From the Editor
LRMI Survey Results; Broadband Adoption Lifeline Pilot Program
Anne Wujcik — Friday, June 08, 2012
As reported in mid-April, the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative fielded surveys of educators and educational content providers to gather information about how educational materials are currently discovered through Internet searches and what might make the process easier. Preliminary results are now in and both educators and publishers see discoverability as a problem. Educators do a lot of searches, looking for resources to supplement and enrich their classroom instruction. More than 70% said they searched for instructional resources on the Internet at least several times a week and a quarter search daily. Search results are not always as hoped for - two-thirds of educators report getting many "irrelevant results" and 9 in 10 say they would be more satisfied with Internet searches if search engines offered the ability to filter results by standard instructional criteria such as grade level, subject area, and media type.
Publishers and resource providers are well aware of the problems associated with searching. Nearly half said they are either "dissatisfied" or "somewhat dissatisfied" with the current online visibility of their products. Nearly 60 percent said that their customers find it "difficult" or "somewhat difficult" to find their content and products when conducting online searches. Nearly two-thirds said that they would either definitely implement or be "highly likely" to implement a new standard for tagging online educational resources if discoverability would improve.
There really aren't any surprises here, except maybe the high percentage of publishers who say they would be likely to implement a new metadata tagging schema. Of course, in the end that will depend on the complexity of the tagging system and how costly it will be to get it done. One of the goals of LRMI is to develop a schema that is "simple, lightweight, and easily extensible" in order to gain widespread acceptance and usage.
LRMI has released version 1.0 of its metadata specification for online educational content. It is also organizing a proof of concept phase, in which content from a trial group of publishers will undergo the LRMI metadata tagging process in order to document best practices and demonstrate end user search experience with LRMI tagged content. A demonstration is set for late June at the 2012 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference.
The Federal Communication Commission continues to push ahead on its broadband access goals. It has launched a competition to discover the best ways to increase broadband adoption rates among low-income Americans. The competition is funded by the newly created "Broadband Adoption Lifeline Pilot Program." Using $25 million in savings that resulted from major reforms earlier this year of the Lifeline program, it will launch pilot projects across the country to test best practices around issues of cost, digital literacy and relevancy. The application deadline is July 2, with projected slated to begin in the fall.
The program is open to eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) and their partners. The FCC is seeking diversity in program models, "with different amounts and durations of subsidies, different types of geographic areas (e.g., urban, rural), and different types of broadband networks (e.g. fixed and mobile) and technologies." Projects should focus on households that do not currently have broadband. The Commission is interested in learning which discount plans are most effective in promoting broadband adoption and retention. Discount plans tested in the pilot projects may include variations in the amount of the discount, the length of time the discount is applied, and whether the discount amount is applied to recurring or non-recurring charges. The FCC encourages ETCs to partner with third parties such as libraries, academic researchers, social research organizations, contract-research firms, or non-profit organizations.
Preference will be given to projects that include partnerships with non-ETCs that already have existing adoption programs in place to provide digital literacy, allowing the FCC to gather additional data that may be used to shape its proposed Digital Literacy Corp, once funding and governance for that initiative is resolved. The FCC originally proposed funding and operating the Digital Literacy Corp through the e-rate, but ran into broad opposition, including Sen. John D. Rockefeller, III (D-WV), one of the original creators of the E-Rate. At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in May, Sen. Rockefeller asked each of the five FCC Commissioners swear "not to take funds from E-Rate, funnel funds through E-Rate, or use E-Rate legal authority for digital literacy initiatives." All five complied, so it appears the E-Rate will not be raided.