John Hunt: Learning Content

At the May meeting of the Boston DITA Users Group, John Hunt of IBM described the work of the DITA subcommittee for learning and training content specialization.

The goal of the subcommittee is one or more new information types for learning content, at the same level as the current three main types, concept, task, and reference, plus a new map domain to assemble the content as learning objects suitable for processing as deliverables for learning management systems (LMS).

Subcommittee members went to the recent Summit meeting of the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative of the Department of Defense in Alexandria, VA. ADL developed the Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM), which has been adopted as a standard exchange format by all the major LMS vendors, both commercial and open-source.

Just as a DITA topic is the fundamental element of reuse, a SCO is the element of learning content reuse.

Reusable learning objects (RLO) are made up of instructional objects and information objects. In the Cisco/Clark model (developed by Cisco Systems with the assistance of Dr. Ruth Clark) an RLO is made up from 7 plus or minus 2 reusable information objects (RIO). These are typically wrapped in an Overview, then followed by various practice and exercise steps. Summary and Assessment objects complete the instructional object.

Assessment includes testing and the subcommittee is also studying the Question-Test Interoperability (QTI) specification. They will probably adopt a subset of QTI for their question and test data model.

To turn content into learning and training, the subcommittee will define four new DITA learning types for instructional objects: Instructional Design type, Learning Overview topic type, Learning Summary topic type, and Learning Assessment topic type. Information objects will need one new Learning Content topic type.

They will develop a map specialization for learning, with processing options for tutorials, courseware, instructor-led training (ILT), computer-based training (CBT), web-based training (WBT), and the exchange standard SCORM.

The subcommittee has laid out a timetable of seven phases culminating in submission of a draft specification to the DITA TC in spring 2008 in time for incorporation in DITA 1.2.

Hunt's slides are on the Boston DITA User Group page and the subcommittee's phased plan is available at (may require an OASIS member sign on). Focus Areas: BPEL | DITA | ebXML | IDtrust | OpenDocument | SAML | UBL | UDDI
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