DOD plugs e-learning standard

An evolving standard to support online, easily accessible and reusable training materials is helping to bring a 3-year-old Defense Department vision closer to reality, according to a DOD official.

The Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM), a software specification that sets guidelines for developing online course material, or "objects," promises to make Web-based training materials interoperable and easily shared, said Robert Downes, executive secretary of DOD's Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) program. Downes spoke at the E-Learning Conference and Expo in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

SCORM, which emerged from beta testing in January, is the foundation for ADL's vision of reliable, affordable, Internet-accessible and reusable training courseware. Downes described SCORM as "a living document and standard" that will continue to be refined by industry, academic and standards partners. A "more robust" version will be released this summer, he said, stressing the need for continued development.

"Standards make things work," Downes said. "It's obvious, [but] sometimes we don't think about the work they do. We need to have standards."

ADL aims to provide education and training tailored to individuals that is available anytime and from anywhere, Downes said. Training is vital within DOD, and with 30,000 courses and $15 billion budgeted annually to operate military schools, it needs to build computer-based course content accessible from multiple platforms and by commercial off-the-shelf training products. The ADL effort aims to build that content using representatives from industry, other federal agencies and educational institutions.

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