Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
August 2, 2002

SCORM: Clarity or Calamity? This article pulls no punches as it lines up some of SCORM's loudest critics and lets the cannons roar. But what is really surprising is that it took so long for this article to see the light of day: I heard Merrill saying much the same thing at NLII last January and Lahanas has been volumous in his Yahoo group. According to Lahanas, witnessing SCORM's evolution has been akin to "watching an impending train wreck." And I so totally agree with this: "The problem, says Lahanas, is that this standard that was intended to simplify became so complex that no one wanted to use it. 'It has been a colossal failure, with hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in projects that never came back,' he says." I also agree with Merrill's observation on sequencing in that "I don't think that these things are going to happen in code. These are things that are going to happen in the way that we organize content." By Edward Welsch, Online Learning Magazine, August 2, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Experts Question SCORM's Pedagogic Value Scott Wilson's summary of the 'Clarity or Calamity' article. He points out that standards bodies have been working on pedagogical issues for some time. In addition to EML, the PALO language developed in Spain and TeachML (Targeteam) from Germany's University of the Armed Forces both use ontologies to build semantic networks of learning objects. Wilson writes, tellingly, "Of course, moving into the pedagogic realm brings with it a whole new set of complex issues, with conflicts between empirical, constructivist, social, behavioural and other approaches. Is this something an e-Learning specification can reasonably tackle?" Good question. By Scott Wilson, CETIS, August 2, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Targeteam: TArgeted Reuse and GEneration of TEAching Materials From the website: "Targeteam is a system for supporting the preparation, use, and reuse of teaching materials. It is centered around the XML based language TeachML which can be classified as an educational modelling language.... The central issue of Targeteam is the model of the process, which describes all work with the teaching materials. The process includes creation, composition and reuse and maintenance of teaching materials, as well as their use by teachers and lerners in the learning process." By Gunnar Teege, Technischen Universität München, December 31, 200-31 8:33 p.m. [Refer][Research][Reflect]

PALO Language Home Page PALO is a proposal of Educative Modelling Language to describe and design learning content and learning environments at a high level of abstraction. The language allows designers to define teaching strategies using the definition of specific DTD's called instructional templates. By Miguel R. Artacho, SENSI (Spain), December 31, 200-31 8:33 p.m. [Refer][Research][Reflect]

IMS Outline Future Plans at London Meeting Good update on IMS activities provided to a workshop hosted by JISC in Britain. Some important items to note (with much quoting from Scott Wilson's article):

  • Though IMS has not released any specifications on transport protocols yet, vendors and projects implementing IMS should make use of the SOAP with Attachments (SOAPwA) message protocol
  • IMS will work on a new specification that will provide a standard XML model for creating content, including "separated material, presentation, processing, labelling, aggregation, sequencing and navigation - not EML, but like EML (one wonders why)
  • IMS will release a new Reusable Competency Definition (RCD) specification before the IMS meetings in Sheffield this September
  • Currently IEEE-LOM has no accessibility capability, and in the light of current legislation like Section 508 (US) and SENDA (UK), "it may be illegal to use it". Heh
  • IMS Enterprise will eventually lose the Person object specification, to be replaced by the Learner Information Package (LIP) equivalent.
By Scott Wilson, CETIS, July 31, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Open Learning Objects: The Case for Inner Metadata This is one of those papers that leaves you scratching your head. There's something there worth considering but the paper is long on describing the technology and short on explaining what the technology does. But I think I get it. The idea here is to propose what is called "inner metadata" to define what may be called "open learning objects". The purpose of inner metadata is to describe the learning object's adaptive properties, such as language or learning style. These adaptive features interact with a (constantly evolving) description of the learner to produce the final product. I am sympathetic with the objective of this paper but think that the idea of adaptive learning objects may leave developers tearing out their hair. Do we need this? Can we make it simpler? By Othoniel Rodriguez, Dr. SuShing Chen, Dr. Hongchi Shi, Dr. Yi Shang, WWW2002, May, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Free Full Text: FindArticles and MagPortal Reviw of two online article search and retrieval services, FindArticles and MagPortal. Though the reviews are generally positive, the author cautions that "these two free full-text resources are not going to be the starting point of choice" because of their limited holdings - 500 and 150 periodicals respectively. But they are a good example of what could be developed one day. By Greg R. Notess, Online, July 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

In Search of . . . Brain-Based Education This item is three years old but it provides a good statement of the sort of objection I need to meet if I am to say that what the author calls "brain based" research is to have any bearing on education. And I do want to say something like that. Not the left-brain right-brain nonsense or brain like a sponge theory discussed in this paper. No, but I want to say that the properties of neural networks can and should inform learning theory, yielding what I would call an associationist theory of learning. Nothing like that is discussed in this paper - too bad - but the first third of the paper makes it clear that I will have to go well beyond hand-waving and speculating to make nything like an associationist theory stick. Fair enough. By John T. Bruer, Kappan Professional Journal, April 15, 1999 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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