Challenges to implementing SCORM courses

Implementing any technology effectively requires knowledge and flawless execution. As I mentioned in my previous SCORM post, the SCORM standard is not a silver bullet. Don’t get me wrong it is a massive step towards standardizing content that is deployed over the internet and we shouldn’t take away from it. Having said that, the development and implementation of SCORM content still requires detailed planning, knowledge and in some cases effective problem solving steps. Before I proceed, let me make it clear that many of the issues and challenges that I will highlight over the next couple of weeks are not directly related to the SCORM standard, but rather they are implementation challenges.

This discussion is not intended to necessarily critique the SCORM standard per se, but rather I want to demonstrate that having a SCORM conformant course doesn’t mean that you (the customer or developer) won’t have any issues in terms of deployment and continued support. Many people think that all you need is a SCORM conformant course and then you won’t have any issues. I’m sorry to break it to them, but they overlook the fact that technology can’t be implemented in a vacuum. Technology lives in the real world with people. Technology has to deal with organizational politics, limited resources and in some cases incompetent people. Pardon the personification of technology, but my point is that technology is developed by people who interact with other people and as we know, people are far from perfect. This means that even if you have a perfect technology standard (which SCORM isn’t at this stage) you are still going to have issues.

Let’s start with the most important part of the SCORM standard, which is the fact that it is a standard not a mandate. The SCORM standard is a basic road map to developing content that allows the developer a massive amount of freedom. This is not a critique of the standard as it would be impossible and unrealistic to force developers to follow very stringent rules. SCORM outlines the way a course interacts with a SCORM conformant learning management system (LMS). The course can send information to the LMS and it can also pull information from the LMS based on standard SCORM CMI scripts. Wow, I hear you say that is great. Yes it is, but SCORM does not dictate what type of application your course is developed in. You could have a SCORM conformant course that does not work on your user’s computers. You’re probably asking yourself whether that is really possible. Surely having a SCORM conformant course means that it will work on my SCORM conformant LMS, right?

Again, let me make it clear that the issue is not directly related with the SCORM standards itself. The standard is great but it does not define or control the context in which the content will be implemented. Let’s go back to you having a SCORM conformant course that doesn’t work on your SCORM conformant LMS. How could this possibly be the case? Well, as I mentioned SCORM doesn’t dictate the deployment program, so in many organizations the actual course application requires a particular software application to function correctly. Examples of applications that are commonly used for deploying eLearning courses that require a software download would be Shockwave, Flash and Authorware. In addition most proprietary software applications require a download to work correctly.

It is true that Flash is now native in most current web browsers and users don’t need to download the Flash plugin. However, many large organizations are still using older versions of the browsers that still require the flash plugin download. So the first wrinkle in the SCORM standard is the interaction between the application and the LMS. You could run into a situation where the developers used all the correct scripting to launch the course but users can’t launch the course due to a down load issue. The natural response to this issue is to blame the course, when in reality the issue is a result of the larger corporate infrastructure. In many large organizations users don’t have administrative rights to their machines, so downloading even a simple plugin may be a challenge.

Over the next couple of weeks I will share some more ideas on deploying content using the SCORM standard and other areas where you may run into trouble. If you find this discussion useful I would sincerely appreciate your comments. Hopefully you will share your eLearning experiences with me as I am sure you have had other issues/challenges that I may not cover.

I wish you and your family a happy and relaxing holiday season!

Effective blogging

I have been having a very thought provoking and interesting conversation with some experienced blogging folks at Tony Karrer's informative blog. I would definitely recommend that you check out Tony's blog which he describes as a blog that covers "trends in eLearning and more broadly the use of technology that aims to improve human performance".

So the
discussion that I have been having relates to the use of blogs and more specifically what type of content should/could be covered in blogs. The responses that I got were interesting and some times a little heated, but none the less posted with good intentions. These discussions have been enlightening to someone who is admittedly new to blogging. My intention was to get some insightful feedback on what it means to blog effectively and to this end I feel I have been extremely successful. I would appreciate any more thoughts on what you think a good blog is and please provide some examples and links to thought provoking/engaging blogs.