OpenLearn is a website giving free access to Open University course material. We especially look at the “LearningSpace” where hundreds of HTML documents, called OpenLearn Units, are made available. These units represent very valuable resources for students as they provide entry points into specific topics, useful in particular in deciding whether or not to enroll in a course on this topic. A lot of these units relate directly to specific courses as their content is obtained from the corresponding course material. Being able to query and use such metadata in connection with other sources of information can be very useful in applications supporting students in the discovery of learning resources, as demonstrated by the OpenLearn Linked Data application developed by Fouad Zablith.
Representing an OpenLearn unit is realised through a specific class called OpenLearnUnit, which is a subclass of foaf:Document. Most of the common fields, such as title, subject and description of the unit are represented through common Dublin Core properties. A specific property relatesToCourse is used to relate a unit to the corresponding course in the Course Description dataset. We also use the Creative Commons Rights Expression vocabulary to express the license attached to the content of the unit (mostly Creative Commons Attribution – NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence) and the Nice Tag Ontology to connect units to the keywords they have been tagged with.
While all this information is already available in structured form from the OpenLearn websites (through XML descriptions and RSS feeds), having it in directly accessible, Web addressable and queryable makes it easier to create new interfaces, new links and new processess that facilitates the use of this information for resource discovery. Some elements are still being investigated, regarding in particular the complex connection that might exist between an OpenLearn unit and the corresponding course material as described in the library catalogue.