European Learning Resource Exchange:
Policy and Practice

Tatjana Jevsikova1, Eugenijus Kurilovas2

Institute of Mathematics and Informatics, Akademijos str. 4,
LT-08663 Vilnius, Lithuania

Abstract. A key issue in European educational policy is digital learning resources (learning objects) exchange and sharing among European countries. This paper describes the policy of learning resource exchange, ways of its implementation and practice. CALIBRATE project, being implemented under the European Commission's Sixth Framework Programme, is presented in more detail. It is the largest of currently being implemented projects, designed to support the collaborative use and exchange of learning resources in schools. Expected project outcomes are presented. Learning resource exchange is analyzed from the point of view of educational benefits and added value.

Keywords: learning resource exchange, learning objects, collaborative learning, semantic interoperability, learning environment

1      European Learning Resource Exchange Policy

From the beginning of information and communication technologies (ICT) spread and their application in education, new ways of learning and teaching content representation in a digital space had been looked for. This new representation should stimulate students’ activity, creative power; it should be flexible enough to use applying different learning and teaching methods and scenarios, etc. As a result, a few years ago a concept of learning object (LO) was introduced. There is a lot of LO definitions coming from various sources. Most of them define LO as “any digital resource that can be reused to support learning” [7]. A resource truly becomes a LO (a resource, reusable within another learning context) when it is associated with self-describing information – metadata. Metadata is used to implement LO repositories, to search for LOs in the repository, to share LOs, to import LOs into or export them from virtual learning environments, to combine them with other LOs (using them as building blocks to build lessons, courses and other learning materials).

European digital learning content (resources) implementation in education policy is based on learning resource exchange (LRE). Here are the main principles of this policy:

-    Resources are described using open learning object metadata standard LOM for expressing metadata about learning resources.

-    Federated search engine to search for learning resources is implemented (to run search in all LO repositories, connected to each other).

The term “learning resources” here includes learning objects and smaller parts (pieces) they can be combined of – learning assets.

In addition, European Schoolnet (EUN) has prepared IEEE LO metadata (LOM) standard application profile to describe learning objects, where detailed classification of learning resources is presented: assessment, broadcast, course, drill and practice, educational game, demonstration, experiment, exploration, glossary, guide, learning asset, lesson plan, reference, simulation, weblog, and wiki.

The LRE is a service that provides the means to unlock the educational content hidden in digital repositories across Europe and share it among all partners of the LRE and their users. The service is offered to actors providing digital content: Ministries of Education, regional educational authorities, commercial publishers, broadcasters, cultural institutions and other non-profit organisations who are offering extensive but heterogeneous catalogues and repositories of online content to schools [2]. Exchange system is implemented by connecting national learning resource repositories of various countries to the federation system – an infrastructure for discovering and exchanging learning resources, where each partner remains in control of learning resources and their metadata.

Core services provided by the LRE system are:

-    Resource discovery.

-    Resource exchange (including digital rights management).

-    Semantic interoperability.

The quality of the former two services depends on implementation of the latter service – semantic interoperability of the resources. Therefore a lot of attention is channelled to research and practical solutions forming in this domain.

Semantic interoperability problems appear when users can’t find a relevant resource, find irrelevant resource, misinterpret or don’t understand the learning resource itself, or don’t understand the metadata (e.g. purpose, copyright, technical requirements, intended audience) and/or evaluate the learning resource wrongly. It is being looked for the best solutions of the semantic interoperability problems. For example, some of proposed solutions might be: development of controlled multilingual vocabularies (terms and their meanings, as well as context), multilingual thesauri (currently 14 languages and about 1200 terms are included into European thesaurus), terminology and curriculum mappings, tracking of end user tagging, using of machine translation, developing resources with future localisation in mind, localisation of the resources, resources metadata automatic production from observation of user behaviour.

One of resources semantic interoperability issues is design of truly multilingual service. This includes all possible solutions mentioned above concerning learning content, and properly internationalised and then localised interface of service implementation, e.g. portal.

2      European Learning Resource Exchange Practice – CALIBRATE Project

Several projects are implemented at the moment to implement European LRE policy. One of the largest of them is CALIBRATE (“Calibrating e-Learning in Schools“) funded by European Sixth Framework Programme. This multilevel project is aimed at creation of open learning systems and tools which will enable LRE implementation and effective usage of LOs opportunities to develop collaborative learning. Its main objectives are [1]:

1.  carry out research into new ways to improve the semantic interoperability of learning resource descriptions;

2.  further develop and implement a brokerage system architecture as the basis for a European LRE;

3.  develop an open source learning toolbox and explore to what extent IMS Learning Design is able to model collaborative learning processes and scenarios in order to support the collaborative use of learning resources accessed via the LRE;

4.  validate CALIBRATE project results in up to 100 schools using an advanced validation methodology.

CALIBRATE brings together eight Ministries of Education (including six MoEs from new member states), leading research institutions, validation experts, technology providers and SMEs from Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, Lithuania (represented by Centre for Information Technologies in Education), Norway, Slovenia, Finland and Hungary (17 partners at all, 11 – from new member states). The project is co-ordinated by European Schoolnet [5]. CALIBRATE is organised into 5 inter-related work packages (WP) directed through a sixth project management task. Let’s describe them shortly.

WP1 – Improving the Semantic Interoperability of Learning Resource Descriptions

While an international LO metadata (LOM) standard exists at the moment, different organisations or countries create their own standard’s application profiles, and therefore there appear learning content and systems interoperability problems.

It’s investigated that while searching for learning materials the following search keywords are mostly used: the language of learning resource, learners’ age group for which LO is developed, and learning subject. However while working with joint learning content repositories, one faces with distinctions in different states’ educational curriculum, subjects’ classification, etc. Therefore the main goals of this WP are:

-    Analyse different states’ educational curriculum – general programmes and educational standards – Czech Republic, Poland, Austria and Belgium (Flemish community) participate.

-    Explore the possibilities to interconnect LOs with curriculum elements (CEN/ISSS associating and mapping technologies, educational topics mapping, application of thesauri).

-    Design content mapping tool for teachers.

-    Prepare national electronic educational curriculum development framework.

Particular learning subjects for particular learners’ age groups will be selected for this research. Supportive tools will be integrated into CALIBRATE portal.

WP2 – Facilitating Take-up of a European Learning Resource Exchange

The objective of this WP is to design and implement adaptive tools to support the discovery and exchange of a large variety of learning resources among the users (MoEs from six countries) of a federation of heterogeneous eLearning systems and repositories.

It is intended, that six countries’ MoEs (Austria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland and Slovenia) will interconnect their existing LO repositories with general European system. The first part of Lithuanian learning content to be involved in European system will contain distance learning courses for “breakthrough” subject areas, gifted and special needs students, “Virtual Class Tour” lessons plans (MS PowerPoint presentations), networked computer teaching aids and methodical works [4]. This content will be described in conformity with LOM Application Profile in order to join European system.

Several levels’ LO licence management possibility will be provided by the system (for example, public, group, personal). „Creative Commons“ licence management system will be implemented in order to stimulate commercial and non-commercial organisations, as well as virtual learning environments’ providers to render qualitative learning content. It is also planned to develop the Guide for content interconnection into joint system.

WP3 – Development of an Open Source Learning Toolbox for Collaborative Learning

In order to avoid LOs usage in the repositories as isolated objects (for example, as pictures or sounds from the gallery – it was the defect of the previous demonstration CELEBRATE project), it is planned to create open source collaborative learning environment (CLE), or Learning Toolbox, for schools’ collaboration using CALIBRATE learning content.

One of the existing standards which could help to avoid isolated usage of LOs is IMS Learning Design (LD) [3]. Therefore one of the goals of this WP is to investigate to what extent IMS LD can be of practical use to those trying to model learning activities involving the collaborative use of learning resources. It is also planned to create samples for IMS LD compliant LOs for collaborative learning.

WP4 – Validation of the CALIBRATE LRE and Learning Toolbox

This WP will test the technological feasibility of linking national content repositories to a European LRE offering federated searching and the pedagogical benefits of enabling schools to exploit this system to support collaborative learning. The pedagogical benefits of CLE usage and learning content will be measured, and learners will be motivated to use learning content to implement non-traditional pedagogical models (such as active learning, social constructivism, metacognition). Thus it will be assessed in what way and to what extent teachers use existing national LO repositories. The report how LRE system and CLE could support progressive collaborative learning models will be developed. “School of the Future” study will be performed to designate 2010 school vision.

Up to 100 schools from 7 countries will participate in this WP (10 Lithuanian schools among them). The Guide for tools usage for teachers will be created and produced.

WP5 – Dissemination and Exploitation

The main activity of this WP is dissemination of information about the project implementation and its results (publishing of articles in educational journals, reports during international conferences, etc.), as well as preparation of exploitation strategy.


The results gained from WP1-WP3 will be brought together, and learning resource exchange portal, based on these results, will be developed. Four versions of the portal are planned to be released till the end of the project implementation. The first version appeared in the autumn of 2005. This is a revamped portal of the former CELEBRATE project. In November, 2006 the initial operational version of the portal is planned to be prepared. In April, 2007 enhanced search functionality is planned to be integrated in the portal. In September, 2007 full, stable version of the portal is planned to be released, including these functions: digital rights management, integration of final version of learning toolbox, integration of curriculum mapping features, improved search based on curriculum mapping and agents. Portal is planned to be localised for the languages of participating countries (including Lithuanian language).

3      Benefits and Added Value of European Learning Resource Exchange System and Collaborative Learning Environment (CLE)

Implementation of learning resource exchange and CLE affords the obvious benefits and added value comparing with traditional use of learning resources and electronic services. Let’s formulate these main benefits on the base of European Education Partnership’s framework [6].

Improve access to resources. LRE system enables better access to, and hence better use of learning resources – by both teachers and learners. It also includes enabling much better re-usability of resources in new context and for implementation of different learning scenarios.

Extend learning time. European learning resource exchange system and CLE are implemented using Internet and other network technologies. Therefore there appears the opportunity to learn anywhere and anytime.

Increase communication and collaboration. Favourable facilities are provided for communication of different European countries’ teachers and learners, for their creative collaboration and usage of common learning content, as well as for its application for individual or local learning demands.

Access for minorities. Equal access to learning resources appears for different groups of people, for example for national minorities, learners with disabilities or children with special educational needs. It’s possible to use other countries’ and groups’ experience.

Creative ‘brain-centred’ learning. Learning objects could be used to simulate and model different processes. It stimulates learners’ exploration and cultivates creativity and willingness to look for answers such as “what if”. Learners obtain the opportunity to raise an issue, experiment, form their style of thinking, and realise their potential and individual learning demands.

Publishing, audience and feedback. There can be dramatically increased opportunities for different organisations, teachers and learners to produce and publish their content and works so that others can respond and comment, and thus to help to improve its quality. Number of learning content users also increases dramatically.

Use more information channels. More channels of communication with the brain can be used, simultaneously, including aural, visual, graphical, textual, musical, spatial and even tactile. It is already known that communicating with learners on several channels can enable information transmission to be very much more effective and can make errors in receiving and understanding communications much more apparent to learners.

Increase motivation. Motivation to learn is increased and attitudes of students towards learning are improved, which leads students to make much more use of opportunities to learn. This also improves the behaviour of groups of immature learners, enabling teachers to educate more effectively.

Rebalance teaching and learning. LOs and CLE enable changes in the balance between autonomous (independent) learning and teacher-mediated learning. This can make more effective use of teacher time and allow more high quality interactions. Teachers spending less time interacting with students, but in small groups and individually, can be more valuable for the learners than teachers spending all the available time interacting with whole classes. This can also occur in whole-class teaching, with students working more independently, enabling teachers to make fewer but higher quality interactions with individual students. And of course it can also mean students who have become mature learners able to learn independently for much of the time, drawing on their teachers' time as and when needed.

Scalability and re-use of content. LOs help to structure and compose content in better way to fit existing learning demands (for example, pedagogical or economical). Federated LOs repository and exchange enable users to more quick and convenient access to LOs, to compose learning content more flexibly, and to deliver it in better way. The same LO could be used in new context, for the other topics and subjects.

4      Conclusions

Usage of learning objects and learning toolbox for collaborative learning can enhance learning/teaching quality and change a point of view about learning. Certainly, it depends on LO and learning toolbox quality and on how efficiently they are put into practice, which pedagogical models are applied, whether teachers are ready to change their teaching style or not, and other factors.

Federated resource repository of European countries and exchange service, as well as other systems being developed by other related projects, should stimulate collaboration of European countries and application of the newest learning models based on collaboration in the classroom (e.g., active learning, social constructivism, metacognition). The outcomes of CALIBRATE project will let us try the initial version of learning exchange service – portal – no longer than in the autumn of 2006.

The problems of resource search optimisation, learning content quality assurance and semantic interoperability should be solved to ensure the quality of learning resource exchange. The exchange will reach maximum efficiency level only if each country participating in the federation can practically use content provided by all other countries. Therefore it is necessary to run the localisation and adaptation of high quality content as well as active national content development taking into account its future adaptation to other locales and other countries' educational systems.


1.   CALIBRATE (Calibrating eLearning in Schools), Specific Targeted Research Project, IST call 4, Priority 2.4.13. Strengthening the Integration of the ICT Research Effort in an Enlarged Europe, Proposal part B (2005)

2.   European Schoolnet. Insight observatory for new technologies and education. Learning Resource Exchange (2006)

3.   IMS Global Consortium. Specifications (2006)

4.   Kurilovas, E.: Lithuania. Insight Report. National ICT Policies for Education (2005)

5.   Kurilovas, E.: Tarptautiniø projektø vaidmuo ágyvendinant IKT diegimo á Lietuvos ðvietimà strategijà (The role of International Projects in Implementation of ICT Integration into Lithuanian Education Strategy). 7-osios mokyklinës informatikos konferencijos darbai, Kompiuterininkø dienos – 2005, Lietuvos kompiuterininkø sàjunga (2005) 125–132 (in Lithuanian)

6.   The European Education Partnership. Innovations in ICT for Learning. Benefits and Added Value from ICT-for-Learning (2006)

7.   Wiley, D.: Connecting Learning Objects to Instructional design Theory: a definition, a Metaphor, and a Taxonomy. Utah State University (2000)

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