Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Video

~ This page links to two videos that describe the common success scenarios for using Common Cartridge and SCORM: blended learning and self-paced training respectively ~

Two videos from Icodeon are now available, describing IMS Common Cartridge and Advanced SCORM 2004 technologies respectively.

Introducing IMS Common Cartridge


This video explores the use of the Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform and introduces the different e-Learning materials within a cartridge that can be used by teachers and their groups of students.

Advanced SCORM 2004


This video explores the use of advanced sequencing and navigation techniques available in the Icodeon SCORM Player to deliver web based training to independent, self-paced, learners.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Disaggregation Models

~ This page describes how specific chapters, modules, units and pages of a course can be individually selected using the Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform ~

Disaggregation is used to describe how a collection of digital assets might be logically divided into smaller units.

There does not seem to be anything very controversial about that - but disaggregation has been the cause of more disagreement than you might expect.
A classic example of a disaggregation controversy occured with the disruptive introduction of digital music software, such as iTunes. The music industry wanted to sell a CD; the consumer wanted to buy an individual track. What was the right "unit of disaggregation"? Well, eventually the consumer's view prevailed: the individual track took precedence over the CD.

The e-Learning industry has had its own disaggregation controversy - by trying to figure out what the "unit of disaggregation" is for online learning: is it the course, the unit, the module, the activity? Or what? Most of this time this controversy is expressed in the debate about what a digital learning object is.

You might suppose that the World Wide Web might fall into it's own disaggregation controversy. After all, what is the unit of "unit of disaggregation" for the web? Is it a website? A web page? An image in a web page?

Interestingly, the World Wide Web neatly side-steps it's own disaggregation controversy with the concept of addressability: everything on the web MUST have a unique address - a URL - whether it is a website, a web page or an image. Look at these addresses:
  • http://www.website.com
  • http://www.website.com/webpage.html
  • http://www.website.com/images/image.gif
With the web, we do not need to concern ourselves too much with disaggregation, because what ever level of granularity we want to work with, we can construct an appropriate address.

The Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform follows the World Wide Web approach - and side-steps any disaggregation controversy by using a URL Language that supports addressability.

Look at this course about college Organic Chemistry, published by Pearson in IMS Common Cartridge format. You can see the entire cartridge here in the Icodeon Cartridge Explorer.



There is the entire cartridge, subdivided into chapters, each of which have several pages.

Most instructors would probably want to use some of this material, but not all of it. So what is the "unit of disaggregation" that should be offered to the instructor?

The Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform makes this question redundant because the Platform URL Language can address the cartridge, or the chapter, or the page. Or a mix of these (a page from Chapter 1, and all of Chapter 2 - for example).

The choice is for the instructor to make - and it not limited by any technology decision.

To address a page, we use the URL Language like this:

http://{hostname}/cartridges/
{cartridge-name}/items/@first.json
That gives us a JSON representation of the first page in the cartridge. When mashed up with a blog, we end up with a single link:

~ Webcontent Launch Tool from Icodeon CC Platform ~

But what if we want a chapter, not a page? We just use the URL Language with an address including the chapter identifier, not the page identifier:
http://{hostname}/cartridges/
{cartridge-name}/items/{item-identifier}.json
That gives us a JSON representation of a chapter in the cartridge. When mashed up with a blog, we end up with a list of links:

~ Webcontent Launch Tool from Icodeon CC Platform ~

And if we want the whole course, not a chapter? We just use the URL Language that uses the root identifier:
http://{hostname}/cartridges/
{cartridge-name}/items/@root.json
That gives us a JSON representation of the whole course.When mashed up with a blog, we end up with a nested list of links:

~ Webcontent Launch Tool from Icodeon CC Platform ~

The instructor is free to choose what is included in e-Learning material: references to a course, a chapter or a page are all supported.

So by following the World Wide Web approach - and side-stepping any disaggregation controversy by using addressability - the Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform puts the decision about the size of the learning object back where it belongs: in the professional judgement of the instructor.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Common Cartridge Workshop

~ This page describes work by members of the European Union ASPECT Project to prepare 200 units of K-12 science and maths content in IMS Common Cartridge format ~

Content developers from partners in the European Union ASPECT Project gathered in Denmark this week for a first "plug-fest" - converting existing content to IMS Common Cartridge format.
A main benefit of moving content to this new format is that the educational material can then be used for "blended learning" scenarios: teachers can "pick and mix" exactly which educational resources they want to use, and easily add group activities such as discussions and assessments.
Two main tools were used to convert existing content to IMS Common Cartridge format:
Both of these tools are at a relatively early stage of development - however, most of content could either be converted or the issue that limited conversion was easily identified.
The Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform was used to show how teachers can "pick and mix" exactly which digital educational resources they want to use from a cartridge - in a similar way that teachers select non-digital resources (text books, worksheets etc) to support their students.
This "pick and mix" approach used the "Embed" feature of the Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform - which allows users to embed digital resources from a cartridge into web pages - in exactly the same way that YouTube videos are shared.

Using this "Embed" feature the workshop showed that a quiz (a QTI assessment) could be easily shared as a "Web 2.0 Resource" to the Its Learning platform - a widely used Learning Management System in Europe.

Workshop participants highly recommended that this "Embed" feature of the Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform be developed further - possibly along the lines of the Share This applet - that enables one-button-click integration of content into social networking sites such as Facebook.

In this way digital resources from the Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform can be easily made available by teachers for integration into web enviroments that are used by their groups of students.
To follow this work, you can become as Associate Partner with the European Union ASPECT Project or click the "Follow" button on this blog.

Friday, 13 November 2009

SCORM 2 CC

~ This page describes the experience of converting existing SCORM content to IMS Common Cartridge format~

In this blog entry I am going to describe the process for converting training content from the ADL SCORM 1.2 format to the IMS Common Cartridge 1.0 format - using software tools from Icodeon and from the IMS Common Cartridge Alliance.

The final result is shown below - a launch button embedded into a web page that launches the content into a new browser window:

~ Webcontent Launch Tool from Icodeon CC Platform ~

These are the steps:

  • First, I downloaded the freely available SCORM to Common Cartridge Converter called SCORM2CC from the Codeplex Open Source site. The software is Windows only, and comes with an installer that downloads any dependencies that might be missing on your system.

  • Next, I chose a SCORM package .zip file that I wanted to convert and ran it through the SCORM2CC tool. The tool outputs a directory and a .zip file of exactly the same name as the original SCORM .zip file - so make sure you do not get mixed up between the original SCORM .zip file and the new Common Cartridge .zip file!

  • To check that everything had been converted correctly I downloaded the Common Cartridge Conformance test tool which is available if you first sign up and join the IMS Common Cartridge Alliance. I ran the new Common Cartridge .zip file through the tester - and received a report that said no errors. So far so good! (...but see my comment later: the original SCORM package manifest did not include all the required references to dependent files...).

  • Then I uploaded the newly converted and tested Common Cartridge .zip file to the web based Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform and launched the content in the Cartridge Explorer tool. Everything looked great until I tried to run a few SCORM API calls - which gave errors. On further investigation it turned out that the source imsmanifest.xml in the original SCORM package did not list all the files in the package - there were some

    <resource/>
    
    XML elements missing file dependencies.

  • So the SCORM2CC tool trusts the original source manifest to list all the dependent files - and if the original manifest is not being completely honest about all the resources it needs, then the new Common Cartridge .zip file will be missing these dependent file also. So keep an eye out for that!

  • Finally, I wanted to integrate the launch of one of the SCORM learning objects (the "SCO"s as they are called) into a web page (actually this page), so I used the embed tool in the Icodeon Cartridge Explorer tool.

    To do this I first generated an API key on the Icodeon Cartridge Platform for the domain where I wished to launch the SCORM learning object (this sub-domain actually, which is called "ccplatform.blogspot.com") and then used that API key in the embed tool to generate an HTML tag like this:

<!-- add this tag to your page -->
<script type="text/javascript" 
src="http://www.common-cartridge.com/cartridges/
SCORM_Detective_1p2/items/ITEM1
/webcontent.js?_api_key=my_api_key"></script>
  • If you look carefully you can see the URL address conforms nicely to the Icodeon CC Platform URL Language - you can find out more about that language here.

http://{host}/cartridges/
{cartridge}/items/{item}/{resource}.{ext}
  • So once the HTML tag had been generated with the correct API key, all I had to do was add the single HTML tag to the webpage (this page actually) and voila! - a launch link was written to the web page.

  • SCORM 2 CC done.

  • Have you converted SCORM to Common Cartridge? Why not add your comment on your experiences on this blog?

Thursday, 12 November 2009

The Blue Ribbon

~ Demonstration Page using content deployed to Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform ~

Exploring the River Danube and our European Identity

The Danube in Budapest

Known to history as one of the long-standing frontiers of the Roman Empire, the River Danube flows through, or forms a part of the borders of, ten countries:

Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, and Ukraine.

"... the River Danube crosses borders and connects countries - but what else connects us? Similar ideas? Technology? Common values? A shared environment? ..."

Use the map to trace the course of the Danube from its source in Germany to its delta in the Black Sea, via four European capital cities.

~ Map Mashup with content from Icodeon CC Platform ~

Use the questions below to check your knowledge of the key facts about the River Danube.

You will need to know about the course of the River Danube, the cities and countries through which it flows, as well as the how the river has played a part in European history.

~ QTI Assessment Tool from Icodeon CC Platform ~

The River Danube crosses borders and connects countries, but what else connects us? Similar ideas? Technology? A future environment?

  • Might there be interests that we all share?

  • Are there values that all Europeans agree on?

  • How does technology remove barriers and borders?








Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Integration Tool Kit for Java/JSP

What is Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform?

A test instance of this Tool Kit is available here.

The test instance is using IMS Basic LTI to launch the Icodeon Platform "Cartridge Explorer App".

Monday, 13 July 2009

A Common Evolution for IMS Simple Sequencing?

What is Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform?

Sequencing of instructional activities has been an ongoing topic of debate within the IMS Global Learning Consortium. IMS has developed and issued two specifications that address sequencing issues: Simple Sequencing and Learning Design.

Warwick Bailey, of IMS member Icodeon and Rob Abel, CEO of IMS have authored a paper that considers the options for evolving Simple Sequencing. Over the years most have concluded that Simple Sequencing has not been "simple" to implement in SCORM 2004 (the only known implementation of the specification). However, valuable feedback on the implementation has been received by both IMS and the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative (responsible for SCORM). The paper draws some conclusions from the feedback to IMS, especially with respect to future adoption in the education segments. The result is an approach that may work both for SCORM (self-paced online instruction) and the new Common Cartridge standard (for instructor-in-the-loop educational content).

Monday, 29 June 2009

Comparing IMS CC and SCORM

What is Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform?

The ADL SCORM and IMS Common Cartridge specifications make different choices of technical requirements - that in turn, imply different use scenarios.

For example, the inclusion of user tracking and automatic sequencing in SCORM imply that the computer system, not an instructor, is monitoring and directing an individual learner. The inclusion of discussions in IMS Common Cartridge imply that a group of learners is working with the learning material.

In a presentation to the working group of the European Union funded "Learning Resource Exchange", Warwick Bailey, Director, Icodeon Ltd explored the how the technical choices in SCORM and IMS CC influence the pedagogic use of the specifications - and where each specification might be used most effectively.

Download presentation (.ppt): E-Learning Standards for Packaged Content

View presentation (.mht): E-Learning Standards for Packaged Content (Internet Explorer Only)

The European Schoolnet is building a Learning Resource Exchange (LRE) service for schools that will enable teachers and learners to find educational content in the form of learning objects from many different countries and providers.

The LRE helps Ministries and other content partners to become part of a federation of repositories. A measure of the success of the strategy is that, in the MELT project, 16 Ministries of Education in Europe are already making available approximately 40,000 learning resources and over 100,000 learning assets via a beta version of the LRE.

The following Icodeon products are being integrated into the ASPECT instance of the Learning Resource Exchange:

  • Icodeon SCORM Player
  • Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform

Monday, 18 May 2009

IMS CC and SCORM Implementation

Icodeon is a member of the European Union ASPECT project.

ASPECT is a new, large-scale project supported by the European Commission's eContentplus Programme that will have its kickoff meeting in September 2008. The project is a 30-month, Best Practice Network for educational content that involves 22 partners from 15 countries, including 9 Ministries of Education (MoE), four commercial content developers and leading technology providers. For the first time, experts from all international standardisation bodies and consortia active in e-learning (CEN/ISSS, IEEE, ISO, IMS, ADL) will work together in order to improve the adoption of learning technology standards and specifications.

At the ASPECT workshop in Munich on May 15th 2009, three presentations were provided by Icodeon relating to the SCORM and IMS Common Cartridge specifications:

Sunday, 10 May 2009

IMS Learning Impact 2009

~ Icodeon is a contributing member of the IMS Global Learning Consortium - which represents more than 140 participant organizations from the global learning community. Organizations include software vendors, educational institutions, publishers, government agencies, multimedia content providers, and other consortia. IMS provides a neutral forum in which members work together to advocate the use of technology to transform education ~

Icodeon is a sponsor of the IMS Learning Impact 2009 conference in Barcelona.

The event is IMS Global Learning Consortium's annual conference that brings together the world's leading creators, vendors, users, and buyers of learning technology to participate in program tracks focused on the latest innovations in learning systems, digital learning content, the learning enterprise, and open technologies.

Presenters answer a key challenge question designed to inform the attendees on the state of innovation and best practices.

Warwick Bailey, Director, Icodeon Ltd, UK will be presenting the Icodeon SCORM Player and Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform as part of the "Learning Management, Collaborative, and Mobile Learning Program Track" on Tuesday 12th May at 11.15.

Icodeon is a Contributing Member of IMS, a member of the IMS Common Cartridge Alliance, and a member of the SCORM Technical Working Group.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Common Cartridge?
Common Cartridge is a technical specification that distils state-of-the-art practice in online education and training (Learn more).
What is the Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform?
A software toolkit for building online education tools, apps and websites.
Technically, the Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform is a RESTful Web API for IMS Common Cartridge. The Platform provides a set of "Web Services" that enable developers to build online education tools.
How does the Platform work?
Educational publishers create educational resources and package the content into "cartridges".

Once a cartridge is added to the Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform, the Platform assigns a unique "address" (a URL) to each resource in the cartridge - every page, link, question, tool launch, discussion comment - so that each educational resource can be added into web pages, blogs, wikis and social networking sites.
What services does the Platform provide?
The Platform exposes a set of "Web Services" that provide:

  • use an easy to learn "URL Language" to request resources from the Platform (Learn more).

  • a choice of "represenations" that are returned with each response from the Platform. These representations include images, XML documents, HTML pages, and JavaScript Objects.
Together, the URL language and the representations are "building blocks" - so that tools, apps and widgets can be created by developers, and then embedded into blogs, wikis, social networking sites, desktops, mobile devices and so on. See also the blog entry about the administrative tools that are built into the Platform.
Tell me more about the Platform URL Language
The platform provides a "URL Language" for all requests to the platform.
For example, if you wanted to generate a thumbnail image of the first page of a cartridge, the URL would be formatted like this:
http://{hostname}/cartridges/{cartridge-name}
/items/@first.gif
You would just need to add in the name of the hosting web site (the {hostname}) and the name of the cartridge (the {cartridge-name}), and the platform generates the image ready for you to embed into your own website.
More formally, the "URL language" is a RESTful API for creating HTTP requests that have numerous response formats such as XML or HTML.
Learn more about the URL Language here.
The URL Language Documentation is being developed here.
Tell me more about the Platform Representations
The platform provides a choice of "representations" for all responses from the platform. For example, the platform can provide a choice of either .gif, .jpg or .png graphic formats for thumbnail images that are returned from requests.
For text based representations, the platfrom "representations" include XML, HTML, JSON and ATOM. These text based representations are conformant with well established designs, including:

  • Microformats: microformats are a set of simple, open data formats built upon existing and widely adopted standards. Instead of throwing away what works today, microformats intend to solve simple problems first by adapting to current behaviors and usage patterns (e.g. blogging). (Learn more).

  • OpenSocial: OpenSocial defines a common API for social applications across multiple websites. With standard JavaScript and HTML, developers can create apps that access a social network's friends and update feeds. Learn more).
By using well established designs for representations, developers can re-use existing libraries, style sheets and code to process the responses from the Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform
Show me some examples
Together, the platform URL language and the platform representations are "building blocks" - so that tools, apps and widgets can be built by developers, and then embedded into blogs, wikis, social networking sites, desktops, mobile devices and so on.

Here are some example:

  • 'Asssessment Widget': adds an assessment/quiz added to a web page (see a QTI Assessment widget embedded into a blog).

  • 'Basic LTI Launch Widget': launches a secure web application using Basic Learning Tools Interoperability protocol (see a secure eBook reader launch widget embedded into a blog).

  • 'Web Content Launch Widget': launches a web content object, such as a SCORM object (see a SCORM SCO launch embedded into a blog).

  • 'Cartridge Explorer App': web application that browses all resources in a particular cartridge (see the Cartridge Explorer App.
What type of content can be added to a cartridge?
The cartridge supports the following types of content:

  • Web pages, PDF documents, WORD documents.

  • Assessment and quizzes.

  • Discussion forums.

  • Links into secure web applications.

Tell me more...
Like to know more? Why not leave a comment on this blog and we'll follow it up. The IMS Global FAQs for Common Cartridge are here.

Monday, 13 April 2009

QTI Assessment in a Blog

~ The Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform supports assessments based on the popular QTI format. The platform API can be used for integrating these assessments into blogs, wikis, web pages and social networking sites ~

This page shows how quiz items from the Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform can be embedded into a blog post, wiki or other web page.

All that is required to embed the quiz is a single HTML tag:

<!--add this line of code to your page-->
<script type="text/javascript" 
src="http://{host}/cartridges/
{cartridge}/items/{item}/assessments/@default.js">
</script>

When the single HTML tag is added to a web page, the quiz items are rendered.

Clicking the "Submit" button posts the form to a remote web service for processing and the response returns any marks and feedback available.

Clicking the "Next" button makes a request to a remote web service for the next question within a sequence.


~ QTI Assessment Tool from Icodeon CC Platform ~


In the Common Cartridge specification, quiz questions are required to be added using the Question and Test Interoperability (QTI) standard - an XML mark-up language for questions and assessments.

The example embedded into this page is a "QTI Assessment" - an ordered collection of individual question "QTI Items".

Each "QTI Item" defines its own rules for processing the response to the question and returning any feedback.

Friday, 10 April 2009

URL Language

~ This page describes the Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform API for integrating content into blogs, wikis, web pages and social networking sites ~

The platform uses a URL Language so that requests can be easily created for cartridge content.

For example, to create a reference to a thumbnail image of the first page in a cartridge, we create a request URL like this:

http://{host}/cartridges/{cartridge}/items/@first.gif

All that is required is to substitute in the name of the platform host server (the {host}) and the unique identifier of the cartridge (the {cartridge}) and the platform generates the thumbnail image.

The image can then be added to a web page as the source attribute value in an HTML image tag:

<img src="
http://api.common-cartridge.com/cartridges/
icodeon_spanish_cities/items/@first.gif"/>

The URL Language includes:

  • key words: these are part of the URL path, and are plural nouns, such as "cartridges" and "assessments".

  • path variables: these are part of the URL path. The value that was substituted in for the {cartridge} in our example above is a path variable.

  • selectors: these are part of the URL path. A selector ("@first") was used in our example to select the first item in a cartridge.

  • formats and extension variable: the part of the URL that is used to indicate the content type. The value of ".gif" in our example above is an extension variable. We used ".gif", but using ".jpg" or ".png" would mean that the platform would generate a different content type.

  • URL parameter key/value pairs: these are added after the path and extension variables as key/value pairs. For example, to create an image with a defined size, we could add the key/value pairs of "&_width=120&_height=90" to URL.

  • Puntuation characters: these can be included in URL. For example commas (,) are used represent a request for an ordered list.

The URL Language Documentation is being developed here.

So, to create a reference to a thumbnail image in the "jpg" format of the last page in a cartridge, we create a reference like this:

<img src="
http://www.common-cartridge.com/cartridges/
icodeon_spanish_cities/items/@last.jpg
?_width=120&_height=90"/>

When making requests to the Platform from external servers, we also need to add an API Key that the Platform generates for the external domain, so the final reference for the image is:

<img src="
http://www.common-cartridge.com/cartridges/
icodeon_spanish_cities/items/@last.jpg
?_api_key=abc123&_width=120&_height=90"/>

The URL language has many response formats (or "representations"), not just the graphical formats for screen shot thumbnails of pages within the cartridge.

The platform provides a choice of "representations" for all responses from the platform. For example, the platform can provide a choice of either .gif, .jpg or .png graphic formats for thumbnail images that are returned from requests.

For text based representations, the platfrom "representations" include XML, HTML, JSON and ATOM. These text based representations are conformant with well established designs, including:

  • Microformats: microformats are a set of simple, open data formats built upon existing and widely adopted standards. Instead of throwing away what works today, microformats intend to solve simple problems first by adapting to current behaviors and usage patterns (e.g. blogging). (Learn more).

  • OpenSocial: OpenSocial defines a common API for social applications across multiple websites. With standard JavaScript and HTML, developers can create apps that access a social network's friends and update feeds. Learn more).

By using well established designs for representations, developers can re-use existing libraries, style sheets and code to process the responses from the Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform