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DECP 05: Developing e-Content

e-Learning in broader way

ELML: Creating e-Learning Content

a. Structuring content based on pedagogical concepts

b. Presenting content in different output formats

c. Authoring tools to create and manage content

d. Comparing eLML to other markup languages

e. Usability and marketing studies


eLML was developed by the Swiss e-learning project GITTA [1], a modular online course in Geographic Information Science and Technology. Within the GITTA project, nearly forty authors from ten partner universities created about fifty lessons and ten case studies. The heterogeneous and multilingual consortium needed strict pedagogical and technical guidelines to create consistent lessons with the same look and feel. After an extensive evaluation of existing tools, the consortium agreed in 2001 to use XML for the implementation and to base the XML structure on a pedagogical model. Thus, the lessons can be checked and validated for certain rules and restrictions by an XML schema and therefore all authors must create identically structured lessons.

A. Structuring content based on pedagogical concepts

The aim of eLML was to offer authors a tool that ensured conformity to pedagogical guidelines and thus consistency throughout all the lessons of a project. ECLASS is an acronym for the terms entry, clarify, look, act, self-assessment and summary. Together with additional important elements like glossary, bibliography or metadata, the ECLASS elements build the main structure of the XML framework. The different elements allow the creation of a pattern of learning experiences helping people to learn effectively and efficiently [10]. Although eLML is based on a strict schema, the structure is flexible enough to allow the creation of content for different e-learning scenarios. The GITTA project created both standard e-lessons [1] and case studies [11] but various projects have used eLML to create structured reports or implement other learning scenarios. An eLML lesson always starts with either the mandatory introduction (element “entry”) or a concise listing of the lessons learning objectives (element “goals”) followed by units. The unit elements contain the actual content of a lesson. They are built up using the ECLASS model. A unit starts again with an introduction (entry) and the unit’s goals followed by various learning objects. Each learning object describes a certain concept, model, equation, term, or process using the three elements clarify (theory), look (example) and act (become active) in arbitrary order. A learning object typically fits on one or two screen pages and takes the student about five to ten minutes to go through. A unit ends with a self-assessment, to check if the students understood the goals of the unit and a summary plus an optional further reading list with relevant literature. Each lesson in eLML can have a glossary, index, bibliography, and automatically generated list of figures or list of table.

B. Presenting content in different output formats

There are two main reasons for using an XML framework like eLML: consistency and flexible output possibilities. The basic concept behind XML and thus also eLML is a strict separation between content and layout. In eLML format it can be transformed using standard technologies (XSLT) into different formats. eLML provides transformation files for the output formats listed in Table.


Output format Technology used by eLML:
Web/Online (X)HTML
Learning Management System SCORM or IMS CP
Print (PDF) XSL-FO
Office Document Open Doc. Format (ODF)
Reports DocBook Format

The format itself can be adapted using eLML templates based on the XSLT technology. A designer can create a layout for a project, which then is used to transform the project’s lessons. Larger projects can create different eLML templates to ensure that each partner can present a lesson using its own corporate identity.

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