DOD participates in e-learning standards effort

Defense Department brass expect the recent approval of draft guidelines for how students receive online training coursework to further the department's goal of establishing common standards for e-learning systems.

IMS Global Learning Consortium Inc.'which includes representatives from government, industry and academic groups'gave a green light to the Simple Sequencing Specification, a set of overarching e-learning standards.

The standards would create processes for practices such as letting a content manager determine the order in which content is presented by the more than 30,000 training courses at DOD alone. They would also let managers track users' progress and performance.

The draft proposal eventually will become part of the Sharable Content Object Reference Model. DOD officials this fall plan to release Version 1.3 of SCORM, the Extensible Markup Language framework behind the department's Advanced Distributed Learning initiative.

SCORM sets guidelines for developing online course material as well as making Web training materials interoperable and shareable across multiple platforms.

'The SCORM specifies how learning content should be coded, how others can later discover that content, how it fits into a sequence of learning activities and how its appearance through the delivery media can be customized for the individual learner,' said Robert Wisher, acting director of the distributed-learning initiative in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

The e-learning standards are the first step in a long-term effort to transform the way DOD trains and educates its civilian and military personnel, Wisher said.

Since 1997, a group consisting of Defense officials, industry representatives and college employees has worked on standards for e-learning systems.

In 2000, the group began developing and testing the standards that formed the basis for DOD's distributed-learning initiative.

Instead of creating its own set of standards and requiring vendors to adjust their products, DOD opted to work with industry to develop a common standard set.

Before development of the SCORM framework, online training courses at DOD came about when an agency or organization created a program. There was no emphasis on sharing or reuse, Wisher said. In many cases, agencies created content on proprietary systems.

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