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BBC releases new ontology for education

03 May 2013

The BBC has released a new ontology for its educational content. This will act as a schema to allow the BBC to add metadata to its content. It will describe what subject, level or curriculum a particular piece of content applies to, and is presumably the schema behind the new Knowledge and Learning Product.

It’s interesting to see how the idea has developed since we built an ontology for BBC Bitesize in 2011. Back then the focus was on modelling the content in a way that suited a product (Bitesize) rather than a way that reflected the UK education system. The reason for this was that back in 2011 the government (the natural publisher of an Ontology of UK education) was still some years away from laying down the building blocks, and the BBC had a temporary need to publish a Bitesize site using a triple store as they’d done for the 2010 World Cup.

At Outlandish we’re excited about the possibilities of the semantic web, while being sceptical of the state of current semantic technologies. We’ve built lots of prototypes using bleeding-edge technologies such as triple stores and found it interesting but impractical. AllegroGraph managed to create a triplestore that could query a trillion lines of data — it was, however, very, very slow. The BBC got around the problem by using many levels of caching, so that they only queried the data when it changed, but that undermines some of the benefits of dynamic publishing.

We’re watching the developments around bbc.co.uk/education very keenly — I’m sure there’ll be some ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ once they kick the technology into line.