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Who's involved in standards?


Since 1998 there has been rapid growth in the number of bodies working to develop specifications and standards for learning technology interoperability. Some, like the Aircraft Industry's AICC, have very specific needs - they need to be sure that their online training materials are future-proofed, and will work in learning environments not yet invented, since the life of an aircraft is longer than the typical life of on eLearning system.

Typically, the process start with user needs and/or input from a research community active in a related area. The CETIS Special Interest Groups do some of that work.

This then leads to specification work, defining how interoperability can be achieved in the field under consideration. IMS is an example of a body developing interoperability specifications.

Next, these specifications are tested for their validity by user organisations. AICC is one such body, but so are JISC e-learning programme projects.

Finally, if a specification is deemed to be valid and widely accepted, it is submitted to a formal standards body like IEEE, a volunteer organisation, or ISO, a government sponsored standards body:

However, the real world is a bit messier. Various of these bodies have started to operate in more than one aspect of this process. For example, IEEE (a standards body) has been working on some new specifications, as has the AICC (a user organisation).

Below we describe the bodies currently active and what they are seeking to achieve.

See a table showing the standards each body is working on


The IMS Global Learning Consortium is the most advanced group developing learning technology interoperability specifications. Since its formation as an Educom project in 1997, it has developed a membership that includes almost all the leading technology system suppliers, publishers and many user organisations including leading US universities active in eLearning. It has since become an independent, subscription-based non-profit organisation, and has recently re-launched a subsidiary, the IMS European Network. While it aims to be technology and pedagogy neutral, it inevitably has to represent the interests of its subscribers. This is why the active participation of user organisations is crucial, and why JISC's membership and CETIS' activities have made it possible for UK interests to be represented.


In 1999, the European Commission gave a mandate to CEN/ISSS (the Centre Europeén de Normalisation / the Information Society Standardisation System - to identify a work-plan for Europe in the area of learning technology interoperability.

CEN/ISSS continues with this work, seeking to ensure that any standards reflect European needs - i.e. can be internationalised and/or localised. This body claims to combine the rapid process of informal specification with the security offered by the formal open consensus of traditional standardisation.

The CEN/ISSS Learning Technologies Workshop has contributed to work on the localisation of the IEEE LTSC Learning Object Metadata (LOM). The Workshop also has Project teams focussed around the following areas:

  • Educational modelling languages
  • Repository of taxonomies/vocabularies for a European Learning Society
  • Educational Copyright Licence Conditions
  • A Quarterly Electronic Newsletter

A business plan ( contains a detailed description of the work of the CEN/ISSS Learning Technologies Workshop.


ADLNet (Advanced Distributed Learning Network) is an initiative sponsored by the US federal government to "accelerate large-scale development of dynamic and cost-effective learning software and to stimulate an efficient market for these products in order to meet the education and training needs of the military and the nation's workforce of the future."

As part of this objective, ADL produce SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model), a specification for reusable learning content. Outside the defence sector, SCORM is being adopted by a number of training and education vendors as a useful standard for learning content. Version 1.2 of SCORM will also incorporate the IMS Metadata and Content Packaging specifications, and the AICC Computer Managed Instruction (CMI) datamodel and ECMAScript runtime communication spec.

Recently, the initiative has also started work on a reference model for federating learning object repositories, CORDRA (Content Object Repository Discovery and Registration/Resolution Architecture).


The Aviation Industry CBT (Computer-Based Training) Committee (AICC) is an international association that develops guidelines for the aviation industry in the development, delivery, and evaluation of CBT and related training technologies. The objectives of the AICC are to:

  • Assist airplane operators in development of guidelines which promote the economic and effective implementation of computer-based training (CBT).
  • Develop guidelines to enable interoperability.
  • Provide an open forum for the discussion of CBT (and other) training technologies.

However, the scope of AICC specifications goes further than aviation, and the AICC work with IEEE, IMS and ADL. AICC produce "AGRs" (AICC Guidelines and Recommendations) in a number of areas, from hardware to interoperability. For more details, visit the AICC website.


The IEEE LTSC ( consists of working groups that develop technical standards in various areas of information technology for learning, education and training. Their aim is to facilitate the development, use, maintenance and interoperation of educational resources. The LTSC is most well known for the work on the Learning Object Metadata Standard (LOM) and the standardisation of the AICC CMI.

LTSC has been chartered by the IEEE Computer Society Standards ActivityBoard. ( IEEE ( a leading authority in technical areas, including computer engineering. Some of the standards developed by LTSC may be advanced as international standards by ISO/IEC JTC1/SC36 - Information Technology for Learning, Education, and Training (


The International Standards Organisation is a network of national standards institutes form 140 countries and works in partnership with international organisations, governments, industry, business and consumer representatives.

The ISO/IEC JTC1 SC36 ( develops international standards in the field of Learning, Education, and Training, with an aim to enable interoperability and reusability of resources and tools. The IEC (, also known as the International Electrotechnical Commission, is the international standards and conformity assessment body for electrotechnology and is working with the ISO on this sub committee. JTC1 stands for "Joint Technical Committee 1" ( which has a scope of standardisation in the field of information technology as a whole. SC36 just means "sub committee 36".

The focus of ISO/IEC JTC1 SC36 is on existing standards and technical reports. The sub committee consists of Working groups, Rapporteur groups and Ad Hoc committees which focus on different topics within the field of Learning, Education, and Training. ISO/IEC JTC1 SC36 liaises with other JTC1 sub committees, and with DCMI, IEEE LTSC and CEN/ISSS/LTWS.

ISO standards will emerge from the work of these specification bodies, which are used and tested, then submitted to the standards bodies. There is a continuous feedback mechanism between research and development, specifications bodies, testbeds, and standards bodies to produce standards.


The BSI participates in International Standards activities on behalf of the UK. The BSI IST/43 - Information technology for Learning, Education and Training standards in the UK has been set up as a response to the establishment of the ISO/IEC JTC1 sub committee for standards in the areas of Learning, Education, and Training. (see below). BSI IST/43 aims to promote standardisation, and is contributing to the ISO/IEC work as well as beginning to develop British standards. The group also intends to develop added value products to assist users of standards with their practical application.

BSI IST/43 are becoming involved in the following fields of interest:

  • Agreeing standards for metadata in learning technology
  • Defining interoperability for computer managed instruction and between content software and learning management software
  • Work in the area of assessment or questions in IT
  • Agreeing a standard for student identifiers
  • Work on the UK lifelong learning profile - UKLeaP

For more information please see the BSI IST/43 web site


ARIADNE (Association of Remote Instructional Authoring and Distribution Networks for Europe) is an association of mainly Higher Education Institutions in Europe sharing learning resources. Having begun life as a project funded under the EC's Framework 3 programme, its membership has grown out of the original project partners, and it aims to provide a mechanism for the sharing of learning resources. Its most significant contribution has been the development of a learning content metadata scheme, which was harmonised with the IMS metadata specification, and submitted jointly to IEEE, where it has been ratified as a standard.

The ARIADNE Knowledge Pool System is a European-wide distributed repository for learning and teaching resources, and documents relating to learning and teaching. It is sometimes also referred to as the "European Knowledge Pool". Further information about this system, as well as about the authoring and indexing tools that have been developed by ARIADNE can be found on the web site at:

Dublin Core Metadata Initiative

The DCMI ( is an open forum engaged in the development of interoperable online metadata standards that support a broad range of purposes and business models. The Dublin Core Metadata Element Set (DCMES) ( contains 15 elements, which can be refined to add richness of description. The DCMES is used world-wide for the description of information resources. DCMI activities include consensus-driven working groups, global workshops, conferences, standards liaison and dissemination efforts.

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