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Framework to Apply Standards in the

Development of e-learning Modules
Amer Nizar AbuAli and 2Osman Abou-Rabia

Abstract: Technical standardization has been widely acknowledged as a new and growing area of interest for social-
theoretical and historical research. The field of education, and particularly educational technology and distance
education (or “e-learning”), has shown the need to develop e–learning courses. In this paper, we present the
standards that should be taken into accounts when developing such courses as well as the advantages of applying
such standards.

Index Terms: standards, e-learning, educational design, learning resource development

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1 INTRODUCTION However, unlike the social sciences, the interest

in standardization in e-learning has not been
Technical standardization has been widely historical and theoretical in character, but
acknowledged as a new and growing area of thoroughly economic and instrumental.
interest for social-theoretical and historical Standards in e-learning contexts, unlike social
research. The development of standards for science disciplines, appear to be generally
the Internet, the World Wide Web and other understood as “neutral artifacts.” In many
technologies, has recently been subject to cases, they are explicitly described as being
significant scholarly investigation and scrutiny. pedagogically, and otherwise, “agnostic” or
The field of education, and particularly “neutral” [16]. Pedagogy-Agnostic Standards
educational technology and e-learning, has and a Much Needed Rant. Iterating Toward
also shown signs of a new interest in technical Openness. Retrieved July 13, 2005]. It is the
standards. One standard for the classification intent of this paper to adopt the perspectives of
of learning resources or “objects” known as socio-theoretical research in order to explore the
“metadata;” [7], Draft Standard for Learning “non-neutrality” of standards as social artifacts
Object Metadata [8], and another for the ,and to show that that they are constructions
interoperation of e-learning systems, known as that embody specific interests and agendas. In
“architecture;”[8] ,the Computer Managed doing so, this paper will give special emphasis
Instruction Standard. Retrieved July 13, 2005] to what is likely the most widely discussed and
have been recently developed and widely implemented e-learning standard, the
promoted. aforementioned Learning Object Metadata
------------------------------- standard ,also known as [I6] or simply, the
1Amer Nizar AbuAli Department of Computer Information Systems, “LOM”. This paper will undertake this
Philadelphia University, Amman, Jordan,
exploration by considering a range of research
2 Osman Abou-Rabia Department of Mathematics and Computer on standardization, emphasizing their non-
Science, Laurentian University, Sudbury ON Canada (Philadelphia neutrality and their eminently political nature.


Applying standards in developing e-courses - Interoperability in offline instructional activities:
leads to the following advantages. When a student undergoes training, some
non-technical information is needed such as the
2.2 Standards support E-learning Innovation: student personal information, and his /her
performance data. To obtain all these data, the
The widespread use of the internet and the offline instructional activities have to
development of standards for web-based communicate with other e-learning components.
design languages in the 90’s, such as html, Suppose a student requests to register for a
xml, and css, have stimulated the innovation in course, the offline instructional will get the
the e-learning. course structure from the online content so that
the student can access the course material. The
2.3 E-course copyrights and reusability: student performance in the course will be sent
We need to implement copyright policies to the offline management system for storing.
governing e-courses, so that the content can
be reused for many years. But without the e- - Interoperability for data analysis:
learning standards this will become unrealistic
because the rapid change in the requirements, Data analysis tools need to access the offline
technology and the internet bandwidth. Also, data for evaluation and analysis.
the cost of developing and maintaining such
courses can average down, as more students
take the course overtime. 3.1 Reusability:

2.4 Collaborative Development of E-courses: The rapid development in internet has made
We need standards to make it easier for significant changes in the dissemination of
different authors to collaborate on e-course information especially the online ones. Many
development and for sharing the content corporate and institutions try to be information
between institutions. providers by building information repositories.
However, they face the problem of the data
3 E-learning Standards exchange format, thus the need for standards to
build effective and collaborative e-courses.
In general, any e-learning system consists of
three main parts: an online component which 3.2 Manageability
contains the structure and behavior of the
courseware, offline instructional activities, and E-learning has multiple participants and
a data analysis component. multiple resources. We needs manageability
A.Interoperabilty : standards that help the system to track student
- Interoperability in online content: behavior, information about the learners, and
This happens for example when a student the educational content.
enrolling in an e-course, needs to interact with
the instructional elements of the course such 3.3 Accessibility
as to get his/her performance in a quiz, get
feedback from lessons, or asking for Learners can access the appropriate course
assistance. This data could be useful for other content at their appropriate time on their
aspects of the e-learning process such as in appropriate device. Content warehouses can be
the assessment and evaluation and the developed and become available to these
management of learning. Therefore, there is a learners in order to use any application based
need to communicate these data with the other on the common standards.
components of e learning so we can store and
analyze them. 3.4 Scalability:
standardization, relating them, whenever
Learning technologies can be expanded in possible, to specific developments in e-learning
functionality in order to serve broader standards.
populations and organizational purposes. An The role of standards as instruments of
organization’s return on investment in e- uniformity can perhaps be most easily explained
Learning products can increase if they can be through reference to their origin in the industrial
leveraged beyond their original scope. age. Industrialization, as a shift from local
craftwork to mass production and trade, is
4 THE LIFECYCLE OF THE E-LEARNING bound up with the emergence of standards
PROCESS enabling the production and distribution of
uniform commodities. The standardization of
The lifecycle in the development of an e-course railway gauges, screw threads and scientific
involves the following phases: instruments occurring at this time is not only an
expression of the uniformity imposed by their
The design phase: in which the required features mass production, but is also necessary for the
of the learners’ profile are defined, and the details
consolidation of regional and national trading
of the educational targets specified.
The production phase: integrates the production networks occurring simultaneously.
of modules content, building the modules based
It is perhaps no coincidence that many have
on the initial design, and the packing of the similarly argued that e-learning and education
contents to be delivered. generally would also benefit from a related
The deployment phase: in which users access the transformation from a “cottage industry” ,with
content and collaborate during the learning teachers each creating lessons and activities
process. individually, to a “mature market” of goods and
The assessment phase: the assessment of services. E-learning standards are often
learners through tests and other activities. described as a significant catalyst in this
At the end of every phase, useful information is development [11]. As in the industrial
collected and fed back to every previous phase of revolution, technical standards would allow e-
the process, which facilitates the improvement of learning products and services to be offered as
the whole process. “globally scalable solutions,” as uniform
products created through a rational division of
5 Standards as Uniformity, Objectivity and specialized labour, made available across
Justice regional and national boundaries.
There are many different ways of The association of technical standards with
understanding the social and political aspects specialized labor, and its rational
of technical standards and standardization (re)organization is an important consequences
processes. An effective overview of a range of of their close association with uniformity. As [15]
such understandings provided in the literature explain, "the adoption of standards may simplify
of science and technology studies is offered by some aspects of [a] system while creating a
[4], in “Studying Standardization: A Review of demand for more skilled labor elsewhere" [15].
the Literature.” Feng’s overview proceeds from Information specialists who have worked, for
the initial recognition that social and political example, on the implementation of the [14].
“meanings and motivations of standardization Standard will likely have first-hand knowledge of
are multiple and change over time” [4]. Among the labor-intensive requirements and challenges
others, Feng identifies three ways of that these standards can introduce. The ability
understanding standards, their promise and of standards to re-order labor relations is also
peril: as “uniformity,” “objectivity” and as illustrated in the way that the standards-based
“justice.” This paper will now briefly survey technology of the Web has enabled international
these three ways of understanding reorganization or outsourcing of service jobs,
and the sale of courses or course components communications between autonomous entities,
between various educational institutions it must employ a strategy of universalization,
However, as indicated at the outset of this and of homogeneity. It must be anti-diversity”
paper, the standardization of e-learning [5]. This uniformity, homogeneity or even
technologies is generally not understood in identity is an important part of what is implied in
terms of industrialization, but as being the term “objectivity.” As will be discussed
associated above all with post-industrial further below, this uniformity has a significant,
transformation. It is in the context of the albeit indirect impact on the practices it so
postindustrial that Feng’s conception of “flexibly” supports. Simply put, it has the
standards as objectivity is perhaps most readily ultimate effect of valuing forms of knowledge
understood. Terms such as “post-industrial” or that are universal, modular, and
the “knowledge” or “information age” are interchangeable, at the price of knowledge and
commonly used to designate an economic and practices local and contextually-dependent.
social order in which knowledge and networks And education, as will be shown below, is in
are paramount, and for which customization many ways profoundly local and contextual in
and flexibility, rather than mass uniformity, are character.
most characteristic. Those advocating the use The notion of knowledge and comparability that
of e-learning standards also depict a flexible can be brought to bear across space and time
and customizable combination of standardized can, of course, present great positive potential
functions and content as the desired outcome when understood in terms of justice. One simple
this standardization. However, many also illustration of this potential goes back to a time
recognize that the final result of such a prior to the post-industrial and industrial eras, to
standardization process remains uncertain, the age of feudalism and craft practices in
with a possible outcome being a “neo- manufacture and agriculture. Describing the
industrial” uniformity, rather than post-industrial pre-industrial, localized measure of rents and
flexibility [3]. feudal dues in the form of bushels, Porter
The two scenarios of (neo) industrial uniformity explains how during the early stages of the
and post-industrial flexibility are not mutually French Revolution…measures were among the
exclusive. In fact, it can be argued that the two most frequently mentioned [peasant]
are closely and necessarily bound together: grievances. The local bushel…had been
the flexibility made possible by standards on growing ever larger, to the profit of seigneurs. It
one level requires strict uniformity and was time to declare a single, true bushel, valid
homogeneity on another. Ultimately, all for the whole of France. [13]
standards ,regardless of their individual The introduction of such a standardized
emphasis on industrial uniformity or measure can be seen as presenting a powerful
postindustrial flexibility, “aim at making actions instrument for economic justice on the part of
comparable over time and space” [1]. In the France’s disenfranchised peasants. A more
case of the Internet, these actions become recent example of the function of standards as
interoperable ,and in some cases, identical an instrument of justice is provided by quality
rather than simply “comparable:” The contents assurance standards, specifically by the widely-
of an email from Boston can be read by an implemented and -certified ISO 9000 standard
email client in Beijing; a digital resource from series. As ISO (the International Organization
Turin can be combined with or substituted by a for Standardization) itself explains, the purpose
learning object from Toronto. Speaking of this group of standards is to provide a set of
specifically of the standardized Internet requirements that, if they are effectively
protocols mentioned above (TCP, IP, etc.), [5] implemented, will [ensure] supplier[s] can
describes the mutual implication of flexibility consistently provide goods and services that:
and homogeneity as follows: “in order for Meet [customer] needs and expectations and
protocol to enable radically distributed comply with applicable regulations [9].
By thus regulating the provision of goods and practices in education. These practices, to be
services between suppliers and business found in many areas of educational activity,
customers in different points in space and time, have survived successive waves of industrial
these ISO standards can be seen as arbitrating and post-industrial transformation, which have
kind of economic justice, albeit narrowly- otherwise been so important for standards
defined. This scope and ambition is related to measures, materials, quality and
broadened considerably in the more recently communication itself. The local and contextual
developed ISO 14000-series standards for networks in education also appear to be
“environmental management.” This series of continuing in their resistance to rationalization
standards specifies requirements for and re-engineering introduced in the form of
establishing [a corporate] environmental policy, standardized content and processes. Local,
determining environmental aspects and situated knowledge of how, for example, to
impacts of products/activities/services, teach a universal scientific principal such as
planning environmental objectives and a=πr2 (i.e. the area of a circle) in a class or to a
measurable targets, implementation and particular student is not likely to be trumped
operation of programs to meet objectives and even by the most well designed learning object
targets, checking and corrective action, and or standardized practice for such a teaching
management review. [10] process. This is despite the fact that arguments
for institutional efficiency and cost-savings in
The potential of standards to address issues of such cases appear, as [2] put it, “relentless.”
social, environmental, labour and other forms The resistance of educational practices to this
of equity and responsibility has just begun to relentless logic it is not simply a function of
be explored in the standardization world in institutional inertia or worse yet, of teachers’ or
general. This same potential has not yet been curriculum designers’ entrenched interests [12].
the focus of any e-learning standards in Instead, an important part of it arises from local
particular. One important exception to this and situated nature of education itself.
comes in the form of a number of incipient
“accessibility” standards in e-learning. These References:
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