ISO/IEC 19788

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ISO/IEC 19788 Information technology – Learning, education and training – Metadata for learning resources[1] is a multi-part standard prepared by subcommittee SC36 of the Joint Technical Committee ISO/IEC JTC1, Information Technology for Learning, Education and Training. This committee was created to deal with the consequences of substantial overlap in areas of standardization done at the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission.


The ISO 15836 Dublin Core (DC) and the IEEE 1484.12.1-2002 Learning Object Metadata (LOM) are widely used to describe learning resources. However, interoperability among DC data sets is challenging, as best practices are only recommended. Instead of using ISO 8601, a DC Date element can be written in plain language and not processed by queries. Ambiguous definitions pose another challenge as data elements and vocabulary values can be interpreted in a subjective way. For example the DC Date can be linked to resource creation time, update or publication. In the LOM, the Cost element can only have a “yes” or “no” values. This is also true for LOM records as they are based on a wide variety of Application profiles. The ISO/IEC 19788 standard is intended to provide optimal compatibility with both DC and the LOM and supports multilingual and cultural adaptability requirements from a global perspective. The standard has two primary purposes:

  • facilitate the identification and specification of the metadata elements required to describe a learning resource by providing metadata elements and their attributes
  • support search, discovery, acquisition, evaluation, and use of learning resources by learners, instructors or automated software processes.

Data Element Specification (DES)[edit]

To avoid ambiguity and provide interoperability, metadata learning resources (MLR) data elements are documented using attributes.

Attribute Usage
Identifier Sequential numbering of DES within a part. For example, ISO_IEC_19788-2:2011::DES0100 (Title) is the first data element defined in part 2.
Property name data element name string
Definition data element definition string
Linguistic indicator indicates if multiple linguistic equivalents are possible or not
Domain resource class of items that can be described by the data element, such as Audience or Learning activity
Range can either be a literal (such as a book title) or a resource class (a set of accepted values, such as a list of terms identifiers from a controlled vocabulary list).
Content value rules rule set attached to the DES, for example the mandatory use of Unicode (ISO/IEC 10646-1:2003)
Refines indicates if a DES is a refinement of another one. For example, constraining the values to ISO 8601 for the Date Dublin Core data element in a new data element is considered as a refinement of the first one.
Example(s) optional example(s) of value
Note(s) optional additional information, such as best practice

Resource Description Framework Approach[edit]

The Resource Description Framework is a method for conceptual description of metadata information. Assertions about a learning resource are made using triples (subject, predicate, object) where subject represents the learning resource, predicate is a property identifier and object is the property value.

A MLR triple for the title property of a learning resource
Subject Predicate Object
ISBN 0-262-18162-2 ISO_IEC_19788-2:2011::DES0100 Turtle, Termites, and Traffic Jams@en

In a MLR triple, the subject is always the literal of an identifier of the learning resource, such as a URI or ISBN. The predicate is also a literal, the MLR data element specification (DES) identifier. For example, ISO_IEC_19788-2:2011::DES0100 tells us that this DES can be found in part 2 of the standard and DES0100 is the data element used to identify the title of the learning resource. Finally, the object can be a literal (in this example, the book title) or a resource class (a set of accepted values, such as a list of terms identifiers from a controlled vocabulary list).

Computers can easily connect and query linked data structured information. For example, a teacher wishing to annotate a learning resource may do it a single RDFa triple. A repository service could gather all the information about a given learning resource from a wide variety of external sources, providing much richer information than a single provider record.


The basic parts of the standard are already published, namely the framework that is freely available from ISO (part 1), the list of Dublin Core elements (part 2), an associated application profile (part 3) and a set of pedagogical elements (part 5). A working draft of Bindings draft of Bindings (part 7) can be found on the GTN-Quebec standard workgroup site. The GTN-Quebec also has a working draft in French of its Normetic application profile, previously based on Learning Objects Metadata standard, that can provide a glimpse of Parts 10 and 4.

ISO/IEC 19788 Metadata for Learning resource (MLR) published parts and parts under development as of July 4th, 2013

Parts description[edit]

As of November 2013, only parts 1, 2, 3 and 5 are released as international standards. The other parts are still under development.[1]

Part 1: Framework[edit]

Provides principles, rules and structures for the specification of the description of a learning resource

Part 2: Dublin Core elements[edit]

Provides a based level made of the 15 data element set for the description of learning resources, from the ISO 15836:2009 The Dublin Core metadata element set, using the framework provided in Part 1.

Part 3: Basic application profile[edit]

Specifies, through adding constraints to the use of some data elements, how the ISO/IEC 19788-2 element set can be used as a starting point for adopting the ISO/IEC 19788 standard.

Part 3 promotes interoperability among repositories. It is expected that users communities will enhance this application profile by adding data elements from other authorities such as IEEE-LOM and Dublin Core extension and by adding vocabulary constrains.

Future editions of this part will likely include additional data element from Parts 4 and beyond such as Technical or Educational data elements.

Part 4: Technical elements[edit]

Provides information in the form of metadata elements about conditions pertaining to the technical requirements, location, and size information

Part 5: Educational elements[edit]

Provides an extensive set of data elements describing the intended or actual use of learning resources across various jurisdictional, cultural and linguistic settings. The description of pedagogical use of a learning resource includes annotations, contributions, curriculum, educational outcome, audience and learning activity.

This part includes the following sets of vocabulary:

Status Vocabulary Use
Mandatory Agent (contributor) role identification of the contribution entity
Mandatory Audience role function played by the instance of the audience
Optional Induced activity 16 items describing the process used to engender knowledge or observable skills and abilities
Optional Learning method 21 items describing learning activities in which the learning resource is intended or used
Optional Annotation type evaluation of the quality or suggestion for use

Part 6: Availability, distribution, and intellectual property elements[edit]

Provides information about conditions pertaining to the availability, access policy, intellectual property right, cost and charges.

Part 7: Bindings[edit]

While Part 1 is technology neutral, Part 7 indicates how to assign URIs to ISO/IEC 19788 MLR identifiers, provides bindings (RDF graph, Turtle or RDF/XML serialization and OWL ontology).

Part 8: Data elements for MLR records[edit]

Specified set of data elements describing a specific learning resource, when a traditional database approach is used as opposed to RDF/XML or Turtle.

Part 9: Data elements for Persons[edit]

Provides data elements for the description of persons (natural or organization) as contributor to the learning resource or its description or as annotator.

Part 10: Application Profile for Access, Distribution and Intellectual Property (WIPO compliant) elements[edit]

Provides an application profile for the description of persons (natural or legal) usually as contributors to the learning resource or its description


External links[edit]

Bourda, Yolaine; Gauthier, Gilles; Catteau, Olivier (2010), "Métadonnées pour ressources d’apprentissage (MLR) - Nouvelle norme ISO de description de ressources pédagogiques", Sticef (in French) 17, retrieved 14 September 2011 

Currier, Sarah (April 2008), "Metadata for Learning Resources: An Update on Standards Activity for 2008", Ariadne 55, retrieved 14 September 2011