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WebCT 4.1 adds further IMS Content Packaging support

The latest version of the popular VLE makes it easier for users to add course material in IMS Content Packaging format. Export is a slightly different matter, however.

With the 4.0 release of Campus Edition, WebCT already added a utility for the import of learning objects in its own, proprietary WebCT format, and the Microsoft LRN implementation of IMS Content Packaging. The recent 4.1 version of the VLE integrates the import utility and adds better support for some non-LRN, IMS Content Packaging compliant objects.

The focus on LRN mainly follows from the fact that widely used tools such as Microsoft Powerpoint and Frontpage and Macromedia Dreamweaver spit out IMS content packages that conform to the LRN reference implementation.

Like SCORM, LRN tightens IMS Content Packaging by dropping support for some optional features, and making some optionals mandatory. Hence supporting generic IMS Content Packages is harder. WebCT's Derek Jones claims that "we have had some encouraging comments from customers using IMS compliant packages in 4.1 but we are always trying to improve standards support."

Note also that the learning object export function of Campus Edition 4.1 is aimed at exchanging learning objects between different WebCT versions (Campus and Vista) and different WebCT installations. So it spits out IMS content packages with proprietary extensions that are unlikely to work with IMS compliant content packaging tools from other vendors. The exported packages are not LRN compliant either.

The upshot is that the 4.1 version of WebCT Campus is more capable of "playing" existing or new content from collections of IMS compliant learning objects, but is not yet the place of choice to store or edit such a collection for re-use elsewhere. This may not be a big problem: If wide re-use or future proofing of learning objects is an important consideration, a dedicated learning object repository is the more robust option.

More information about WebCT 4.1 is available on the WebCT website

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