Classifying educational resources

This article describes some of the systems by which educational resources are generally classified or composed. It will also relate these systems to the way in which Wikiversity can structure itself and guide users in the creation of educational resources. A further purpose of this article is preparation of the way for metadata exchange with other OER projects.

Perhaps a little complex for the ordinary user, but it helps gain a perspective on the meanings of words like "simple" on the context of metadata systems.

A look over the fence edit

This section looks at some of the human-usable systems (rather than formalised systems) which other OER and open source protagonists have been using. The projects looked at below are deliberately wide-ranging and not strictly comparable.

The classification systems used by these projects are very varied. There are two main reasons for the variety:

  1. The intended audience and function of the project/website. For example, a university-orientated project will see subject and resource type classifications very differently from a primary/secondary-orientated project.
  2. The way in which the classification systems arose - e.g. top-down decision at project inception, organic bottom-up community-driven, cooperation with other projects.

OER Commons edit


Subjects (top level) Educational levels Resource types
  • Arts
  • Business
  • Humanities
  • Mathematics and Statistics
  • Science and Technology
  • Social Sciences

(with numerous sub-divisions)

  • Primary
  • Secondary
  • Post-secondary

(with numerous sub-divisions)

  • Organisational level
    • Full Course
    • Learning Module
    • OpenCourseWare
  • Components
    • Activities and Labs
    • Assessments
    • Audio Lectures
    • Curriculum Standards
    • Discussion Forums
    • Games
    • Homework and Assignments
    • Lecture Notes
    • Lesson Plans
    • Simulations
    • Syllabi
    • Teaching and Learning Strategies
    • Textbooks and Readings
    • Training Materials
    • Video Lectures

Moodle edit

Source: Moodle calls all of the following "activities", which are components of "courses". Moodle does not contain any internal system for classfication by subject or educational level - it leaves it up to administrators to put courses into subject-related directories. The definitions following some of the terms are quoted from the internal Moodle help system.

  • Assignment
  • Chat
  • Quiz
  • Survey
  • Database: "The Database module allows the teacher and/or students to build, display and search a bank of record entries about any conceivable topic. The format and structure of these entries can be almost unlimited, including images, files, URLs, numbers and text amongst other things."
  • Forum
  • Lesson: "A lesson delivers content in an interesting and flexible way. It consists of a number of pages."
  • Glossary
  • Scorm package: "A package is a bundle of web content packaged in a way that follows the SCORM or the AICC standard for learning objects. These packages can include web pages, graphics, Javascript programs, Flash presentations and anything else that works in web browsers."
  • Wiki

MIT OpenCourseWare edit

Source: trawling through courses and looking at how they structure them. MIT OCW classifies everything as "courses" and then typically has many components of those courses. OCW's subject system reflects MIT's real-world structure, and therefore leaves less to learn from. The course structure (or resource type) system is looked at here.

  • Frequently used
    • Syllabus
    • Readings
    • Assignments
    • Exams
    • Calendar
    • Lecture notes
    • Projects
  • Occasionally used:
    • Labs (probably a particular kind of assignment which requires a laboratory)
    • Study materials (not clear how this differs from "readings")

The Open University's OpenLearn project edit

Subjects (top level) Educational levels Resource types
  • Arts and History
  • Business and Management
  • Education
  • Health and Lifestyle
  • IT Computing
  • Law
  • Mathematics and Statistics
  • Modern Languages
  • Science and Nature
  • Society
  • Study Skills
  • Technology
  • Tertiary
    • Introductory
    • Intermediate
    • Advanced
    • Masters

OpenLearn does not seem to have a "resource type" classification system. It is a repository of (learning) "units" which have an internal structure like a miniature book with ad hoc titles for each sub-section. The concept of what a learning resource is seems to be quite narrow - but perhaps voluntarily chosen and followed by participants. Units all come with forums and chat options. There is also a concept of "assets" (e.g. media, documents) which can be "stripped" from the units. Units typically have a "references and acknowledgements" section at the end.

LeMill edit

LeMill currently emphasises tagging by educational level (in detail), subject and language. These are probably all open classification sets which individual users voluntarily created and which they can extend. In addition, there is a closed classification set of four resource types (not called such).

Subjects (top level) Educational levels Resource types
  • Art
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Citizenship
  • Cross-curricular education
  • Culture
  • Economics
  • Educational administration
  • Environmental education
  • Ethics
  • Foreign languages
  • Geography
  • History
  • Informatics or ICT
  • Language and literature
  • Mathematics
  • Media education
  • Music
  • Natural sciences
  • Philosophy
  • Physical education
  • Physics
  • Politics
  • Psychology
  • Religion
  • School-community relationship
  • Social sciences
  • teacher training
  • pre-school education
  • 1st grade
  • 2nd grade
  • 3rd grade
  • 4th grade
  • 5th grade
  • 6th grade
  • 7th grade
  • 8th grade
  • 9th grade
  • 10th grade
  • 11th grade
  • 12th grade
  • higher education
  • adult education
  • teachers
  • special education
  • (learning) content
  • tools
  • methods
  • people

iCommons edit

iCommons classifies resources by country, subject (very simple) and type. The very different subject classication (and lack of classification by educational level) reflects iCommons' audience, which is largely outside the formal education sectors.

Subjects (top level) Educational levels Resource types
  • Education
  • Science & research
  • Business
  • Culture
  • Policy & law
  • Media & events


  • Article
  • Resource (i.e. uploaded documents and media, subclassified by format)
  • Event
  • Node (nodes are collaborative entities with participants; nodes have blogs, forums and scrapbooks)

Rice University's Connexions edit

Connexions classifies resources by: subject, title, author, keyword, popularity, language, revision date, institution. The top level subjects are identical to the OER Commons classification. There is no visible distinction by educational level (everything is tertiary) and resource type.

Curriki edit

Subjects (top level) Educational levels Resource types
  • Arts
  • Career & Technical Education
  • Educational Technology
  • Foreign Languages
  • Health
  • Information & Media Literacy
  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Ages 0-4
  • Ages 5-7
  • Ages 8-10
  • Ages 11-13
  • Ages 14-16
  • Ages 16-18
  • College and beyond
  • Professional development
  • Special education


  • Activity
    • Exercise
    • Experiment
  • Book
    • Readings
    • Textbook
  • Curriculum
    • Assessment/Test
    • Full Course
    • Lesson Plan
    • Syllabus
  • Resource (means any uploaded media or document)

Merlot edit

Subjects (top level) Educational levels Resource types

(identical to OER Commons)

  • Arts
  • Business
  • Humanities
  • Mathematics and Statistics
  • Science and Technology
  • Social Sciences
  • Grade School
  • Middle School
  • High School
  • College General Ed
  • College Lower Division
  • College Upper Division
  • Graduate School
  • Professional
  • Simulation
  • Animation
  • Tutorial
  • Drill and Practice
  • Quiz/Test
  • Lecture/Presentation
  • Case Study
  • Collection
  • Reference Material
  • Learning Object
  • Online Course

See also edit

Organisations / external projects edit

  • OER Commons - an OER repository
  • Moodle - an open source / (mostly) closed content LMS
  Type classification: this is an article resource.
  Subject classification: this is an education resource.