IMS Content Packaging
Content packaging and structuring specifications
allow a content producer to group together a number
of content items which may themselves be made up
of multiple assets. Depending on interpretation, they
may indicate commercial limitations (such as licence
restrictions on reuse) or an implied delivery structure
or navigation order.
IMS Content Packaging is primarily a way of
bundling up the assets into items with metadata. It
offers a hierarchical `table-of-contents-like' structure,
but does not itself specify any navigation, though the
organization structure (of which there can be several
in one package) is envisaged as being extensible to
other structures and navigation.The basic structure
is for content producers and LMSs to interpret. Some
LMSs exploit the structure, for example presenting
contents as units and sub-units or in e-book style.
Others interpret the structure as a simple list that
should be navigated forwards and backwards, for
example via built in `next' and `back' buttons in the
LMS. None of these is `wrong', and all are arguably
`compliant' with the specifications.
Recent SCORM releases have included the IMS
Global Learning Consortium's Content Packaging
specification, with a SCORM interpretation of its
use, including name-spaced elements.This inter-
pretation identifies the SCORM SCO with the
If the content provider wants to control navigation
or believes that non-linear navigation is required to
deliver the content appropriately, usually that
navigation needs to be included within the content
itself. At the extreme this leads back to proprietary
courses, distributed as `items' of several hours'
duration, which is undesirable.
The IMS Simple Sequencing Specification Version
1.0, released in March 2003 attempts to address
aspects of this problem. Simple Sequencing enables
specification of which learning activities a learner will
be presented with, in what order and under what
circumstances. It focuses on single user learning
experiences, and supports, among other things, roll-up
of scores, some flow choice within an activity tree,
and the ability to suspend and resume an activity.
ADL has worked hard to produce practical
recommendations and sample implementations to
encourage the progress of Simple Sequencing into
SCORM V1.3, which has not yet been finalised.With
this support, Simple Sequencing may in due course
provide a basis for some types of instructional design
to be managed in the LMS rather than the content.
Despite these initiatives, it must be recognised that
in terms of the majority of current commercial
implementations, content that requires non-linear
navigation needs to encapsulate that navigation within
itself. Exciting, interactive content may always need to
retain some aspects of internal navigation. It may be
impossible to address some concepts within a learning
object that is a single file or web page; this also
implies some form of navigation if the content item
is to remain meaningful.
IMS Content Packaging provides a framework within
which implementations can be developed, but does
not specify what goes within that framework.
SCORM clarifies this somewhat in specifying the
way in which the IMS structure is to be used to
When there is investment in existing content or
delivery environments, vendors may simply provide
an `IMS-compatible' packaging of their existing
practice, rather than modifying their practice in the
spirit of the specification.
Very Large Learning Objects
Content providers may be tempted to deliver
learning objects that are very large, retaining as much
internal navigation as possible, regardless of whether
the LMS could do just as good a job of providing the
structure.They may alternatively break their content
up into smaller `items' within a package but continue
to provide hyperlinks between them.This can cause
failures if the package is broken up.
Such approaches to content result in a number of
| LMSs cannot track learners' progress at a detailed
enough level, reducing the effectiveness of online
support from tutors or mentors.
| Reusing content becomes much more difficult.
While there are still serious issues to be resolved
regarding rights management, ultimately the value
of content from a user's perspective will be higher
if it can be reused.
| Tutors or mentors may have difficulty in including
other online materials, whether commercial or
locally produced, to contextualise and enhance the
| Moving very large objects around networks and
across the Web will continue to be a real perfor-
mance and usability issue for users for some time
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