The project is about understanding the design and pedagogical affordances of ‘semantic web’ technologies in higher education. In particular the focus is on settings where learning outcomes are complex and contested and where learning with cases and building new cases supports collaboration, reasoning, judgment and knowledge construction.


Semantic technologies allow improved resource discovery, aggregation and linking of heterogeneous
data, and exploration of large data sets using interactive visualisation tools. Recent developments have ‘lowered the bar’ to the use of semantic web tools in educational settings, but their potential to transform teaching and learning has yet to be fully assessed.

Ensemble is working in six settings (plant sciences; archaeology; journalism; marine operations; education and dance). New resources, collections and cases are discursively constructed during learning activities: from lectures and seminars to projects and performances.

Participatory approaches invite teachers and students to explore how semantic technologies might support and enhance these activities, and in so doing, encourage reflection on current practice. ‘Rapid prototypes’ are introduced into learning environments to support ‘design in use’ as teachers and students explore how they can be used and further developed.

Projects underway include:

  • Bringing varied sources of data and other resources related to the evolution of plants together into an integrated ‘Plant Evolution Timeline’ so that students can locate plant species, key events and physiological and biochemical adaptations against long term changes in biotic and abiotic factors.
  • Supporting project work in undergraduate archaeology courses by linking student ‘locality’ and ‘artefact’ projects with museum databases.
  • Working with undergraduate dance students involved in a collaborative performance project and bringing together images, videos and other resources to support reflection and the construction of digital collections and portfolios.
  • Supporting teaching staff on a modular M‐level course to identify how datasets, case studies and
    other resources are used across modules in technology, finance, management, law and marketing in order to coordinate course planning and enhanced student experience.

Research highlights

In Education

The project has explored and extended ideas about distinctive ‘case pedagogies’ in different disciplinary areas from sciences to performing arts. These include settings where cases are constructed by teachers for illustrative purposes and those where students construct complex cases in the course of collaborative project work.

In Computing Sciences

The project has demonstrated how digital archives can be used together with semantic triplestores to support teaching and learning with complex qualitative and quantitative data. Use cases from the project’s educational and research settings have informed and contributed to the development of triplestores, semantic web application frameworks, and standards. The project is currently contributing to the next version of the DDI (Data Documentation Initiative).

In Interdisciplinary Working

The project has developed participatory design and development approaches which have allowed teachers and students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds to take part in building, prototyping and evaluating new web tools. A ‘culture of inquiry’ has developed in which technologists, educators, students and social scientists are engaged in interdisciplinary theory and practice.

Project Partners

The project is led from Liverpool John Moores University by Professor Patrick Carmichael and also involves staff at the Universities of Cambridge, East Anglia, Essex, Stirling, and City University, London.

Ensemble’s international partners include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Technology, Sydney, and the University of Murcia. The project also has three linked PhD students.

Project website: www.ensemble.ac.uk
Email: w.p.carmichael@ljmu.ac.uk Patrick Carmichael, Project Director

Whats next for Ensemble and TEL?

Further Information


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