Standardization in Learning Technology

Standardization in Learning Technology

Maria Helena Lima Baptista Braz (DECIVIL/IST, Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal) and Sean Wolfgand Matsui Siqueira (DIA/CCET, Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO), Brazil)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch569
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Abstract

The use of computers in education has been reported since the 1970s, but the Internet is fundamentally changing the way organizations operate, and these changes are spreading fast to educational organizations as they are eager to take advantage of the new possibilities. In this context, new terms have been created to express new concepts related to the use of technology and following this trend, the term e-learning was coined. E-learning is an all-encompassing term generally used to refer to the use of technology in learning in a much broader sense than the computer-based training (CBT) or computer-aided instruction (CAI) of the 1980s. E-learning is extensively used and can include, just to name a few examples: educational Web sites; the use of hypermedia, discussion boards, e-mail, text chat, simulations and games in an educational context; computer-aided assessment; and learning management software. Although the term is not well defined and covers many possibilities, it has been mainly used when the Web is involved in the learning process. The rapid growth in e-learning has led the community of designers, developers and users of learning resources to a point where they have an enormous variety of tools to support their work. However, if these tools use proprietary solutions, this would make the reuse of learning content outside the scope of the system where it was created difficult. It would also be hard to provide mechanisms for searching, accessing, reusing, and integrating such resources. One way to avoid these kinds of problems is the definition and use of open specifications and standards. A standard is a set of technical definitions and guidelines for designers, manufacturers, and users, establishing the characteristics of a product, process, or service, such as dimensions, safety aspects, and performance requirements. Standards are written by experts with knowledge and expertise in a particular field (ASME, n.d). The Internet is a very good example of the importance of having standards to support the development and wide adoption of technology. It would have been impossible to connect so many different computers around the world if there were no standards to define the connections and communication protocols. This is also the case of e-learning technology, which needs standards in order to facilitate worldwide propagation. Once e-learning standards are defined, accepted, and used, they will bring many advantages (Duval, 2004; MASSIE Centre, 2003): • From the point of view of users, standards will prevent them from being locked-in to a particular vendor as it will be much easier to shift between tools and platforms and increase the reuse of existing resources. • From the point of view of the tool vendor, they will not need to develop proprietary interfaces for other existing products lowering the cost and increasing the size of potential markets. • From the point of view of content producers, they can use a standard format that will be understood by any delivery system conforming to the standards and increase the potential market of their products. Above all, standards are a clear signal that a technology is mature and usually are seen as a first step towards a rapid growth phase and worldwide adoption.
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Introduction

The use of computers in education has been reported since the 1970s, but the Internet is fundamentally changing the way organizations operate, and these changes are spreading fast to educational organizations as they are eager to take advantage of the new possibilities.

In this context, new terms have been created to express new concepts related to the use of technology and following this trend, the term e-learning was coined. E-learning is an all-encompassing term generally used to refer to the use of technology in learning in a much broader sense than the computer-based training (CBT) or computer-aided instruction (CAI) of the 1980s. E-learning is extensively used and can include, just to name a few examples: educational Web sites; the use of hypermedia, discussion boards, e-mail, text chat, simulations and games in an educational context; computer-aided assessment; and learning management software. Although the term is not well defined and covers many possibilities, it has been mainly used when the Web is involved in the learning process.

The rapid growth in e-learning has led the community of designers, developers and users of learning resources to a point where they have an enormous variety of tools to support their work. However, if these tools use proprietary solutions, this would make the reuse of learning content outside the scope of the system where it was created difficult. It would also be hard to provide mechanisms for searching, accessing, reusing, and integrating such resources. One way to avoid these kinds of problems is the definition and use of open specifications and standards.

A standard is a set of technical definitions and guidelines for designers, manufacturers, and users, establishing the characteristics of a product, process, or service, such as dimensions, safety aspects, and performance requirements. Standards are written by experts with knowledge and expertise in a particular field (ASME, n.d). The Internet is a very good example of the importance of having standards to support the development and wide adoption of technology. It would have been impossible to connect so many different computers around the world if there were no standards to define the connections and communication protocols. This is also the case of e-learning technology, which needs standards in order to facilitate worldwide propagation.

Once e-learning standards are defined, accepted, and used, they will bring many advantages (Duval, 2004; MASSIE Centre, 2003):

  • From the point of view of users, standards will prevent them from being locked-in to a particular vendor as it will be much easier to shift between tools and platforms and increase the reuse of existing resources.

  • From the point of view of the tool vendor, they will not need to develop proprietary interfaces for other existing products lowering the cost and increasing the size of potential markets.

  • From the point of view of content producers, they can use a standard format that will be understood by any delivery system conforming to the standards and increase the potential market of their products.

Above all, standards are a clear signal that a technology is mature and usually are seen as a first step towards a rapid growth phase and worldwide adoption.

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Background

It should be noted that there are different kinds of standards. De facto standards are developed by market—or technology-driven processes—and have come into use by general acceptance, custom, or convention, but have no formal recognition. When the standard is created by an accredited standard developing organization (SDO), it is called a de jure standard or an accredited standard and its scope can be national, regional, or international depending on the SDOs involved in its publication. Usually each country has a national standards body that is responsible for the adoption of standards within that country and that represents the country in international standards forums like ISO—International Standards Organization. ISO is a network of the national standards bodies of 157 countries, with one member per country and is a non-governmental organization with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland (ISO, 2006).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Metadata: Structured, encoded data that describe characteristics of an object.

Accessibility: The degree to which a system is usable by as many people as possible.

User Profile: A set of characteristics describing a user.

Learning Objects: Any digital resource that can be reused to support learning.

Interoperability: The capability to communicate, execute programs, or transfer data among various functional units in a manner that requires the user to have little or no knowledge of the unique characteristics of those units.

E-Learning: Refers to the use of technology in learning or training that can be deployed either locally or globally.

Standard: A standard is a set of technical definitions and guidelines for designers, manufacturers, and users establishing the characteristics of a product, process or service.

Conformance: Adherence of an implementation to the requirements of one or more specific specifications or standards.

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