Key Points:

  • Browser timeout, connection drops should be supported better.
  • There are still interoperability problems.
  • Distributed content that just tracks back to the LMS should be supported, particularly to handle low bandwith scenarios where the content can’t be served from the LMS.
  • Multi user collaboration, group learning are important, should allow more interesting subjects to be taught with e-learning.

I have been in the e-learning industry for about three and a half years now. I’m not a big technical expert when it comes to SCORM, I just use basic software for e-learning development. When I export e-learning, I do use the SCORM standards, so that they work with our LMS. Because I have been publishing e-learning packages, I have come across some issues which SCORM 2004 has, with our LMS providers.

If you like, we can start by going through this issues.

In general, some of the feedback I’ve had from the users of our e-learning packages are things like browser time-out. I have noticed that there are some suggestions made on your website about offline issues, like being able to complete SCORM pages offline and then connect it back to the LMS, etc. We have experienced that issue as well. Most of our LMS providers and support groups, come back to us saying, there’s really no work around on that. You just have to live with it. So I’m keen to see any new specification work going into that area to improve that.

It’s still going to require some work on the part of the content, but we’re looking at providing a web service API, which should make it easier.

That’s good news, if that’s implemented in the future. Another question I have is, do you guys have some control over — let’s say, an LMS provider claims that their products are SCORM 2004 compliant, and they market their product with that line. Do you have a sign-off or accreditation that they have to go through to claim that they’re SCORM compliant?

ADL does.

If they are certified. If they are just claiming compliance, you should ask for their test logs.

We had an LMS provided to us by another company, fully SCORM 2004 compliant. Which has been, most of the e-learning packages have worked perfectly, but in content built from a particular tool, the LMS wasn’t showing up the scores correctly, and the pass or fail status wasn’t showing up correctly. So I raised it with the LMS providers, and after some work from them, they came back to me and said they have identified the issue as the LMS not recognizing one of the SCORM calls, which is sent back to the LMS.

One thing to check on there, is that SCORM 2004 itself has different editions, and there are different calls between editions. So you want to make sure that the LMS is actually claiming conformance to the edition that the content is written to.

Would you say there’s anything you are doing now that you can talk about that you are doing in your training that you would say is new or innovative, and particularly, I’m interested in how that stresses the standards for communication as they exist, where you are pushing the boundaries?

We face challenges with things like bandwidth issues, which we’ve had to work around. We’ve got some branches placed throughout the country, and we couldn’t publish SCORM 2004 packages via the LMS to them, because our IT department said, No, you don’t have enough bandwidth to receive those packages.

We had to work around getting another version of the e-learning packages, with an email recording facility. Basically, using stand alone copies of the e-learning package which then send an automated email. Some of the issues we had with those versions is there is no particular standard for email reporting. It depends on which development tool you use, or which method they have used, whether it’s JavaScript, or direct email from Flash player, etc. Some of the challenges there were that most PCs are highly secured nowadays to stop any random emails from the PC. So we had some challenges of bypassing those security checks, when sending an automated email. Also, at the same time, not letting the user or learner edit any contents of the email. So I’ve been doing some research around, to see if there is any standard email submission in place where I haven’t come across any. At the moment, we are working on formulating some JavaScript to work around those issues.

Even if we come up with a solution, unfortunately it will be an automated email coming through to a central mailbox rather than from the LMS directly. Somebody has to manually upload those data back into the LMS. We haven’t automated that process. But if there’s any way an email coming in is feeding the LMS directly, that would be great.

We weren’t thinking in terms of email submissions so much, but we do have a use-case listed on our forum for distributed content. We were thinking in terms of web service calls.

When your learners have a learning experience, what is it about that that you want to track?

The main thing is, whether they have completed it. There is a bit of an issue with completion status as well, mostly because you get a complete status that doesn’t guarantee that the user has actually learned. But I guess that’s something that can’t be resolved technically.Basically, we’d like to get completes, or if there is a questionnaire, whether they passed or failed, and their score, completion dates, and times(preferably the time they spent on the e-learning package, from the time they opened it until they closed it).

Bookmarking — we’ve tried to use it before, but from my experience, it doesn’t work perfectly all the time. So it depends on the PCs cookie settings, whether they refreshed, book-marking every time they switched their PC on or off, etc. And especially, the questionnaires, I always want to have — let’s say they have ten questions to answer, detailed report of the first question — what did they answer for that? Whether that’s a right or wrong answer. So those kinds of detailed reports as well.

And are you getting all of that, or are you —

No, it sort of depends on which e-learning development tool we are using. Our LMS provider also gave us their own authoring tool when we got the LMS. That authoring tool only exports HTML-based e-learning package. Those versions seem to work fine with the detailed report. But, I recently got another tool, which doesn’t seem to work perfectly with the LMS. I don’t know whether it’s that LMS compliance issue, some people claim it’s fully compliant, but when it comes to launch, and actual testing, it doesn’t work perfectly all the time. I don’t know whether you can control that from a central point of view.

Part of the issue people have with compliance, and you may be running into this too, is that compliance really stops at the communication between the content and the LMS, and doesn’t address reporting. So the LMS may be recording information as it’s supposed to, but then if it doesn’t report it in any useful way, it’s not helpful. There’s some discussion around possible ways, to either include some reporting as part of compliance, or mandate another API to pull data back out.

I did read some of the suggestions that have been made on the forum, and I’ve seen some great suggestions coming through, like multi-user collaboration, because I think that’s one of the key parts that e-learning is missing. Being able to do a group activity online at the same time, while SCORM is recording it on the LMS. And also: tracking learning that is not initiated on an LMS. Those kinds of suggestions, I’m keen to find out what we end up with.

Those are all things we’re planning to try to solve.

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

I think one of the trends that e-learning has fallen into, is most people think e-learning should only be used for things like regulatory training,health and safety training and boring subjects that the classroom trainers aren’t ready to spend time on. Rather than motivating subjects, like management training or time-management, etc. Most people tend to sort of back up when they talk about those subjects: is e-learning the right way to go with those subjects?

I think going forward, if there are any improvements to be made, I think the main thing that people are still driving those subjects to classroom deliveries is because of the lack of group activities, things like role plays, that we can’t do at the moment in e-learning. So any improvements we can do in those kinds of scenarios might help the e-learning industry in general. So if those kinds of things can come into play, especially if a trainer themselves can log on as one of the users to guide the others through the training, I think those kinds of things will help tremendously in e-learning in general.

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.