Why LETSI Matters


Me and the first official implementation of Baqon.
Me and the first official implementation of Baqon.

I returned from the SCORM 2.0 Workshop last night, my head still spinning from how much work got done over the last three days at the Institute for Human/Machine Cognition (IHMC) in Pensacola, FL.  Not to belabor the point:  this is the first standards-type of meeting that I’ve been part of that lacked vitriol and arguments over the most mundane topics.  We didn’t talk a lot about tech, and we banned ourselves from using the words SCORM, learning management system, SCO, etc.  In other words, the Learning/Education and Training group focused themselves squarely on one thing:  what does organizational learning need to look like for the next ten years, and how can we describe it to the architects, engineers and the business people who have to make it happen?


This is no small breakthrough, as silly as it sounds.  When SCORM was conceived in the late 90s, it was (per Dr. Eric Roberts) to get an industry that was tearing itself apart as it was getting off the ground moving in the same direction.    SCORM addressed a handful of use-cases and because there was no community of implementers at the time, the only community that could push such a specification framework forward were the LMS Vendors and the Department of Defense, who put it on the line that this effort was vital for training delivery in an ever-complex world.  Because of this, looking back now on the ten years of evolution that SCORM has, it’s pretty clear that SCORM 1.x is a vendor-centric model of organizational learning.

The world is different now.  For one, the adopters of SCORM 1.x are global.  They’ve been using SCORM and systems (and content) conformant with the specification for ten years.  The adopters of SCORM are segmenting, and trying to make a technical communication and aggregation specification fit in with lots of other things related to higher-level learning — things SCORM 1.x never addressed — and more importantly, the adopters (you and me) are trying to do it all interoperably, and finding out that interoperability is much too difficult and painful.

The bottom-line:  whatever SCORM is to become in a 2.0 version — there is a diverse global community with lots of different models of how organizational learning works.  SCORM 2.0 will be a client-oriented model for organizational learning.  The LET group that I was part of with new friends like Lang Holloman, Dan Young, Mark Oehlert, Ellen Meiselman  and others who might be shy of recognition — the Business Case and the Architecture groups waited for our narratives  about what kinds of scenarios we envisioned.  In SCORM 1.x, it was the engineers who dreamed up how to do stuff, and the pedagogy would have to adapt to the systems.  This resulted in focus areas like “Run Time Environments” and “Content Aggregation Models.”  The focus of how Business and Architecture will work will focus on these use-cases, based on the first-tier themes:

Learner Data

  -Longitudnal Tracking

  -Lifecycle Management
  -Data Persistentence

  -Multiple contexts
  -Text analysis

Social Learning
  -Team-based (fixed)
  -Multi-user (formed)
  -User-generated content

ADL never considered design issues.  LETSI knows it must consider design issues.  Look at that list to see how much Instructional Design has a role in the architecture (and look at its priorities, too).  Knowledge Management is a sub-category of Social Learning — I didn’t even mention it out loud and everyone in the room agreed.  Consider how Instructional Design is focused working with SCORM 1.x systems — THIS IS A SEA CHANGE.

In our Thursday session, after a lengthy alignment session on Wednesday afternoon, we produced 29 scenarios.  We each took up one or more to champion, which means I need YOU to help me vet the following scenarios (information forthcoming).  After reviewing as a team our different scenarios, the Architecture group came in to help us clear up information about the scenarios we drafted.  The big reveal (that was not that surprising):  whatever it is that we design as an architectural solution (called SCORM or “ISLA (Interoperable Services for Learning Architecture)”), it will likely be a Service-Oriented Architecture approach.  This isn’t locked in stone, but it seems to emerge as a general request among almost everyone involved.

So emerging from this workshop, we have put together some very clear pictures of what we’re going to build to and even some vision of how we’re going to build it, at least at a high level — and that is probably the most important reason why LETSI matters:  SCORM 1.x was about a framework of how different standards and specifications could work together.  SCORM 2.x will be more — it will layout how a myriad of open standards will work together — but it will likely also spurn off an open source community that will fuel the development of a next generation of interoperable services for learning.

SCORM 2.x will likely be a platform.  On Thursday morning I floated the notion publicly that  “Maybe, as LETSI, we should be the LINUX of the E-Learning software community.”  As Lang  noted, the room seemed to agree:

“…all in attendance responding that this is the overall perspective we seem to be in complete agreement as the business model and community approach to make LETSI thrive.”

So that in a nutshell is why LETSI matters.  I’ll admit that I had some doubts going into the meeting about LETSI’s viability — but now that I get a real sense that we’re looking beyond being a standards body into becoming an organization that supports interoperable standards and services that work together to build platforms… I feel very very committed to the cause.  I think I participated in a singular even that will spark an incredible movement.

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