Recent research on web-based educational systems attempts to meet the growing needs and expectations of the education community concerning e-learning efficiency, flexibility, and adaptation by employing ontologies and Semantic Web standards and paradigms. These advanced technologies allow for more intelligent access and management of web information and semantically richer modelling of content, applications, and users. Within the educational field, they motivate efforts to achieve semantically rich, well-structured, standardised, and verified learning content and learning activities that can be shared and reused by others. Conceptualizations, ontologies, the available W3C standards such as XML, RDF(S), OWL, OWL-S and educational standards such as LOM, SCORM, and IMS-LD allow specification of components in a standard way. The standards-based machine-processable semantic descriptions of web resources provide the necessary ground for achieving reusability, shareability, and interoperability of educational web resources and better personalization in educational hypermedia and web-based applications.
The notion of Social Semantic Web describes an emerging design approach for building Semantic Web applications which employs Social Software approaches. Social Semantic Web systems usually support collaborative creation, usage and continuous refinement of Semantic Web structures by communities of users. Typically they elicit domain knowledge through semi-formal ontologies, taxonomies or folksonomies. Semantic Web and Social Semantic Web techniques offer new perspectives on intelligent educational systems by supporting more adequate and accurate representations of learners, their learning goals, learning material and contexts of its use, as well as more efficient access and navigation through learning resources. They advance the state-of-the-art in intelligent educational systems development, so as to achieve improved e-learning efficiency, flexibility and adaptation for single users and communities of users (learners, instructors, courseware authors, etc.).
Within this context, this book attempts to outline the state-of-the-art in the research on application of ontologies and Social and Semantic Web technologies in e-Learning. It presents a view of the latest theoretical and technological advances, various perspectives of application of Semantic Web and Web 2.0 technologies in e-Learning, and showcases major achievements in this area. Most of the chapters present research and applications stemming out of work reported at the recent editions of the International Workshop on Ontologies and Semantic Web in e-Learning (SWEL).
The book is aimed as a guide for researchers and developers to gain understanding of the present and future tendencies in the research in this field. It consists of three parts, the first concentrating on Ontologies, the second on Technologies, and the third on the emerging Social Semantic Web. Within these sections of the book, viewpoints and research findings of various authors are organized. The book cannot claim to cover the full breadth of issues in the SWEL domain, but opens up a number of interesting issues and leaves many open problems for future researchers to pursue.
In the first part, ontologies in support of e-Learning are examined, stretched, evaluated, and applied. Rogozan and Paquette tackle the challenging problem of ontology evolution, explaining how ontologies change over time and providing a mechanism and an ontology for describing this evolution. Dicheva and Dichev attack the practical problem of scaling up learning content repositories, pushing the limits of ontological representation schemes. Lillian Cassel investigates the “ontology of all computing” and the efforts of the ACM and others in the process of curriculum mapping based upon a comprehensive ontology of concepts. Three chapters investigate the practical problems of applying ontologies directly to authoring instruction for learners. Mizoguchi et al. look at ontologies underlying instructional and learning theories, formulating such theories into representational and reasoning engines suitable for authoring content. Suraweera et al. focus on ontology support for authoring constraint-based tutors, demonstrating the generality of an ontological approach in automating the development of domain models. Finally, Soldatova and Mizoguchi apply ontologies to the development of assessment examinations.
The second part of this book surveys selected areas among the vast set of possibilities for application of Semantic Web technologies to e-learning. Jovanovic et al. demonstrate how instructor feedback can be enhanced with Semantic Web technologies. Libbrech and Desmoulins improve content annotation, representation and searching in a Geometry teaching domain. Melis et al. describe how semantic technologies have been incorporated in ActiveMath, an intelligent tutoring system that has been enhanced with Semantic Web technologies. Radenković et al. present enhancements to generalized testing and assessment systems, while Pasin and Motta present a Semantic Web tool tightly bound to the discipline of Philosophy. And finally, Dzbor and Rajpathak present a Semantic Web-enhanced general platform for search and aggregation of information about authors and content topics.
The third and final part of the book speaks to the developing technologies related to the Social Semantic Web. Jovanovic et al. survey this emerging area. Brooks et al. present a number of projects and experiences that broadly explore Semantic Web technologies in social learning contexts. To conclude this volume, Loll and Pinkwart offer a new approach to collaborative filtering that relies on Semantic Web technologies.
Current research on the application of ontologies and Semantic Web technologies in e-Learning covers an even greater scope that this diverse set of articles might suggest. Though we provide a selective view of the emerging research, we want to convey a sense of today's cutting edge in the design, implementation, and evaluation of ontology-aware web-based educational environments and community-centred educational social applications. We hope that this book will provide some new insights and serve as a catalyst to encourage others to investigate the potential of the application of ontologies and Social and Semantic Web technologies for their organisational needs and research endeavours.
Darina Dicheva, Winston-Salem State University, USA
Riichiro Mizoguchi, Osaka University, Japan
Jim Greer, University of Saskatchewan, Canada