RSS the Future of E-learning

RSS wears many a hats – rich site summary, really simple syndication- RSS or even Resource Description Framework (RDF).

RSS is basically a lighter XML format designed for sharing Web content. As it is one of the simplest uses of XML, RSS has become widely distributed. The RSS file can include a logo, a site link, an input box, and multiple news items. Each news item consists of a URL, a title, and a summary.

Because the data is in XML, and not a display language like HTML, RSS information can be flowed into a large number of devices. In addition to being used to create news summary web pages, RSS can be fed into stand-alone news browsers or headline viewers, PDAs, cell phones, email ticklers and even voice updates.

RSS files are created by content publishers and then delivered to people who have subscribed to that feed using a “feed reader” application also called a news aggregator. The feed reader program checks with the originator of the content regularly and if it finds any new content available from a particular site, downloads the information about it, called metadata, into the application automatically.

An RSS aggregator is a type of software that periodically reads sets of RSS files and indexes them for display or syndication. There are two major types of aggregator: centralized and personal. Aggregators are the most common use of feeds. Web aggregators make this view available in a Web page. Aggregators have also been integrated into e-mail clients, user’s desktops, or standalone, dedicated software. Aggregators can offer a variety of special features, including combining several related feeds into a single view, hiding entries that the viewer has already seen, and categorizing feeds and entries.

RSS & Elearning
Beyond personal use, RSS feeds can also be used to republish, or syndicate, content on Websites. Prescient learning technologist Stephen Downes discussed the usefulness of RSS with online courses back in 2000 in his article “Content Syndication and Online Learning.” He wrote, “[Using RSS or similar tools], any course…can tap into up-to-date resources from remote sources…[so that] content is tailored specifically for the course.”

Rather than collecting content in a central repository, requiring an expensive software application, the RSS model distributes content across the World Wide Web, allowing access piece by piece. “For that reason,” Downes says in his article “An Introduction to RSS for Educational Designers” that “the distribution of content over the Internet will look a lot more like an RSS network than… an enterprise content management system.” More people will use the distributed learning object network “not only because it’s easier and cheaper, but because they can access much more content for much less money.”

Educational uses of RSS are many ……

  • subscribing to feeds on particular topics to stay current
  • publishing syndicated content on course Websites or blogs
  • having learners create their own blogs and then subscribing to the feeds of all those blogs to check new content on them
  • notifying learners about new available courses
  • updating learners on new internal or external resources available on a training topic
  • Subscribing to feeds from learning object repositories to see the newest objects added or objects added in a topic they’re developing a course on.

Though not the perfect solution, as it does have a few kinks that have to be worked out. Like the lack of digital rights management for both original articles and metadata feeds and RSSs inability to deal with mixed metadata. RSS has the potential to be the future tool of Elearning.