How semantics empower learning innovation

August 19, 2015 by Nika Mizerski

Welcome our keynote speaker at SEMANTiCS 2015: Klaus Tochtermann. He is a professor at the Institute for Computer Science at Kiel University and the director of the ZBW – German National Library of Economics – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics. It is the largest economic library worldwide and globally recognized for driving innovation in professional knowledge management.


This interview provides you with a preview on his keynote. Take a look on the future of libraries and see how they can successfully position themselves beside Google.


Semantic technologies are strongly built on methodologies used for centuries by libraries. You are the head of the biggest and most innovative economic library worldwide. Could you please describe how semantic solutions are used for managing your information architecture?

Klaus Tochtermann: Thanks to semantic technologies our content became much more visible. We apply for our content classification, which implies that the content is ranked higher in Google, as it is semantically enriched. We also publish the metadata of one of our content repositories in LOD (Linked Open Data). Other publishers can refer to this content and we can enrich our service offering with additional content. We integrated for example the economic and agricultural thesauri (Agrovoc) into our information architecture. Using semantic correlations provides very useful features for end-users: We can deliver valuable content recommendations irrespective of the original content inventory.


With the technological advancement research-intense work is changing. How will IT support knowledge workers in 10 years? What competencies do we need to develop when our computers become continuously smarter?

Klaus Tochtermann: We are advocating push technologies. For the future, we don´t expect users to come to the library anymore as often as they come today. All services we develop lead towards bringing the most suitable content directly to the user.  Let´s take a scientific blog about the Euro crisis as an example. We developed a plugin for Wordpress that connects the blog with our library system. The technology extracts keywords from blog content and sends it as search terms to our system which finds context-relevant content that gets displayed in the blog. Similar plugins exist for Google Chrome. When information sources get mixed up like that, scientific users should have well-advanced information literacy. Currently, this is not part of our teaching curricula. Academia still relies on reviewed information and traditional quality assurance mechanisms, such as peer review. Universities must train their researchers to recognize independently content that is of scientific value.


How will learning in general change?

Klaus Tochtermann: Learning will be integrated much more into our lives than it already is. An evolving trend is ubiquitous learning: We access learning material on our mobile devices anytime, anywhere. This requires of course further developments in computing.  In Asia, the ubiquitous learning environment is already reality. We designed for example an massive open online course (MOOC) on knowledge management and big data for the Chinese market. Learning material is sequenced in video units no longer than 10 minutes, which are optimized for mobile devices. The MOOC will be launched this month and we already have more than 18.000 students who have registered for the course. But the biggest change in learning concerns how we teach. Informal learning gets more important than formal, frontal teaching. Virtual libraries will connect students globally and provide them with a webspace for interest-based dialogue.


Thank you for the insights.

Did you get inspired to learn something new? Take a look at the SEMANTiCS 2015 program and register for the conference.