Questionmark Conference Close-up: Influence the Future of ADL SCORM

Posted by Joan Phaup

Steve Lay

Daniel R. Rehak, a technical advisor to the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative (ADL), is responsible for technical and strategic advice primarily about the direction and refinement of ADL’s activities in the development of SCORM and content repositories and registries. As part of its plan to release an enhanced, harmonized version of its SCORM interoperability standards in 2011, ADL is actively seeking the views of SCORM and AICC community members. Dan is coming to the Questionmark Users Conference, takinig place in Miami March 14 – 17,  to hear what customers hope to see in an updated version of SCORM. He and Questionmark Integration Team Lead Steve Lay will co-facilitate a discussion on Shaping the Future of ADL SCORM:  What’s On Your Wish List?

I recently asked Dan about his ADL work and his desire to sit down with Questionmark users to discuss the future of SCORM:

Q: How would you define SCORM?

Daniel Rehak

A: SCORM is a model — a collection of different interoperability standards that for the most part were originally created to work on their own. SCORM explains how to make them work together with the objective of taking learning activities, managed by a learning management system, and making them portable, interoperable and reusable across different vendors and technology platforms. In addition to being used by many commercial organizations and the military, it’s used for K12 education in the UK and Korea. It’s used widely all over the world, notably in higher education and industry.

Q: Could you tell me about your role with ADL SCORM?

A: I’m involved in planning the ADL SCORM update: looking at the form the update will take, who we should talk to, the timeline, the tasks we need to do,  the technical direction, and then communicating those out to various people: vendors, users, and their organizations both here in the US and internationally. I’m also helping ADL upgrading its registry federation model for learning content.

Q: Can you share some details about the planned update to SCORM?

A:  SCORM has not been through a major update since 2004, although we made some minor, incremental changes along the way.  By talking with vendors and user communities, we are finding divergent views about what’s important and what’s lacking — those kinds of things. We know that technology has evolved on the Web.  We also know we have legacies out there: we have people procuring SCORM-based delivery systems today with the expectation that they’re going to be around in a number of years and that they are still going to work. So the objective is to produce an update that is grounded in the reality of what people want to use and what they actually have in place. We have to balance legacy support requirements with new capabilities and requirements. Our goal is to produce an updated, revised and harmonized version of SCORM by late 2011. We are talking to users, talking to adopters and to vendors to find out what things they are planning to put into their products in the short term – say the next 18 months or so. We may not be able to do everything we want to do in that  timeframe, but  our assumption is that things that don’t hit this cycle will get into the next cycle.

Q: What issues are you finding as you talk with people about the future of SCORM?

A: A number of things keep coming up: Web services, different content exchange models, content mark-up languages, assessments – those are the kinds of things that are on the list. What we are trying to do is develop a flexible model that indicates what we feel is important and that vendors can get behind. We also want organizations to be able to add features of their own in harmony with what we are doing. We know we won’t be able to do everything ourselves; we are relying on the community to bring their resources to bear on this and help us collectively move things forward.  We call it harmonization because we want to bring people together and move forward together.

Q: What’s prompted you to attend the Questionmark Users Conference?

A: We’re reaching out to a number of different vendors to find out what their users are interested in. We’ve been in discussions with Questionmark for awhile and this came up as an opportunity to talk with this user segment. Assessments standards are not currently in SCORM, but we know assessments and tracking are things people have said are very important. You have one of the best user communities there to talk to, so we want to talk with them and find out what they see as being important in SCORM as we go forward.

Q: Who should attend this session?

A: Anyone from the SCORM community.  We’ve got different communities that have different levels of adoption. Also, anyone who uses AICC, which has some elements in common with SCORM. They have a significant overlap in what they do and how they do it. We have been in direct communication with AICC about the harmonization and would welcome ideas from their users. Also, from the standpoint of specifications and standards, we’re interested in hearing from anyone with opinions about IMS QTI.

Q: What kind of input are you looking for during your session about the future of SCORM?

A: We want to know what people are currently doing; what problems they’re seeing; what they think in general about assessment and tracking. We’d like to learn more about where they do and don’t use SCORM and why. We’ll also ask what we can change in SCORM to make their lives better.

Come to the conference and let your voice be heard! You can register online or email for further information.

Assessment Standards 101: SCORM

john_smallPosted by John Kleeman

This is the fourth of a series of  posts on standards that impact assessment.

The ADL SCORM standard rose out of an initiative by the US Department of Defence (DoD), who were large users of e-learning. They wanted to ensure that e-learning content could be interoperable and reusable, for instance to ensure that if e-learning content was developed by one vendor, it could run in another vendor’s environment.

The DoD has a track record of setting technical standards:  for instance  in the 1980s they helped popularize and make TCP/IP an effective standard. The DoD is also a very large customer for most companies in the learning and technology software industry. So when the DoD announced that it would only purchase e-learning software that worked with SCORM, the industry jumped quickly to support it!

One of the ways in which SCORM was made successful was by a series of Plugfests, where vendors could get together in practical labs and check that interoperability was possible in practice, not just in theory. These were well run events, a kind of technological speed dating, where each vendor could try out their compatibility with other vendors. It was great to have technical experts from each vendor in the room and be able to have many different LMSs all able to call our assessments.

In Questionmark Perception, to make an assessment run via SCORM, you use the Publish to LMS capability to create a content package, which is a small XML document that references the assessment. And as you can see in the screenshot below, you can choose from AICC and two flavours of SCORM. Once you’ve made the package, you simply upload it to a management system and participants can then be directed to it.

Publish to LMS screenshot with options including AICC, SCORM 1.2 and SCORM 2004

SCORM is used widely, both within the military and outside it. If you have a choice between AICC and SCORM, it’s often better to choose AICC (see my earlier post in this series), partly because SCORM has a potential security issue (see our past blog article). However, providing you are aware of this issue, SCORM can be a very effective means of calling assessments.

The ADL are currently reviewing SCORM and working out how to improve it, including potentially making it more useful for assessments. As part of their listening for this review, ADL’s technical advisor, Dan Rehak, who was one of the architects of SCORM, is running a session at Questionmark’s user conference in Miami in March to gain feedback on how SCORM could be improved. If you’re interested in influencing this standard to be better in future, this would be a great session to go to. Stay tuned here on the blog for a Questionmark Conference Close-up interview with Dan.

Podcast: Why She’s Attended Every Questionmark Users Conference


Posted by Joan Phaup

Lynn Cram

Lynn Cram

We always look forward to seeing familiar faces at the Questionmark Users Conference, and it was good to realize recently that someone who will be attending this year’s conference has been with us for every single one of them. Lynn Cram will be attending her 8th users conference — and her 2nd in Miami — March 14  –  17. I wanted to find out what keeps bringing her back, and you can listen in on our conversation.

Here are a few great reasons for you to attend the conference, too!

  • A discussion on the future of ADL SCORM led by ADL Technical Advisor Daniel Rehak, PhD, and Questionmark Integration Team Lead Steve Lay on Shaping the Future of ADL SCORM: What’s On Your Wish List?
  • Tech Training: Planning Your Migration from Perception v4 to v5
  • Best Practices: Item and Test Analysis Analytics
  • Case  Study: Using Questionmark and SAP for Employment Testing
  • Two-day post-conference training: Customizing the Participant Interface in Perception version 5

There’s so much more to say about the conference! Check out what’s happening and register soon!

Understanding Common eLearning Standards


Posted by Tom King

I’ve prepared a video podcast which is your introduction to key interoperability standards for elearning. It also serves as my introduction to video podcasts. Your feedback on both the content and the style will be put to use as I continue the series—so please post comments or send email.

The video for Part 1 provides a quick overview of the need for interoperability standards, the names of the keys standards, and the types of interoperability they support. Part 1 addresses AICC, ADL SCORM, IEEE LTSC and IMS specifications at a high level. It introduces the concepts of run-time communication, content packaging, and meta-data.

I hope you find it a good refresher if you are already somewhat knowledgeable about these standards, and an excellent introduction if you are new to most of this.