What can the open and linked data movements bring to education?
This was the question explored at the Open Data in Education Seminar held in St Petersburg, Russia, earlier last week. The event, co-organised by Dmitry Mouromtsev from University ITMO and KMi’s Mathieu d’Aquin (representing the LinkedUp project and the LinkedUniversities.org portal), included contributions from John Domingue on the Euclid and FORGE projects, from ex-KMIer Stefan Dietze on the LinkedUp project, as well as from several initiatives in Russia (Moscow and Saint Petersburg), the US (VIVO), the UK (Open Knowledge Foundation Open Education Working Group) and Germany (SlideWiki and Springer).
The goal of the seminar was not only to stenghten the connections between these different initiatives going beyond our usual focus on Europe, but also to discuss and identify the main challenges the area is going to face in the future and how collaborations between these initiatives can help overcoming these challenges. A particular emphasis was put in the discussion, unsurprisingly, on the interaction between the technology aspects, sometimes perceived as too complex and sophisticated, and the user aspects, with real problems not always being properly identified and addressed. One strong point made during the seminar in relation to this is the way in which different contexts lead to different needs and challenges, and how our technologies tend to focus too much on the easy cases, while they could have more impact in places where the value of open data is less obvious and where it can better compensate a lack of transparency, educational infrastructure and technological resources.