Wednesday, 16 March 2005

BECTA's Packaging and Publishing LOs: Best Practice Guidelines

via Stephen Downes.

I share with Scott Leslie that it is

frustrating about documents like this and its ilk is that the various standards and specifications are presented to users as something to be concerned about outside of the context of specific content development tools and practices... there's neither an overwhelming array of good development tools which support this standards-based vision, nor well documented (or well practiced) instructional design processes that marry reusability with learning effectiveness as dual goals of the content creation process.

I am also quite disappointed that this "Best Practice Guidelines" does not make the distinction between "learning object" and a special case of "learning objects" - SCO as defined by SCORM. Narrowing down the over generalised "learning object" concept to a specific implementation (i.e. SCO) is a step forward, but we need to acknowledge that distinction and should not confuse readers in thinking that SCO is "learning object".

The guideline does point out important aspects of VLE (page 9).

VLE has five other core functions:
• content is mapped against an appropriate curriculum
• learners can be assessed
• learners’ progress can be tracked
• it offers methods of communication (e.g. a discussion forum)
• it provides tutor support tools.

Unfortunately, I don't see how VLE can map content against any curriculum. It is the course designer's job to map the course against any curriculum.

Via SCORM, VLE can capture the responses of the learners' assessment and track learners' position relative to the course. Again, knowing the position of a learner in a course is NOT the same as knowing the progress of this learner. Together with some formative evaluation, we may know a little about the progress of the learner.

The reporting of the assessment data and "progress" are implemented differently among VLE. The interpretation of the data, if available, is an art than a science. Much has to be learnt in this area.

Equally, most VLE implements the communication differently. Some offer discussion forum as a global cafe type of space where everyone can join. Other offer course related discussion forum limited to the participants of the course. Yet some have both. However, most of the discussion forum is offered in parallel to the SCORM course and the integration/linkage between the course content and the discussion is non-existent. It is up to the tutor to bring the content into the discussion area.

That also brings to the last point - tutor support tools. I am yet to see good implementation of tutor support tool. I would appreciate anyone pointing out some implementations for us to have a feel of what tutor support tool is.

Standardisation in the level of SCORM course and SCO is a tiny step forward. However the limitation imposed by such standardisation is already overwhelming. We need to think outside the current square to come up with a better inter-operability approach. The first thing I would suggest is to forget about the notion of "pedagogical free" learning objects and framework. Let us try the other way around. Identify powerful and effective pedagogical approaches (learning structure) and implement solutions to these approaches. Instructional designers/teachers/course developers who subscribe to a particular pedagogical approach will be supported by the implementation solution based on that pedagogical approach. Hence there will be little or no compromise in terms of delivering the best pedagogy.

The most fundamental idea of inter-operability is to reduce redundancy in development efforts. But when standardisation equals compromises in innovation and effectiveness, we need to think again. Which is more important, standards or effectiveness?

ps The current SCORM model does do a good job for a particular pedagogical model - delivery of information. So we should keep it that way and use it appropriately.

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