History shows that
revolutionary changes do not take off without widespread adoption
of common standards. For electricity, this was the standardization
of voltage and plugs; for railroads, the standard gauge of the tracks;
and for the Internet, the common standards of TCP/IP, HTTP, and
HTML. Common standards for metadata, learning objects, and learning
architecture are mandatory for similar success of the knowledge
economy. Fortunately, the work to create such standards for learning
objects and related standards has been going on around the world
for the past few years. This includes the creation of accredited
standards from the IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee
(LTSC) for Learning Object Metadata, Computer Managed Instruction,
Course Sequencing, Learner Profiles and much more.
As we experience
a boom in online education, learning technology standards are critical
to our industry’s success because they will help us answer the following
How will we mix and match content
from multiple sources?
How do we develop interchangeable
content that can be reused, assembled, and disassembled quickly
How do we ensure that
we are not trapped by a vendor’s proprietary learning technology?
How do we ensure that
our learning technology investments are wise and risk adverse?
A simple example
of valuable standards that I came to appreciate in life, and my
children still enjoy, comes in the LEGO™
product-line. All LEGO blocks adhere to one absolute standard for
pin size. Every LEGO piece, no matter what shape, color, size, age,
or purpose can always be snapped together with any others piece
because of their uniformly shaped pins. This allows children
of all ages to create, deconstruct, and reconstruct LEGO structures
easily and into most any form they can imagine.
If we map this
to the world of learning content, we start to see the opportunities
that would result if we were able to have the same standards and
capabilities to reuse and assemble or disassemble content drawn
from any source at any time.
Whether it is the
creation of content libraries, or learning management systems, accredited
standards will reduce the risk of making large investments in learning
technologies because systems will be able to work together like
never before. Accredited standards assure that the investment in
time and intellectual capital can move from one system to the next. When
companies find their content trapped inside a proprietary format
(such as a registration system, a courseware design, or a course
sequencing model), the story is the same in each case. It is virtually
impossible to reuse, transfer, or have interoperability between
these proprietary models. This won’t change until we build systems
on an open accredited standard.
Who is Building
Learning Technology Standards Committee (LTSC) P1484
groups around the world, doing work in creating specifications for
any of the areas related to learning, use IEEE LTSC P1484. These
groups cover far-reaching topics including learning object metadata,
student profiles, course sequencing, computer managed instruction,
competency definitions, localization, and content packaging.
Over many years, in its role as one of the world’s accredited standards
bodies, the IEEE LTSC has created critical open and accredited standards
using a very robust consensus-based model. The IEEE LTSC has also
recently initiated the move of this work to the full International
Standards Organization (ISO) standards by establishing ISO Joint
Technical Committee 1 (JTC1) Sub Committee 36 (SC36) on Learning
20 different working groups are each creating a separate but related
standard within IEEE LTSC. Full information on each of these can
be obtained at the IEEE LTSC website. The IEEE process
is open to all who wish to participate and can be accessed through
email discussion lists that exist for each standards working group
or though attendance at any of the meetings held three to four times
per year at different locations worldwide. Full details of meeting
location, agenda, and lodging, are available on the web site, as
are prior meetings minutes and current working documents for each
standards working group.
Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative
Courseware Object Reference Model (SCORM): The work done by
the US Federal Government ADL initiative and their recently released
Shareable Courseware Object Reference Model (SCORM) provides one
of the best and most recent examples of the application and integration
of these learning standards. These guidelines provide a foundation
for how the Department of Defense will use learning technologies
to build, and operate in, the learning environment of the future.
The US military (be it Navy, Air Force, Army, or Marines) can all
use, exchange, manage, track, and reuse all of their learning content
and data no matter its source or application. Moreover, the Federal
Government can choose multiple vendors, if they comply with the
IEEE LTSC standards and the SCORM specifications, for various projects
and know that all of the products and services will interoperate.
(Instructional Management System) Global Learning Consortium
Global Learning Consortium, headquartered in Burlington Massachusetts,
is developing and promoting open specifications for facilitating
online distributed learning activities such as locating and using
educational content, tracking learner progress, reporting learner
performance, and exchanging student records between administrative
systems. IMS has two key goals:
the technical standards for interoperability of applications and
services in distributed learning.
adoption of specifications
that will allow distributed learning environments and content from
multiple authors to work together.
IMS is a global consortium with
members from educational, commercial, and government organizations.
Funding comes from membership fees, with organizations choosing
to join as either Investment or Developers Network members. The
IMS specification documents are available online.
AICC: The Aviation
Industry CBT (Computer-Based Training) Committee
Industry CBT Committee (AICC) is an international association
of technology-based training professionals. The AICC develops guidelines
for the aviation industry in the development, delivery, and evaluation
of CBT and related training technologies. The objectives of the
AICC are to:
Assist airplane operators
in development of guidelines that promote the economic and effective
implementation of computer-based training (CBT).
Develop guidelines to
Provide an open forum
for the discussion of CBT and other training technologies.
Although AICC primarily attends
to the aviation industry, over 12 years focus on the specifications
required to meet this industry’s needs has led to a very well developed
specifications for learning and particularly for computer managed
instruction. As a result, a wide range of learning consortiums and
accredited standards groups are in the process of adopting and adapting
the AICC guidelines to their own industries.
The AICC wants
the aviation training community to get the best possible value for
its technology-based training dollar. The only way this is possible
is to promote interoperability standards that software vendors can
use across multiple industries. With such
standards, a vendor can sell their products to a broader market
for a lower unit cost. If you are concerned about reuse and interoperability
of online learning, the AICC is a good group to participate in or
follow. The AICC also actively coordinates its efforts with broader
learning technology standards organizations like IEEE
LTSC, ADL, and IMS (see AICC related activities).
Multimedia Access to Education and Training in EUropean Society
of applying and integrating the IEEE LTSC and learning standards
comes out of the European PROMETEUS projects. Looking
to apply not only the IEEE LTSC standards, the various Special Interest
Groups (SIGs) of PROMETEUS work to integrate these into Europe context
content, and multimedia-based tools are widely considered central
ingredients for evolving new ways to provide learning and training.
These factors are at the core of European Union research programs
and are being addressed by a number of EU projects for research,
technological development, and demonstration (RTD).
With a clear underlying
ideal to promote access to knowledge, education and training for
all European citizens¾regardless
of their age, work situation, geographical location or social status¾PROMETEUS
has brought together hundreds of public and private sector organizations.
PROMETEUS, as a permanently open forum, will seek to build, express,
and voice consensus views on relevant issues that may be presented
for its consideration. In particular, the following issues will
optimal strategies for
multicultural, multilingual learning solutions,
and training approaches and new learning environments,
solutions and platforms based on open
standards and best practices,
building actions will seek to bridge the gap between research and
actual use of learning technologies, content, and services. By founding
MoU (Multimedia Access to Education and Training in Europe) PROMETEUS
will provide guidelines, best practice handbooks, and recommendations
that will be submitted, as necessary, to Education and Training
Authorities and to EU and International Standards Bodies. Also,
expect close cooperation with the newly formed Learning Technologies
Standards Workshop of the Information Society Standardization System
of the European Committee for Standardization (CEN/ISSS).
The Dublin Core:
Metadata for Electronic Resources
The Dublin Core
is a metadata element set intended to facilitate discovery of electronic
resources. Originally conceived for author-generated description
of Web resources, it has attracted the attention of formal resource
description communities such as museums, libraries, government agencies,
and commercial organizations so they, too, can find the electronic
resources they need.
Dublin Core is
building of an interdisciplinary, international consensus around
a core element set. This progress represents the emergent wisdom
and collective experience of many stakeholders in the resource description
arena. An open mailing list supports ongoing work. The characteristics
of the Dublin Core that distinguish it from previous electronic
resources descriptors are:
A wide group can use the Dublin Core: non-catalogers as well as
resource description specialists. Most of the elements have commonly
understood semantics that are no more complex to understand than
a library catalog card.
Interoperability: The Dublin Core promotes a commonly understood
set of descriptors that increases the possibility of finding what
you are looking for across disciplines.
Consensus: The Dublin Core benefits from active participation
and promotion in over 20 countries in North America, Europe, Australia,
The Dublin Core provides an economical alternative to more elaborate
description models (such as the full MARC cataloging of the library
world). It is also flexible and extensible enough to encode structures
and elaborate semantics usually only found in richer description
Modularity on the Web: The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has
begun implementing an architecture for metadata on the Web. The
Dublin Core’s Resource Description Framework (RDF) is designed to
support the different metadata needs of vendors and information
providers. Representatives of the Dublin Core are actively involved
in developing this architecture.
Where are we now?
The standards are
coming and many are almost complete. Those participating in
the email groups and meetings feel the progress and see the opportunities.
However, many more people are not sure what to do with these standards
and these new technologies because they haven’t been following the
progress. That’s an understandable excuse for now, but won’t work
much longer. If you do not begin thinking and planning now, you
will be unprepared when these new tools arrive. Prepare yourself
strategically as these exciting new opportunities turn into business
reality and success.
How can I take
Check out the IEEE Learning
Technology Standards Committee (LTSC) web site at http://ltsc.ieee.org for the most up-to-date
documents and notes on the accredited standards. For those just
getting started or for those looking at specific new LTSC standards
groups, I recommend that you:
Go to the main page and
go to the specific IEEE LTSC standard of interest. For example see
P1484.12 Learning Object Metadata.
When you get to the home
page of the individual standard, click on the link to the “Scope
& Purpose” and to get a short overview of what is being done,
including the technical boundaries of the project and some examples
of the intended purpose of each. Based on this information, you
can determine your level of interest and decide if you want to dig
further and get more involved in this work.
If you do want to continue
with this standard activity, go back up near the top of the page
and review the links to the latest sets of draft documents and meeting
notes to get an update on the status of this standard working group
and see a full set of the latest documents.
Look at upcoming next
meeting dates and consider attending if possible. Meetings are open
to anyone interested. If you are not the right person to attend
the meeting, suggest that someone else from your organization go.
Subscribe to that group’s
email discussion list in order to stay up-to-date on the activities
of any IEEE LTSC working group. At the top of each standard working
group page are instructions for joining each discussion list, along
with a full set of logs from past discussions.
Check out the links listed
in the sidebar of this article.
As you create your learning
technology and content strategy, be sure to create a transition
strategy that addresses how and at what point you will move from
one technology platform to another, one vendor to another, and adopt
new technologies and standards as they emerge. How will you ensure
that you are able to take as much of your investment of time, money,
knowledge and content as possible when transitioning from one of
these to the next?
about learning related standards well enough so you can ask vendors
and partners about the following:
What level of involvement
do they have with the various standards activities? Are they on
these working groups? What have they contributed?
What are their plans
(if any) for use, adoption, compliance with the accredited standards
and the specifications as they emerge?
Ask them to describe
how they can assist with your transition strategy. This is not a
disingenuous discussion, but rather a pragmatic acknowledgement
of the inevitable moves you will need to make over the coming years.
Act NOW! There are two primary
reasons why you should take action now, before the final accredited
learning standards from IEEE LTSC and ISO are complete:
The specifications for
several of these standards are complete enough to allow you to begin
using them today. This is demonstrated by the growing use of these
specifications by many of the consortiums and alliances including
ADL, IMS, and PROMETEUS.
The real work and time
required now is for the preparation that every organization must
do to develop their specific strategy and implementation plan. Deciding
things such as which metadata elements to use, the content hierarchy
for learning objects, articulating the appropriate sequencing for
learning interactions and instructional design, require significant
effort and must be completed and incorporated within the plans of
any organization wishing to gain the benefits these standards enable.
Stay tuned to http://www.learnativity.com
for continued updates and coverage of the important developments
with standards for the new learning economy. There you will
find a history of the learning objects projects, presentations I’ve
given on the learning standards efforts, articles about the learning
objects and learning standards and a thorough glossary of the terms
and acronyms used to describe this process.
Let me reassure you that while much
of this may seem at times like techno-mumbo-jumbo and engineering
speak, like learning any new language or way of doing something,
it will seem hard at first but you will learn it quickly. Better
start now and lead the pack than miss this vibrant opportunity to
change and improve how all of us work and learn each day.
Hodgins is Strategic Futurist,
Director of Worldwide Learning Strategies at Autodesk, Inc.
He is also Chair of the IEEE LTSC taskforce and co-founder of the
Learnativity Alliance. You can reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
or on the web at http://www.learnativity.com/wayne/.
Conner is editor in chief of LiNE Zine and the other co-founder
of the Learnativity Alliance. She and Wayne have collaborated on
many publications over the years. Reach her at email@example.com
or on the web at http://www.learnativity.com/marcia/.
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