Jan 25, 2008

What's with this Common Cartridge standard?

I must admit, I'm a bit lost. In a newsletter I was intrigued by announcements of something called a Common Cartridge standard package specification, backed by an alliance of big LMS vendors such as Blackboard, and publishers such as McGraw-Hill. You can read the brochure on the IMS site, for it is another IMS project. (IMS is the organization that gave us e-learning standards such as SCORM - that I can't find back on their site now - and QTI).

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:

Presentation: conference.merlot.org/2007/Wednesday/CommonCartridge.ppt
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 :
Common Cartridge is IMS GLC's new standard for packaging blended content to support courses facilitated by instructors, including a variety of digital formats, assessments, discussion forums, and web applications.
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.

Is learning in collaboration better?

My guts tell me : yes, but you have to prove these things. And there have been a lot of studies researching the effectiveness of collaborative learning, both from the perspective of outcome (for individuals and groups) as from the perspective of the process (for example impact on motivation, interaction). I'm not an academic, but here are some interesting bits:

- There are a lot that conclude it gives better results. Such as Gokhale (1995) who says that 'there is persuasive evidence that cooperative teams achieve at higher levels of thought and retain information longer'.

- Klemm (1994): Collaborative Learning can be used with some confidence at every age level, in every subject area, with any curriculum and with any task...

- Mohr and Nault (2004) share 8 critical success factors for collaborative learning to work:
- manage expectations
- create a common base of knowledge before the course starts (readings/exercises, refresh)
- make it extremely clear how and when participants will communicate
- demonstrate the technology at the outset and reinforce its use throughout the course
- make synchronous sessions highly interactive
- let students generate the data and examples used in the course
- include a collaborative project
- bring closure to the materials and provide a plan for the next steps

- ? says : Paradoxically, though seldom used in e-learning, cooperative learning works better online than it does in face-to-face classrooms. The reasons include: all students can find the time to do their share of the work ; thinking is more focused and clear because it is done in writing ; everybody is more accountable, and everyaone sees what everyone is doing.

Jan 10, 2008

Just a quote.

"In a sea of user created content, collaboration and instant access to information of varying quality, the skills of critical thinking, research and evaluation are increasingly required to make sense of the world."

Source: NMC Horizons Report 2007

Looking at the past 50 years, education has put more attention to critical thinking instead of the blind belief my parents were educated on. So we should be safe(r), no?

Jan 7, 2008

The big divide

Based on Clive Shepherd's observation., I believe the e-learning market, like many other markets, is growing into a low end/high end segmented business. On the low end it is all about cheap, standard and mass. That is the spot where expensive other forms of learning like classrooms will be transformed to, unless the class delivers high value. It is the spot of weblectures, standard page-clicking e-learning, quizzes, simulations, etc. On the high end it is all about exclusive (smaller audience), tailored and more expensive content. That is the spot of serious gaming, video or animation, real-time adapted content and virtual immersive learning solutions.

In the lower end there will (hopefully) soon be a widely accepted open source alternative for making content as opposed to managing it (we have plenty of open source LMS systems by now). In the higher end I expect to see content makers collaborating with other players such as media production houses and movie and game specialists.

Jan 5, 2008

Clash of the generations

Makes you think. Old recipes don't work anymore. But if you don't know what to prepare for, does it make sense preparing in the best possible way?

Jan 2, 2008

Predictions: more supervisory, leadership and diversity learning programs

It's the time of the year to make predictions. Novations Group Inc. predicts, based on a survey of 2500 HR and learning executives, that soft skills training will increase in 2008. More specifically they see a good year for managerial (supervisory) learning programs, leadership/executive learning programs and at a distant third diversity/inclusion training.

A quote I like:
"With the baby boomers retiring, organizations are now facing a huge gap with qualified people in the queue to fill these ... roles. Yet, they also realize that if they don't keep work interesting for entry-level people, they'll lose them at a much faster rate."

Best practises database

Here is a link to one of the outcomes of the e-quality project (experience-based quality in European Open Distance Learning, a EU funded project).


There isn't a lot in the database at this time, but let's hope it grows over time and becomes a great source of very practical information for learning professionals.

Jan 1, 2008

Happy happy joy joy

Happy New Year! In 2008 I'll keep posting clips of e-learning related articles, tips and links as categorized by the 6 dimensions of the 6C learning framework. May 2008 be a great learning year for all of you.