Posts Tagged ‘PLE’

Do you go to the football field to learn music? Or to the art gallery to learn fencing? Or to a library to learn oratory? You don’t. However, irrespective of whether you are studying history, economics, physics, languages or architecture, you go to that one singular invention – the classroom.

In the age of networks, this notion of a classroom perhaps needs a serious rethink.

What should a modern day learning environment look like? Should it extend the notion of the classroom (and the class) in the belief that this notion is capable of handling the new digital and social learning environment? Or should it be disrupted by something entirely new?

Extensions of the notion of classroom have been notable. The Flipped Classroom has caught the imagination of the world as a way to use digital technology to invert/optimize the use of learning events/activities inside and outside class. There have been many developments in the physical design of learning spaces that promise enhancements in in-class collaboration and learning by doing. Peer instruction has been found to be another way of extending the notion.

Christensen thinks disruption is the best way to go. Many other folks believe that online education using MOOCs and technology such as adaptive learning is that panacea – a panacea that can personalize learning and address individualized issues of knowledge and motivation.

I believe that class needs to be disrupted. And I believe networks are the key to disrupting the classroom. What if you could learn from someone who could teach the way you learn? What if you learned with people and things that directly reinforced what you were learning? What if you did not just learn to do, but also learned to be – to be a practitioner in networks of practice?

One of the interesting observations seems to be that in  the traditional educational system there is invariance to scale or scale-free behaviour. Scale free behaviour is exhibited by some very interesting networks like the Internet in which a few of the participants make the majority of interactions, and a long tail of participants exist with little or no engagement or levels of activity. Perhaps a disruption will truly arrive if we invert these scale free networks or even if we flatten out the interactions (raise the long tail). Perhaps we need to recast the classroom as the network itself?

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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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Check out Google Wave. The concept is striking and ambitious. Also very relevant to what we have been talking about in terms of PLEs.

At the core, there are a few important architectural dimensions.

Firstly, content structure. A few years back I had designed an architecture for a content management system that structured out content in a tree format. Essentially blocks of content could be hierarchically structured. For example, A pre-requisite would have two child-nodes – the statement and the explanation. Or, a topic could have a note and many individual pages. Google Wave does something similar with content. It allows you to take rich media content (images plus text plus…) and mark out / embed rich media content within that content.

Imagine a conversation that happens over time. Somebody starts it. Other people respond to statements made by the initiator and the conversation starts. Wave makes it extremely easy to do that within a browser environment (reference website has been built using Google Web Toolkit, GWT). Wave also provides a mechanism to add additional attributes such as those for privacy, tags (metadata) and workflow making it extremely malleable as a data structure. Obviously, the data structure allows nesting of these complex conversations as well (wave within a wave). It also allows tempral or user based playback for a conversation for people to see how the conversation evolved if they come in late, which is extremely useful.

Secondly, collaboration is heavily focused upon. Google intends to make this open-source so that developers can build extensions to those hundreds of social collaboration tools that exist today (e.g. Orkut, Twitter and Facebook). They have showcased how a wave (a collaborative conversation) can be embedded in a blog site in an interoperable manner. Editing is a great strong feature with extremely fast instant messaging where other users can see your keystrokes as you write or as you embed content.

Thirdly, live collaboration is made possible, not only within a single wave deployment but across multiple Wave server deployments through an open protocol.

Fourthly,  live time collaboration and Wave extensions (through the Wave API) make it possible to design collaborative work or play. For example, playing chess together, editing a document collaboratively in real time (this was so cool!), running a poll with instantaneous results etc. This has real important connotations for virtual classroom environments (imagine an Adobe Connect Professional environment merged with Google Wave merged with a SABA Centra!).

For the personal learning environment (PLE), this offering from Google could eliminate countless hours of effort as well provide a rich mechanism for understanding context.

Kudos to the creators of Google Maps for whom Google Wave has been a two year effort! Here is to your enduring innovation and continued success!

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Rich Internet Applications technology is gaining ground in learning development as a means of providing feature rich functionality, extensibility and highly interactive user interfaces at the level of a web browser. The Servitium team recently developed the prototype of a concept that merged the developments in RIA (with Flex), social constructivism and Web 2.0.

Apart from featuring a mini-PLE, community building tools, highly interactive user experiences and extensibility through web services, the concept talked about being able to extend and shape the entire learning experience in a personalized manner with learners taking control of what they wanted and when they wanted it.

One of the highlights was the thought of using business intelligence tools for continuously evolving and adapting the user experience. With detailed tracking features for every user interaction, it is empirically possible to understand how learners use electronic resources to advance knowledge and collaboration. This is also extremely useful in building systems for adaptive personalization – personalization that provides probabilistic recommendations to shape the learning experience.

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Content Equivalence

Can we really achieve easy morphing from one content type to another? Imagine a well structured lab printed manual being converted to an audio file into an actual video showing steps of a process? All automagically, of course. 

Well, not so magical after all! Just when I was looking at Content Equivalence, comes New Scientist with an exciting report on a new innovation called CarSim. This allows written text to be converted into 3D images! I got yet another reference to the work being done in this area – with WordsEye. Wordseye is at http://www.semanticlight.com/ .

And while you are at it, do go look at this really imaginative site – Ecomagination.

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As more customers have started looking at Web 2.0 and learning 2.0 as a way to encourage greater learner engagement and learning effectiveness, I believe the way web based training (WBT) courses are created right now should change.


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A problem of plenty

An interesting discussion I had with my team yesterday triggered a lot of thoughts. We were talking about how Internet2 (the next generation 100 Gbps Internet created by Internet2, an advanced US based networking consortium led by the research and education community since 1996) had broken the light barrier for access to content. Add to that the tremendous availability of processing and storage (look at Amazon S3 for an example of how easy it has really become).


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I came across some very interesting articles around collaboration and cooperation in learning. Formally defined, cooperative learning is defined by a set of processes which help people interact together in order to accomplish a specific goal or develop an end product which is usually content specific while (Panitz, 1996). Collaborative learning is defined as a personal philosophy where learners take shared responsibility for their learning goals. In the former, the instructor is at the centre of the learning process, driving the outcomes by a series of structured steps, while in the latter, the learner is at the centre and the instructor guides and facilitates.


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So everything that we formalize needs a frame of reference. The design of these frameworks and models typically defines the boundaries of what can be achieved. Take for example, ADL’s SCORM. Written by experts across industry and standards organizations, SCORM defines a methodology to design and serve learning content.


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