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Re: Interest in extending schema.org to cover (online) courses?

From: Aaron Bradley <aaranged@yahoo.com>
Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2012 11:17:25 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <1335809845.78392.YahooMailNeo@web161004.mail.bf1.yahoo.com>
To: Peter Pinch <pdpinch@MIT.EDU>, Public Vocabs <public-vocabs@w3.org>

Thanks for the response, Peter.

I was thinking, too, that for online courses LRMI may be largely sufficient.  It was when I got to thinking about an "online course" as a more specific type of a"course" that the seemed to be a divergence in required meta data.

Whether online or brick-and-mortar instruction, here are some thoughts about specific metadata.

Temporal Issues

timeRequired seems to be a good addtion, and schema.org/Duration indeed seems to fit the bill here for online courses.  But for actual in-class instruction the Event properties startDate and endDate would be useful.


For online courses, the "Already adequately expressed in Schema.org" table has good coverage for authorship (perhaps you can clarify, though, when the property is at variance from an existing property is that an addition, or would the "Thing:name" property be what would be used in schema.org microdata markup - e.g. does the LMRI propose the creation of a "topic" property, or is this a descriptor for the existing "about" property?).

For in-class instruction though these seems inadequate, and something akin to the "performer" property of http://schema.org/Event seems appropriate (though "performer" is a stretch even for the specific event type EducationEvent).  This is true also of webcasts and interactive video instruction.

Credits and Accreditation

For all course types, there's no property that expresses whether or not a course is accredited, by which organization a course is accredited, what accreditation this course may count toward (certificate, diploma, degree, etc.), and the number of credits earned upon successful completion of a course.  These are important consideration for courses of all types.

Location of the Course

For brick-and-mortar courses or interactive courses with a brick-and-mortar component this is a consideration (and I would say well-handled by the EducationEvent/location property).


Probably unnecessary for the LMRI spec, as there's no reason one couldn't use it - but certainly whether for a textbook or a course, there might be offer components to be marked up.

Bigger Questions

Can a course of instruction be considered a "learning resource?"  On one hand - perhaps - as described by the learningResourceType in the proposed LMRI properties, but as an otherwise undefined Text type, there's nothing to prevent one coder from marking up a resource as an "Online Class," another as an "Online Course," and so on.

In a way the fact the LMRI example wraps the entire resource in schema.org/Book (and doesn't use learningResourceType) kind of illustrates my point.  LMRI properties are well-suited to already-defined creative works, but a "course" - online or otherwise - doesn't fall neatly under the more specific types listed under CreativeWork, and indeed (especially for brick and mortar courses) is more akin to an Intangible.

One of the reasons I reached out was to explore whether or not there's utility in extending schema.org to cover both brick-and-mortar classroom courses and courses delivered online by positing a new type.  For an online course specifically, a combination of proposed LMRI properties, properties from CreativeWork, properties from EducationEvent and properties from Offer would probably suffice.  Thinking of this from a hypothetical utility perspective, would marking up (online) courses allow users to get an result for the query "show me (online) courses offered by the University of Alberta" or "show me (online) courses taught by (authored by) John Doe"?  I don't see how.

But this is admittedly my first stab at such an extension, so maybe I'm entirely off the mark.  And my apologies if I'm all over the map with this - very much preliminary thoughts on this.  I look forward to further feedback and - especially - any OCW preliminary examples that might be provided.

Aaron Bradley

> From: Peter Pinch <pdpinch@MIT.EDU>
>To: Aaron Bradley <aaranged@yahoo.com>; Public Vocabs <public-vocabs@w3.org> 
>Sent: Monday, April 30, 2012 7:10:49 AM
>Subject: Re: Interest in extending schema.org to cover (online) courses?
>Aaron -
>I've been doing some experiments with LRMI and MIT OpenCourseWare courses.
>I would be curious to know where you are finding LRMI to be lacking (the
>LRMI folks may be curious too).
>In a lot of ways, OCW materials are more akin to learning resource than an
>online course, so I may be overlooking the metadata you're interested in
>exposing. What kind of objects/fields are you looking for?
>I'm hoping I'll be able to post some of my tests shortly to the LRMI
>mailing list, which should make this a more concrete discussion.
>- Peter Pinch
>Peter Pinch |  Production Manager, OpenCourseWare
>Massachusetts Institute of Technology
>One Broadway, 8th Floor  |  Cambridge MA 02142
>T  617.253.6256  |  C  617.652.0183
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Aaron Bradley <aaranged@yahoo.com>
>Reply-To: Aaron Bradley <aaranged@yahoo.com>
>Date: Friday, April 27, 2012 8:17 PM
>To: Public Vocabs <public-vocabs@w3.org>
>Subject: Interest in extending schema.org to cover (online) courses?
>Resent-From: <public-vocabs@w3.org>
>Resent-Date: Friday, April 27, 2012 8:17 PM
>>One of the web properties I work on offers online courses (a class
>>delivered 100% online), short courses (a class formally presented at a
>>brick-and-mortar location) and webcasts (live or recorded classes
>>provided by video).  Most online and short sources are accredited (they
>>count toward certificates or diplomas awarded either by accredited
>>educational institutions like a university, or by a professional
>>To this end I've been working on marking up these offerings with
>>schema.org microdata - insofar as this is possible.  While the short
>>courses *might* be suitable candidates for the EducationEvent type, and
>>while the webcasts *might* in future be addressable as an learning
>>resource in the event that the LMRI [1] becomes a published standard,
>>there's no type (with attendant properties and defined values) that
>>really addresses an online course.
>>As I've been mulling over and doing some preliminary work on an extension
>>that would describe an online course, three things struck me.
>>First, that an "online course" is just a more specific type of an obvious
>>parent not currently addressed by any type - a "course" (i.e. a discreet
>>program of instruction).
>>Second, that being able to assign metadata to courses might be a
>>tremendously useful thing for both students and educational institutions.
>> There are probably millions of courses listed on the web.
>>Third, that there may well have been work done on in this realm already.
>>However - while I've not done an exhaustive search - most ontologies and
>>vocabularies I have encountered (like the LRMI initiative) seem to be
>>focused on learning resources rather than learning programs (differing in
>>that, among other things, the latter most often has a temporal component).
>>So ... reaching out to see what level of interest there might be in such
>>an extension, whether or not anyone on the list has worked on a course
>>vocabulary already (or knows of such work), and to welcome any would-be
>>I should note here that my aim here is schema.org-centric.  That is, my
>>goal is to create the required type(s) and properties for schema.org
>>microdata, rather than general metadata for courses of which schema.org
>>would only be one application.  I'm aiming to reuse as much of what is
>>already available as possible (and much is covered off with existing
>>types and properties), and limit the additions to only what's necessary.
>>Below are a couple of examples from the wild of the sort of resources I'd
>>be targeting.
>>Aaron Bradley
>>Courses taken in-person
>>Example - A course offered by the University of Glasgow
>>Courses taken online
>>Example - A course offered by the University of Texas at Austin
>>[1] http://www.lrmi.net/
Received on Monday, 30 April 2012 18:17:55 UTC

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