This is part of a post that's been sitting on my desktop for sometime, however I've been spurned onto publishing it by the recent posts from my colleague John Robertson about the use of IMS Content Packaging and QTI in the current UK OER programme.
Part of the support function we at CETIS offer to a number of JISC programmes evolves around our project database PROD. We have (and continue to) developed PROD as a means of capturing information around the technical approaches, standards and technologies projects are using. This enables us to get a programme level overview of activity, what's hot/what's not in terms of "things" (standards/technologies) projects are using and identifying potential development areas. Wilbert Kraan has also recently blogged about his experiments around a linked data approach to information stored in PROD giving an overview of JISC activity.
John reflected that "In comparison to many e-learning development projects few projects in the UK OER programme are using elearning specific technology (more on this in a future post) and as a result out-of-the-box support for CP is not prevalent in the programme. There is also only limited use of VLEs in the programme". In contrast projects in the current JISC Curriculum Delivery programme quite unsurprisingly as the programme is about course delivery, make substantial use of VLEs. In fact of the almost 60 different types of technologies and standards identified in use throughout the programme, the most prevalent is VLEs, with Moodle being used by half of the projects. But like the OER programme few of the projects are packaging their courses. In fact only 3 projects are using IMS CP and 3 SCORM. And in some ways that is probably down to the default export functions on tools rather than a considered approach to packaging material.
Now in many ways this doesn't really matter. The world has moved on, we're all working the cloud, linked data with relate everything to everything when, where and how we want it . . . So, has the content interoperability within VLEs exercise failed? Do the real users, and not those of use at the cutting edge of development, just not need to think about it? Are there enough, workable alternatives?
However I do think it is interesting that there seems to be some kind of gap around content packaging. Maybe this is due to a mix of bias and guilt. I have spent vast chunks of time in IMS meetings trying to improve the spec. Was it all just a waste of time? Should I really just go and open my shoe shop? Is IMS CC doomed to the same fate as CP? Well actually Warwick Bailey, ICODEON, gave a presentation at our distributed learning environments meeting last week which provides a pretty compelling case for use standards based structured content.
With the OER programme we've had a number of discussions in the office around people looking for ways to essentially wrap their content and CP just doesn't seem to feature in their radar. I know that there are other ways of pushing out content but in terms of archiving and allowing people to download content CP is actually a pretty good option - particularly for learning resources. John also commented that another reason for not choosing CP could be that "detailed structuring seen as superfluous?" Well maybe, but actually, having structuring is really useful for end users. And for archiving purposes CP does have its merits too.
I suppose what I'm trying to say is that sometimes we don't always have to look for the shiny and new, sometimes there are things out there that are maybe a little less shiny but functional nonetheless.