A Semantic Framework for Cloud Learning Environments

A Semantic Framework for Cloud Learning Environments

Alexander Mikroyannidis (Knowledge Media Institute, The Open University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0957-0.ch002


Cloud Learning Environments (CLEs) are gradually gaining ground over traditional Learning Management Systems (LMS) by facilitating the lone or collaborative study of user-chosen blends of content and courses from heterogeneous sources, including Open Educational Resources (OER). This chapter describes the use of ontologies for modelling various aspects of the learning process within such an environment. In particular, the author considers a semantic knowledge base as the core of the learning environment, facilitating learners in finding educational services on the cloud. He describes how different stakeholder clusters are involved in the creation and maintenance of this knowledge base, through collaborative ontology management techniques. Finally, the chapter defines the mechanisms for the evolution of this knowledge base and the constant updating of the associated cloud learning services.
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Learning Management Systems have dominated e-learning for several years. They have been widely used by academic institutions for delivering their distance learning programmes, as well as for supporting their students outside the classroom. They have also been established in the business sector as the mainstream platform for delivering training services to employees. A Learning Management System (LMS) is an online software application offering facilities for student registration, enrolment into courses, delivery of learning materials to students, student assessment and progress monitoring. Popular examples of LMS used by the academic as well as the business world include Blackboard1, Moodle2, and CLIX3.

However, the advent of Web 2.0 has altered the landscape in e-learning. Learners nowadays have access to a variety of learning tools and services on the web. These tools and services are usually provided by different vendors and in many cases are open and free. Repositories like Wikipedia4, YouTube5, SlideShare6 and iTunes U7 offer access to a wide range of learning materials for free. Augmenting and configuring the diverse and distributed Web 2.0 tools and services in order to address the needs and preferences of individual learners is a significant challenge for modern online learning environments.

The transition from the traditional e-learning approach of LMS to Web 2.0 e-learning solutions bears significant benefits for learners. It puts emphasis to their needs and preferences, providing them with a wider choice of learning resources to choose from. The European project ROLE (Responsive Open Learning Environments)8 is exploring this transition within a variety of learning contexts and test-beds. One of the these test-beds is provided by the Open University9 and concerns the transition from formal learning, where courses are exclusively prepared and delivered by educators, towards informal learning, where the learner is in control of the whole learning process. This transition is being implemented within the Open University test-bed as a transition from the LMS towards the Personal Learning Environment (Mikroyannidis, 2011).

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