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Dutch event shows way forward for authoring EML

A few weeks ago a conference was held in the Netherlands attended by various educational and commercial organisations interested in the Educational Modelling Language, developed by the Open University of the Netherlands.

The conference - which was attended by CETIS, amongst other delegates from the UK, Holland, Germany, Austria, the USA, Canada and South Africa - proved to be an enormously successful event, focusing on the requirements for EML content management, authoring workflows, and creating solutions for authoring learning experiences with EML.

This turned up some interesting results, including a preliminary architecture to support plug-in authoring environments, business models to support authoring and managing EML content, and some ideas on how user interfaces may communicate with instructional designers.

This last point turned out to be crucial - designing an authoring environment for a piece of content is a well known area - but choreographing a learning experience, complete with learner's roles, properties, and activities? This is a new area for authoring in eLearning, and it was interesting to see some of the approaches suggested, which ranged from the technical (taking its lead from software development processes and CASE tools), to the artistic (inspired by music creation software).

We'll be writing a more complete article about EML (and the still under-wraps IMS Learning Design specification based upon it) some time in the near future. But basically, EML is a language for modelling learning experiences; an EML file defines a 'unit of study' (a larger object than a learning object, such as a module or course), including the roles of the people involved (such as learners, tutors, and lab assistants) the activities they undertake, and how the environment (content, services, applications) play their part.

The Valkenborg meeting proved that a 3-day conference can make considerable practical progress, even in an area as difficult as learning standards (Stephen Downes remarked in his column, "at the next conference they will cure cancer, establish world peace and create life").

We'll be watching future progress and keeping you informed.

For more information, see the report on the EML website.

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