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Time to set standards for the e-learning industry?


Private and public sector organisations from across the UK met last week to discuss the adoption of standards for e-Learning and the possible creation of an e-Learning Conformance Authority in the UK. Delegates included BT Education, Microsoft, Granada, CISCO, FD Learning, PLATO, THINQ, NETg and BECTa. The event was organised jointly by Professor Steve Molyneux, Director of the Learning Lab and by UfI learndirect Ltd.

Professor Molyneux explained: "Huge investments are being made by the private and public sector to fund a variety of e-Learning initiatives, including the creation of content and services. Some Government agencies have already adopted the emerging e-Learning standards but others have not. As a conduit to support e-Learning in the UK we organised together with UfI learndirect Ltd, a roundtable discussion with leading industry figures to ensure a coherent approach to e-Learning across the UK."

He continued: "The group was very supportive in trying to define UK based e-Learning standards but it was clear that more consultation is required, in particular from Scottish and Welsh e-Learning advocates. The Learning Lab, which is working closely with the US Department of Defense’ Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative on e-Learning standards, has agreed to set up an informal e-Learning standards group to look at defining possible Reference models to met the needs of the whole UK, the findings of which will be fed back to key agencies."

Keith Morgan, Business Development Manager, BT Education said: "It is vital that a critical mass of online material is achieved as soon as possible and that momentum is not lost because users cannot mix and match content. A set of standards, prioritised to ensure rapid take-up and long-term flexibility, will contribute towards this aim, provided they are introduced progressively and deliver real benefit to all."

Dr Adam Cooper, Software Architect, FD Learning Ltd said: "FD Learning is enthusiastic about the possibility of a UK e-Learning Conformance Authority because we think it will help to reduce the barriers to adoption of e-Learning. Without tight conformance statements and rigorous testing there is too much scope for different interpretations of the specifications, a feeling shared by many of the contributors to the roundtable meeting. We will be supporting efforts to establish a conformance authority as a natural continuation of our long-standing investment in implementing interoperability specifications and participating in their development via organisations like IMS."

The ADL Initiative was established by the US Government to develop dynamic and cost effective learning software, through the development of a common technical framework for computer and Internet-based learning materials. The ADL Initiative has produced e-Learning standards called Shareable Courseware Object Reference Model (SCORM) that will allow Internet-based education materials to be shared across technologies.

How do you see the issue of standards in e-learning developing? Send us your comments, opinions and predictions.


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