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Eduplone reveals initial IMS Learning Design support

And very initial it is too: current material does not go far beyond what's possible with conventional learning objects. But the idea of welding the pedagogic flexibility of Learning Design to the flexibility of the open source Zope/Plone web content management system is intriguing, and the support for basic e-learning standards in Plone useful.

One way of looking at IMS Learning Design is as a workflow language for education: it allows you to capture the people roles, resources, environment and sequence of activities that make up a typical learning activity. Plone so happens to have a workflow engine that is aware of people roles, captures activities in sequences and is designed to help manage resources in particular environments. Ergo Eduplone's learning sequence functionality: it allows a souped-up version of the Plone workflow engine to export its flows in IMS Learning Design, level A (the simpler version).

The fit between the two is not perfect and immediate, though. What Learning Design brings over other e-learning content specifications is a focus on collaborative learning: it can express who is doing what in a group's learning activity, as it unfolds.

Though the Plone system is designed to allow groups of people to work on the same collection of content, the Plone workflow itself is not really designed for the coordination of more than one person's activity at the same time. Though flexible, it's main application is to take one person through the necessary steps of, say, adding metadata to a file before it gets deposited. Or making sure that that file is reviewed by a reviewer prior to publishing. In short: it's asynchronous.

Hence current eduplone learning sequences are largely limited to the self-paced, lone learner going through content paradigm that is familiar from the SCORM world.

Nor is this entirely down to the current technical limitations of Plone in this application. Eduplone is informed by a 'Webdidactics' approach that holds that learning should be tailored to the individual. Enabled by technology, each learner should be able to find his or her own preferred way through a particular piece of knowledge, depending on their learning style.

To enable this approach, "modular pieces of content are required which can be understood by themselves". Such Knowledge Objects are the lowest level of granularity in the Webdidactics world, and they can be clustered together in Topic Objects. In eduplone, these objects are stitched together into a web of knowledge using typed links- metadata, in essence.

A learning activity, then, consists of a tutor taking some sequence outlines, and filling it with knowledge objects. Other abstract (i.e. content-less) sequence outlines can be added by a learning sequence author. The learner gets a choice of sequences to go through the same topic object.

While this may sound very much like SCORM 2004 indeed, there is a difference: The Plone system itself makes the process of authoring content rather simpler than what is typical in the SCORM world. Eduplone learning sequences presume just two people with moderate technical skill sets. SCORM presumes a team of experts in instructional design, web coding, graphical design, subject experts etc.

But a Learning Design enabled Plone doesn't have to focus solely on self-paced, self-organised learning. As the FLE3 Virtual Learning Environment demonstrates, Zope/Plone technology can enable some rather powerful collaborative tools. Even without going into the complexity of synchronous activity coordination, just defining a workflow through content and group activities should be do-able and pedagogically quite powerful.

In the mean time, eduplone also has eduplone types; the technical instantiation of the knowledge objects. These can be installed in Plone, and allow export of content in IMS Content Packaging format, with IEEE LOM metadata. Knowledge Objects can also contain assessment, and there is some initial development of an IMS Question and Test Interoperability (QTI) export function.

Resources

Much more information about the project is available on the eduplone website.

A Windows installer for a self-contained eduplone, as well as the source code for the Plone products is available from SourceForge.

More about FLE3 is available on the FLE3 website.

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