Key Points:

  • Interoperability / Simplicity — had trouble getting multi-SCO content to keep track of completed SCOs across different LMSs. LMS or authoring tool implementation could be the problem.
  • Incorporating more video, learners have to watch for what is wrong
  • Authoring tools do not provide close captioning support for video, since 508 requires this, shouldn’t it be a requirement for the authoring tools?
  • Would be good to host content off of the LMS, to get around disk space and bandwidth problems
  • Using single-SCO content instead of multi-SCO content due to complexity / tool support, but that limits tracking
  • Certain details must not be tracked (environmental requirement) only tracking completions not Score.
  • In the future, more blended learning should be used, combining e-learning, blogs, web conferences, online books/video to make a training program.

Could you describe your role at the census and how it relates to e-learning and SCORM?

We develop SCORM compliant courses in-house for the census bureau. This includes a couple of mandated courses taken by all employees across the country. We’ve used 2 LMSs, and one thing we’ve found is that in both LMSs we had to tweak the SCORM code to get the course to track correctly.

You were having an interoperability problem?

Yes, the other problem we had is related to a couple of other threads already on the blog, but they’re basically related to having either multiple SCOs or being able to have a complex table of contents that would show which content is completed form one day to the next. Say the content was two hours and needs to be taken in half-hour increments over several weeks, so it would keep tracking and book-marking, and actually display to the user the completed SCOs, and the incomplete SCOs.

I guess the problem you had there was getting the table of contents to display the way you wanted?

No, it was getting the table of contents to display complete or incomplete over multiple sessions. So I think that SCORM currently does that, but it’s too complex for me to use. So I would have to hire a vendor to help us figure out how to that.

That goes to “it needs to be simple,” too?

Yes. I wasn’t sure where to put these issues in the blog, which is why I opted for the interview. Similar ideas already — it seems like everyone is experiencing similar problems.

With the table of contents across multiple sessions, do you think that could have to do with the way each session is being exited, or does it make sense to you that that would have something to do with it?

Usually our courses are all browser and Flash-based, so do we have to then instruct 10,000 people on how to exit a course?

I mean the code within the course.

There were some vendors saying they need to click this exit button for the course-status to be correctly saved.

It can be tricky to grab it when the window closes, but it should be possible. That’s a case of something vendors have to work on, really.

What would you say, or if there are any new or innovative things you are doing in your training now, or planning to incorporate?

Last year we started incorporating more video in training, mostly 1 – 2 minute video clips. One course in particular has 5 1 – 2 minute video clips. They show someone doing something wrong, and the following screen asks if the learner noticed anything wrong. And they have to think about what the person was doing wrong, and then followed by another movie clip of the person doing the right thing. So we’re modeling the expected behavior.

Getting past that page-turner phase was a bit of a hill to climb. We still have a lot of people stuck in the Power Point mode and calling it training.

B: Are there any problems with the standard at all in terms of incorporating video?

Yes, section 508 compliance is required by law, and it’s very difficult to — none of the tools actually have a built-in video player that allows us to add closed-captions. Adding closed-captions to video was very hard, so we had an in-house developer who created Flash-video player with an associated XML file, where we could put the caption points and the caption in the XML file, and then the Flash video-player pulls on the XML file to display the captions.

And then the same problem occurs in other tools. We handle it one way in one tool and another way in another tool, and sometimes we have to actually take video and send it out to an external vendor to do the captioning service. So that’s been very difficult.

So it would be useful to mandate that tool-vendors included closed-captioning in their video players.

Yes. The other problem with Section 508 is that Flash, and this isn’t related to SCORM, I don’t think, but it’s very difficult to set the tab order. So if a person can’t use a mouse, they can’t navigate the LMS and the course. So there’s problems across the board within the LM community, with vendors, Flash, the development tools, they all have the same mouse-less navigation problems. ‘s getting better, they’re coming out with enhancements. This is the first year we’ve actually come close to having achieved 508 compliance, but the LMSs still don’t do a good job of it either.

What other things are you planning on incorporating a little further down the road?

They really want to be able to do an hour-long video. But you have disc-space and bandwidth problems.

So one thing we’ve heard from a variety of people is that it would be nice not to have to upload the content to the LMS but just leave it on a content server. Would that sort of change be helpful with that?

Yes, because the LMS vendor wants to charge us for gigabytes.

And it’s to your internal users, presumably — or you could probably get a better rate from a content network provider. So what is it you want to track when learners have a training or learning experience?

Course status, we would like to have more flexibility in tracking that. Like I was explaining before, with the table of contents. Let’s say they finish lesson one and two today, and they come back tomorrow and want to resume, to take them back to where they left off and show what they have completed.

Right, and that’s something that’s supposed to work now, which goes back to being kind of a compatibility, interoperability issue you are running into, maybe? Or complexity.

Yes, a complexity problem, too. So none of the tools do a good job at adding that functionality and then — that’s the biggest thing I’d like to focus on being able to do. And being able to track multiple events so then you have four modules and each is an hour long; so you have four hours worth of self-study e-learning and so being able to take the multiple SCO tracking.

It sounds like now, within the standard it’s possible to track multiple SCOs, but you want to make four modules multiple SCOs, but you don’t because it’s easier to throw them all in a single SCO and do your own table of contents internally, and then you lose tracking?

Right.

And have you, I don’t know if your tools support this, but have you looked into using objectives or interactions to track those details within one SCO?

No, because the federal government — it’s almost like you have to have permission to track different levels — I’m trying to describe the environment. In the federal government, you have to have permission to kind of keep those records, like if someone has achieved a certain level of skill or knowledge, because it might impact their ability to get promotions. So anything that impacts the work environment has to be vetted the unions, management has to be approved. So we don’t track anything except completion status. We require 70% or higher, 7 out of 10 questions answered correctly in order to obtain completion status. Its the standard 70%.

But you don’t track 70%, you track completed.

Right.

You ought to be able to use objectives to track what you would have been able to track in multiple SCOs within one SCO and specifically, you could track more than one completion. So you could track objective one complete, objective two incomplete, objective three complete, etc. So, would that run into the same issues you’re talking about, or it hasn’t worked in your software, you haven’t been able to try it?

It’s something we haven’t been able to try yet because of the complexity.

So what do you think will change in e-learning in the next 5 – 10 years, and what do you think should change?

I would like to see how, to hope it would grow to that blended learning model, where an e-learning course and a blog, and a web-conference, and online book, and online video are assembled in a way to make a whole training program. If there would be some way to track that the entire program was complete, that they read the online book, watched the online video, etc..

Ben is literally one of the top experts on SCORM and xAPI in the world. Heck, he wrote the first draft of xAPI. He’s a software developer here at Rustici Software and enjoys visiting us “down South” because it means trying new foods, like catfish.