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Archive for December, 2010

SCORM X.O

Ben Clark from Project TinCan reached out and responded to my last post on SCORM. They have an amazing platform – not only have they been chartered with researching what the next generation of eLearning runtime communication should look like, but they have also employed a cool tool called UserVoice to crowd source ideas and opinions. TinCan is managed by Rustici Software under a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) from ADL.

ADL’s Future Learning Experience Project, launching soon, is focused on exploring an Experience API (with TinCan and Letsi) and a harmonized CMI data model (with AICC). Letsi seems to be  a really interesting initiative too – they started looking at SCORM 2.0 in 2008 and have a Wiki documenting the open effort of a large number of experts worldwide. 

This is exciting work which has a direct linkage (or should have) with Personal Learning Environments that we have been discussing in PLENK. The reason why PLENK-ers should look at it is that it is trying to establish some general frameworks for formal AND informal, linear and non-linear, distributed, web X.0, personal and community, and mobile learning. Our current work in this area can easily influence evolution into the future landscape. I personally need to really deep-dive into the amazing mass of materials and ideas, to get a proper appreciation of the good work these folks are doing. Kudos!

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SCORM works on 2 main principles – as a way to package and sequence learning material, and as a way for learning management systems to track learning activity through a run time interface. It is based on traditional teaching-learning processes and provides additional promises of inter-operability and reuse through standardization of the way courses are organized and presented to the learner.

It has evolved slowly to include new features and rule sets, like sequencing, navigation and QTI (Question Test Interoperability). In fact, the SCORM 2004 4th Edition book defines an organization as:

A content organization can be seen as a structured map of learning resources, or a structured activity map to guide the learner through a hierarchy of learning activities that use the learning resources. One content developer may choose to structure the content organization as a table of contents for the learning resources, while another content developer may choose to structure the content organization as an adaptive guided path through a learning experience, invoking learning resources only if and when they are needed. A third content developer may create a content organization where some discovery activities include a free form use of some of the learning resources, while other activities are more formally managed.

The intent is to provide a way to flexibly organize content in the form of more than one sets (multiple organizations) of  tightly or loosely coupled learning activities rather than just a hierarchical or linear progression. This, coupled with sequencing and navigation information/rules, the LMS can interpret to provide some adaptive intelligence in the learning process.

While these are evolutionary improvements in the standard, there are at least four other dimensions or major impacts that both the Content Aggregation Model (with Sequencing and Navigation) and the Runtime component have not yet addressed.

  1. The scope for a Services extension to SCORM – In the current context, content or activities embedded in the learning workflow will have to integrate with resources outside the resource list and metadata identified by the CAM. With AJAX enablement, it is no longer necessary to navigate away from a web page to access a new piece of functionality. But these integrations violate the fundamental principles behind the notion of a self-contained object, which is why they have not been considered so deeply. This is a formidable impact to include. A related impact is on the Service under consideration. If you build a Services Extension to SCORM, you will most likely also mandate that the Service provides a SCORM compliant interface. This is critical. Imagine a WordPress implementation that reports how the learner reflected and interacted with a community to the LMS.
  2. The scope for Complex Data Interchange in SCORM – Games and Simulations as well as other activities that have complex data to seed a learning context or generate complex data both during the activity and for some kind of business intelligence post the activity. Already efforts have been made with HLA (especially refer the discussion on three prototype classes) and S1000D integrations with SCORM. Some of the efforts also integrate a further complicated scenario – multi-player SCORM based learning activities with shared state and communication via the LMS.
  3. The scope for Social Learning Networks in SCORM – the informality of the social learning network also brings a deep impact to SCORM. Whereas the ingredients to metadata or SCO Context may exist in the SCORM specification, the social influence is not accounted for despite the new understanding forged by the theory of Connectivism, the adoption of the informal by LMS vendors and by the fast paced technological developments we have and are witnessing. What this means essentially is the modeling of two major things – the student and the network or the learner and the community. Many will see the PLE in stark contradistinction – I think PLEs will arrive at the same conclusion from a different direction soon enough.
  4. The scope for a Mobility extension to SCORM – Content and interactions possible to leverage now and in the forseeable future based on the mobile platform (not just the presentation aspect) using services such as Location Awareness and Semantic web applications are now very integral to the learning experience and cannot be ignored. This goes past, obviously, thinking of packaging or presentation for a smaller screen real estate and limited processing powers – the focus is on what the mobility enables.

Without an adequate assessment and incorporation of these dimensions into SCORM, the standard is incomplete and anachronistic. There are pressing reasons why these should be incorporated for the Standard to become current and relevant – and soon.

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On Innovation

For my 200th post, I thought it would be a good idea to write about a possible model to comprehend the spate of technological changes happening around us.

There is a wealth of material available on defining what innovation really is. And, of course, multiple views and types of innovation have been identified and argued about. There is an interesting discussion here summarized here. There are many ways that organized innovation spaces or structures can be created as well within an organization. Steven Johnson talks about these spaces in his new book Where good ideas come from. There is a bit about different models like open innovation & FORTH and sites like platforms like One Billion Minds and Atizo. Various theories such as Actor-Network Theory and techniques such as Crowdsourcing innovation have also been conceived. The purpose of innovation is also discussed with respect to the context as is the evolution of an innovation over time-space. There are also many identified sources or ingredients of innovation.

We are concerned with not just how innovations can be engineered or can emerge, but also spaces, processes, models and uses in different contexts for innovation. We are also concerned with defining what an innovation is or looks like – there is an OECD classification as well. The word itself means “to renew or change”.

I see innovation as the relationships in a mashup or cross-linkage of entities. Visually:

The entities may be software, people, devices, experiences, qualities or anything else. The relationships may be equally representable.

I think this kind of map can prove to be a good catalyst for innovation thought. Maybe a system could be developed where it picks randomly from these ever-expanding baskets of entities and relationships and presents you on thought-provoking combination to base your ideas on each day. Perhaps market and other data could be linked to such an exercise, making it easier to weight different entities and relationships to derive more effective innovations….And so on.

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