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CETIS special interest groups meet in Bangor

On the 23rd and 24th of July, representatives of the CETIS Special Interest Groups (SIGs) met at the University of Wales, Bangor. The meeting allowed SIGs to report on what has been happening in their areas of interest, and to discuss ideas with other CETIS members.

CETIS delegates the analysis of particular areas of interest to special interest groups in universities, colleges and organisations around the UK. This gives CETIS a greater breadth of opinion and expertise than would be possible in a single-site venture, and allows subjects such as metadata, content packaging, and learner profiles to be covered in greater depth.

The proliferation of organisations and projects concerned with interoperability in learning technology - such as IMS, CEN/ISSS, Prometeus, IEEE and ADL SCORM - has meant that the effort necessary to monitor the activity in the sector has increased considerably, and the distributed model adopted by CETIS is an efficient response to this challenge.

Further education colleges and interoperability standards

One of the themes that emerged was the need for greater understanding of the different issues faced by FE colleges when it comes to interoperability. Unlike higher education institutions, which often have substantial information services resources to build and customise IT solutions, colleges are generally more reliant on vendors to provide off-the-shelf applications. As applications adopting standards for interoperability are still on the drawing board, it is difficult for colleges to become engaged in issues of interoperability standards, even though the eventual impact of these standards may be even greater for colleges due to their dependence on vendors to meet all their software requirements.

The requirement for interoperability between HE & FE institutions is also of concern, as the standards that are developed for learner profiles must allow for students not only moving between universities, but also between FE colleges and universities.

Needs of CBT providers and HE/FE don't always coincide when it comes to standards

Another issue that emerged was potential imbalance in emerging standards due to requirements being driven by the needs of Computer Based Training (CBT) providers rather than educators. While both sectors have a valid interest in the development of standards - it is estimated that 70% of the e-Learning market is for training - there are substantial differences in approach between education and commercial training. This is particularly true for interactivity between learners and educators, which is seen as a vital aspect of the education process but which is largely ignored from a traditional CBT approach that favours an information-delivery model.

Interoperability and teaching

Interoperability standards are a very technical subject, and one that - understandably - most educators find it difficult to get interested in. However, it is clear from the SIG meeting that the educational impact of these standards means that input from a pedagogic perspective is vital if the learning systems of tomorrow are to deliver real value in education.

The relationship between technology and teaching methods is implicit in the development of interoperability standards, as the education systems that develop out of those standards will impact the way learning is conducted and the relationships between educators and learners. This is an issue that CETIS members will continue to address on behalf of the UK FE & HE community.

These are just a few of the issues that CETIS SIGs are tackling. CETIS has formed special interest groups in areas of Metadata, Content, Assessment/QTI, and Profiles/Enterprise. Other SIGs are also proposed for other areas of interest. If you would like to know more, go to the Groups section of the CETIS website here

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