e-learning Development Standards

At work I’m an e-learning Technical Consultant, if no one had guessed. I’m being bundled into learning Technical Consultant, but that’s just semantics. The e part of the e-learning means electronic, and that relates to any learning based on some form of technology, so that’s pretty much covering all the good stuff anyway.

For the past year and a half I’ve been writing the definitive document which can be passed to any e-learning Development Company to enable them to develop, build, test and upload learning to our LMS with the minimum of involvement from anyone technical from our Company. This isn’t to save me work, but to ensure e-learning projects run smoothly, without issue, and that the Development Companies can deliver e-learning quickly, efficiently and cost effectively, with the minimum of versions, testing and bugs.

Well now I’ve finished, version 2.1 has now been adopted as our Group Standards (and that’s a huge worldwide audience), and here’s the content.

Well not quite, instead I’ll give you a little run down of what is inside covering the major areas you should be thinking about if you are doing something similar in your organisation, and I really would recommend it. You see simply saying Use SCORM version 2, or Just make it work with AICC just because your LMS does is not enough. There’s a big thing to remember about these Standards that the marketplace is so readily adopting and you, the customer and consumer, is being forced to pay to develop to. They aren’t Standards.

SCORM, AICC, etc are more like Guidelines, and too often Developers and e-learning customers look at them as Standards which will tell them what to do. Not at all, they are more like the WAI DDA guidlines, a few set rules you must adhere to then a raft of suggestions of what you can do if you want. No, not Standards at all. In a large organisation, such as the one I currently work for, Standards mean something quite definite and less “grey”.

So our e-learning Standards were conceived. They aren’t the formalised, traditional IT Standards you would expect as they are solely looking at the Learner, their engagement and learning experience, and neither are they offering a skeleton set of rules with lists of optional items that you could use should you wish to suddenly become an IT expert.

Much more has been defined as what should be done, but still retaining the optional aspects dependent on the specific e-learning project and the Business and/or Learner requirements. They are written from the viewpoint of the Developer, the Learner and the Project Management Team, not a group of techies that have to be consulted day in day out as the e-learning oracles. No, these are designed to allow the Developer to pick them up, read them throroughly, and then being developing content from the Project Management Teams’ given Project brief. Not only that, but if existing content needs to be updated then any other Developer will be able maintain the content easily since it adheres to these comprehensive Standards. Well, that’s the idea!

You see it’s not just about educating the Developer, the Project Team need to know what is technically possible, out of the question, and available to them to be able to work with the Customer and SME’s to produce a Project Brief for the Developer to create to. It needs to be a bible, a translator, an encylopedia, and an engaging piece of learning.

So that’s what I did, created the comprehensive and accessible Standards for Development of e-learning, and here’s an overview of what they contain which was created for another Company to understand what we had done, and since I wrote it for them I thought it fair to share externally.

Feel free to drop me any questions through the comments or by email, I’d be only too happy to answer them and provide assistance.

Purpose of Document
An overview of what the Standards are about, etc.
Divisional differences
An overview of the differences between the functional Business areas within the organisation and how they affect the development of e-learning.
An overview of the LMS the organisation uses.
Content and our LMS
An overview of how our legacy content is integrated with our LMS, and how new content will be designed developed.
SCORM Overview
The certification levels required by our implemented version of SCORM.
Directory Structure
The layout of content within Learning Items, where different filetypes should be placed, etc.
HTML and general content
Standards required for writing HTML code and other code types such as Flash. When to use non-HTML and how to use it.
Case Sensitivity
Rules on the case requirement for filenames and link references.
Learning Item Titles and Part Numbers
Naming conventions and restrictions for the content titles and part numbers required for our LMS.
Details of allowed script types with restrictions and standards.
Other filetypes
Details on the other type of allowed files within content.
The rules for versioning of Learning Items and how and when to display to the Learner.
Page size and timings
Allowed limits on page and content sizes and how and when to indicate delays to the Learner.
Inline Links
Details of how to place links to content outside of the Learning Item. This is a method to ensure that all links are stored externally to the code and can be updated by internal teams when required.
Framesets and SCORM Calls
How framesets should be handled and how SCORM calls operate within the LMS defined framesets.
Gathering Learner Information
A standardised method of gathering details about the Learner and how to handle them.
Asset CDs
Details of Asset CDs, when to use them, what assets should be placed on them and how to utilise them with the content.
CD Drive Detection
A standard method of detecting the correct drive and Asset CD.
Audio and Video
Describing how to encode, package and deliver audio and video files.
Error handling for Audio and Video
Describing how to handle errors arising from audio or video files, what to attempt to do, how often, and what to display to the Learner on a failure.
The rules for use of the organisations brands within content.
The use of available fonts.
The use of colours within content.
Desktop Specifications
A hardware and system software specification for the different Divisional PC builds, including Internet Explorer settings.
Network Connection Specifications
Details on how the different Business areas are connected to the Intranet.
Maintenance Procedures
Details of the files and procedures required by the Developer before beginning a piece of maintenance.
Upload Procedures
Detailed instructions of how to upload content to our LMS.
Detailed instructions on what and how to test, including the strict levels of acceptance for errors.
Descriptions of the most common errors, how they occur, how to rectify them, where they happen, how to detect them and ideally prevent them. This covers such areas as HTML, SCORM, testing and viruses.
Final Package Handover
What is required to be handed over from the Developer once a Project is complete. This includes all source files and documentation.
Wrapper Overview
Multiple sections detailing the Wrapper created to ensure the legacy content operates correctly within our LMS and appears to the Learner to function as newly created content. This details all the calls, files required, packaging, and how to handle all the sections previously mentioned but within the Wrapper for legacy content. Also includes all the required file templates, including the Manifest and Metadata files.
SCORM Implementation
Multiple sections describing how SCORM is implemented within our LMS.
Entering and exiting a Learning Item
Specific details on what must be called and the order of calls for entering and exiting a Learning Item, as well as what should be displayed to the Learner.
SCORM Errors
What errors can be encountered, how to handle them, what should be shown to the Learner and when.
Learner Details
The information available on the Learner, their preferences for languages, alternate versions, etc.
How to design and implement tracking within the Learning Item.
Details on how to implement and handle Bookmarking.
Sections detailing what Objectives are, when and where they should be used in the Learning, as well as setting, scoring, and storing results for them.
Sections detailing what Interactions are, when and where they should be used in the Learning, as well as setting, scoring, and storing results for them.
Our SCORM Implementation
List of the specific calls that we require to be used within our content and the calls that we consider optional. This includes the SCORM required calls and also misses out some of the optional calls that are deemed not useful for our organisation.
Manifest File
A template and explanation of a template Manifest File required for our SCORM Learning Items.
Metadata File
Detailed breakdown of the entries required in a Metadata File for our e-learning, including a Metadata File template.
e-learning Development DDA Standards
A detailed look at the specific requirements to make any piece of e-learning conform with the level of DDA compliancy adopted for our organisations e-learning.
Comparison against Web DDA Standards
The e-learning DDA Standards are significantly different to those adopted by our organisation for websites. This section compares the two and details why any differences have been made.
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1 comment on “e-learning Development Standards”

  1. Patrick Hadfield Reply

    As we have discussed before, everything you say is right.

    I think the real education has to be for people commissioning learning, so that they commission original, engaging content from suppliers – something that is rarely done at the moment.

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