Friday, 10 September 2004

SCORM-Style Sheet Support (SCORM-SSS)

One of the impediment of re-using Shareable Content Objects (SCO) from other SCORM courses is the potential of mosaic effect*. There are two major solutions proposed: Dynamic Appearance Model and my SCORM-SSS model. Obviously, I'll defend my model, but these models are not necessarily mutually exclusive. However, my model is driven by a deeper philosophical stance that I like to reveal in this post.

After reviewing over two dozens of learning strategies (see ), I have come to the conclusion that there is no one underlying content model to describe all the different types of learning. Case in particular is the re-use of case study material in online role play simulation. Many study cases describe situations where multiple stakeholders interact. These are potential good material to be used in a role play environment. However, there is no way to use the material verbatim without rewriting or reworking through the material. Such re-use still have value - but not the type of re-use that we promote as "automatic re-use". When the case study is further protected by digital right management, the situation will be very difficult - but that is another problem.

On the other hand, I am a true believer of re-use as a mechanism of reducing cost - BUT NOT QUALITY! I recognise also that one of the powerful re-use is pattern re-use. If someone is specialised in a certain type of learning strategy (multiple choice items development as an example), he would have developed a bank of items, different types of interaction pattern and so on. Most likely, in this time of XML being the default lingua of the web, in XML format. When the material is used in a SCORM-environment, the content will be transformed by an XSLT (or equivalent).

Up to now, DAM and SCORM-SSS still agree but depart from here onwards.

When a course is composed, I recognised that the role of the developer has changed. Typically, the composition of course may be done at a different level of the copywriter (or coder). The composition may draw different content objects from different underlying semantic models. For example, a course may comprises of information pages, presentation pages, example pages, quiz pages ... The above example of multiple choice items may be a quiz page scattered at different places within the course.

DAM suggests (if I have interpreted the model correctly and am happy to be corrected) the server delivering the course will be able to transform all these different types of semantic models directly into SCO - thus making the XSLT (or set of XSLT) a monolithic huge object.

SCORM-SSS suggests that there is an intermediate layer - a display layer. The deliverable from the copywriter (i.e. the multiple choice item provider - the quiz) may be in HTML (or should update to XHTML) format. The transformation required is kept by the copywriter and need not be available to the SCORM-LMS. The look and feel is applied as a style sheet at the course level.

In actual use, the transformation and application of the required code for support of SCORM-SSS can be done in one pass. The overhead on work flow is next to nothing.

There are a few design consideration in the design of style sheet for use in SCORM-SSS. I will cover this in a future post.

*Mosaic Effect is a team I used to describe the incoherent look and feel when different pages (from different courses with their unique look and feel) are combined to create a new course.

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