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.


Anonymous said...

see new FAQs on Common Cartridge to answer your questions:


info said...

ATutor is open source Common Cartridge compliant system. It includes authoring, importing, and exporting of common cartidges.