Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) Research
While faculy at the Center for Statewide E-learning I was NSU's liason with the Academic Co-Lab of the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiaive (DoD) at UW Madison. Developing and defining the SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) was the pCo-Lab's rimary project at that time.
The basic idea behind the Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) is to create a set of specifications that allow Content Objects (electronic learning objects) to be reused and to support searchability when archiving these objects. This is simple enough in theory but in practice a number of issues come up.
To solve the searchability problem the ADL (DoD Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative) developed a system of metadata tagging for the SCOs. This metadata can include such information as author, keywords, description, intended application, copyright and terms of usage, technical requirements (media "player" version, or image format, for example), addendums or alterations made (version and date), and even the various applications that this object has used for. The taxonomy for this metadata is a simple hierarchical structure containing some required elements and a large number of optional elements. A SCORM compliant SCO would have an XML manifest containing the metadata, and XML is searchable by any standard text based search engine making this document searchable from many different approaches.
Reusability, however, is not so easily solved. Ellen Wagner, speaking to the ADL Academic Co-Lab gathering in Madison, Wisconsin, June 23, 2003, pointed out that reusability and context often behave as opposites on a single continuum. For a learning object or asset to be reusable it must be as flexible as possible. For a learning object to teach effectively it must provide context for its assets. For example, an image of the White House by itself is nearly context free and can serve in a wide variety of learning objectives. When I build a SCO that contains the image I add information, context. This might be historical information if the SCO is about American Civics, or engineering details if the SCO is about period architecture, but whatever the context I add I reduce the flexibility and therefore reuse of the asset within the SCO. Therefore, this tradeoff is fundamental to the concept of reusable learning objects.
Another issue this paradox brings up is that of external reference. We have become accustomed to hypertext in our research, the addition of links to information peripheral to the subject being directly addressed. We have also become somewhat accustomed to "broken" links and 404 "Not Found" messages. To link to a source outside of the SCO seriously reduces the reliable reusability of the SCO. Yet, as a course designer, I need to update materialoften, possibly even each time a course is taught. Further, I need to offer peripheral materials and additional resources for interested and motivated students. Somehow, I need to be able to allow students to access material not relevant to the SCO as it stands alone.
Sequencing and Navigation
My project was based on reusability as a base concept and this presumption led me to certain conclusions. Immediately this meant breaking the course into subjects, concepts, and processes that could be taught independently of each other. The need for stand-alone content objects appears to be at odds with the need for coherent navigation through a course. This is compounded if the designer feels the need to address a multiplicity of learning styles in order to maximize student success. SCORM 1.3, in development then, was intended to address some of the sequencing issues. I chose to stipulate that for this whole course package some kind of organizing "envelope" would have to be built. (This envelope does, in a sense, become a learning object too, but is not a SCO because its use rests on the presumption of the use of all of the relevant Chapter/SCOs.) The envelope could contain introductory material, referential material, navigation and assessment material, and any further materials that might be relevant for the course in total, but not relevant to any of the single subject SCOs.
Using the paradigm of a textbook, the quintessential non-electronic learning object, the course subject can be broken into chapters, and most chapters can be broken into smaller sections. Each chapter would be a SCO, but each chapter-sized SCO could contain a number of smaller Sharable Content Objects. These smaller SCOs are commonly referred to as "aggregates" at this level.
In practice much of the idea behind the SCORM has been washed out. To be compliant today little beyond an XML resource list is required. This list allows an LMS to ascertain that the required files are available, and that the format of the files is appropriate (hopefully), but little more.
Return to Elearning page