08/09/06  (susheyer)  [1 Comments]

Sense and nonsense of semantic types

In the realm of e-learning and learning objects, what is usually meant by 'semantic type' is the function or meaning that a piece of content or a "learning object" possesses. Typical examples of semantic types are example, definition, summary etc. The project that I currently work for aims at assigning semantic types to resources, similar to what Norbert Meder did in his work on didactical ontologies. In the light of his work, I had somewhat of a revelation. Meder assigns his semantic types within a context: in his work, it is clear from the start, what function a piece of content (in his terminology a "knowledge object") serves, since he starts out with a predefined structure and assigns content to that structure. Therefore, the piece of content inherits the semantic type from that predefined structure.

The philosophy of CampusContent, however, is to assign this semantic type before a piece of content is placed into any context. From my perspective, semantic types only make sense and are useful, if the context is known. With free floating content pieces, the context cannot be determined and therefore, a semantic type cannot be assigned. Therefore, for pieces of content that are stored without a context, an assignment of semantic types cannot be performed.