The Burden of Completing Educational Metadata for Digital Resources: a Focus Group Study on User Perceptions

May 10, 2011 9:45 - 11:15pm

PANAGIOTIS D BAMIDIS PhD, Medical School, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Maria Nikolaidou, MSc, Medical School, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Stathis Konstantinidis, MSc, Medical School, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Stefanos Triaridis, PhD, Medical School, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Daniela Giordano, PhD, University of Catania
Philip Davies, PhD, European Cervical Cancer Association

Introduction: To implement any of the available e-learning standards or resource schemas it is imperative that resource creators/authors will have to go through the metadata form filling process. This is also the case in the mEducator project ( in which the consortium has been actively engaged to come up with a consensus for a resource metadata scheme. In this paper emphasis is placed on user perceptions on metadata filling. The Focus Group process lasted for approximately two (2) weeks during September 2010, and the audience was composed of: a. Groups of Academics from the Medical School of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece b. Individual medical professionals, members of the European Cervical Cancer Association. 

Methods: Several discussions about the scope of the focus group and the methodology for gathering the appropriate information and considerations were held prior to the starting of the study, so as to facilitate the finalization of two scenarios to be used as a guidance throughout the focus groups. The process for case (a) consisted of two (2) face-to-face small group meetings held in two different days; a facilitator was going through the two aforementioned scenarios and the participant interactions were recorded; the facilitator summed up the main conclusion points at the end of each scenario interaction, as well as, at the end. However, case (b) was implemented by electronic means, specifically by e-mail communication between the facilitator and the participants. The two scenarios were sent to six (6) participants, who were asked to make preliminary comments, while in a second round some questions were asked by the facilitator. All participants replied by allowing other participants to view their comments. Finally for both cases, a “match activity” (Find the corresponding definition for each term) was exercised at the end, in an effort to highlight any problems with the comprehension of the terms utilized in the mEducator proposed metadata schema. Analysis of results: Key findings were driven by both qualitative and quantitative characteristics. Qualitative characteristics were pivoted around the notions of “Creating Metadata” or “Searching for resources”. In the first notion, the focus group discussions enlightened the issues of: a. Describing Resources b. Describing repurposed resources c. Using controlled vocabularies d. Sharing Resources While in the second notion emphasis was placed around “Search best practices”. Other qualitative indicators included investigations around questions like “Who is creating the metadata?”, or “Who is validating the metadata?”, or “How much time is required to fill-in metadata fields?”, as well as “How familiar are users with the web?”. Last but not least, quantitative indicators included aggregated results of the “match activity”.

Challenges and Opportunities: The focus group methodology was used to explore the opinions, and perceptions of future mEducator platform users with regards to the mEducator metadata scheme and its implementation. Results of this study clearly demonstrated that there it is difficult for users to clearly comprehend the definitions of the metadata fields and definitions, especially when it comes to “Educational” fields. It is also detected that there is some inconsistency between the willingness of users to engage in creating metadata, and in being able to do it effectively. At the same time, users are rather positive in using controlled vocabularies due to their time constraints and lack of confidence regarding the adequacy of their input. This finding is supported by other studies such as Currier et al (2006) who demonstrated that both educational practitioners and the learning technologists urge for the development of pedagogical vocabularies. Therefore, there exist a challenge and an opportunity for the mEducator project to re-evaluate the users’ guidelines and tips within the implementation of the two technical, currently under development, solutions for content sharing, and accomplish to serve both the user’s needs and the system accuracy.