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?