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Simple Sequencing is 'no longer simple'

At the IMS Open Technical Forum in San Francisco last week, Brandt Darque of Boeing reported on the progress of the Simple Sequencing working group.

Simple Sequencing is a new working group announced in Ottawa this August with the remit of creating a specification for the ordering of content of use to both IMS and SCORM.

The principle behind the Sequencing effort is that embedding sequence and navigation information inside content objects has limits not least of which the fact it makes reuse of objects within a larger context difficult. By separating rules for the order of material from the materials themselves, it makes possible more flexible reuse.

The intended output of the working group is to provide a set of extensions to the IMS Content Packaging specification to allow ordering and navigation. However, issues strictly of presentation have been declared out-of-scope for the group, such as the rendering of navigation controls.

Despite its name, the sequencing rules being considered are somewhat complex, allowing for the parallel presentation of material (such as reference and helper screens displayed while the learner works on a task) and conditional branching using competency and status information, as well as external factors such as time.

Areas currently under consideration are online and offline behaviours, assessment (pre-test, post-test, quiz and final), remediation, ancillary materials (such as glossaries), expert consultation, review, feedback, and progress indication. Remediation is a particularly complex issue, and one that ADL in particular wanted IMS to solve for SCORM.

Interestingly, the sequencing effort is also considering issues of user tracking, so that it will be possible for a Learning Management System to know where a learner has got to within a content package, and keeps track of scores and other status values at runtime.

This is a major leap for content packaging, and it will be interesting to see specification develops, and especially the relationship with Learning Design and QTI that have a similar remit.

So far the group has developed a high-level taxonomy of sequencing, collected and analysed use-cases, and built a 'strawman' information model, currently at version 0.2.1, A Best Practice guide is currently being written.

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