Tag Archives: eLearning

Edufountain II: Mad Scientists for Future of eLearning Seminar

The US Army hosted a conference called The Mad Scientists Future Technology Seminar 2008 . The goal of the conference was to explore how the proliferation and development of speculative technologies could affect the battlefield in the next 10-25 years.

I think we need our own mad scientist series for education. I’ve spent the spring blogging about the future of Web 2.0 and education. I was able to use these notes in a white paper that was distributed at the BbWorld DevCon conference.

This paper was focused on things I see as having a major impact in the next few years and near horizon product cycles. The next set of topics I want to explore are things that are more speculative applications of technologies.

As a parent of the class of 2022 I’m wondering what the high school experience looks like almost a decade out. What are some possible future scenarios for teaching and learning.

There are enormous strides being made in understanding cognitive development, human computer interaction and neurotropics. Quantum computers may allow us to perform multi-vector analysis and searches to solve problems currently beyond computer science and math. Breakthroughs in human health could make us stronger, healther and longer lived. At the same time we could see dark futures with computers controlling and directing our lives; bleak worlds where environmental and system collapse leave us entering a new dark age, etc.

My plan is to look at some far flung ideas and try to think about how they might impact the VLE and education. I’m going to seek out some mad scientists at my upcoming conferences get their take on the future as well.

As an open thread what ideas would you like to explore? Who would you like me to pull aside for Q&A? And what questions do you have? Finally are you a mad scientist out there in a secret volcano labouring to reshape teaching and learning using technology? Drop me a line.

DevCon 2010 Preview

This Sunday (July 10) we will kick things off with the OSCELOT Open Source Day. This will be a fun day of code jamming and collaborating. I’m bringing my laptop and my IDE.
Monday and Tuesday we will have the official Blackboard sponsored program. Anna Kamenetz will be our keynote speaker, followed by my own annual DevCon keynote in the afternoon. We’re going to be joined by a special guest, Ray Henderson. I think Ray’s willingness to co-present at the DevCon keynote signifies that he personally takes openness of our platform very seriously. I’ve asked him to make some public comments and commitments regarding further opening of the Blackboard Learn(&tm;) platform and standards. As part of this commitment we will have a significant block of time at the conference dedicated to IMS standards. IMS staff will be presenting information with Blackboard customers and partners demonstrating how these standards can be used in Blackboard.

After our comments we will have some tremendous sessions including a performance engineering workshop lead by Steve Feldman, and other tracks focused on System Administration, Getting Started with Building Blocks, Database Reporting and Tools. We’ve also setup collaborative areas in the hallway where we will have Blackboard Experts standing by ready to provide expert advice and insights on building and extending Blackboard.

If you are missing DevCon and Open Source Day this year, then I hope you’ll follow along on twitter and blogs with various information. I will do my best to try to get some blog posts up during the week with my own reflections. If you are covering DevCon via your blog or social media post a comment below and let me know where I can follow your conversation.

EduTech Standards: An Interview with Mark Stiles

Picture of Mark StilesMark Stiles, Professor of Technology Supported Learning and Head of Learning Development and Innovation at Staffordshire University in the UK, was kind enough to respond to my email interview questions. He requests that I note: that these are his personal responses and should NOT be seen as representing the official views of either Staffordshire University, JISC or IMS.

Please give the group and introduction about yourself and background in Education Technology Standards?

A bit about myself – originally I was trained as a Computer Scientist (I have a UK Degree in Computing that dares back to 1971!) and I also have a record of being a teacher and academic manager in UK Further Education. Some 20 or so years OK I moved into the UK Higher Education sector as a Deputy IT Director with responsibility for developing the use of IT in support of learning and teaching. In the mid 90’s, I developed (using funding from JISC) one of the first VLEs (called COSE). Also around that time I became the person in charge of learning development and innovation at Staffordshire University. In 2000, I was awarded one of the first Professorial Chairs in “eLearning” in the UK.

I have carried out numerous projects on behalf of JISC ranging from the original development of COSE, through work on interoperability standards (eg early work on IMS Enterprise and Content Packaging specifications), work on content reuse and repurposing, technology for the support of work-based learning etc. I’m currently running a project looking at transforming the management and sustainability of innovation across my University using Enterprise Architecture approaches, and another project piloting Open Educational Resources. (I should add we use Blackboard as our VLE and Guiti Harvest Road Hive as our learning content repository – our SIS is Oracle-based).

Can you tell us about the role JISC is taking in developing global technology standards?

I’m Deputy Chair of the JISC Learning and Teaching Committee, Chair of JISC CETIS, and a Director (on behalf of JISC) of the IMS GLC.

JISC’s role in standards would be best found from the JISC strategy document on its website, but JISC is solidly behind the development and use of open standards, and sees standards as a critical factor for enabling both effectiveness and efficiency for the UK Higher Education sector. JISC works with a range of international organisations with either interests or activities in the standards area. JISC CETIS is the organsation which focusses education technology work in the UK for JISC and employs a number of staff who support JISC funded work across the country and beyond.

What lessons have you learned from the standards development process which should be used by future standards groups / initiatives?


I see standards in terms of enabling Universities to meet the challenges of a changing global environment. Clearly standards which enable reuse/repurposing and open exposure of learning content are vital, as are those which enable the sharing of content, learner information, and other data across partner institutions. The market for HE is Europe is increasingly demand led and standards which will support employer engagement, the management of work-based learning, and the efficient creation of new product (including negotitiated and highly personalised courses – both in terms of organisation and delivery)will be critical. The harmonisation of wider “de facto” standards from the Web 2.0 and widget world with more specifically educational standards work will also be critical as will accomodating the whole “bring your own tools” philosophy and accomodating these developments within an institutional and partnership corporate environment.

Standards work needs to be inclusive and as open as possible – it needs to involve as many vendors and the communities concerned as possible – from both development and consumption perspectives – and MUST be truly international.

EduFountain: Standards Week Kickoff

I was hoping to be at the IMS Quarterly Meeting in Orlando Florida, but a pair of storms have forced me to stay in DC and connect via the Wimba conferencing bridges. I’ve emailed some of the folks I was hoping to interview for the seminar and I hope they will chime back with some updates for us over the next couple of weeks.

Today I had some communications issues but managed to connect up with the LIS group and we discussed the reaction to the public draft of IMS LIS v2.0. This spec is a replacement for the old IMS Enterprise 1.0 spec which has seen wide adoption. The goal of this specification is to make it easy to integrate administrative data into instructional systems such as connecting an SIS to a VLE.

LIS is one of three standards the IMS is focused on publishing this year. The other two are Common Cartridge (CC) and Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI). Together these three specifications make up the Digital Learning Services infrastructure. Together these three standards will enable:

1) LIS — Movement of Course, User, Membership and Grade information between Systems
2) LTI — Wiring Tools Together into Unified Learning Experiences
3) Common Cartridge — Sharing Digital Content Packages

My personal view is that LTI is the most impactful of these three standards. It has the capability to be as meaningful as the anchor (<A>) tag and HTTP for HTML. Every link you see on a webpage depends on that one tag and a simple HTTP request from your browser. For all the utility of tables, bulleted lists, javascript and all that came after the anchor tag really enabled the web revolution. It made it easy to loosely join documents within and across websites. It made it easy to create servers, and start to put things online. The network effect took hold and the web exploded from these simple things.
LTI has the same capability for the VLE/CMS. The ability for learning tools to simply establish a trust relationship and exchange user credentials and grade information will be potentially very revolutionary. Imagine a world where a small library of code can be bolted into any existing application and instantly that tool can be connected to any VLE/CMS, or even into an individual Personal Learning Environment (PLE).

Other standards to think about:
IMS is just one of many standards organizations. There are a lot of other standards out there that have an impact on educational delivery via the Internet. A few to think about and discuss (definitions are mine, feel free to debate):


  • SCORM — A packaging format for sequential learning activities and computer based training activities that can plug into any LMS.
  • SIF — A K-12 focused data exchange framework.
  • Others? (add your own suggestions below)

And now 3 questions for seminar participants:
1) Pick one standard and explain its impact on your role in the institution. Perhaps you are a system administrator needing to connect your administrative system to the CMS via IMS Enterprise or LIS, or maybe you are an instructor seeking interoperable content through SCORM or Common Cartridge. Explain your choice of standard and explain how it impacts you today and how it should evolve.

2) After reading the background on these educational technology standards or based on personal experience what is your perception of these standards? What is your experience with existing educational technology standards (positive or negative), how do you see these evolving over time? Share your frustrations or successes with these standards.

3) Do standards really matter from an innovation/market perspective and should they lead an industry? A positive example might be the development of the original DVD specification, a negative example might be the iPhone SDK which exists in its own language (Cocoa) pushed through the closed app store.