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3. Related Technologies

In an EUN survey Vuorikari (2003) reported that in-house development of VLEs is booming in the European school sector. More that fifty percent of the schools involved in the survey developed and used their own solution. One third of the schools used commercial VLEs while the rest used open source VLEs. While the different actors from industry to local school authorities were investing in educational applications and content, they also tried to opt for interoperability for the exchange of learning objects from one VLE to another. In order to ensure a basic level of interoperability of content from different suppliers, the EUN CELEBRATE project duly opted for IMS Content Package v.1.1.2 as contained in SCORM v1.2 and IEEE LOM-derived metadata.


SCORM1 v1.2 is a suite of technical standards that enable web-based learning systems to find, import, share, reuse, and export learning content. The main ideas behind SCORM were to let learning content be moved from one VLE and be integrated into another and create searchable content or content repositories. SCORM consists basically of two parts:

1) A Content Aggregation Model that describes how to put learning content together so it can be moved and reused. This model consists of IMS LOM (Learning Object Metadata), an XML "binding" description for the metadata tags in LOM and the IMS Content Packaging specification, which defines how to package together a collection of learning objects, their metadata, and information about how the content is to be delivered to the user.

2) A Run Time Environment consisting of a JavaScript? based API that provides a standard way of communicating with a VLE and a data model that describes what to communicate (e.g. test scores).

Within the manifest of a Content Package, there is a so-called "organization" element that defines the structure of the overall learning experience. This section defines the intended behavior of the content when a package is imported into a VLE. The organization section has been heavily criticized because its sequencing mechanism does not allow pedagogical methods involving collaboration and complex behaviors. This is also reflected in the report by Vuorikari (2003) where teachers mostly used VLEs to communicate, assign work, direct pupils to materials and store resources, i.e. VLEs only acted as a digital distribution place of resources, not an environment for the actual learning experience. She further asks whether “this is because other tools, such as knowledge building tools, are not available or because teachers lack ideas on how to use VLEs in more constructive ways?” In this deliverable we will look at tools that emphasize pedagogical methods either as a feature built into them, or as authoring tools that help teachers to create LOs or as a specification describing what such a tool can look like.

3.2 Learning Technology for Social Constructivism

Today there are many learning environments that support pedagogical models with high degree of interaction between students. Two interesting environments that support ideas based on Social Constructivism are Belvedere and Future Learning Environment 3 (Fle3). Both these systems emphasize inquiry in a social context. Belvedere1 by Laboratory for Interactive Learning Technologies (LILT) from Department of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) at University of Hawaii is software for constructing and reflecting on diagrams of one's ideas, such as evidence maps and concept maps. Belvedere is designed to help support problem-based collaborative learning scenarios in which middle school and high-school students learn critical inquiry skills. LILT also provides other tools that help students reflect and discuss while constructing models of a subject domain. The pedagogical ideas behind their systems are not much different than the ones reflected in 2 from UIAH Media Lab, University of Art and Design Helsinki. FLE3 is designed to support learner and group centered work that concentrates on creating and developing expressions of knowledge. With its Knowledge Building tool, groups may carry out typed dialogues that scaffold them in an inquiry based manner to create knowledge in a subject domain.

Both Belvedere and FLE3 are examples of tools that are based on social constructivist ideas. However, these are not general frameworks for learning, such as SCORM and IMS LD intend to be, but tightly integrated to their main purpose; support for inquiry based learning.

3.3. LAMS

LAMS is developed by the Macquarie E-learning Centre of Excellence (MELCOE) at Macquarie University, Australia. It is interesting in this study because it provides us with ideas on how to form generic activities that can easily be reused by others and that it does a lot of what IMS LD compatible tools are supposed to do: to support collaborative learning activities. LAMS' visual interface for developing on-line courses has a top-down approach where you can start by designing sequences of activities before you dive into the actual details of each activity (Figure 3). These activities can include a range of individual tasks, small group work and whole class activities based on both content and collaboration.

For example LAMS include activities such as chat, discussion forums with or without resources, notice boards, co-writing with chat. These activities are then put together in sequences of activities that a student has to perform during a course module or lesson.

One drawback with the currently released LAMS version is that activities created can only be played on a LAMS server. There is no interoperability with other systems. This is currently being addressed as the coming LAMS version 2.0 will have some support for IMS LD.