Two-thirds of educators say that a major frustration in searching for instructional materials online is the number of irrelevant results, a 2013 survey found. The Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI), created by the Association of Educational Publishers and Creative Commons, seeks to solve this problem by providing a framework for describing educational content and products on the web.
The LRMI will provide filters on search engines that make lesson plans, worksheets, and other materials tagged with LRMI data easier for educators to find online. It has recently been adopted by Schema.org, a joint effort of Bing, Google, Yahoo!, and Yandex. This means that, in the same way that Google has an “images” tab, it may soon have an “education” tab, though it is still unclear when the engines will begin to include it as a search option, says Dave Gladney, LRMI project manager.
To be an effective tool, publishers of the content—from major textbook companies to teachers who post their lesson plans on a blog—need to begin tagging materials so they can be found through the framework.
“Commercial and open educational resources publishers are producing valuable, high-quality educational content, and the goal of the LRMI is to make that content more discoverable,” says Gladney. “But search engines won’t pay attention to it if no one is vetting it.”
The LRMI will provide filters that allow teachers to conduct targeted searches. For example, a teacher could search “subtraction worksheet,” and filter results by grade level, subject area, and Common Core alignment.
Once integrated into the search engines, it will be free for educators to search for materials. The publishers of the content will continue to charge their current costs for the materials, Gladney says, but the content tagged with LRMI metadata will be easier for teachers to find.
Awareness of the LRMI is growing rapidly. A national survey of educators and publishers found 86 percent of publishers knew about LRMI, compared to just 47 percent in 2012. However, only about 9 percent of teachers and media specialists surveyed knew of the LRMI.
The organization received a $400,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to raise awareness and win support from educational publishers. The foundation’s staff members also have begun attending conferences and offering free, in-person workshops.
“CIO leaders should keep in mind that the LRMI is a useful set of properties for anyone creating tools around digital learning,” Gladney says. Districts can decide to purchase only materials from publishers that tag their content to encourage more to do so, he adds.