Department of Defense Makes E-Learning a Priority How would you describe the ADL to someone who has absolutely no frame of reference?


Shane Gallagher: The ADL is an organization that was established as an initiative from the Department of Defense. You had e-learning content providers that had a learning management system, and they would develop the content; you couldn't share those courses or learning content across any other system for delivery for access.

So it created this huge interoperability problem. You had government agencies, and especially the Department of Defense, who spent a lot of money on training and learning content, purchasing the same thing over and over again because it needed to run on this system or that system. This is the same course.

ADL formed around that problem, and as a result, it developed a technology called shareware content object reference mode, or SCORM for short. And was anyone using the term open source at that point?

SG: Open source wasn't used that much at that point. But it was on the way. You had the open source movement that was working in parallel. The ADL initiative and what it produced was not necessarily open source in terms of what you think of open source software today, but gradually the philosophies have merged, and really what ADL's philosophy and mission is, is to support facilitation of open standards for interoperability. Was it open to civilians?

SG: Yes, it was open free. It's been downloadable on the website for a very long time in various versions. It's in its sixth or seventh iteration right now. Of the first basic SCORM version, it's gone through some evolution. ADL is now working on what's called next gen SCORM. For the next generation, are you thinking about badges or other sorts of assessment labels?

SG: Assessment is huge in multiple ways. And how you assess in this environment is one of the things that we talked about, and I brought, and NSF brought up, was this idea of activity streams and tracking activity streams for assessments.

There are ways that you can then use analytics and mind those data for assessment meanings and so forth. Badges could be a little more problematic because you have to have some sort of an authority that's established and that grants the badge, and that's another structure. It's difficult to know how that would work. But for informal learning, it's certainly been thought about. Do you find that a lot of people are surprised by DOD's involvement? Is the Department of Defense and open education a more natural relationship than people might think?

SG: I think those that have been working in the space are not surprised at the DOD because they know where the DOD's position has been. The DOD has been probably the biggest investor in e-learning of any other entity. The training that's been done by the DOD is unbelievable. So they have a vested interest in making these things work. Is your content primarily designed for instructors? Or could a self-guided learner utilize it and benefit from it? Or should it really be as part of a larger sort of training program or overall lesson?

SG: SCORM content…can work either way. The existing versions of SCORM ideally work with a single learner. You can use it in larger designs, as a blended learning environment just fine. But the actual interaction, logging on and interacting with Web-based training environment, is just that. If you're in a blended learning environment, you could have students maybe go through some preliminary things that they need to know, prerequisite knowledge to do other things within a classroom. Was it designed to be that versatile, or is it just sort of a happy accident?

SG: It was designed to do pretty much that. You can use it however you want to because essentially you're logging on, and you're just going through Web-based training on a website. And you're interacting through each page interaction as designed by an instructional designer. Now moving ahead into the next gen SCORM where we're going, it's designed to be collaborative, to look at tracking collaborations, tracking multiple types of interactions.

Because one of the things that needs to happen, and this is where my passion comes into play, is the higher cost of education, the bubble that's occurring right now, there might be some strategies to bring down that cost. But part of it's going to be most likely moving more and more to distributed online learning environments. Is there anything that you would like to share about ADL?

SG: is a good place to go. ADL right now is doing two things. It's concerned with what they call next generation learning environment, which is essentially the next gen SCORM and the technologies. It's also concerned with the learner itself, and they're researching that area and looking at things such as adaptability issues.

Anybody who wants to get involved, who wants to see these standards and specifications move ahead, that are very useful to them, can get involved. We actually have a summit coming up in January. It's going to be an open invitation to those that care.

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