chapter  7
14 Pages

Standards and specifications

One of the consequences of the internet is that it accelerates the need for a solution to problems that have often been around for some time. One such problem in education and training has been interoperability between institutions. Throughout this book I have made reference to a number of educational technology and technical standards that have a direct bearing on VLEs. The rise in VLEs has been linked with the development of many of these standards and specifications, primarily because the need for interoperability became evident to developers and users. Interoperability is at the heart of most standards; for example by standardizing the design of plugs and plug sockets we make them interoperable with all electrical devices, and do not have the situation where I have one plug for Sony devices, another for those made by Samsung, and so on. This type of proprietary situation was developing in e-learning (and some would argue it is still the case), so that content created for one VLE could not easily be deployed in another. Problems with interoperability existed prior to the rise of the internet, but it is with e-learning that the need to find solutions to them has gained momentum. So, while previously learning resources may have been exchanged in the format of books, articles, slides or software files, there is now a move to create digital resources that can be reused in the form of learning objects. Similarly, students have always moved between institutions, but the internet makes organizations more permeable and likely to enter into partnerships, so students may take courses from more than one place, or an institution may have an agreement with another one to share courses. In this case having student record systems that all operate in a different, proprietary manner makes the exchange of data difficult. By specifying open standards, that are not owned by one company, all institutions can adopt these and the exchange of resources, data, and services is simplified. As we saw in the previous chapter, there are a number of systems that a VLE needs to interface with, and so specifying standard formats for the exchange of data between these systems would potentially

The main areas of concern for interoperability are:

• the exchange of learning resources; • the passing of data between institutions (such as student records); • the interoperability of software on more than one platform; • the ability for software applications to communicate with other systems.