Here's a survey for you (originally posted to Yahoo's eLearningleaders group:

What is the key to expanding e-learning content ?

Here are the results so far.

What did you say? For me it's increased levels of interactivity every time. Tools are cheap, expectation should be higher, not lower, production costs? OK, can be expensive but it depends upon the media you're using.

So what about SCORM? Well, that's likely to be an ongoing theme discussed in this weblog. Sharing RLOs seems to be a good thing, but is it realistic?

New e-learning consortium

There is a major new e-learning consortium project that is exploring the potential to set up a global virtual medical school. It's presently in the feasibility stage and I've just come back from a steering group meeting. There are around 40 international medical schools signed up already. There will hopefully be a public web site soon so for now I won't go into any details about the partners or how this consortium will operate. What I can talk about are some of the issues we discussed as they're pertinent to most e-learning projects.

One of the approaches the consortium will be taking will be to develop a global bank of reusable learning objects (RLOs) covering aspects of medicine, nursing and potentially other professions allied to medicine. These RLOs will have a resource discovery system and will interoperate with existing Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS) in consortium institutions.

High amongst the issues being discussed are metadata tagging (which schemas?) and IMS compliance and the SCORM reference model.

Questions I'd like to ask you are:

  1. Does you institution consider the sharing of RLOs to be a viable proposition?
  2. Do you currently run an LCMS to deliver some/all of your content?
  3. Is you system IMS compliant or can it be made compliant if you thought this was important?
  4. Does the value of RLOs lie in the ability to use them 'in place' i.e. in the format/location of the originating institution or should they be embedded within your own local system? And in fact are these two mutually exclusive?
  5. Can you retro-fit metadata and content packaging onto existing learning objects (you may not have thought of them as such when you created them) or is it best to scrap legacy material and develop new material with these issues in mind?
  6. Are these the right questions to be asking?

Share and share alike

I'm interested in being able to share my learning resources with you and if you're willing to do the same then maybe our institutions might be able to spread the risk and burden of developing web-based teaching and learning materials.

The components of my teaching and learning materials, images, video clips, text, questions, are called reusable learning objects (RLOs). These RLOs are stored in databases and each RLO has its own metadata, data that helps you find it when searching for particular RLOs. My database systems can send you an XML file that describes each RLO and links to it on the web.

One of the problems surrounding sharing RLOs is that the system you use may be different to the system I use. There are initiatives looking at how we might embed each our RLOs into our respective systems.

Another problem is resource discovery. Before we can embed an object we must first know where it is. If it's deep inside my institution's virtual learning environment (VLE) then are you going to be able to find it?

I'm approaching this from a very simplistic angle as I'm not able to answer some of the big questions. I am however chipping away at one of the edges. I use a tool called Radio Userland to think about how we might achieve interoperability and resource discovery. Rather than try to describe how I use Radio Userland in this context, it might be easier to show you.

To take full advantage of these couple of demos you need to be running a copy of Radio.

The first example shows you that by clicking on a special icon embedded on the page you can fire up an outline document in your local copy of Radio. This outline can be embedded into an instant outline or repurposed before re-publishing back to the web.

The second example shows how cross-platform RLO databases can be linked together via XML-RPC.

These are projects I'm working on so if you'd like to know more or to get involved then please get in touch.

These examples use my assetManager tool for Radio. I've just updated it so if you'd like to try any of the examples mentioned then either download it here or if you already have a copy, select 'Refresh code…' from the assetManager menu under the Tools menu in your copy of Radio.