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Major SCORM stakeholders unify message

In a bid to clarify one part of the elearning content field, the IEEE LTSC that is now meeting in Paris will take the initiative to set up both an overarching SCORM / CMI advisory group and a one-stop website for everything you always wanted to know about SCORM and all the specifications and standards it profiles.

The alphabet soup that is likely to participate in the initiative is something else: ADL, IMS, ALIC, CEN/ISSS, ARIADNE, AICC and anyone else in the field who has an interest. Not to forget the IEEE LTSC itself. Phew.

What occasioned the move is a persistent misconception in the elearning field about what SCORM is, and how it relates to well known specifications and standards like those designed by the array of acronyms mentioned above. Many learning technologists seem to wonder whether to stick with AICC's original CMI, bet on ADL's SCORM or else IMS Content Packaging plus Simple Sequencing, or perhaps wait for IEEE LTSC's proper standards.

Thing is that they all use or extend roughly the same thing: the datamodel (recognized data elements and relations) and API (programmatic functions) of the Computer Managed Instruction specification of the AICC. These are profiled in SCORM, and are now close-as-makes-no-difference IEEE LTSC standards. IMS Content Packaging, Simple Sequencing and their Meta Data binding of IEEE LOM also supply parts to SCORM. CEN / ISSS and ARIADNE are working on profiles and multilingual extensions of the IEEE LOM.

Put more simply; the ADL, IMS, ALIC, CEN/ISSS, ARIADNE and AICC standards, specs and application profiles are not really in competition, they are just different aspects of what is now routinely referred to as SCORM. This is also pretty clear from the fact that the membership of all the standardisation bodies have rather a lot of overlap. The present IEEE LTSC meeting taking place in Paris now, for example, has representatives of all the above acronyms.

Still, they do not have an easy message to put out, and hence the desire to build a website where the whole history of CMI / SCORM is laid out, and all the connections between the different acronyms drawn.

Much the more substantial decision, however, is the advisory group. Though it's only an advisory group, and only really focussed on SCORM (and not the other things you can do with its constituent specs and standards), it could turn into a pretty powerful force in elearning pretty quickly. If only because the combined resources and size of the installed base of the acronyms is large.

Which immediately raises the question of representation. Though there is a degree of internationality (ALIC of Japan, CEN / ISSS and ARIADNE of Europe), there is, as Fred Beshears of UC Berkely pointed out, little representation of academia like the OKI, and rather a lot of the training and particularly defense training sectors.

In a sense, that is to be expected. The CMI came out of the training world, and the US department of defense, via ADL, took the initiative to develop SCORM. Moreover, as Dan Rehak -one of ADL's architects- pointed out in Sheffield last year, SCORM was not really designed with the primary, secondary or higher education market in mind.

Question is, if this advisory group will turn out to set the agenda in all the constituent acronyms, will the concerns of groups other than defense and training be heard? Blithely entering the realm of pure speculation; yes, probably. Many of the constituent acronym organisations have fairly low entries to participation, and are always looking for more representatives from the education sector. Other than that, providing a similar focus to education concerns might make more sense than trying to join an interest group for a reference model that is more the concern of somebody else.

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