innovation in metadata design, implementation & best practices

DCMI Education Community

DCMI Education Working Group: Proposal for audienceLevel Qualifier for the Audience Element

Latest Version: [1 January 2002]
This Version: [1 January 2002]
Previous Version: None
Working Group: Education [UBAP 5.2.7]
Editor: Stuart A. Sutton
Public Comment Period: February 1, 2002-March 1, 2002
Available for comments until 01 March 2002. If you are a member of the DC-Education Mailing List, please send comments directly to the mailing list. If you are not a member of the mailing list and do not wish to join, please send comments directly to the working group chairs.

Dublin Core Usage Board Draft Administrative Processes Document Index:

5.2.1, 5.2.2, 5.2.3, 5.2.4, 5.2.5, 5.2.6, 5.2.7, 5.2.8, 5.2.9, 5.2.10, 5.2.11, 5.2.12,,, 5.5

Summary History of the Pre-proposal Discussion

The "strawman" proposal that shaped the February 2000 discussions of the Working Group of the then-proposed "audience" element at Kattemingga Lodge (Melbourne) included a reference to education level in its student/trainee trait descriptor classes []. Immediately after the Working Group chairs posted the minutes of the Kattemingga face-to-face meeting, the issue of being able to specifically address the level of audience surfaced as an issue on the Working Group listserv []. On October 28, 2000, the Working Group chairs framed the discussion in terms of the need for an "audienceLevel" qualifier for the then-proposed "audience" element []. Mappings of audience level statements being used in extant resource discovery projects were circulated [e.g.,]. Subsequent discussions on the list hammered out both the need for the qualifier and its semantics within the education domain. Working Group consensus was reached in December 2000 [].

Summary History of the Post-proposal Discussion: [UBAP 5.2.9]

[To be completed by the Usage Board proposal shepherd following discussions on DC-General pursuant to Part 5.6.2 of the Dublin Core Usage Board Draft Administrative Processes document.]

Summary Table: Element Qualifier Proposal

Qualified Element Namespace
Qualified Element Name
[UBAP 5.2.6]
Element Qualifier Namespace
Element Qualifier Name
[UBAP 5.2.1]
Element Qualifier Label
[UBAP 5.2.2]
Audience Level
Element Qualifier Status Domain-Specific
Element Qualifier Definition
[UBAP 5.2.2]
A general statement describing the education or training sector. Alternatively, a more specific statement of the location of the audience in terms of its progression through an education or training sector.
Element Qualifier Comment Where available, such statements should be expressed in terms of recognized national, organizational or regional/local value qualifier schemes.
Element Qualifier Encoding Schemes No DCMI value qualifier schemes are being proposed at this time.
Element Qualifier Examples
[UBAP 5.2.3]
  1. United States Example:
    • A fifth grade teacher wants to find lesson plans intended for use with students in grade five. She might search for "audienceLevel=‘Grade 5'" using the U.S. Department of Education's Level of Education vocabulary (
  2. Australian Example:
    • The parent of a preschool child wants to find educational activities intended for use by preschool children. He might search for "audienceLevel='Preschool'" using the vocabulary developed by Education Network Australia and adopted by the Le@rning Federation, an Australia-wide initiative supporting the development and exchange of K-12 online resources.


Justification of Need: [UBAP 5.2.12]

The DC-Education Working Group has formulated all of its proposals by means of a two step process that embodies the concept of community "need" in a fundamental way. The first of those steps is the aggregation of actual metadata statements being made in existing DC-based applications in the education domain that comport with the notion underlying the perceived need. If no (or very few) existing applications are making such statements, there is no demonstrated need (and no need to act). If there are such statements being made in multiple applications, discussions them move to whether being able to search on such statements with precision requires an element or an element qualifier.

With the notion of audience level, the inventory of statements was both long and rich. While it was clear that the vocabularies needed to meet local needs (domain localization) are richly varied (and, in many instances, under development), the need to be able to make such statements with precision was nearly ubiquitous across applications (domain globalization). As a result, there is a demonstrated, strong need for the "audienceLevel" qualifier for the "Audience" element and an equally strong need for supporting development (where none exist) of local (national) vocabularies.

Impact on Existing Dublin Core Applications: [UBAP 5.2.10]

The goal of this proposal is to promote interoperability across DCMI-based applications that currently make metadata statements regarding the level of the audience as defined in this proposal. Currently, those applications use various names/machine tokens to identify the underlying concept. Therefore, it is inevitable that the process of standardization will result in some adverse impacts on legacy systems and data. For example, the Gateway to Educational Material's (GEM) metadata element set has had such an element since the GEM element set was created in 1996 which it named "Grade" . Should a recommendation issue as a result of this proposal, GEM will have to choose whether to move toward greater intra-domain interoperability, or maintain the full integrity of its legacy data and systems. It appears that this is an inevitable consequence of standardization and will require applications to carefully balance the obvious tradeoffs.

Overlap with Existing DCMI Terms: [UBAP 5.2.8]

There is no apparent overlap with existing DCMI terms.

Best Practice Recommendations: [UBAP 5.2.4]

The most successful uses of the "audienceLevel" qualifier of the "Audience" element will be those that use well developed, publicly available controlled vocabularies. In many jurisdictions, such vocabularies already exist and are under development in many others.

Interoperability with Other Metadata Schemas: [UBAP 5.2.11]

In part, the notion of audience level can be expressed through the concept of "Context" in the IEEE LTSC LOM "Educational Category." While the promise of an application profile that makes possible the integration of elements from the LOM namespace with those of the DCMI through the use of a publicly accessible, DCMI registered application profile, movement toward such an interoperable solution has been painfully slow. Until it is absolutely clear to the education community that such a solution is viable in real-world applications, DCMI needs to move forward serving the education community.

IEEE LTSC LOM Educational Category

Category Name Description LOM Vocabulary*
5.6 Context The typical learning environment where use of learning object is intended to take place. Primary Education, Secondary Education, Higher Education, University First Cycle, University Second Cycle, University Postgrade, Technical School First Cycle, Technical School Second Cycle, Professional Formation, Continuous Formation, Vocational Training

*Other controlled vocabularies can be used

Alternative Mechanisms of Implementation: [UBAP] [UBAP 5.5]

There are no apparent alternative mechanisms of implementation within the architecture of DCMI that can fully meet the identified need. As the existing applications making statements regarding level of audience demonstrate, a rich array of jurisdictional vocabularies have emerged (and continue to emerge). Therefore, one might assert that the use of such vocabularies represents a less disruptive means of meeting the need [see Part 5.5 of the Dublin Core Usage Board Draft Administrative Processes document]. However, given the expressed need to search and retrieve with precision on these statements, an element qualifier to the "Audience" element is believed justified.

Difficulty of Application: [UBAP]

Some jurisdictions conflate the notion of level of audience defined here as an educational/training sector or a point (or range of points) in a stepped progression through such a sector with degrees of academic achievement. In such systems, the notion of "audienceLevel" reflects both aspects of the term as defined in this proposal and aspects of the concept of nationally promulgated standards expressible through the "ConformsTo" qualifier of the "Relation" element. In such jurisdictions, catalogers will be faced with a question of whether to provide audienceLevel information using the "audienceLevel" element qualifier to "Audience", the "ConformsTo" qualifier to "Relation", or both.

However, in many other jurisdictions, the two concepts–"audienceLevel" (as defined here) and any set of academic achievements–are expressed separately. For example, in the United States, degrees of academic achievement for students in the fifth grade will vary considerably one state to another. In such jurisdictions, there is no difficulty in determining which of the two qualifiers ("audienceLevel" or "conformsTo") is appropriate since they relate to two distinct concepts.

Two listserv entries in November 2000 <> and in December 2000 <> reflect the difficulty.