Background and educational repositories
Estonia is a country of around 1.3 million inhabitants. There are over 500 K-12 schools in the country with approximately 130000 pupils and 14000 teachers. The language of education in most schools is Estonian, but Russian is used by nearly a third of schools.
Further background reading at www.estonica.org, and overview of Estonian education can be found at http://www.hm.ee/raamat2010-2011/en/avaleht_eng.html
In 1997, Tiigrihüppe Sihtasutus (Tiger Leap Foundation) was established with the aim of bringing computers and Internet to all schools. This goal was attained successfully in a few years. Now TLF is active in a number of fields: supporting the acquisition of ICT hardware, training of teachers and school leaders, supporting the development of e-learning materials, international cooperation etc. TLF’s activities are in the main part financed by the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research.
Koolielu (www.koolielu.ee, “School Life”) is an Estonian educational portal. Users can read news, course and job advertisements, search and download learning materials and participate in discussions. The content is available for all users but the main target group is teachers form elementary, basic and secondary school. Koolielu portal is administrated by the Tiger Leap Foundation
First version of the portal was launched on 2002. In the beginning of 2009 started the development of a new version of the Koolielu, now based on Web 2.0 ideology – it is writer oriented, has social software functionalities and can be connected with networks for exchange of learning content. The renewed portal was launched in December 2009. The new version of the learning portal was developed by the Tallinn University Institute of Informatics Centre for Educational Technology (http://htk.tlu.ee/htk/in-english/). The portal is built on top of the Elgg – open source e-portfolio system. This enables easy implementation of social software technologies like tags, social bookmarks, recommendations, widgets and communities.
The portal is divided into following sections:
- advertisements – courses and job offers;
- tools – links to online or downloadable educational applications;
- study materials – a repository of learning materials;
- discussion forums;
The core of the Koolielu is a standard-based repository (Java-based MySQL database). Stored data are compatible with the Learning Resource Excange (LRE) Learning Object Metadata (LOM) application profile. Repository what we use is developed by the Tallinn University (http://trac.htk.tlu.ee/waramu) and is a standalone application. The connection between the portal and the repository is based on Waramu Publishing Interface web service (http://trac.htk.tlu.ee/waramu/wiki/WaramuSoap).
The Koolielu repository can be connected with FIRE network through federated search and with the LRE network through metadata harvesting. At the moment (October 2011), European Learning Resource Exchange portal http://lreforschools.eun.org/ shows materials stored in the pre-release version of repository.
LOM applications enable different ways for content classification. The pan-European projects have used the Multilingual Thesaurus (http://lre-thesaurus.eun.org/). Pedagogical experts in Estonia find that insufficient because it structures the content on a very broad level that does not take into account national specifics. So, for the hierarchical structure of Estonian curriculum was integrated with the repository – every item is connect to specific subsections of the curriculum. This provides an easy and quick browsing mechanism to portal users. They can either look for learning objects using different search options or reach it by browsing the curriculum topics. The mapping of the materials on the curriculum also gives a good overview which topics are better covered with e-materials and which are not.
Every registered user of Koolielu can describe and upload study materials. The materials are submitted to moderators who will either make them publicly available, ask the submitters to enhance the material or its metadata or turn it down. There is a part-time moderator for every subject in Estonian curriculum plus a half-time editor whose main responsibility is to check and improve the metadata.
Estonian e-Learning Development Centre at the Estonian Information Technology Foundation has created a digital repository Best Objects in Baltics (BOB) http://www.e-ope.ee/en/repository
BOB is a repository for storing and sharing learning resources, containing over two thousand different materials mainly for vocational and higher education in Estonia. Eighty per cent of the materials are in the native language (Estonian), remaining 20 per cent comprise of materials in English, German, Russian and French. All the resources in the repository are open and free to use for all interested parties. Exact terms of usage are determined by the Creative Commons licenses (http://creativecommons.org).
All the resources in the repository are provided with accurate metadata and the multimedia objects can be viewed within the repository. Additional features allow users to rate and comment materials and reference to those resources that have been found useful by someone else besides the author.
The University of Tartu uses the repository dSpace http://dspace.utlib.ee/dspace