Metadata and controlled vocabularies

LRE Metadata Application Profile

The Learning Resource Exchange (LRE) collects, enhances and redistributes learning resource descriptions. These descriptions (also called “metadata”) are structured according to standards so that machines can process and transport this information to users in a variety of contexts. Using standards to organize descriptive information is one of the essential steps in making learning resources easily findable and seamlessly retrievable from different LRE content providers. For example, LRE metadata records must indicate where a learning resource can be found and in what language, its technical format so that it displays or plays correctly on a user’s machine, whether accessing it requires a login or payment and if it has any other accessibility features.

The second essential component, especially in a multi-lingual context, is the use of controlled vocabularies. Controlled vocabularies are previously agreed upon sets of terms that must be used to describe a particular aspect of a resource in a metadata record. Controlled vocabularies in the LRE take into account the specific needs of educators and European education systems and thus, for instance, allow users to select learning resources that support their particular curriculum requirements. To that end, the LRE also maintains and utilizes a multi-lingual thesaurus (in 15 languages) to standardize the subject descriptions of learning resources.

The third component for supporting successful discovery and retrieval of learning resources is the utilization of user created metadata such as user reviews, ratings and tags. Metadata records that retain this information make it possible for systems to improve search results and to recommend resources. Content creators can also use this user-generated feedback to enhance and create new learning resources.

The Learning Resource Exchange Metadata Application Profile uses the IEEE LOM Metadata standard and the IMS LODE Information for Learning Object eXchange specification (ILOX) in combination with multi-lingual controlled vocabularies to meet the needs of educators at the K-12 levels in Europe. This document (available below) provides technical guidelines for describing learning resources for inclusion in the LRE. It also explains the conceptual model used to design this system.

Vocabulary Bank for Education (VBE)

The European Schoolnet Vocabulary Bank for Education (VBE) provides a range of multilingual, controlled lists relevant to learning in the European Union, including those that are used to validate metadata profiles, and a thesaurus used to describe educational topics.

It is provided as a web application, hosted by the Vocabulary Management Group, which enables users to search or browse stored vocabularies in order to find out more about the terms used, their relationships, contexts and translations. It is based on Lexaurus Bank software and managers can use the Lexaurus Editor to both create and change vocabularies.

The repository of published vocabularies is available for anyone to view via a web browser and the VBE can be searched and browsed to locate vocabularies or individual terms without registration or logging in. In order to be able to download vocabularies users must register.


LRE Thesaurus

The LRE Metadata Application profile supports the use of multilingual vocabularies. Multilingual controlled vocabularies make it possible to automate translation work for learning resources that have been indexed in one language. Therefore, the use of multilingual vocabularies enhances interoperability.

The most extensive of these multilingual vocabularies is the LRE Thesaurus (formerly known as ETB Thesaurus). This vocabulary describes the subject of a learning resource and is continuously used in the European Schoolnet’s services.