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Digital Repository


In this project, I designed the foundation of a digital repository containing learning objects and content for the Kent State University Information Architecture and Knowledge Management (IAKM) program. The goal of the project was to provide IAKM faculty, staff and graduate assistants with an application, web portal and interface capable of allowing users to share and reuse program-related course content. In order to design the repository’s foundation, I created a knowledge organization system (KOS). The KOS included a facet structure, pick lists, synonym rings, taxonomy and notation system, semantic network and data directory. Each of these components helped support the repository’s underlying KOS.

To begin the project and understand its scope, I was provided with a series of goals and needs.

  • Locate, organize and categorize all IAKM learning objects
  • Allow course developers to upload and store learning objects
  • Account for licensing, copyright, usage and content life-span
  • Create the KOS foundation for a web interface
  • Build an application that includes the following features: search, retrieve, review and download learning objects
View Final Report

Research: investigating project needs

After exploring the project goals, I conducted initial research on digital repositories, learning objects and the Kent State University IAKM program website. This research provided a framework for the project by allowing me to better understand and interpret goals, needs and expectations, while serving as a tool to organize my preliminary thoughts and ideas. To illustrate these initial ideas and to synthesize the research, I compiled my notes and designed a visual mind map. The mind map was used to reinforce the project requirements and ensure that my observations aligned with stakeholder expectations for the digital repository.

Facets, pick lists and synonym rings: establishing a knowledge organization system

In order to classify, divide, organize and sort objects from within the IAKM digital repository, I conducted a faceted analysis. Through this activity, I was able to develop a series of facets that would allow users to narrow their search with a high degree of specificity by selecting relevant facets and values. Inspired by Ranganathan’s PMEST classification system, I organized my faceted scheme into high-level, mutually-exclusive categories using a who, what, when, where, why and how approach. As a result, I proposed nine primary faceted categories for the digital repository. To support each facet and enhance its usefulness within the repository’s classification structure, I developed a series of pick lists. The pick list terms were carefully selected to account for granularity, semantic classification and exclusivity.

Also, to create a controlled vocabulary containing synonyms and equivalencies, a series of synonym rings were developed. The synonyms are used to connect similar terms so that users can better locate relevant information during the search process and expand the query results. For this project, I assessed the pick list values, designated equivalences and assigned a list of synonym terms to that value.

For more details including examples of the faceted structure, pick lists and synonym rings, click on the links below.

View FacetsView all nine pick listsView Additional Synonym Rings

Taxonomy and notation: building structure

To assist users in locating information by IAKM topic or course subject-matter, I developed a hierarchical-based taxonomy. This format type reflects the conceptual hierarchy of classification levels through expressive notation and sequential progression. Beginning at the superordinate class level, users can locate information by searching through generalized categorical themes. These categorical themes serve as an umbrella model, which help describe the meaning of the grouped subordinate terms. These terms have been grouped at the subordinate level because they share similar relationships and characteristics. To assist users in locating superordinate and subordinate terms, a numeric notational system has been applied to the entire taxonomy. The notational system follows a simple expressive model which mirrors the structure of the taxonomy itself. By using decimals, each notational digit represents one level of division in the taxonomy. The advantage of an expressive and decimal notational system is that it allows for the accommodation, expansion and division of new terms in the future.

View Sample Taxonomy Segment

Semantic network: representing relationships and concepts

In an effort to represent associated relationships between concepts, objects and themes within the digital repository, I designed a semantic network. Using directional links and nodes, I illustrated connections between the repository as an entity and the individual facets and learning objects. Designing the network helped reveal qualitative patterns, concrete-abstract and part-whole relationships and inheritance traits among class and subordinate class levels. Additionally, the network was used to draw inferences between information not explicitly represented or connected. As a result, new relationships were formed which created a stronger semantic network and will enhance a user’s ability to find information more accurately.

Data dictionary: modeling data types

To organize the properties of the digital repository and to identify object relationships, I created a data dictionary. The goal of the data dictionary was to define the structure of data elements and entities within the repository, establish metadata property names and ensure that each unique property could be mapped to common, standardized web vocabularies, such as schema.org. Establishing a shared vocabulary through a data dictionary improves the effectiveness of content findability and reduces semantic error.

View Data Dictionary Sample

Recommendations: determining next steps

  1. Represent all data, content and properties by completing the data dictionary, taxonomy and synonym rings
  2. Conduct user research to determine the effectiveness of the faceted structure, pick list properties and vocabularies
  3. Establish a content governance model to determine roles and responsibilities, administrative privileges, life-cycle processes and workflows
  4. Design an information architecture for the digital repository
  5. Collaborate with developers to build a web portal and interface
  6. Conduct usability testing and iterate, as needed
  7. Pilot and launch the digital repository