Content Packaging interoperability tests reveal room for improvement
Scott Wilson, CETIS staff
April 17, 2002

image:Content Packaging interoperability tests reveal room for improvement

The CETIS Educational Content Special Interest Group (EC-SIG) recently carried out a set of interoperability experiments to see how well different tools handled IMS Content Packages.

Eddie Boyle of the EC-SIG tested a small number of tools and applications, including Blackboard, Microsoft LRN 3.0, Dreamweaver, SeSDL, EC-Pac and PackageIt!

Boyle tried to export content from each tool and import it into the others - resulting in a report that demonstrates how well - or otherwise - the tools performed at interoperating with one another.

Although only two tools completed most tests successfully - Microsoft LRN and the EC-Pac package editor from the University of Edinburgh - many of the problems Boyle encountered were due to mistakes in handling metadata rather than with the IMS Content Packaging specification.

Some tools did not import metadata successfully, mostly because they used a different version of the metadata specification from the application that exported the package. Many of the problems were fixable with some manual tweaking of the exported files; however, to avoid similar problems in the future developers may need to ensure they support several versions of the IMS metadata specification.

EC-Pac succeeded where other tools did not simply by supporting several versions of the specification: until standards are more mature and stable, many vendors may want to follow this example.

Although not claiming to be a comprehensive review, the report is a valuable 'snapshot' of content interoperability as it stands today. The report provides a framework for evaluating interoperability that can be reused with other applications and tools, and the results of this sample have already shown up some of the ways that developers can improve interoperability.

The set of test packages used in the report can also be reused, either by developers wanting to see how their application fares, or by institutions wanting to test the claims of VLE vendors. We'd also like to invite anyone using the packages to feed their comments and suggestions back to CETIS.

The complete report (in Mirosoft Word format) is now available on the CETIS website.