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ASPECT Newsletter 5

Issue 5 – March 2011

The Learning Technology Standards Observatory (LTSO) - Introduction

The Learning Technology Standards Observatory (LTSO) was conceived as a focal access point to get information on past and present activities in Learning Technology standardisation. The LTSO mission also involves crawling the Web on a regular basis to find news and events that are relevant to all stakeholders in Learning Technology standardisation (teachers, content providers, etc.).

Online dissemination channels have been a key component of the overall ASPECT dissemination strategy. The ASPECT project uses the LTSO as one of its main dissemination channels. This newsletter intends to give an overview of the standardisation activities carried out by the main standardisation bodies and consortia during the ASPECT life span. Detailed information about the standards and specifications mentioned in this newsletter can be found in the LTSO at

Activity in ISO


The ISO technical subcommittee ISO/IEC JTC SC36 ‘Information Technologies for Learning, Education, and Training’ is devoted to standardisation in the field of information technologies for learning, education, and training to support individuals, groups, or organisations, and to enable interoperability and reusability of resources and tools. The next paragraphs shortly review the standards published by this technical subcommittee during the ASPECT life span. It is worth noting that the great publishing activity at ISO during the past 30 months is a result of the previous work that the several working groups have carried out during the last years.

The standard ISO/IEC 2382-36:2008 Information Technology Vocabulary is intended to facilitate international communication in information technology for learning, education, and training. It presents, in two languages, terms and definitions of selected relevant concepts; and identifies relationships among the entries.

ISO/IEC 19778:2008 Collaborative Workplace is applicable to collaborative technologies used to support communication among learners, instructors, and other participants. The implementation and communicative use of these technologies entails the creation of information related to participant groups, and to the collaborative environments, functions, and tools that are set up for, and used by, these groups. This standard defines data models that enable the portability and reuse of this data in an integrated way, and allow data model instantiations to be interchanged, stored, retrieved, reused, or analysed by a variety of systems.

ISO/IEC 24751:2008 Individualised Adaptability and Accessibility in E-learning, Education, and Training is intended to meet the needs of learners with disabilities and anyone in a disabling context. This standard provides a common framework to describe and specify learner needs and preferences on the one hand and the corresponding description of the digital learner resources on the other hand, so that individual learner preferences and needs can be matched with the appropriate user interface tools and digital learning resources.

The standard ISO/IEC 12785-1:2009 Content Packaging defines the structures that can be used to exchange learning, education, and training content among systems that wish to import, export, aggregate, and disaggregate packages of LET content. It illustrates the conceptual structure of the Content Packaging Information Model and defines the structural relationships, data-type, value-space, and number of occurrences permitted for each kind of information object.

ISO/IEC 19796-3:2009 Quality management, assurance and metrics provides a harmonised description of the methods and metrics required to implement quality management and quality assurance systems for stakeholders designing, developing, or utilising information technology systems used for learning, education, and training.

The standard ISO/IEC TR 24725-3:2010 Supportive technology and specific integration provides standardised vocabulary, taxonomy of media and platform technologies, and a process that can be used to describe different combinations or bundles of media and platform technologies, which are needed to perform identifies functions or to support a class of applications for learners within or across various information technology environments. It provides examples of how and when bundles of technologies can be defined to support learning, education, and training activities.

Standardisation Activities within CEN WS-LT and CEN TC 353


The workshop on learning technologies is, like other CEN workshops, an open working group aimed at producing specifications on a consensus basis, as guidance or other material. The CEN Workshops produce CEN Workshop Agreements (CWAs), which are consensus-based specifications drawn up in the special open Workshop environment. A CWA reflects the consensus of identified companies and organisations responsible for its contents. This workshop has delivered a number of CEN Workshop Agreements.

The CEN Technical Board decided in January 2007 to create a new CEN Technical Committee, CEN/TC 353, to work on standards in the field of information and communication technologies relating to learning, education and training. Learning, education and training in Europe relies strongly on the growing use and development of information and communication technologies. Some of the benefits of European standards will be an increase in quality of European e-learning products, services and processes, an increase of interoperability and reduced development costs of e-learning products. This new TC has been very active during the ASPECT life span with several ongoing work items that will become official European Norms (ENs) in the near future.

In December 2008, it was published the CWA 15903 Metadata for Learning Opportunities (MLO) – Advertising. MLO-Advertising (MLO-AD) is a standard addressing metadata sufficient for advertising a learning opportunity. The goal of MLO-AD is to provide information about a learning opportunity, to enable the learner to make a decision if there a need for more information about the learning opportunity, and where to find that information. In the future, the MLO set of standards will be further developed to describe Metadata for Learning Opportunities related to the Europass system used throughout Europe. Based on other needs for metadata related to Learning Opportunities new standardisation projects could also be launched. Currently the MLO-AD is under standardisation in the TC 353 to become an EN.

In January 2010, it was published the CWA 16076 ECTS Information Package/Course Catalogue MLO Application Profile. This CEN Workshop Agreement defines refinements to the MLO Information Model for representing the ECTS IP/CC, based on best practice guidance offered to institutions seeking the honorary distinction of an ECTS Label.

The Bologna process seeks to establish a comparable and compatible European Higher Education area. Guidance documentation created in support of that aim includes a template for describing degree programmes, course units and the Higher Education institutions that offer them, known as the ECTS IP/CC.

The MLO Information Model specifies a generic model for describing learning opportunities and the institutions that offer them. This CWA proposes an Application Profile of refinements to the MLO Information Model for representing the ECTS IP/CC.

Also in January 2010, it was published the CWA 16077 Educational Credit Information Model. This CWA defines the semantics of classes and properties used to represent Credits in electronic form. The definitions in this standard are primarily intended to be referenced by other bindings, specifications, and standards; for example, specifications representing learning opportunities and units of learning.

Credit represents a measurement of learner achievement on modular units of learning. Credit forms a common currency within a given scheme of credit transfer, for example, the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). Also at a national level, other credit schemes and exchange mechanisms exist.

The CWA 16078 Curriculum Exchange Format (CEF) as published in January 2010. This CWA contains guidelines on exchanging curriculum information. It presents an approach to exchanging and mapping curriculum information for use in controlled vocabularies for metadata and to provide navigation structures in user interfaces. This CWA contributes to improvement in the use of repositories and portals for learning, education, and training by supporting semantic interoperability, data interchange, personalisation, and federation of resources. Currently the CEF is under standardisation to become an EN within the TC 353.

In February 2010, it was published the CWA 16097 The Simple Publishing Interface (SPI) Specification. This CWA presents the Simple Publishing Interface (SPI), a protocol for publishing digital objects or their metadata to repositories. This protocol is designed to facilitate the transfer of metadata and content from tools that produce learning materials to applications that manage learning object and metadata, but is also applicable to the publication of a wider range of digital objects. The objective is to develop a practical approach towards interoperability between repositories for learning and applications that produce or consume educational materials. Examples of repositories for learning are educational brokers, knowledge pools, institutional repositories, streaming video servers, etc. Applications that produce these educational materials are for instance query and indexation tools, authoring tools, presentation programs, content packagers, etc. The SPI is an interface for publishing digital materials into a repository. Whilst the development of the SPI specification draws exclusively on examples from the education sector, it is recognised that the underlying requirement to publish content and metadata into repositories crosses multiple sectors. Very recently, the SPI work has been approved as a New Work Item thanks to the ASPECT proposal through AENOR. The Simple Query Interface (SQI), a previously approved CWA (CWA 15454) has also been approved as a NWI as a result of an ASPECT-initiated action.

The CWA 16131 Europass Diploma Supplement Application Profile of the EuroLMAI (EuroLMAI Europass DS AP) was published in June 2010. This CWA defines refinements to the EuroLMAI model for representing the Europass DS. The Europass Diploma Supplement Application Profile of EuroLMAI, in full compliance with the Europass requirements, focuses on the expression of information regarding the qualification awarded to a learner upon completion of a formal educational programme.

In June 2010, it was published the CWA 16132 European Learner Mobility Achievement Foundation (EuroLMAI). It defines a model for the recording and exchange of learner achievement information among student management information systems, as well as the aggregation of information by third party suppliers. The model proposed within this CWA is not intended to define the representation of the entire spectrum of Learner Mobility information. The scope of the standard is restricted to the definition of the electronic representation of official, institutionally attested achievement information for learners engaged in formal learning processes, in order to facilitate its recording and subsequent exchange within the European Education Area.

Also in June 2010, the CWA 16133 Guidelines on a European Learner Mobility Model was published. The objective of the Guidelines and the European Learner Mobility project as a whole is the provision of guidelines on a data model for the expression and exchange of European Learner Mobility information, as defined by the European Transparency instruments.

These CWAs on the European Learner models are currently under standardisation in CEN TC 353 under a common work item, European Learner Model (ELM). Currently, a new proposal on integrating learning outcomes and competences is being considered as the next work item for future standardisation in the CEN groups.

IMS GLC Standardisation Activities


The IMS Global Learning Consortium (IMS GLC) is a global, nonprofit, member organisation that strives to enable the growth and impact of learning technology in the education and corporate learning sectors worldwide. IMS GLC members provide leadership in shaping and growing the learning industry through community development of interoperability and adoption practice standards and recognition of the return on investment from learning and educational technology. The next paragraphs summarise the standardisation activities within IMS GLC since 2008.

IMS GLC Common Cartridge (Version 1.0 Final) was published in October 2008. The Common Cartridge specification defines an open format for the distribution of rich, web-based content. It is designed to ensure the correct installation and operation of content across any Common Cartridge conformant platform and tools. The specification defines a profile for the use of the following specifications which are already widely implemented and in use across the community: IEEE LOM, IMS Content Packaging v1.2, IMS Question & Test Interoperability v1.2.1, and IMS Authorisation Web Service v1.0.

The LOM, Content Packaging, and Question & Test Interoperability specifications have each been profiled to simplify their use. Thus their scope has been constrained to those features commonly implemented and in use by the community. Experience suggest that interoperability problems that have arisen with implementations of these specifications are frequently the result of differing interpretations of the specs and options being taken that lead to divergence in behaviour. A key goal of the Common Cartridge specification therefore has been to provide a tighter definition of their use thus eliminating this divergence. The resulting profile also lends itself to more effective conformance testing of implementations.

Additional features offered by the Common Cartridge include: a new resource type for initiating discussion forum interactions; inclusion of a question bank, offering tutors additional questions to those contained within the pre-configured assessments, which they can configure around the core material; and optional authorisation to protect either the whole cartridge, or selected cartridge resources.

The IMS GLC Content Packaging (Version 1.2) was published in October 2008. The IMS Content Packaging Information Model describes data structures that can be used to exchange data between systems that wish to import, export, aggregate, and disaggregate packages of content. The specification supports the description of content supporting a given learning activity, location of the content, and how these pieces of content may be organised for best instructional effect. As a result of wide adoption of the specification, millions of IMS content packages of instructional content are used in a variety of applications. IMS Content Packaging is a core specification referenced in the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) initiative’s Sharable Content Object Reference Model.

In March 2010, the IMS GLC Learning Information Services was published. The Learning Information Services (LIS) specification is the definition of how systems manage the exchange of information that describes people, groups, memberships, courses and outcomes within the context of leaning. The specification is based upon the concepts of: interoperability, service-oriented, component-based, behaviours and data models, multiple bindings.

The IMS GLC Access for All (Version 2.0 Final) was published in May 2010. The Access for All specification is intended to meet the needs of learners with disabilities and anyone who is disabled by their context.

The IMS Access for All Personal Needs and Preferences (PNP) Information Model is the part of the Access for All specification that provides a common information model for describing the learner or user needs and preferences when accessing digitally delivered resources or services. Its purpose is to provide a machine-readable method of stating user needs and preferences with respect to digitally based education or learning. This part of the Access for All specification can be used independently, for example to deliver the required or desired user interface to the learner/user, or in combination with Access for All Specification Digital Resource Description to deliver digital resources that meet a user’s needs and preferences.

The Access for All Digital Resource Description Information Model (v2.0) is the part of the Access for All Specification that provides a common language to describe digital learning resources to facilitate matching of those resources to learners’ accessibility needs and preferences. This part of the Access for All specification provides an information model for describing learning resources so that individual learner preferences and needs (described according to the Access for All Personal Needs and Preferences for Digital Delivery) can be matched with the appropriate user interfaces, tools and learning resources within a computer-mediated learning environment.

The MS GLC Basic Learning Tools Interoperability (Version 1.0 Final) was published in May 2010. This specification is aimed at allowing remote tools and content to be integrated into a Learning Management System (LMS). The IMS specification defines two styles of integration: Full LTI and Basic LTI. Full LTI entails a formal, negotiated deployment process whereby the Tool Consumer (typically an LMS) and the Tool Provider reach an agreement about (1) the run-time services that will be used to support tight integrations between the systems, (2) the security policies that will apply, and (3) the set of destinations within the Tool that can be launched from the Tool Consumer system. Basic LTI exposes a single destination in the Tool provider system. The procedure for establishing a link to this single destination is simple, but limited. There is no provision for accessing Full LTI run-time services in the Tool Consumer and only one security policy is supported.

The IMS GLC Student Induction to e-Learning (Version 1.0 Final) was published in December 2010. The Student Induction to E-Learning (SIEL) project group, was formed in early 2008 to develop best practices to address the increased rate of student attrition associated with e-learning. The importance of this work lies within the continued growth in e-learning on a regional and global basis, and the impending shift from classroom-based to e-learning as the predominant post-secondary education delivery model by 2015. Increasing access to higher education through e-learning has been a success story over the last fifteen years or son. However, the risk of increased student attrition associated with e-learning is significantly greater than that of classroom-based education and is also perceived as one of the greatest weaknesses associated with e-learning, posing significant institutional, societal, and individual consequences.

Standardisation Activities within ADL


The Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative develops and implements learning technologies across the U.S. Department of Defense and federal government. The ADL Initiative collaborates with government, industry, and academia to promote international specifications and standards for designing and delivering learning content.

Specification of ADL instructional content objects is being accomplished through the development of the Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM). SCORM 2004 4th Edition (Version 1.1) was published in August 2009. SCORM is a collection, integration, and harmonisation of specifications and standards that have been bundled into a collection of ‘technical books’: Content Aggregation Model (CAM), Run-Time Environment (RTE), and Sequencing and Navigation (SN).

The SCORM Content Aggregation Model (CAM) book describes the components used in a learning experience, how to package those components for exchange from system to system, how to describe those components to enable search and discovery and how to define sequencing information for the components. The SCORM CAM promotes the consistent storage, labelling, packaging, exchange, and discovery of learning content.

The SCORM Run-Time Environment (RTE) book describes the Learning Management System (LMS) requirements in managing the run-time environment (i.e., content launch process, standardised communication between content and LMSs, and standardised data model elements used for passing information relevant to the learner’s experience with the content). The RTE book also covers the requirements of Sharable Content Objects (SCOs) and their use of a common application programming interface (API) and the SCORM Run-Time Environment Data Model.

The SCORM Sequencing and Navigation (SN) book describes how SCORM-compliant content may be delivered to learners through a set of learner- or system-initiated navigation events. The branching and flow of that content may be described by a predefined set of activities.

Activity in IEEE LTSC


The Learning Technology Standards Committee (LTSC), formerly P1484, is chartered by the IEEE Computer Society Standards Activity Board to develop accredited technical standards, recommended practices and guides for learning technology. The LTSC coordinates formally and informally with other organisations that produce specifications and standards for similar purposes.

Although no standards have been published during the ASPECT life span, some of the IEEE LTSC working groups have been very active during this period. The Digital Rights Expression Languages (DREL) workgroup is gathering requirements that a standardised DREL must meet to support learning, education, and training. The purpose of this project is to facilitate the creation, management, and delivery of digital content for e-learning by technology that implements digital rights expression languages. The recommended practice should determine what, if any, extensions are needed so that these DREL can meet the identified requirements.

The Computer Managed Instruction (CMI) workgroup was formed in 1998 to standardise portions of the Computer Managed Instruction (CMI) specification developed by the Aviation Industry CBT Committee (AICC). The 1484.11 standards produced by this workgroup enabled the SCORM runtime environment, a mechanism to report learner performance in a technology-supported learning activity. With the exception of maintenance activities, this workgroup was inactive for several years. As a result of discussions with the ADL, AICC, and LETSI organisations, this workgroup was reactivated in 2010 to undertake revision of the 1484.11.1 data model standard. The revision intends to correct known defects, to better serve diverse communities of practice, and to enable a broader set of interactive learning experiences.

The Learning Object Metadata workgroup is devoted to specifying the syntax and semantics of Learning Object Metadata, defined as the attributes required to fully/adequately describing a Learning Object. Learning Objects are defined here as any entity, digital or non-digital, which can be used, re-used or referenced during technology supported learning. The Learning Object Metadata standards focus on the minimal set of attributes needed to allow these Learning Objects to be managed, located, and evaluated. The standards will accommodate the ability for locally extending the basic fields and entity types, and the fields can have a status of obligatory (must be present) or optional (maybe absent). Relevant attributes of Learning Objects to be described include type of object, author, owner, terms of distribution, and format. Where applicable, Learning Object Metadata may also include pedagogical attributes such as: teaching or interaction style, grade level, mastery level, and prerequisites. It is possible for any given Learning Object to have more than one set of Learning Object Metadata. The standard will support security, privacy, commerce, and evaluation, but only to the extent that metadata fields will be provided for specifying descriptive tokens related to these areas; the standard will not concern itself with how these features are implemented.

The Resource Aggregation Models for Learning, Education, and Training workgroup is defining a conceptual model that includes an ontology and a nomenclature for enabling the interpretation of externalised representations of digital aggregates of resources for learning, education, and training applications.

Resource aggregation is the process of gathering digital resources, describing their structure, and often collecting or referring to their metadata so that the resulting resource aggregation can be used for transmission, storage, and delivery to users. Individual communities have developed different aggregation formats, each focusing on the community’s special needs and requirements. There is a need to exchange resource aggregations between communities that may be using different aggregation formats. In these cases, it is necessary to map between aggregation formats.

The conceptual model facilitates interoperability by providing an ontology that can be used to represent and compare a variety of resource aggregation formats. In addition, the conceptual model standard may serve as a common reference for the development and evolution of standards and specifications for resource aggregations and may assist the development of profiles that maximize interoperability between the various aggregation formats.

The Competency Data Standards workgroup has been working on a draft standard for Reusable Competency Definitions (RCD) and is studying the possibility of adding other related competency technology standards.

The ASPECT project is coordinated by European Schoolnet
with support from the European Commission's eContentplus Programme