I was invited (thanks, Eilif!) to attend SRI’s workshop for ADL on SCORM and Virtual Worlds (VW) today. I furiously tweeted it (check out the #adlvw hashtag), but now it’s time for reflections. Represented were a number of people from various VW vendors (at least Qwaq, Second Life, Thinking Worlds), as well as SRI and ADL folks, and Avron Barr representing LETSI.
In case you don’t know, SCORM was developed to be a way to support interoperable content for learning. However, the demands have grown. Beyond interaction, there’s a desire to have assessment reportable back to an LMS, and as our digital content resources grow larger, to address data quantities that go beyond download. Angelo Panar from ADL helped us understand that there are myriad ways that SCORM doesn’t scale well to handle things other than stand-alone objects. Peter Smith from ADL emphasized the importance of game-based learning, and the potential of VWs for meaningful learning.
Ron Edmonds from SRI nicely summarized the intersection: SCORM is standardized and interoperable, VWs are in competition and have vastly different models. The question is, what is the relationship between the two? Eilif Trondsen nicely characterized the situation that learning spans a gap from formal to informal. SCORM’s highly focused (as of now) on asynchronous independent learner experience, but VWs are about social interaction, and are platforms, where learning experiences can be built.
The questions they were trying to answer were how to design learning experiences and measure/assess them, and then to decide what role SCORM plays. It occurred to me that there are no unique issues to VWs except the social, so one particular solution is that the problems for SCORM and social media need resolving, and then can be ported to VWs without requiring a unique VW solution.
Another issue is the level of granularity. If you design a collaborative exercise, and the interaction and collaborative response to reflection questions are what is key for the learning, then it’s a very different situation than when the goal is tightly constrained responses to very specific situations, e.g. the difference between training and education. Back to the continuum Eilif was talking about, it seems to me that we can match the level of definition of the measure to the desired outcome (duh!). However, SCORM has trouble with free-f0rm responses, so we get into some issues there.
The obvious ‘easy’ answer is to have SCORM just be a mechanism to introduce existing content objects ‘in world’. That’s what a number of platforms have done, whether having SCORM objects appear as objects, or an embedded browser presents them. A more complex alternative is to have an instructor or the learner respond via a custom interface with a response that’s relayed to an LMS using SCORM protocols. But can we go further?
I’ve argued in the past that social interactions should be a design feature only if the learning objective includes social components. However, I also pointed out today that the VW may only be part of the solution, and when we look at the broader picture of the learning experience, we may well wrap reflection outside the world. So then our learning model needs to include more than just content presentation, and we start veering off to Educational Modeling Language and the IMS Learning Design specification, which really isn’t yet a part of SCORM (but arguably should be).
Really, our learning categorization has to include activities as broad as mentoring, coached real performance, and social interaction, as well as content exposure, and interactive activities. It needs to span VWs, social media, and more. It’s about developing learners richly, not just presenting a prix fixe menu.
I’m mindful of the conversation I had with Adam Nelson from Linden Labs (one of many fruitful conversations at the breaks that helped frame the thoughts above), and I asked whether his role for enterprise learning applications included my broad view of learning, that it’s not just about formal learning, or, worse, just ‘training’, but includes mentoring, discussions, all the way to expert collaboration. That’s not necessarily what we need to track, but we do need to see the results, to look for opportunities (adding value as facilitators, not just content producers).
It’s clear that ‘in world’, we can have the equivalents of most social media, e.g. collaborative persistent spaces with representations and annotations are a richer form of wiki. A shared element was the ‘overhead’ in virtual worlds, so the question is whether the affordances of virtual worlds are worth the investment. I still believe that’s an issue of whether the domain/task is inherently 3D and/or that this is a long-term relationship so the investment is amortized. There are lots of factors. Still, it’s an intriguing idea to think that we will be able to interact, communicate, and collaborate in technology-augmented ways that aren’t possible in the real world. Of course, we’ll be able to do those in the real world too, largely, via ARGs (as I previously commented on the connections).
There’s a broad gap between what our tools enable, and what standards are ready to support. The ultimate question was what the role of ADL would be. I reckon it’s early days for VWs, so the role in this regard is, to me, track what’s happening and look for patterns that can be extracted and codified for ways to add value.
It’s the wild west or a goldrush right now, and the outcome is still to be decided. However, the learning potential is, quite frankly, awesome, so it’s an exciting time. Here’s to adventure!