XCRI: standard course information

At the recent IWMW, I went to a session on XCRI. Unfortunately I was too busy listening to take detailed notes and the presentation slides don’t appear to be in the web.

XCRI is a new standard for exchanging post-compulsory course information. Universities, further education, adult learning centres, vocational agencies and continuing professional development providers can all publish information about their courses, enabling careers advisers, institutions and government agencies to find the relevant information on courses in order to encourage people to enrol in them.

Previously there was no standard format for such information and the main consumers of it all require it in different forms. UCAS is a major consumer, as are any number of different government schemes aimed at increasing the take-up of educational opportunities and regional development programs aiming to tackle unemployment by retraining and upskilling. Institutions also typically have their own course catalogue of some description too. Keeping all of these in sync, both with each other and with what students of the course actually get taught is a significant challenge.

XCRI is an XML standard similar in nature to Atom: (a) it’s plain XML (for those people who want to keep things simple) with a mapping to RDF (for those wanting generalised knowledge representation); (b) it’s got a small number of tags as possible, and where ever possible those tags reuse definitions widely used elsewhere; (c) a feed is a list of items.

To make publishing XCRI easier, the standard assumes (but doesn’t enforce) that the feed is merely a text file on a webserver representing all an institutions forthcoming courses. This is to explicitly encourage batch export and validation of XCRI from legacy systems, which is expected to the dominant form of generation for most institutions for some time.

XCRI is a new standard, and their website is still under construction, but some of the community members have websites with decent information on XCRI. Indeed the community building around XCRI is very impressive, with support from a wide variety of institutions.

If you’ve got an open source or open development project you’re trying to build a community around, why not join the new community-development mailing list that we at OSS Watch have recently started? Unfortunately, no, we can’t claim the success of XCRI had anything to do with us, but we can certainly answer your questions and give you pointers.

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