Attending Learning Impact 2007 – Reworked Schedule for Tuesday Strands

Google Docs & Spreadsheets – Learning Impact 2007 – Tuesday Strands

I am in Vancouver attending the IMS Learning Impact (formerly Alt-i Lab) conference until Wednesday. The conference goes until Thursday but I am giving a talk at the BCLA conference as well as visiting with Brian at UBC so will miss the last day.

So far it has been about par for the course for a ‘biggish’ educational technology conference. Stunningly dull keynotes but lots of great conversations with some very smart people, in truth really the reason I am here.

Yet what’s frustrating to me is that for a group dedicated to using networks and computers for learning, there is no innovation going on in how the conference itself is conducted. There is no online directory of attendees (at least not one I can find), no apparent backchannnel or other ways for attendees to network digitally. Which is why I am posting this here. Above is a link to a reworked schedule for today, done in Google docs, which shows the parallel strands as, well, parallel strands, not spearated on individual pages like on the website. Uggh! There are actually quite a few sessions of interest, but instead of having to flip back and forth, you can just see the strands side-by-side and decide where you want to be. Hardly innovative, but apparently nobody thought to do it. I used Excel’s “import data from the web” capabilities (which if you’ve never tried, provides another great way to scavange data for mashups) and then simply imported that doc into Google docs. Easy peasy. Here’s hoping foor some good sessions for the rest of the day! – SWL

Short Video on Common Cartridge

If you’ve ever tried to export a course from an existing CMS in a ‘specifications-‘compliant format you’ll know that currently the best you can likely do is get the content as IMS Content Packages and hopefully the quizzes separately in IMS QTI format. Leaving the rest of the course (discussion forums, assignments, etc) embedded in the original location and needing to be recreated from scratch.

IMS COmmon Cartridge, recently demonstrated in action between Angel, Sakai, Blackboard and WebCT at the Alt-i-lab 2006 sessions, is the attempt to remedy this problem, to create a common standard for full course import and export between CMS and useful to publishers.

Above you can see a short video describing its promise and the effort that went in around it, and you can find out more about it on the IMS Working Group page. It is a worthy problem to solve because IMS CP just doesn’t do the full job. Let’s hope some lessons have been learned over the subsequent years since its advent and the support for Common Cartridge is more, let’s say, even, than it has been for IMS CP. – SWL

alt-i-lab 2006 presentations available

If you’re an elearning standards geek then there’s lots to sift through in this collection of presentations from the recent Alt-i-lab 2006 sessions in Indiana. And if you’re not, then be warned that forcing yourself to go through these is likely to aggrevate any masochistic tendencies you may already harbour.

Part of me really wants some of these developments to come true, to deliver the promised ‘plug and play’ elearning environments described herein, and in my rational moments I know that 10 years really isn’t that long for a field like this to coalesce around an open set of interoperability specs. And yet it would be hard to fault a newcomer looking at these presentations for wondering if this represents what is still to be done, how anyone manages to develop quality online learning experiences now (and how many PhDs will be required to operate the CMS of the future)? SWL

Update – Septmeber 15, 2006 Don’t you just hate it when people reorganize their websites and don’t use mod_rewrite and other tricks to make the old URLS work. Note the new URL for the presentation, AND the requirement to sign up for a free account to get at it. Ickk!

ECAR Report – Identity Management in Higher Education

Being just a pleeb who doesn’t work for anyone with an EACR membership, I’ve only been able to read the public ‘key findings’ document from this recent ECAR study, “Identity Management in Higher Education: A Baseline Study” (and hey, I’m not really complaining that much, it is nice that they make the highlights available for free). So maybe the fuller report speaks to some of my concerns, but what I found striking about this report was the apparent disregard in the institutions surveyed for many of the internet-wide identity projects currently struggling to be borne (e.g. sxip, openID, etc.) Actually, that’s not surprising at all, we’ve longed seemed to prefer to invent (or at times re-invent) our own wheels in higher education, thinking our situations to be so different or needing to ‘own’ the results for academic or political reasons. Where this gets interesting for me, though, is the whole push within what I call the ‘loosely-coupled learning tools’ camps for instructors and students to simply adopt free or centrally provided services that exist out on the internet already (e.g. flickr, blogger, etc.) This push is not going away, nor should it, but it currently drives many IT directors and other campus service providers nuts.

It was about 2 months ago now, during the course of a private conversation about ‘loosely coupled or openly integratable leearning management systems,’ that I half-jokingly threw out the intellectual stink bomb that campuses could in the future easily turn to service providers like Google or Yahoo or Microsoft for their central identity services. It was literally a few days later that announcements about Gmail offering domain-wide hosting services (and I thought Microsoft too, but maybe this was old news, I can’t find the reference). Don’t get me wrong, I am not ADVOCATING this as a solution, only saying that a) you will see more offers like this from big ‘free’ players outside your organization to start coming ‘inside’ your organization, and along with the free services come implications of who owns what and where should it reside, so you had better already thought through how to talk to your CIO/CEO/President about this, because on a sheer cost basis it is going to be hard to justify why not and b) it is a GOOD thing for institutions to start to consider that their students have lives and identities that preceed and extend far beyond the time they attend their institutions, and that being able to easily fit into that student’s online identity (rather than the other way around) is going to be an increasing expectation.

So, good overview of the state of affairs in higher ed, and maybe the full report touches on some of these issues, but it didn’t read like a vision for the future for me. – SWL

Database of JISC-funded / ELF-related projects

We don’t really have a national-level funding body for higher ed in Canada – education is considered a provincial jurisdiction, and while there are a few bodies that have tried to help coordinate activites at a national level, in truth it is hard not to look on with envy at our commonwealth cousins in Australia and the U.K. and the seemingly comprehensive strategies for implementing eLearning frameworks that their national bodies have developed. (That said, the flip side of the argument, which I think is very valid, is that when there is no ‘central’ body, it hopefully forces your solutions to be more grassroots and come from the system itself, not be imposed upon them).

This page lists many of the JISC-funded ones in the UK. I have no idea if it is officially ok to link to this, but based on the principle of “if I can point to a public URL on the web, then it is bloggable” here it is. In addition to getting a sense for the breadth of projects currently being funded under the ‘ELF’ rubric, you can get a combined RSS feed for all the projects listed here. – SWL

Update: Apparently the more offial list of ELF projects, and one less likely to disappear, is available at, though I couldn’t see rolled up RSS feeds, which is one thing I liked about the ‘experimental’ page.

RLG-NARA Audit Checklist for Certifying Digital Repositories

Via David Mattison comes this interesting link to an effort to establish a set of guidelines for determining whether a digital repository can be certified as a trusted location for digital collections. Note that ‘repositories’ are being used here very much in a library-centric way, and that these may or may not apply to the same degree to learning object repositories, but some interesting things to learn from and expectations to live up to (you mean you don’t want the whole collection to magically disappear in 3 years time? Damn, wish someone had told me 😉 – SWL

P.S. Don’t get to thinking I’m blogging again – am still underwater with work and on a self-imposed blogging hunger strike (not sure what I’m protesting yet, I’ll think of something!) but these last two got me to post somehow.

CETIS writeup on Alt-I-Lab 2005 Demonstrators

It’s been eagerly awaited (at least by me!), and likely delayed because of all the other stuff going on at CETIS and the need for the good folks there to take a well-deserved break this summer, but we are all fortunate to finally get a more detailed write-up on the interoperability demos from the past Alt-i-lab sessions held in June in the U.K.

While this writeup does put some more meat on the bone and help us understand more about Learning Design, Tools Interoperability Profile and repository interoperability, I can’t help but think that recording some of these sessions (and maybe some screen recorded demos too) would be helpful for spreading the word and illustrating the concepts to a wider audience. Maybe next time 😉 Still, seems reason to hope that we’re moving along from abstract specs to support interoperability to actual working systems, hooray! – SWL