08/03/07  (susheyer)  [0 Comments]

Things IMS Learning Design can't do for you

We are still working on tackling the IMS Learning Design Specification (short: IMS LD) and building a (hopefully) usable tool for designing learning sequences. The Level B development is now getting into the serious stages. I found a recurring pattern appearing when evaluating diverse pedagogical approaches in terms of IMS Learning Design: we actually cannot create all learning situations using IMS-LD terminology as the specification promised (compare IMS LD's objective of Pedagogical Flexibility "The specification must be able to express the pedagogical meaning and functionality of the different data elements within the context of a unit of learning. It must be flexible in the description of all different kinds of pedagogies and not prescribe any specific pedagogical approach."). The learning designs that frequently cause problems with the IMS-LD-specific design are the ones that shift lots of responsibility to the learner in determining the learning sequence and its activities. Examples for these types of designs are

  • learners create a training or game, which will be integrated later as an activity (the best you may be able to do with LD in this regard is to upload a file containing the instructions for the training or game activity, but not the actual setup)
  • learners create ideas, which will then be categorized according to categories that the learners themselves specified and which were not known or available in advance
  • learners determine roles that they will need in their group work and then assign each other these roles
  • repetitions of activities, where the number of repetitions is not known before hand (this problem was already pointed out by van Es & Koper, 2005).

These are examples, where IMS Learning Design does not offer methods for expression, if we aim at wholly completing these activities in an online learning setting (add-on 08/06/07: "wholly completing ... online" means that we do not try to circumvent the identified problems by having learners prepare an external document or file which will then be uploaded. This would represent an undesirable media break (German: Medienbruch)/change of media, but may in fact be the only solution that would work in this regard.). The reason for this inflexibility is the steadfast prerequisite of IMS Learning Design that everything regarding the learning activity sequence must be known and specified before hand. No additional activities, roles, or input storages (properties) can be created while the unit of learning is already underway.

We should then ponder in this regard whether other systems/technologies provide functionalities to allow learners this kind of freedom. Petra Oberhuemer pointed out that Web 2.0 technologies (sorry for the term Wink) might be able to provide this kind of flexibility. How far current learning management systems have come to provide this kind of flexibility, I cannot tell. Some of them might offer a liberal rights management system, where situations like the ones above can be performed. However, interoperability will then be lost (something that IMS LD wanted to offer).