Learning Registry FAQ (2011)
This FAQ will be updated in short time.

Who is undertaking and funding this project?

The Learning Registry project is being undertaken by a group of federal agencies including the Departments of Education (Office of Educational Technology), Defense (Advanced Distributed Learning), Energy, the National Science Foundation, Smithsonian, NASA and other agencies. Funding for initial research is being provided by the Department of Education and Defense.


Is the Learning Registry only for federal learning resources?

No, the Learning Registry is specifically designed to support sharing of information about learning resources from anyone. In our early work, we are using a lot of federal resources but we encourage anyone who manages or uses digital learning resources to participate in the Learning Registry network.


Who can participate in the Learning Registry project?

External organizations, governments and individuals with significant contributions can add their work effort, ideas and strategies to the work. We anticipate no proprietary software (for budget reasons as well as strategic ones). The project will try to ensure that anything developed for use inside the government is equally applicable to anyone who wishes to the strategies or solutions externally.

Any organization wishing to learn more or get involved is encouraged to join and engage with the  project’s nonofficial email groups for both the community and for developers.


Why are you building the Learning Registry?

Imagine you are a high school physics teacher working as the curriculum coordinator for a school district. You want to improve an introductory physics course using resources from the early years of the U.S. space program in a way that integrates history, writing, and physics, and you want to use resources available from the federal government. In searching for those resources, you find that each agency has its own repositories (often many of them) and you must search each one. Moreover, Internet search engines, although of significant help, are designed primarily for general information searches and do not always return results relevant for educators (e.g., pedagogy, curriculum standards and grade levels are hard to specify within the major search engines). Another challenge is that some repositories do not expose data to search engines that crawl public web pages to find material. Finding the right information stored in different agency websites requires significant web research expertise. You might give up your search or compromise on lower quality resources because finding the resources you want will take too much time.

The federal government has recognized these problems and in the following three recent policy documents called for increased openness and use of digital learning resources1 owned and managed by the federal government. Specifically, the Federal Learning Registry project is responding to the challenges to:

  • Design and validate an “integrated approach for capturing, aggregating, mining, and sharing content…for multiple purposes…across many learning platforms.” National Educational Technology Plan, 2010 p. 78

  • Eventually, support the guideline that “information created or commissioned by the Government for educational use by teachers or students and made available online should clearly demarcate the public’s right to use, modify, and distribute the information.” Federal Open Government Directive, 2010, 3.a.ii, p. 8


What is the purpose of the Learning Registry?

The Learning Registry project is designed to ensure that educators, learners, innovators, and  the general public can access learning resources easily from a variety of platforms—websites, community portals, and other repositories of digital learning resources. Users will also be able to contribute to the registry their own knowledge about existing and new learning resources and about how the resources are used.

The Learning Registry will be a permanent network of digital learning resource providers. It will enable each provider to share its content with any other repository or resource aggregator that wants to harvest it. With this integration, a user need search only a single website to find resources produced from many sites. The Learning Registry will be robust, having no single point of failure or control, and flexible, allowing different levels of participation.

The Learning Registry will help improve access and use of learning resources in the following ways:

  • Enable repositories to share anonymous usage data about learning resources (e.g., ratings, reviews, instructional use, pedagogy, content areas, links shared, social networks;

  • Provide a mechanism for integrating learning resources with usage data to provide more sophisticated recommendations, usage analysis, and research on user behavior; and

  • Create opportunities for better integration of existing resources into larger, more complete and useful works.


How does the Learning Registry address the end of the “one size fits all learning” outlined in the  National Education Technology Plan which calls for the end of “one size fits all learning”?

By making learning resources available within a common approach, we may see more innovation in the marketplace because finding and assembling high quality solutions may be easier and cheaper. New entrants and established businesses may benefit from these lower costs to provide higher value solutions while charging their customers less and increasing overall sales.

Additionally, the Learning Registry approach may encourage businesses, nonprofits, governments or individuals to build solutions that integrate and build upon existing solutions (whether fee-licensed or free). This “intensification” of resources in the market may also increase quality and decrease overall costs for any given solution.


How does the Learning Registry fit into the National Education Technology Plan’s call for “online learning communities” and “personal learning networks”?

The National Education Technology Plan calls for online learning communities and personal learning networks supported directly by the Learning Registry. The Learning Registry provides an infrastructure to permit these activities to share knowledge and expand their reach. But the Learning Registry is not enough. Online learning communities require active partnerships and digital support within the subject areas of relevant communities (math, leadership, arts, etc). Personal learning networks require technology “on top of” the Learning Registry such as relevancy and recommendation engines, personal learning profile trackers, online tutoring systems and more.

The Learning Registry fills a key gap in the educational infrastructure today by providing a public, free and open space to allow educators and their digital communities to share knowledge and information in a way that compounds the expertise of individuals.


How does the Learning Registry fit into the National Broadband Plan and a call for ubiquitous Internet access for all learners?

The Learning Registry specifically addresses the call for digital content interoperability in the National Broadband Plan. As with all strategies from the National Broadband Plan, one purpose is to create much more educational value within national broadband networks (mainly known as the Internet). With services like the Learning Registry providing access to higher quality digital content and more personalized learning opportunities, the demand for expanding broadband access will increase across the count.


How does the Learning Registry bring together the different communities such as: students, teachers, authors, schools, organizations, publishers, commercial software vendors and others?  What’s the benefit for each of these different communities and how do they participate?

The funding for the Learning Registry research project is being provided to enable federal agencies to share their resources. The project team recognizes that it is entirely possible to meet this goal and to provide a solution which is usable and applicable for many other organizations at no additional cost to the project. Therefore, the project team is soliciting input, requirements, ideas, technology, expertise and advice from experts inside and outside of government.

The Learning Registry approach will permit a variety of organizations to contribute to the published learning resources into a broader network. Just as a federal web server may only provide access to federal web pages, the Learning Registry itself may only provide access to federal learning resources, however as with web servers, the technique (and possibly software) by which a production version of the Learning Registry makes federal learning resources available, could be used by any number of other organizations to make their resources available as well.

Additionally, because Learning Registry resources could be learning content, or more unusual resources such as usage data or ratings/review data, the approach may enable organizations to find more information about how resources are being used. Therefore, better able to make recommendations to their constituencies with regard to resources being used already within their communities be they digital or real world.

  • Software or curricular materials publishers might benefit by being able to find more “raw” learning resources at a lower cost to integrate into future solutions provided for sale to its customers.

  • Curricular materials publishers might also find new market channels for sale of its learning products by making them visible via the Learning Registry approach.

  • School districts might find that it can supplement or even replace certain learning materials it is currently using by assembling solutions from within the Learning Registry.

  • Federal agencies may find that it is able to find more information about its own resource collections by monitoring how others are actually making use of its resources “in the wild” than it can through traditional metadata classification processes.

  • Teacher community websites might find that its users can have higher quality interactions because of an increase in the richness of available data and resources available to its users.


How do you determine what resources will be included in the registry?

The short answer is that no one controls what resources are included in the registry, just as no one determines what web pages can be found on the Internet.Technically the Learning Registry only holds information about resources, as opposed to containing the resources themselves.

Just as each website operator determines what information they will present and what links they will include on their site, similarly a Learning Registry’s individual node operator determine what resources they will share to and from others.

In other words, in the world of the Learning Registry, the quality of resources is an opinion, not a fact. One community using the Learning Registry may find that a particular set of resources are invaluable, while another group might find the same resources useless. The Learning Registry is designed to permit both groups to use the registry network to share information about the resources that are most relevant without having to worry about whether that information is useful to everyone or just a small subset of people and organizations.

The Learning Registry is specifically designed to make it easy for small subsets of people and organizations to share with each other directly without disrupting the information being shared across other communities.


Who is the target for the project outside of the Learning Registry community itself?

Learning resources housed by the US federal government should be available to educators and the public in the most convenient and accessible ways. Beyond direct access to federal websites and curated materials, the federal government, through the Learning Registry, will be able to make these resources available to other organizations for integration into their websites, curriculum and other learning solutions.

Beyond making federal resources accessible, the strategies and functionality provided by the Learning Registry should be accessible to other organizations who wish to provide learning resources to educators and the public. In this sense the target of the Learning Registry project is to make more relevant, accessible and easy to use learning resources available to anyone who wishes to make use of them.


What are your success criteria?

During the research phase we plan to identify a workable candidate architecture and approach. Along with these, we plan to provide functional test cases, test datasets, proof of function, and requirements definitions for the Learning Registry. We also intend to provide configuration analysis to make it easier for other organizations to set up similar test beds.


How is the Learning Registry different from other, similar technologies?

The Learning Registry is a very thin slice of a very big learning ecosystem. Providing a technique for resource discovery and a basic metadata amplification network that is agnostic as to metadata and resource format and which permits unplanned, scalable network growth, allowing new participants easy inroads to connection does not appear to have been accomplished.

The Learning Registry project team has no desire to invent any new formats, standards, specifications or technology. Where a solution that meets the project team’s requirements can be identified, the team is quite interested in utilizing that solution. So far, the team has encountered a number of highly successful projects and tools, and plans to integrate with these in every economically and technically feasible way.