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SCORM, LMS’s and the E-Learning standards mess

Posted by bcmoney on September 5, 2009 in AJAX, E-Learning, Flash, HTML with No Comments

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The field of E-Learning is desperately in need of a new standard; one which unifies rather than further divides the existing options for course and class content Packaging, Run-Time, Metadata and Sequencing.

I don’t mean to disregard or unfairly diminish the value of the work that has gone into the current ot past editions of the SCORM standard, however the fact remains that after almost 5 years it has still not yet replaced SCORM 1.2 as the de facto E-Learning format. Many say that is alot of vendor preference after already being tied to a SCORM 1.2 format for so long, while others say it is a political stance on the part of most SCORM developers, while others and that people are busy so it takes time to upgrade a standard, and this all makes sense. But look how the developer and open source communities are embracing the new HTML5 spec as an example in positive developments and updates to an old spec (old in terms of web years) being actively embraced rather than delayed and procrastinated. Although the (almost sarcastic sounding) announced 2022 release date of the W3C HTML5 Recommendation spec speaks hands to the problems of releasing a successive version of a software standard that is more rather than less complex, and thus, more difficult to implement and switch to across the industry.

Learning Management Systems (LMS) are perhaps equally as confusing for users and developers alike. They vary widely in functionality and implementations.

I’m no expert in the field of E-Learning, this much is certain, but I can’t help but see some patterns there’s also the following links on various technical aspects:

Most useful for my SCORM LMS research in general though, was the late, great Claude Ostyn’s SCORM/E-Learning resources. He had created the simplest run-time ever, with a purely xHTML/Javascript browser-based system that can tell you if your “.sco” file is valid or not.

One of the reasons my organization decided against full SCORM implementation was the incompatibility of versions of the standard, though the benefit of it being ISO-approved almost convinced them. Personally, I’d love to see SCORM-Next fast-tracked (in terms of getting resources and people together on a standard, while taking the time required to get the spec right and maintain a minmum level of backwards-compatibility).

As it stands today SCORM is a bold attempt at a big problem in E-Learning but probably suffers from the “too many cooks spoils the soup” phenomenon. It is clear that many bright people have contributed, but the end result shows how brilliant minds often have disparate forms of conceptualizing and describing their vision. So going back to the drawing boards, we need to answer the following questions:

  1. How can we present the same courses and learning sequences to multiple users in many locations, over many different LMS platforms?
  2. Can different LMS’s users ever really all experience the same activities and educational content?

If that is still the goal, a consistent, cross-browser experience, then let’s look to the successes and blunders of similar initiatives, like HTML5, and see how openness coupled with the right industry support can make or break any technology specification process. I’ve ofter heard the analogy of a DVD working in any DVD player, which is only possible thanks to movie studios and DVD player manufacturers working from the same standard.

UPDATE (2010-08-18): I shared more thoughts on this at the following Evolution of SCORM post.



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BC$ = Behavior, Content, Money

The goal of the BC$ project is to raise awareness and make changes with respect to the three pillars of information freedom - Behavior (pursuit of interests and passions), Content (sharing/exchanging ideas in various formats), Money (fairness and accessibility) - bringing to light the fact that:

1. We regularly hand over our browser histories, search histories and daily online activities to companies that want our money, or, to benefit from our use of their services with lucrative ad deals or sales of personal information.

2. We create and/or consume interesting content on their services, but we aren't adequately rewarded for our creative efforts or loyalty.

3. We pay money to be connected online (and possibly also over mobile), yet we lose both time and money by allowing companies to market to us with unsolicited advertisements, irrelevant product offers and unfairly structured service pricing plans.

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