Burgos, D., & Griffiths, D. (2005). E-learning specifications. An introduction. elearningeuropa. info Directory.
The move to e-learning has been a major development in the recent history of education, involving changes in pedagogy and in the way in which technology is used to support learning. New approaches to education are emerging which promise improvements in provision and learning. Open source and free software and resources are also increasingly important in e-learning and e-teaching, in contrast to the 90s, when proprietary code and software were dominant. This development is in part driven by economic and policy issues, but also by a desire to make knowledge more accessible. Our intention in this article is to draw attention to two specific aspects which can make a key contribution to making these wider developments in e-learning successful. Firstly, in parallel with the changes we have mentioned, a number of institutions have collaborated to provide specifications and standards that address several widely recognised problems in e-learning. One key focus for this effort has been on interoperability and re-use, making it possible to use the same information package or learning scenario in several different tools, and to create new units of learning re-using some existing content. This is seen by many as being a key requirement for making e-learning an effective solution, and the main body of this article is taken up by a an introduction to some of the specifications which have been developed to address this need. Particular attention is given to IMS Learning Design, as its pedagogic expressiveness, and its function as a co-ordinating specification, give it a particularly important role. Secondly, any successful e-learning effort (platform, specification, repository, editor?) needs to be supported by an active community, which is often partly or wholly virtual. The community requests information and raises problems, and provides answers and solutions. In the most cases, the community is open and free and the drive to participate is pure altruism and/or a need of information interchange (Hummel et al, 2005). At the end of the article we briefly describe how the UNFOLD project has contributed to supporting the communities which are working with e- learning specifications.