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Getting to grips with Learning Design
The IMS Learning Design workshop in Valkenburg is well under way now, with the first real life experiences of authoring and running Units of Learning (UoL) being uploaded for other people to test. We chatted with a couple of participants.
The set-up of the 'bash in Valkenburg, the Netherlands, was to install the latest versions of the Reload learning content editor and the CopperCore IMS Learning Design player on each of the fifty-odd participant's laptops first. Since CopperCore is really more server software than a desktop application, that requires some niftyness with the commandline, but most people succeeded eventually.
The Open University of the Netherland's (OUNL) Fred de Vries explained that the other task for day one was to play around with a few Units of Learning that were prepared earlier. Each of these units are self-contained, fully described learning activity structures, rolled into an IMS Content Package. Think lesson plan a machine can understand.
Fred reported that most people were pleasantly surprised with using Reload to make the units - certainly "comparing to the hard XML editing as we used to".
Yesterday, day two, the participants started work on their own units of learning, from scratch, though still at level A of the IMS Learning Design specification. Levels B and C of the spec add more bells and whistles, and therefore more complexity.
David White, an e-learning technology specialist from Oxford University, worked on his first unit of learning, but found himself already wandering into level B by day two. David conceded that some educators might find it a struggle, though, mostly because of "a general cultural problem with using computers at this level".
More specific to IMS Learning Design, some participant were still wondering about semantic subtleties such as the distinction between the 'roles' of learners and 'role-parts'; what a particular learner in a particular role is expected to do at a particular stage in the unit of learning.
Asked whether changes to the tools would make a difference, David thought it might make bit of difference, but that "... ultimately IMS LD is inherently complex and therefore any easy-to-use editor would have to cut peoples options down a bit". "A LAMS-ish [a different Learning Design 'inspired' drag and drop tool] style visualisation in Reload would work will for level A and maybe B" David continued.
With the tools available in Valkenburg, though, David thought he was doing "Not too bad, still can't figure out the relationship between activities and environments, but I'm getting there. A really useful event for a semi-techy like me with no previous experience in IMS LD". David got his unit to work in CopperCore, and it is now up on the OUNL's Moodle site for other people to play with.
Claude Martin of ITCILO in Turin, is a bit less techy than David and closer to the daily practice of educating. Like David, Claude thought that Reload was "quite nice to use", but would have prefered to be able to drag and drop things like role and role-parts in CopperCore. The commandline invocations of CopperCore were not for him either, but he thought that integrating CopperCore into Reload would be a good option to solve that issue.
The idea of including a 'push button' visualisation of a unit of learning from Reload, via CopperCore, was floated by Reload project manager (and CETIS director) Bill Olivier at the meeting.
Claude was happy to have some help with his first unit of learning from a colleague with IMS LD expertise, but reckoned that "the exercises that we did to create UoLs today [day two] were very nice". "Designing a UoL and including it in Reload is quite easy" Claude thought.
Day three of the event will be spent on some demoes of Learning Design tools other than CopperCore and Reload. Included are Educreator by Chronotech, ASK-LDT, CopperAuthor and Alfanet. Most of these are pretty brand new, with the exception of the EU Alfanet project, which built a fairly heavy weight, open source VLE on top of the dotlrn VLE from MIT's Sloane business school. The demo will not be limited to show-and-tell; some interoperability testing will take place. Which might also explain why other nacent IMS Learning Design compliant tools such as elive LD suite and LAMS are not yet included.
Daily reports and lots of pictures are available from the learningnetworks site
An agenda for the event (156 Kb, PDF) is available from the UNFOLD site, which will also be hosting an online continuation of the meeting.
Completed Units of Learning are available from the OUNL's Moodle site. The site requires free registration, and it should be emphasised that the units only make sense if you have installed Reload 2.0.1 and CopperCore 2.2.2.