity to get the necessary information about the university, it must be available online, we have to ensure information is posted timely and accurately. Publishing everything is not right; the organisation’s site will quickly become chaotic, a mess of unstructured information, which will be difficult to sort out. Therefore, information must be reviewed first, whether it is primary educational resources or internal documentation", – commented Dmitry Muromtsev.
The book "Open Data for Education" which was published as part of the State of the Art Survey, which has existed for over 20 years and published about 200 publications. A text book on open data in education became the first book in its series, prepared by a Russian team. Detailed information about the collection can be found on the website of the publisher.