Structured content editor for OERs
This page will provide a very brief perspective on the emerging trends for IT architecture as it relates to infrastructure and applications for Learning, Education and Training (LET - the phrase Learning, Education and Training is used commonly in Standards Development Organizations or SDOs, including the ISO and IEEE).
Since the late 1990's educational technology and the delivery of online learning has primarily been centered around the Learning Management System (LMS) or Course Management System (CMS). In more recent times initiatives such as the (e-Framework), an international initiative that originated from the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) in the UK, and the International Federation for Learning Education and Training Systems Interoperability (LETSI) have been focusing more towards service-oriented approaches and more open architectures to support learning. Even the ISO JTC1/SC36 committee for Information Technology in Learning, Education and Training has dedicated some effort to this approach.
Within the context of this project and this brief overview it is not possible to do complete review or cover the detailed work that is being done by these organizations. The links provided in the paragraph above will take the reader to the relevant activities, which in itself is not a conclusive list. A great deal of effort is being undertaken by other initiatives in the European Community. This page will cover the high-level overview only.
NOTE: Before providing the overview it is important to note that the term "Architecture" may be used in two different ways. Often it is used to refer to a specific implementation of infrastructure and is detailed with respect to the specific components of that instance of IT infrastructure. IT system architects would argue that the architecture is abstract and that it is not locked down to particular hardware of software or even necessarily how functions are distributed across applications. The architecture describes, most often graphically, an abstract view that does not tie a function to a particular hardware of software component. The term "Architecture" is used within that latter, abstract context within this project.
The Next Generation Architecture for Learning Technology
As stated previously, the instantiation of eLearning infrastructure has been mainly concerned with the role of the LMS/CMS as the primary application and with any other application taking a lesser or supporting role to the LMS. The work of the organizations and initiatives cited above make it clear that this is no longer the most desirable approach. The growth in what is often described as "Web 2.0" in the form of applications, services and approaches to online activities have resulted in the realization that no single, monolithic application will be able to keep pace with the increasing rate of change. Also, that systems must be designed for the applications that have not yet arrived in the mainstream. While this sounds impractical, the response to this need for the past decade and a half has been the shift towards Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) or the more generic term preferred by the e-Framework Project is that of service-oriented approaches (ie more of a design principle rather than a specific instantiation of service-orientation).
LETSI's Architecture Assumptions, while still written in terms of SCORM-based approaches which may also imply embedded ways of thinking about architecture in relation to SCORM, LMSs and sequencing etc, are nonetheless clear that service-orientation, a broader range of applications, support of Web 2.0 including social media, support for intelligent gaming, networked learning, simulations, augmented reality etc are all essential parts of educational technology infrastructure going forward. What may now be seen as a narrow focus on interoperability of content packages between LMSs, which was the appropriate focus to take when that [IMS and SCORM] work commenced more than a decade ago, is no longer the complete solution for current and future requirements.
The implications for content strategy are many, however, the most important of these and the most relevant to this particular project is the requirement to be able to easily allow content to be consumed by any number of applications that may be used to support learning, education and training, rather than just being delivered by an LMS. A range of other important considerations include better support for mobility, accessibility (esp. Web Accessibility Initiative or USA Section 508 compliance) and content consumption by devices other than standard computers and browsers. All of these factors added to the requirements for True Interoperability and simple adaptation of content to support reuse, adaptation and customization for different contexts and learning requirements point to the necessity for content to be in a structured (XML) format.
While this project is focused to the needs of OERs, consideration of the architecture issues makes it clear that development of a simple and intuitive content authoring and aggregation tool will have a much broader impact that within the context of OER alone.