Forum .LRN Q&A: .LRN Standards (SCORM, IMS, OKI...) -- Looking for Volunteers
We want to have a preliminary draft by mid-August for the community to review. The draft should summarize the most important standards and the core elements that should be incorporated in .LRN. / OpenACS.
The main thing these brief texts want to teach us is the basic categorization of the organizations working in this the educational technology interoperability field into specification bodies (IMS), standards bodies (IEEE), and application profiling bodies (ADL-SCORM). You'll also find a presentation of what organizations are involved in what specific areas.
Besides Ernie's work on IMS Content packaging, Learning Repositories etc (that we hope to continue contributing to), we plan to work on two new projects: IMS Learner Information Profile and IMS Learning Design.
We are also looking at exporting web services from .LRN in a way that (hopefully) will relate to the OKI project
Galileo has provided the IMS Enterprise v.1.1 specification that allows you integrate automatically your legacy systems (i.e. student - courses database) with .LRN.
FYI, Galileo has launched a pilot .LRN (2.1) instance a couple of weeks ago [ges2.galileo.edu]. Running like 12 courses with more than a 100 real users, so far has been a good experience with good feedback from the users. Our plan is to fully migrate our system to .LRN (2.1) in 2 weeks from now.
My ears were burning.
Briefly, beyond SCORM support, it looks like OKI and uPortal (now Sakai) support would be very important. (In fact, depending on the audience/market, they may actually be more important to some than SCORM is.)
I'm around and somewhat less frantic than usual; I'll try to keep up and pitch in where I can.
Nick has contacted the Sakai people to see if they let him participate in the forums.... so far only members (at $10k is quite steep) can participate
There are three layers in Sakai:
- JSR 168 (uPortal is one implementation of that spec)
- The OKI APIs
- The Sakai APIs
I'd say these are listed roughly in order of importance. JSR 168 is the most lightweight and the most ubiquitous. As a side point, I think it may be just as important for dotLRN to be able to take JSR 168-compliant inputs as it is to be able to output to it. Enabling dotLRN users to create portlets for externally developed JSR 168-compliant tools would be a win.
OKI would be next in line. OKI has gotten an enormous amount of hype but it remains to be seen whether the APIs are going to be too cumbersome for widespread adoption. I think it will be very important to have work done on OKI for marketing reasons but, realistically, I'm not that sure there will be a whole lot of practical applications for the next couple of years. You might want to pick a few OSIDs that look the most useful to implement first and then have a longer-term plan for full compliance.
The Sakai API's themselves are probably least important in the long-run, since they are specific to Sakai. Before you put too much energy into these (or cough up the $10K to read the forums), I'd have somebody play around with the public release first.
Are there reasonable use cases for making dotLRN interoperate with Sakai? None leap to mind for me, but that doesn't mean that there aren't any. I haven't spent too much time looking into Sakai yet, so I don't know for sure. Even if there isn't a good use case for Sakai in the real world, it could still be very useful as a testing tool for the dotLRN developer community, since it is both JSR 168- and OKI-compliant. Again, though, I don't think you'll need to get too highly involved with the Sakai community to do that.
In general, I've grown far more skeptical of online learning standards over the past few years. They're too heavy and programmer-oriented for educators to use directly, to rigid to handle a huge range of real-world uses, and too vague to have completely standardized implementations. Even SCORM, which is by far the most successful initiative from the IMS/IEEE/ADL groups, has some serious problems. I'm starting to think that this isn't the right way to g(r)o(w).
Actually, one of the most important standards for online learning (believe it or not) may turn out to be RSS. In addition to the blogging craze, learning object repositories like MERLOT and MLX are using RSS feeds to syndicate their content. You could do a lot to move dotLRN forward as a platform simply by making it dirt-simple for users to create RSS- and OPML-based portlets and by making RSS feeds out of modules ubiquitous.
Which brings me back to a discussion I had two days ago about interchangeability of OpenSource LMS systems. In Germany we have the situation where one university has (usually) more than 5 different LMS installed, sometimes even two in the same faculty. As authors want to use the LMS that suits best their needs, the desire to exchange learning content has crept up. This is necessary if you have cooperative courses with other universities (that might use different LMS systems) or if you want to exchange your LMS at your faculty. Not to forget that authoring software and the corresponding "player" have to be able to be integrated into the LMS as well.
Though the idea of IMS standards is to provide this, we should first create a use case (hopefully demand driven) and implement the specification of the standard based on this use case. Here is my current view on .LRN in that regard:
- The work done by Ernie (LORS/M) allows us to import courses from Blackboard. Which is a really valuable argument if you want to convince universities to switch from Blackboard.
- The IMS QTI effort driven by UC3M will allow tests to be generated by external systems and imported into .LRN. Which luckily includes WebCT.
- Maybe Rocael could explain what systems he knows could be integrated to .LRN and what the exact use case would be (I quickly read up on IMS at the JISC (http://www.jiscinfonet.ac.uk/Resources/external-resources/enterprisebrief.pdf/view) but I assume there is more to it than exchanging registration information between the student enrollment office and .LRN).
- At least one strong supporter that is internationally reknown (not institution, individual, who could go to these foundations in person)
- Good contacts into the foundation sector and experience in grant application.
- No clear focus on the US (I might be wrong, but most US foundations are focused on funding in the US).
- Clear goals on what to do with the money (no ideas what to apply the grant for).
- Coherent marketing. Public relations that have an impact.
- Speakers that attend conferences and brag about .LRN all the time.
- Recognition in public (e.g. Sakai = 650.000 googles, .lrn&openacs = 27.000).
I'm pretty sure you will find all this with Sakai, which explains the amount of funding. .LRN should therefore hope to be able to piggyback on other initiatives that will make use of the vast possibilities and easy of modification of .LRN as an enabler (see E-Lane project).
I guess maybe we could just change the question to... do we really need SCORM RTE in .LRN?
In the past year or so I haven't really come across more than a handful university courses that make use of SCORM RTE. As a matter of fact -and again, this is based on my experience- very few academics have good things to say about SCORM.
I can see the benefit of having SCORM RTE content for self-paced courseware, but I'm not so sure if that's what lecturers feel it is the right way to delivery their course materials.
A few days back, talking with Rocael, he mentioned that to them (e-lane people) it is more important to have a user monitoring feature to track the students's time and number of views on the content.
However, Giancarlo has emailed me about adding SCORM RTE to LORS.
I was wondering then, if there are many people out there that do have a need for a proper SCORM RTE in .LRN?
PS: This weekend I promise the announcement and release of LORS 0.4d on CVS and full documentation (thesis included 😉
I'm really looking forward to LORS 0.4d. Great work you did and congrats to your thesis !
As for content access: This (at least in Germany) is something in heavy demand. For one, multiple faculties (or schools in the US) usually have different LMS systems, tailored to their specific needs. Furthermore, there is cooperation happening between universities, where only part of the content should be delivered to outsiders using e.g. SCORM in comparison to the whole content for internals.
SCORM's biggest advantage to dotLRN would be as a cross-over into the world of non-profits and small to mid-sized companies. There really aren't many good choices for smaller organizations that want to do a mix of self-paced and instructor-facilitated learning, and dotLRN could potentially fill that niche rather nicely (although you start running into stiffer resistance to the technology platform than you probably get in higher ed).
But I'd have to agree that, at this point, dotLRN's core market of higher ed has made it fairly clear that SCORM isn't something that they care a whole lot about. It didn't have to go this way, but that's the way the cookie crumbled.
Well, in the case of what has already been implemented (IMS Enterprise), it allow to integrate to any system that could create this XML document to create users, classes (or whatever you want them to name) and the relations among them, with different types of users.
So the legacy system might the univerities administrative system or a HR system at a corporation or whatever. I think IMS has done a good job on doing standards for packaging and intercommunication, which most of the times has nothing to do with learning process ....
I am hoping the guidelines i produce will be reliable and helpful to the dotLRN community.
- Tristan Kalnins-Cole.