Learning object metadata

Learning object metadata

Learning Object Metadata is a data model, usually encoded in XML, used to describe a learning object and similar digital resources used to support learning. The purpose of learning object metadata is to support the reusability of learning objects, to aid discoverability, and to facilitate their interoperability, usually in the context of online learning management systems (LMS).

The IEEE 1484.12.1 – 2002 Standard for Learning Object Metadata is an internationally-recognised open standard (published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards Association, New York) for the description of “learning objects”. Relevant attributes of learning objects to be described include: type of object; author; owner; terms of distribution; format; and pedagogical attributes, such as teaching or interaction style.

IEEE 1484.12.1 – 2002 Standard for Learning Object Metadata

In Brief

The IEEE working group that developed the standard defined learning objects, "for the purposes of the standard," as being “any entity, digital or non-digital, that may be used for learning, education or training." This definition has struck many commentators as being rather broad in its scope, but it should be noted that the definition was intended to provide a broad class of objects to which LOM metadata might usefully be associated rather than to give an instructional or pedagogic definition of a learning object. "IEEE 1484.12.1" is the first part of a multipart standard, and describes the LOM data model. The LOM data model specifies which aspects of a learning object should be described and what vocabularies may be used for these descriptions; it also defines how this data model can be amended by additions or constraints. Other parts of the standard are being drafted to define bindings of the LOM data model, i.e. define how LOM records should be represented in XML and RDF ("IEEE 1484.12.3" and "IEEE 1484.12.4" respectively). This article focuses on the LOM data model rather than issues relating to XML or other bindings.

IMS Global Learning Consortium is an international consortium that contributed to the drafting of the IEEE Learning Object Metadata and endorsed early drafts of the data model as part of the IMS Learning Resource Meta-data specification (IMS LRM, versions 1.0 – 1.2.2). Feedback and suggestions from the implementers of IMS LRM fed into the further development of the LOM, resulting in some drift between version 1.2 of the IMS LRM specification and what was finally published at the LOM standard. Version 1.3 of the IMS LRM specification realigns the IMS LRM data model with the IEEE LOM data model and specifies that the IEEE XML binding should be used. Thus, we can now use the term 'LOM' in referring to both the IEEE standard and version 1.3 of the IMS specification. The IMS LRM specification also provides an extensive "Best Practice and Implementation Guide", and an "XSL transform" that can be used to migrate metadata instances from the older versions of the IMS LRM XML binding to the IEEE LOM XML binding.

Technical Details

How the Data Model Works

The LOM comprises a hierarchy of elements . At the first level, there are nine categories, each of which contains sub-elements; these sub-elements may be simple elements that hold data, or may themselves be aggregate elements, which contain further sub-elements. The semantics of an element are determined by its context: they are affected by the parent or container element in the hierarchy and by other elements in the same container. For example, the various "Description" elements (1.4, 5.10, 6.3, 7.2.2, 8.3 and 9.3) each derive their context from their parent element. In addition, description element 9.3 also takes its context from the value of element 9.1 "Purpose" in the same instance of "Classification".

The data model specifies that some elements may be repeated either individually or as a group; for example, although the elements 9.3 ("Description") and 9.1 ("Purpose") can only occur once within each instance of the "Classification" container element, the "Classification" element may be repeated - thus allowing many descriptions for different purposes.

The data model also specifies the value space and datatype for each of the simple data elements. The value space defines the restrictions, if any, on the data that can be entered for that element. For many elements, the value space allows any string of Unicode character to be entered, whereas other elements entries must be drawn from a declared list (i.e. a controlled vocabulary) or must be in a specified format (e.g. date and language codes). Some element datatypes simply allow a string of characters to be entered, and others comprise two parts, as described below:
* LangString items contain Language and String parts, allowing the same information to be recorded in multiple languages
* Vocabulary items are constrained in such a way that their entries have to be chosen from a controlled list of terms - composed of Source-Value pairs - with the Source containing the name of the list of terms being used and the Value containing the chosen term
*DateTime and Duration items contain one part that allows the date or duration to be given in a machine readable format, and a second that allows a description of the date or duration (for example “mid summer, 1968”).

When implementing the LOM as a data or service provider, it is not necessary to support all the elements in the data model, nor need the LOM data model limit the information which may be provided. The creation of an application profile allows a community of users to specify which elements and vocabularies they will use. Elements from the LOM may be dropped and elements from other metadata schemas may be brought in; likewise, the vocabularies in the LOM may be supplemented with values appropriate to that community.


The key requirements for exploiting the LOM as a data or service provider are to:
* Understand user/community needs and to express these as an application profile
* Have a strategy for creating high quality metadata
* Store this metadata in a form which can be exported as LOM records
* Agree a binding for LOM instances when they are exchanged
* Be able to exchange records with other systems either as single instances or "en masse".

Related Specifications

There are many metadata specifications; of particular interest is the Dublin Core Metadata Element Set (commonly known as Simple Dublin Core, standardised as "ANSI/NISO Z39.85 – 2001"), which provides a simpler, more loosely-defined set of elements with some overlap with the LOM, and which is useful for sharing metadata across a wide range of disparate services. The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative is also working on a set of terms which allow the Dublin Core Element Set to be used with greater semantic precision (Qualified Dublin Core). The Dublin Education Working Group aims to provide refinements of Dublin Core for the specific needs of the education community. Details of Dublin Core can be found at the Dublin Core website [http://dublincore.org/] .

Many other education-related specifications allow for LO metadata to be embedded within XML instances, such as: describing the resources in an IMS Content Package or Resource List; describing the vocabularies and terms in an IMS VDEX (Vocabulary Definition and Exchange) file; and describing the question items in an IMS QTI (Question and Test Interoperability) file. Details of these can be found at the IMS Global website [http://imsglobal.org/] .

The IMS Vocabulary Definition and Exchange (VDEX) specification has a double relation with the LOM, since not only can the LOM provide metadata on the vocabularies in a VDEX instance, but VDEX can be used to describe the controlled vocabularies which are the value space for many LOM elements.

LOM records can be transported between systems using a variety of protocols, perhaps the most widely used being OAI-PMH.

Application Profiles


For UK Further and Higher Education, the most relevant family of application profiles are those based around the "UK LOM Core" [http://www.cetis.ac.uk/profiles/uklomcore] . The UK LOM Core is currently a draft schema researched by a community of practitioners to identify common UK practice in learning object content, by comparing 12 metadata schemas.


"CanCore" provides detailed guidance for the interpretation and implementation of each data element in the LOM standard [http://www.cancore.ca] . These guidelines constitute a 250-page document, and have been developed over three years through consultation with experts across Canada and throughout the world. These guidelines are also available at no charge from the CanCore Website.


[http://www.thelearningfederation.edu.au/metadata ANZ-LOM] is a metadata profile developed for the education sector in Australia and New Zealand. The profile provides interpretations of metadata structures and illustrates how to apply controlled vocabularies, especially using the "classification" element. It is supported by detailed examples of learning resource metadata, including regional vocabularies. The ANZ-LOM profile was first published by The Le@rning Federation (TLF) in January, 2008.


The Australian Vocational Training and Education (VET) sector has developed an application profile of the IEEE LOM called Vetadata [http://e-standards.flexiblelearning.net.au/vetadata/index.htm] . The profile contains five mandatory elements and makes use of a number of vocabularies specific to the Australian VET sector. It is aligned with the broader ANZ-LOM profile.


[http://www.itu.no/nssl/NORLOM NORLOM] is the Norwegian LOM profile.The profile is managed by [http://www.nssl.no NSSL] (The Norwegian Secretariat for Standardization of Learning Technologies)


Other important application profiles are those developed by the Celebrate project [http://www.eun.org/ww/en/pub/celebrate_help/application_profile.htm] and the metadata profile that is part of the SCORM reference model [http://www.adlnet.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=scormabt] .

See also

* Application profile
* Content package
* Dublin Core
* IMS Global
* Learning object
* Metadata

External links

E-mail Lists

* [http://metadata.cetis.ac.uk/ The CETIS Metadata and Digital Repository special interest group] has two email lists:
* [http://jiscmail/lists/CETIS-METADATA.html The SIG list] will keep you up to date on all SIG activities and spec development related to metadata and digital repositories
* [http://jiscmail/lists/LOM-CATALOGUING.html The LOM-cataloguing list] is for queries relating to the creation and management of LOM descriptions.

Metadata Editors

* [http://www.reload.ac.uk/ Reload] includes an open-source editor for IMS LRM.
* [http://www.curriculumonline.gov.uk/SupplierCentre/taggingtool.htm Curriculum Online Tagging Tool] is used for creating metadata for online resource made available to schools in England.
* [https://sourceforge.net/projects/lompad/ LomPad] Lompad is a metatagging tool for learning object. It is bilingual(Fr,En) supports the IEEE-lom spec and SCORM, CANCORE and Normetic profiles.


* [http://www.desire2learn.com/learningrepository/ Desire2Learn Learning Repository] is a repository system with rich support for IEEE LOM, Dublin Core, CanCore, and other customisable and templatable profiles. It also supports harvesting of metadata from other repository/catalogue systems. It is used by hundreds of educational and commercial organisations.
* [http://www.intrallect.com/products Intrallect intraLibrary] is a commercial repository system, with rich support for the IEEE LOM, including customisable application profiles
* The Xtensis Open Architecture is a foundation for building customised learning object repository and learning content management systems.
* [http://www2.harvestroad.com.au/cgi-bin/hr/loadframes_tmp.cgi?lcms HarvestRoad Hive] is a commercial federated digital repository system (based out of Australia), i.e. it is designed share content across multiple repositories.
* The [http://www.jorum.ac.uk Jorum project] uses [http://www.intrallect.com/products Intrallect intraLibrary] for its ongoing service.
* The National Learning Network, using Xtensis, is a UK repository of over 2000 learning objects, commissioned by Becta and the LSC.
* [http://www.thelearningedge.com.au The Learning Edge] is a commercial repository based out of Australia and used by BC Campus in Canada
* [http://utdanning.no/laering/ www.utdanning.no/laering] (Norwegian), is a Norwegian repository under the Norwegian Ministry of Education. Over 5000 Learning objects
* [http://kursnavet.cfl.se Kursnavet] (Swedish), is a repository containing around 11 000 (2007) unique learning objects, free of use non-commersial. From the Swedish Agency for Flexible Learning, [http://www.cfl.se CFL] .
*LearnAlberta.ca is a Canadian learning object repository maintained by Alberta Education, the Province of Alberta's education Ministry.
* The [http://lorn.flexiblelearning.net.au Learning Object Repository Network] (LORN) is Australia's national learning object repository network for the vocational education and training (VET) sector. It contains nearly 3000 learning objects.
* Agrega is Spain's national learning object repository network. It contains nearly 100.000 learning objects.

Resources on the Internet

* [http://www.cancore.ca/ Cancore] is a thorough element-by-element guide to the LOM.
* [http://www.imsglobal.org/metadata/ IMS Global Learning Consortium Learning resource meta-data specification] .
* [http://ltsc.ieee.org/wg12/files/IEEE_1484_12_03_d8_submitted.pdf XML Binding Specification] .
* [http://sourceforge.net/projects/lom-j/ LOM Java API] .
* [http://www.intrallect.com/support/metadata/ims2lom_metadata_mapping.htm A mapping between the IEEE LOM and IMS Learning Resource Metadata]
* [http://www.ontopia.net/topicmaps/materials/tm-vs-thesauri.html Metadata? Thesauri? Taxonomies? Topic Maps! Making sense of it all]

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