Distributed information systems using Dublin Core metadata

The poster are under construction, below you can read the text for the handout.

The National Agency for Higher Education in Sweden (Högskoleverket) is a central authority for matters concerning institutions of higher education. Its tasks include evaluation and accreditation, carrying out quality audits, developing higher education, research and analysis, supervision, international matters and study information.

Distributed systems

The advantages of distributed systems are that all the contributors keep full control of the information they choose to publish. The administrators of the systems do all the publishing and updating of material themselves, directly on their own web site. This is to avoid the problems that arise when you publish information on different locations and forget to update the information.

The technological solution behind a distributed system is a search robot that searches for information, via the Internet, on various servers. The search engine (see URL: http://www.lub.lu.se/combine/) functions much like other search engines on the Internet. The difference compared with other search engines lies in the fact that the engine only searches for information on servers belonging to organisations approved by Högskoleverket.

Furthermore the organisations are responsible for the quality of the information provided on their web pages and for classifying it in accordance with the standards for metadata adopted by Högskoleverket.

Metadata describes the content of the web page

Metadata describes the sort of information that is available on the web page. The system uses metadata in accordance with the Dublin Core model (for more information go to http://purl.org/DC). The Dublin Core is a 15-element metadata system intended to facilitate the discovery of electronic resources. To facilitate the classification of a web page Högskoleverket has designated some of the 15 elements as compulsory. Examples of compulsory information are the name of the person in charge of the information, the name of the author, the type of document, information on when the web page was last updated and a classification of the subject according to the Ortelius system established by the EU for research information.

SAFARI disseminating Swedish research on the Internet

SAFARI is an Internet resource that gathers and co-ordinates information on Swedish academic research. To further facilitate the searches in SAFARI, Högskoleverket has added the element ‘target group’ to the Dublin Core metadata. This is to provide an individual search interface for the different user groups: general public/schools, companies/organisations, researchers and students. The system provides schools, companies, organisations and the general public with information about Swedish research at all levels. You can find out more about the SAFARI project in the publication Ett system för forskningsinformation på Internet (Högskoleverket 1998:35R). This report is also published on http://www.hsv.se/publikationer/rapporter/sam9835.htm.

Studera.nu a national information system for all courses at universities and university colleges in Sweden

Overview of all high education programmes

For anyone in Sweden who plans to study at university/university college it takes a great deal of effort to find what they are looking for among the 15,000 or so courses offered by 50 institutions of higher education. How can they find out what courses there are? Where can they study what? Can they study through the Internet?

Simplified system description

Studera.nu is a national information system now being set up that will be introduced in January 2001. From a single website prospective students will be able to find answers to any questions they may have about higher education. They will be able to find courses by means of free text searches or by searching downwards in a tree structure representing all the subjects that can be studied. An additional service called Individual Student Manual is now being developed within the studera.nu framework which will make it possible for the user to select the courses that he/she is interested in, thus making an individual collection of links that are stored centrally in his/her own account. Central storage will make it possible to access the manual from public computers in computer rooms, libraries, Internet cafés etc. The manual will represent a comprehensive catalogue which can be printed or used for computer printouts.

Studera.nu is a completely decentralized system. All universities/university colleges and authorities included in the system (about 60 organizations altogether) will be responsible for their own course data and for marking their pages with metadata. The field structure consists of twelve metadata fields based on the Dublin Core model, although some fields will be designed by the organizations themselves. All courses are classified in accordance with the Ortelius Thesaurus system, a Community-wide thesaurus containing about 1,500 different subjects translated into all the official EU languages. The metadata fields are also used as filters to produce more accurate search results.

Apart from the requirement that the organizations connected to the system mark their pages with metadata, a number of other requirements must be met for the purposes of the Individual Student Manual. The pages must be coded in XHTML; the layout must be separated from the content and placed in a style sheet. When a user has put together an individual manual a PDF file is generated for printing out. To meet these additional requirements, a uniform, neutral design adapted for printouts replaces the organizations’ individual graphic design.

Malin Winbladh

Project Manager SAFARI / National Agency for Higher Education and Research