Forum OpenACS Development: Response to dotLRN and standards

Posted by Michael Feldstein on
Peter, forgive my limited understanding of the coding issues, but
are there more secure ways to approach this problem? I've run
into variations on this before (all the time, actually) but nobody
hasn't given me a satisfactory solution yet. At the end of the day,
people usually just shrug their shoulders and say "Well, as long
as it's not so easy to cheat that the average person has an
overwhelming temptation, it's good enough." Keep in mind that
most testing of this kind is not taking place in a monitored room,
so even people with no web skills at all can cheat by, say,
consulting their notes if they really want to do so. I'm not saying
that the problem isn't worth solving; I'm just saying that many
users of online testing care less than you might think about this

In answer to your question, the IMS and ADLNet (the latter
produces the SCORM standard, which is mostly derived from the
IMS standards) are generally highly regarded by folks in all
facets of the eLearning world. Their primary role is to set
standards that promote interoperability of eLearning elements
(lessons, test questions, exercises, etc.) on the most granular
level possible.

They are often neutral with respect to implementation, i.e., they
try to avoid getting into discussions about how these systems
should actually be programmed. The IMS mostly provides (XML)
metadata specifications for many of the various elements in
eLearning courses. SCORM currently goes further by specifying
APIs for communication between the client (course-in-browser)
and the server (Learning Management System, or LMS).

Both standards bodies try to strike a balance between providing
leadership and specifying only those elements that are both (a)
important for interoperability at a granular level and (b) relatively

Again, both standards bodies are highly regarded and closely
watched by vendors and clients alike in both the public and
private sectors. The catch is that I'm not sure what the quality of
technical oversight is. In general, my sense is that the folks on
the standards bodies are smart. However, I've also found that
the current tools on the market are very badly designed, the
vendors are usually much more interested in adding bullet
points to their brochures than in providing technical excellence,
and clients (who are generally not IT folks) often don't have the
technical expertise to know what's right.

So overall, I think dotLRN cannot afford to ignore IMS and
SCORM. Not being standards-compliant will have a strong
negative impact on adoption in the corporate world and in the
Federal government. It's probably a lot less important for higher
ed, but not necessarily completely unimporant.

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't examine the standards with
a critical eye. There are folks at MIT who are connected with both
standards bodies and who (I believe) are in communication with
the dotLRN folks, so there may be an opportunity to influence the
direction that the standards take in the future.