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Practical Interoperability
Whilst RELOAD makes the creation and editing of valid IMS and SCORM packages easy, using specifications such as those created by IMS and ADL and supported by the RELOAD tools is more complicated in practise: real-world interoperability is sometimes a little hard to come by. This page will report on some of our experiences in using other tools which claim to support the IMS specifications.

DoceboLMS

DoceboLMS screenshot

(provided by Claudio Erba of the DoceboLMS team). DoceboLMS [http://www.docebolms.org] is an open source e-learning platform written in php mysql and scorm 1.2 compliant, for distance learning developed in italy and known as "Spaghettilearning". Since the 2.0 version, the name is changed to DoceboLMS. (In latin, Docebo means "I will teach").
The project is now developed by programmers located all over the world and the original team is coordinating more than 20 developers, The learning management system carateristics are:
After downloading the itemdemo.zip, we have loaded the file trough the "Upload Scorm Object" function, it works immediately (see above). The "Main" single organization has been shown as a single learning object that can be reused in different courses. The structure directory has been maintained and all the files that compose the package are working, including the java object simulation. The organization structure can be shown in the left frame or hidden for a "Full Screen Object View".
moodle

Moodle screenshot
Click above for full size screenshot.

moodle [http://moodle.org/] is a popular Open Source LMS - based on a social constructivist pedagogy (discussions not content), but supporting other pedagogies and used widely in UK HE. No one submitted evidence of moodle handling Reload produced packages, so I thought I would demonstrate it myself. v1.4.1 has the option of uploading SCORM packages (not IMS) and coped with a SCORM version of the ItemDemo package without problems.


Moodle 15 screenshot
Click above for full size screenshot.

moodle 1.5 UPDATE
moodle 1.5 [http://moodle.org/] has stronger SCORM functionality built in - or at least a much sleeker interface, as shown in the screenshot above, taken form the moodle new features demo course on the moodle web site. Thanks to Helen Foster of Alton College for the demo link.


Claroline v1.5.1

Claroline screenshot
Click above for full size screenshot.

Claroline [http://www.claroline.net/] is an Open Source learning environment, developed initially by the University of Louvain. One of the additional features introduced in v1.5 was support for SCORM packages. Guillaume Lederer, one of the developers responsible for incorporating support for SCORM content has provided the following summary and screenshots.

Claroline is developed in PHP and MySQL. The system provides group management, forums, document repositories, calendar, chat, assignment areas, links, and user profile administration in a single and highly integrated package. One of the additional features introduced in v1.5 was support for SCORM packages. There is a demo campus available on the Claroline website where you can freely create your own courses and then access them as a student or teacher to test the software. The software is currently at v1.5.1 with v1.5.2 and v1.6 beta coming soon.

SCORM content is uploaded through the use of a new "learning path" tool. This tool allows you to create a step-by-step sequence of modules which can be exercises, HTML pages, PDF doc,... Uploading zipped SCORM content will create a new learning path in this tool. The newly created path is then available in the paths list of the tool, just as a path you would have built yourself in Claroline.

The SCORM player module handles navigation and progression, displaying a menu with checkboxes checked when SCO's have been already visited. The itemdemo package tested had no API calls, so didn't really take advantage of the SCORM RTE but displayed as expected (see screenshot above). Claroline handles the minimum conformance date model for this API of SCORM 1.2 and claims to support some of the SCORM 1.3 elements too.

Uploading the exemplar maritime Navigation package from SCORM worked fine , and navigation through the content was similar to using the Reload SCORM Player. Statistics of use and progression generated by the SCORM API are visible in the path content list. End student can see his own progression and the teacher can access student progression statistics.

Claroline screenshot
Click above for full size screenshot.


Learnwise v2 and Learnwise Olympus

Learnwise Olympus screenshot

Learnwise v2 and Learnwise Olympus [http://www.learnwise.com/] are produced by Granada Learning and have a strong presence in the UK FE community. Learnwise Olympus is the latest version of their Learning Environment. Helen Foster, of Alton College, tested Learnwise Olympus and Learnwise v2 with our Reload package, then wrote about it for us here.

Teknical Virtual Campus

Teknical Virtual Campus screenshot

Teknical's Virtual Campus [http://www.teknical.com/Products/virtual_campus.htm] is licensed by several colleges and universities across the UK. The Hull-based company offers both self-hosted and centrally hosted options, with current customers split fairly evenly between the two options. Jim Everett of Stevenson College in Edinburgh has kindly written an account of the Content Packaging capabilities of Virtual Campus which can be read here.

.LRN

dotLRN screenshot
Click above for a full size screenshot.

dotLRN [http://wwww.dotlrn.org/] is an Open Source Learning Environment originally developed at MIT but now taken up by Academic Institutions throughout the world. Although not (yet) included as core functionality for .LRN, Ernie Ghiglione, of the University of Sydney in Australia has written a set of libraries to handle IMS CP Import for .LRN Indeed, using the libraries, users of .LRN can:
  1. Import Course Content (using IMS Content Packaging, Medatada and/or SCORM).
  2. Manage Course Structure
  3. View/Edit IMS Metadata Online
  4. Export Course Content to IMS CP Package.
The libraries were released for beta testing in April 2004 and are discussed here. The initial post in the discussion provides a link to a functioning installation of .LRN Ernie also provided the screenshot above, showing the familiar Item Demo inside the .LRN environment, and has created a short tutorial on preparing content in Reload for delivery in .LRN. Ernie is currently extending the functionality to allow import of content directly from other LMSs such as Blackboard and WebCT.


WebCT 4.1

webct screenshot
Click above for full size screenshot.

WebCT [http://www.webct.com/] is one of the most popular VLEs in use in UK HE today and is being introduced at Strathclyde University in the next Academic Year. WebCT has a Content Management Utility (CMU currently at v1.2.2) which allows you to import and export IMS content. The CMU works with Reload Content Packages, provided they have a metadata element in the manifest (there doesn't need to be any metadata included, just the metadata placeholder). WebCT does seem to have some trouble with Multiple manifests, and with multiple organizations - unless they are nested.

Dokeos (1.5RC2)


Click above for full size screenshot.

Dokeos [http://www.dokeos.com/] is an implementation of the Open Source 'Claroline' learning environment. They are currently testing v1.5 of the software. One of the main additional features in 1.5 is support for SCORM packages. You can freely register and create guest accounts on Dokeos to try out the software, creating your own courses and then accessing them as a student. I tried out the SCORM functionality with reasonable success. Uploading SCORM content seems easy - though you have to put it in a specific place - in the Learning Paths section of the environment. Uploading content is merely a case of creating a subdirectory and uploading the zipped SCORM package. The software identifies it as SCORM content and provides a 'Launch it' button with which you can preview the content. The SCORM player module then handles navigation and progression (displaying a progress bar). The package I tried initially had no API calls, so didn't really take advantage of the SCORM player. Uploading the exemplar maritime Navigaion package from SCORM worked fine though, and navigation through the content was similar to using the Reload SCORM Player. To play SCORM packages in the student view you must be a registered student (again reg. is free) - un-enrolled students get logged out. Any SCORM content has to be delivered via a special module - which breaks up the learning a bit as non-SCORM content is delivered separately. There is no feature to import and display IMS Content Packages, though I feel this would be a useful addition to the functionality. As yet, Dokeos doesn't really cope well with complex non-SCORM content (with internally linked images and applets) - as it uses a php script to stop people guessing the location of content which is protected. Posts to the forums on their site imply that they are going to change this, but for the moment it is a bit frustrating - similar to the ATutor problem referred to above.
ATutor


Click above for full size screenshot.

ATutor is an Open Source LCMS (Learning and Content Management System) from Canada. ATutor's strong point was originally its support for Accessibility features (HotKeys etc.). Now though, it is attracting interest because it has built in support for IMS Content Packaging.
The current version (220304) of ATutor is v1.3.3. ATutor [http://www.atutor.ca/] is written in PHP, utilising MySQL as its database. It claims to read IMS Content Packages and posts to the forum cite RELOAD as an appropriate tool for preparing content packages. Problems with Content Packaging reported in the forums tended to reflect poor understanding of the specifications rather than problems with the software.

After solving some installation glitches and familiarising myself with the ATutor concept, I tried to upload a RELOAD content package (itemdemo). Upload of this simply-structured package worked first time. Immediately the course shows the uploaded content, with the default organization. This package contained a Java applet, which transferred and worked with no problems. As for exporting, a valid RELOAD Content Package was easily produced, but it didn't cope well with the java-based content missing out all the java related files. Whilst it is possible to create parse routines which look for images, stylesheets (and even java applets and supporting content), it is not possible to parse binary content, so the Java applet I tested, which internally calls additional files was not handled fully. One solution to this would be to zip up everything in the directory on the basis that it might be needed. Of course such a solution wouldn't work if only part of the course was to be exported, as other unlinked material would be incorporated into the Content Package. The original manifest imported by ATutor listed all the applet files as resources so it seems likely that the internal storage/organization of content isn't managed via a manifest - otherwise the exported content package would have retained this information. A manifest based approach would provide a more complex solution to the above problem. Testing out ATutor with this Java content was a bit unfair as the existing parse routines would normally cope well: but real world content is often complex.