Monday, 21 December 2009

PhD thesis on tagging learning resources in a multilangual context

For years people are pushed to tag their learning resources, but I often wondered whether these tagged resources actually do get reused? Or whether tagging between peers that live in various parts of the world only works in theory, but does in fact not result in sharing resources in actual learning life. But here comes Riina with a clear answer to these questions.

Some great shared learning resources have been around for some years: the Open Educational Resources Commons, which was set-up by ISKME which was launched Februari 2007 and has strong partners e.g. UNESCO, OER commons works with tags a lot. Another renowned one is of course the MIT opencourseware, but then the latter does not use tags much.

There are also other smaller scale projects that share their learning resources. Together with other ITM-people I am working on an eLearning partnership that enables all to exchange learning modules, hence decreasing all our time in developing online courses, because we divide the workload and at the same time enabling us all to share our content/elearning knowledge across many different settings. This is way I was thrilled reading the phd in question that covers sharing learning resources across borders and more specifically how tags work in those situations.
At the same time, I sometimes wonder what happens with any Dutch work I write? How can people find Dutch papers, or articles in any other language, if they only have tags to go on (which are sometimes quite different depending on the language). Of course tagging in different languages for the same written document might be an answer, but Riina offers a far more interesting and workable solution, which relies on networks underlying the content based mainly on the three factors: user, item, tag.

Riina Vuorikari wrote her phd entitled "Tags and self-organisation: a metadata ecology for learning resources in a multilingual context", and in the introduction she describes the main ideas behind it:

"Social tags offer an interesting aspect to study learning resources, its metadata
and how users interact with them in a multilingual context. Tags, as opposed to conventional metadata description such as Learning Object Metadata (LOM), are free, non-hierarchical keywords that end-users associate with a digital artefact, e.g. a learning resource. Tags are formed by a triple of (user,item,tag).
Tags and the resulting networks, folksonomies, are commonly modelled as tripartite hypergraphs. This ternary relational structure gives rise to a number of novel relations to better understand, capture and model contextual information. The (user,item) relationship is a parameter of the interaction between a user and the learning resource. In the (user,tag) relation, on the other hand, tags are regarded as part of the user model that reflects user’s interests and intentions. The full relational structure emphasises the (item,tag) relation that allows tags to be part of describing the item that they are related to (e.g. a learning resource). Additionally, the (item,tag) relation can be extended to the metadata of the item (e.g. LOM), from which an additional relationship (tag,LOM) is inferred."

The thesis describes two exploratory studies and "introduces a trilogy of studies focusing on self-organisation, flexibility and robustness of a social tagging system using empirical, behavioural data captured from log-files and user’s attention metadata trails on a number of learning resource portals and platforms in a multilingual context."

This is a very interesting thesis (181 pages) on tagging and how to get the most out of it.

(photo information from thesis: Figure 8.1. A learning network: a social network graph of about 5000 eTwinning teachers connected through common projects. The nodes are teachers and the edges are common projects (Breuer, Klamma, Cao & Vuorikari, 2009).