Report on CETIS Identifiers for Learning Objects Meeting 21st October 2003

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Report on CETIS Identifiers for Learning Objects Meeting 21st October 2003

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Report on CETIS Identifiers for Learning Objects Meeting 21st October 2003

Contents
1. INTRODUCTION...............................................................................................................................4 2. MEETING REPORT..........................................................................................................................4 2.1 Introduction............................................................................................................... .......5 2.2 Use Cases Overview....................................................................................... ................5 2.3 Issues Overview.......................................................................................... ....................5 2.4 Use Cases and Issues Discussion........................................................ ..........................6 2.4.1 The concept of an identifier............................................................................. ..........6 2.4.2 Uniqueness................................................................................................. ..............7 2.4.3 Persistence........................................................................................... ....................7 2.4.4 Readability............................................................................................ ....................7 2.5 Implementation Issues................................................................................................ .....8 2.5.1 What to do next............................................................................................... ..........9 3. REFERENCES....................................................................................................................................9

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Report on CETIS Identifiers for Learning Objects Meeting 21st October 2003

1. Introduction
This meeting was the second organised by the CETIS Metadata and Digital Repository Special Interest Group to look specifically at the issues involved in the complex area of assigning identifiers to Learning Objects. The meetings were set up following the ‘Identifiers for learning objects - a discussion paper ‘ by Andy Powell [1] and the subsequent discussion on the CETIS MDR SIG mailing list. The need for identifiers is summarised by Andy Powell as follows: “Unique and persistent identifiers are needed in order that, having discovered a resource, people can reliably cite it without having to perform the discovery again, and can pass the citation on for use by others. Similarly, software applications use identifiers to reliably reference resources, to share those references with other applications and to instantiate linkages between resources (for example, between a metadata record and the resource it describes). Often, though not always, there is a related requirement that people and software can use the identifier as a mechanism for accessing the resource, i.e. that there is a service that 'resolves' the identifier to the current location of the resource.” [1]

2. Meeting Report
The meeting was attended by the following participants: Phil Barker Luke Bennet Gayle Calverly Lorna M. Campbell Alan Carter Eddie Clarke Grant Cocks Mike Collet Adam Cooper James Dalziel Charles Duncan Wayne Hodgins Tore Hoel Steve Jeyes Neil McLean Jeff Merriman Norman Paskin Andy Powell Dan Rehak Adrian Stevenson Scott Thorne Andrew Treloar Ed Walker Lara Whitelaw Robin Wilson CETIS Metadata SIG BECTA / NLN University of Manchester CETIS Open University University of Staffordshire Simulacra Media Schemeta FDLearning Macquarie E-Learning Centre of Excellence Intrallect Ltd Autodesk Norwegian E-standard Project CETIS FE Focus Group IMS Australia Open Knowledge Initiative DOI Foundation UKOLN Carnegie Mellon University MIMAS, University of Manchester Open Knowledge Initiative Monash University IMS Global Learning Consortium Open University The Stationary Office

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Report on CETIS Identifiers for Learning Objects Meeting 21st October 2003

2.1 Introduction
The meeting was opened by Lorna Campbell. She advised that she hoped it would be possible to have some outcomes from the meeting that could be used to advise the community with respect to the assignment of identifiers. She also expressed some concern that solutions and requirements had been suggested and discussed in advance of use case scenarios having been developed and studied. She suggested that this may mean some requirements have been missed and that it was preferable to reverse the process and start from the use cases.

2.2 Use Cases Overview
Charles Duncan then gave an overview of the use cases supplied by some of the meeting participants adding to those already outlined in his ‘Identifiers for Learning Object Use Cases’ paper [2]. The individual use cases themselves are available from the CETIS ‘Resources for Identifiers Meeting’ page [3]. Charles stated that the identifiers of relevance to Learning Objects were the General, Metametadata and Relation elements of the IEEE LOM [4]: • • • • • • General.identifier.catalog General.identifier.entry – creator/publisher, never change Metametadata.identifier.catalog Metametadata.identifier.entry – Metadata creator, for each new record Relation.identifier.catalog Relation.identifier.entry – Two ends to each relationship

A wide range of use case scenarios were explored including basic functions such as depositing, copying and moving objects as well as some of the more complex issues. Some examples of these were: • • • • Multiple resolutions of the same object – for example, high, medium and low bandwidth versions of a video with the same learning content. A duplicate copy of the same learning object occurring in multiple repositories harvested by protocols such as OAI-PMH [5] Versioning – How to find the latest version of an object Multi language, branding etc. of the same object – possibly being delivered dynamically.

All these scenarios present complex problems for the assignment and possible resolution of identifiers for Learning Objects.

2.3 Issues Overview
Lorna then went on to detail the main issues that have arisen from the discussions and previous identifiers meeting: • • Terminology – needs to be agreed Types of resources – identify and clarify what resources may need identifiers
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Report on CETIS Identifiers for Learning Objects Meeting 21st October 2003 • • • • • • • • • • • •

Uniqueness – explore and agree the concept of what is unique and how unique identifiers need to be Persistence – How long is persistence and does this imply digital preservation Requirements and Use Cases – requirements have not been generated from use cases. Do they ‘fit’ the existing use cases? Do we need more? Multiple solutions and interoperability – Different solutions needed for different requirements. How do we make these interoperable? Best Practice – guidelines needed Allocating identifiers – Who allocates and how? Problem of multiple identifiers allocated to a resource. Who has the authority to change identifiers? Version Control – how are different versions managed? Human readability – do they need to be? Costs – Current solutions available have different cost implications. Business model required? Resolution – Who manages? Who covers cost? Do identifiers need to work in off-line situations? Rights management – Hugely complex and deemed out of scope for today Reality Check – Any solutions need to be simple, workable and easily manageable.

This was essentially the end of the pre-organised section of the day’s agenda. The use cases and issues discussion proceeded from here.

2.4 Use Cases and Issues Discussion
There was some discussion over rights management which were generally agreed to be too complex area and best kept out of scope. Wayne Hodgins made a suggestion that, given the huge task of trying to consider all the issues involved that items in Lorna’s list not specifically and solely to do with identifiers were ruled out of scope for the morning at least. By this he explained that we ignore all issues to do with implementation such as resources types, best practice etc. Some participants disagreed such as Norman Paskin who felt it was inappropriate not to consider the use cases but it was generally agreed that Wayne should go through the issues list to detail the prioritisation. This left the following set of issues: • • • • • • • • Terminology – of the identifier only Uniqueness – of the identifier only Persistence – of the identifier only Multiple solutions and interoperability – of the identifier only Allocating identifiers Human readability – of the identifier only Costs – of the identifier only Rights management – of the identifier only

2.4.1 The concept of an identifier What followed was a largely abstract and discursive conceptual discussion of the meaning and concept of identifiers based on an attempt to work through the above list. This was frequently difficult to follow and I would say there was much disagreement and confusion between the participants during this discussion. The
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Report on CETIS Identifiers for Learning Objects Meeting 21st October 2003 main participants were Mike Collet, James Dalziel, Wayne Hodgins, Steve Jeyes, Neil McLean, Andy Powell, Dan Rehak, Ed Walker and Robin Wilson. The terminology of the identifier was felt to comprise the set of issues below it, in particular uniqueness and persistence. Not all of the issues ended up being discussed. 2.4.2 Uniqueness James Dalziel wondered if an identifier could be a ‘dumb’ number or has to contain intrinsic meaning, whether syntactical and/or semantic. The scope of an identifier was felt to be very important to uniqueness i.e. whether something is required to be unique in all contexts either global or universal, or whether local uniqueness may be adequate. Structures exist to make local identifiers global such as telephone numbers using area code prefixes and international code prefixes to extend local uniqueness into a larger global domain. Andy Powell proposed that a unique identifier is ‘an identifier that uniquely relates to an entity’. This appeared to be a generally accepted notion. Grant Cocks pointed out that an identifier can exist in many local domains through time, space (location) and ownership so any solution would have to cope with this. 2.4.3 Persistence It was felt that an identifier has to persist for ever whether or not the entity it relates to ceases to exist. An example being given that an ISBN number continues to exist after a book is out of print. We may want to refer to an entity by its identifier even if we can no longer retrieve the item referred to. An identifier can never be re-assigned. There was some discussion as to how we can ensure this. There is also the persistence of what? – the identifier, the services based on the identifier, the governance of the identifier? 2.4.4 Readability There was consideration as to whether an identifier needed to be machine and human readable and whether syntactical and/or semantic meaning would have to be embodied in an identifier. It was taken as a given that an identifier had to be machine readable as a minimum. A conceptual ‘matrix’ was identified that was drawn up on the white board. For a pure concept of an identifier the following was generally agreed: Syntax Semantic Machine readable Yes No Human readable No No

The above suggests that a minimum requirement for an identifier is that it has to have machine readable syntax but that is all. Andy Powell suggested that enough semantic information has to be included in the identifier such that it could be assigned based on some authority or domain scheme. Steve Jeyes added that semantic content was required to make an identifier useful but was not intrinsically needed for something to be an identifier. This extension of the concept based on adding the requirement of a domain or authority scheme lead to the following: Syntax Semantic Machine readable Yes Yes – Domain / authority scheme Human readable No No

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Report on CETIS Identifiers for Learning Objects Meeting 21st October 2003 Andy then proposed that if semantic content was required to make an identifier useful then this suggests some sort of URI scheme [6]. Such a scheme is based on a domain structure, works universally and has a human readable structure. This prevents us from having to produce an identifier scheme from scratch. Wayne asked if a URI scheme would address all the requirements of the identifier concepts outlined in the earlier discussion. It was felt that this was the case, a URI being the logical way forward given that it is a recognised registration scheme that satisfies the latter extended concept of an identifier above. At this point there was a break for lunch

2.5 Implementation Issues
It was proposed that having considered identifiers from an abstract top down approach that we next work from the bottom up through the use cases to get to a set of requirements and see if a current URI scheme satisfies the requirements. This would be preferable to developing a new scheme such as the ‘info:’ scheme proposed by Herbert Van de Sompel [7]. Any candidate identifier scheme would have to be tested for its domain/sub-domain structure, allocation and resolution system. URI was checked against the following requirements: • • • • • • Unique - yes Persistent - yes Scalable - yes Interoperable - yes Readable - yes Digital – yes

The meeting seemed to hit a lull at this point. We looked at the table on page 10 of the ‘DOI for Publishers and the elearning Community’ by The Stationary Office [8] which maps possible solutions for identifiers. We also considered the list of requirements detailed in Andy Powell’s ‘Identifiers for learning objects - a discussion paper‘ [1]. Andy was very uncomfortable with this approach as the list was not based on any use cases. It was then generally agreed that we could not usefully proceed with the debate any further and that the time left over would be best served discussing what to do next. There was a round the table straw poll vote as to what characteristics of an identifier were agreed to be core, which were contentious or whether we could not judge as yet. • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Unique – core Persistent – core Resolvable – contentious Usable in web browsers – contentious Transportable – an attribute of persistence Simple to assign – core Assignable in devolved environments – core Usable / human readable – further discussion required URI compliant – core Free at point of use – contentious Interoperable – core Version control - further discussion required Embeddable – contentious Cost - further discussion required Scalability – core
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Report on CETIS Identifiers for Learning Objects Meeting 21st October 2003 •

Rights o of the identifier system – contentious o of the entity / object – out of scope

2.5.1 What to do next We need to note the core qualities above and see how they map to the existing use cases. It was agreed we could do with many more use cases. Participants who had not yet supplied these were asked to do so. We also need some definitions for the terms used above and that these should not be taken from Andy Powell’s discussion paper. Lorna pointed out that getting definitions is an extremely difficult task. Robin Wilson agreed to work on this with the help of Steve Jeyes and would report back to the group by early December. It was not considered worthwhile to schedule another meeting until some of the work required above had been completed.

3. References
1. Identifiers for learning objects - a discussion paper. http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/distributed-systems/lo-identifiers/ 2. Identifiers for Learning Object Use Cases. http://www.cetis.ac.uk/static/identifiers/identifiers_in_metadata_1_2.doc 3. CETIS Resources for Identifiers Meeting http://www.cetis.ac.uk/static/identifiers 4. Draft Standard for Learning Object Metadata http://ltsc.ieee.org/wg12/20020612-Final-LOM-Draft.html 5. The Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting http://www.openarchives.org/OAI/openarchivesprotocol.html 6. W3C: “Naming and Addressing: URIs, URLs, ...” http://www.w3.org/Addressing/ 7. URI Scheme for Information Assets with Identifiers in Public Namespaces http://www.ietf.org/internet-drafts/draft-vandesompel-info-uri-00.txt 8. DOI for Publishers and the elearning Community http://www.cetis.ac.uk/static/identifiers/DOI%20for%20Publishers%20and% 20the%20elearning%20Community%20FINAL%20report_1.0.pdf

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