As far as I understand, this project started in 2006 and its goal was to come to one format for learning that would work everywhere, in all systems. Publishers find they need to make separate packages for a lot of different systems, so standardization is a good idea. But wait a minute... didn't we have SCORM for that? In fact, the Common Cartridge specification includes SCORM and other popular standards such as the learning metadata description, QTI for assessments, etc. It is like a wrapper around all of them. Is this admitting that SCORM failed to realize its promises because it was open to too much interpretation?
You will be able to play the packages without an LMS too, and it is widening the scope to all kinds of learning. Or so I understand. I didn't find a lot of clear stuff on CC, maybe because it is still in development. Here are some of the best sources I found:
Video of Alt-I-Lab 2006 : http://www.sakaiproject.org/media2/2006/altidemo06/altidemo06.htm
Icodeon website gives a brief and to the point definition :
And at always the best information in a blog: Sheila's work blog.
I must say I'm very skeptical, specifically since this project started in 2006 and now in 2008 a simple Google search does not reveal any packaging tools, specifications, sample packages, etc. What is it with learning and standards? It is indeed true that the promise of shareable and reusable content is only partly materialized. A SCORM package does not necessarily work on all LMS systems. Some systems even only implement SCORM partially. The latest version of SCORM is 2004, but everyone is still using the older and much simpler SCORM 1.2. QTI is at version 2.1 in draft, but everyone - if they use it at all - is using version 1.2. Does the IMS and the industry keep making elearning formats that don't really work out on the floor or are not needed, or overly complex? Or do we as an industry have trouble getting our act together around one working standard?
Common Cartridge might be a next well intended try. It might be the thing that works. I'll see it when it comes along.