April 22, 2010
Simplifying Learning Design
Guillaume Durand has posted a proposal for a Simple Learning Design 2.0. Simplifying IMS LD is certainly something worth attempting, but there turn out to be different ways to go about it.
Durand comments that "The main idea behind SLD 2.0 was to keep the essence of learning design in a voluntary simplistic specification easily usable as an add-on for IMS-CC 1.0. Several documents are already available."
I think this is a reasonable position to take; the IMS LD specification is extremely complex, hard to implement, and perhaps most problematic, hard for authors and users to understand. Most of the effort in recent years to improve adoption has focussed on improvements to tools supporting the specification, for example with ReCourse and Astro.
However there is only so far you can go with building tools and doing odd spec tweaks (like bolting on support for Widgets into the LD Services element) and so a re-think of IMS LD from the ground up is something worth thinking about.
Looking at Durand's proposal my immediate thought is that his idea of the "essence" of Learning Design is rather different from my own - and in fact he keeps what I would have thrown out, and he throws out some of what I would have kept.
This is brought home I think by what Durand has left out, which is grouping. In SLD 2.0, the only "groups" you can have for activities are everyone, and individuals. So as far as I can tell, no small-group activities are supported.
This positions SLD 2.0 much more closely to SCORM than to something like LAMS, which is probably the most popular LD platform. Which makes me wonder whether SLD 2.0 would have been better positioned as additional requirements for SCORM 2.0 rather than a simplification of LD?
So what would I do differently? Well, I think I'd start from somewhere else. I'd recognise that for individual, self-paced, adaptive content the only game in town is SCORM. And I'd take a look at existing implementations, like LAMS. And I'd focus on the things which make LD different from SCORM, which is around group and collaborative activities. And what I'd come up with would be something like this:
- <sequence> a set of activities that have to be completed one after another
- <choice> a set of activities that users can complete in any order they want
- <dissolve> split the participants up to work as individuals
- <merge> merge all the participants into one group
- <group> split the participants into groups; this can be specified as dynamic, using some heuristics like preferred numbers per group, or with pre-defined groups. The design could specify whether the runtime should assign users randomly, let users select which group to join for themselves, or prompt the moderator to assign the users.
- <synchronize> stop progress until everyone has completed the previous sequence or choice.
- <wait> stop progress until the moderator decides to go on
- <schedule> stop progress until a specified time.
Each of these concepts should seem pretty familiar to LAMS users, although the LAMS file format doesn't really look like this. It also looks an awful lot like a group workflow pattern language.
I think this specification is simpler than IMS LD, but at the same time it has almost no overlap with Durand's proposal. Which just goes to show that IMS LD is not only complex, but you can carve up the space it occupies in many different ways.
(For the activities themselves, they need titles, instructions, resources, and tools, and there are various ways you could specify that which I won't elaborate here.)
Here's an example of how it might look:
<schedule time="2010-05-05:12:00:00Z"/> <sequence> <activity> <title>Getting started</title> <instructions>Read the briefing</instructions> <resource> <title>Briefing </title> <url>briefing.html</url> </resource> <content src="briefing.html"/> </activity> </sequence> <synchronize/> <dissolve/> <choice> <activity> <title>Read the articles</title> <instructions>Read each of the resources in this activity</instructions> <resource> <title>Article 1</title> <url>article-1.html</url> </resource> <resource> <title>Article 2</title> <url>article-2.html</url> </resource> </activity> <activity> <title>Do a quiz</title> <assessment src="self-test.xml"/> </activity> </choice> <group maxGroups="4" selection=":random"/> <sequence> <activity> <title>Discuss</title> <instructions>Now in your group discuss the articles ...</instructions> <tool type="chat"/> </activity> </sequence> <wait/> <dissolve/> <sequence> <activity> <title>write individual log entry on activity</title> <tool type="text editor"/> </activity> </sequence> <synchronize/> <merge/> <sequence> <activity> <title>Plenary</title> <resource> <title>Debrief notes</title> <url>debriefing.html</url> </resource> </activity> </sequence>