The following guest post is from Sheila MacNeill, Assistant Director of the JISC CETIS project.

The Semantic Web, open data, linked data. These phrases are becoming increasingly commonly used in terms of web developments and information architectures. But what do they really mean? Are they, can they be, relevant to education?

To help begin to answer these questions, CETIS has recently published a briefing paper “The Semantic Web, Linked and Open Data”, which aims to provide a high level overview of the key concepts around each of these terms. The briefing paper is aimed at those working in teaching and learning community who may have heard the terms but are unsure of what they actually mean and how they can be (and indeed are being) implemented.

The paper provides definitions, links to relevant standards and examples for each area. The links and examples have been selected as starting points for further exploration.

The briefing paper is available for download from the CETIS website:

  • An excerpt:

The development of the Semantic Web has been a long running project championed by the inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. It is built around his concept of the ‘Web of data’ which means moving on from the existing document centric view of the Web to a data centric one. In this vision of the Web, data and the relationships between data are key. Coupled with these ongoing Semantic Web developments there has also been growing interest in the related areas of linked and open data.

Between 2009 and 2010 both the UK and US governments launched high profile projects to release a wide range of publicly funded government information as open data sets. There is considerable potential for the education sector to use and contribute to these data sets as they become available. There are also potential benefits for institutions in using the principles of open and linked data in a number of key areas such as institutional administration, teaching, learning and research. However, there is still a degree of confusion regarding the key concepts of the Semantic Web and linked and open data, as well as a range of views on
approaches to implementation.

This briefing paper will provide a high level overview of key concepts relating to the Semantic Web, semantic technologies, linked and open data; along with references to relevant examples and standards. The briefing is intended to provide a starting point for those within the teaching and learning community who may have come across the concept of semantic technologies and the Semantic Web but who do not regard themselves as experts and wish to learn more. The examples and links are intended as starting points for further exploration.

Readers may also be interested in a more in-depth summary of the current debate around linked data by Lorna M Campbell which is available:

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