This page will look at the different existing standards, giving an overview of the need for such standards and what standards exist in e-Learning. It will also describe some of the organizations which define standards in e-Learning, linking to current projects.

By Lara

1. Standards
Every object that has been invented follows some kind of standards which have been perfected over the years. Standards are necessary for common generation of items.
In e-learning, standards are also vital. E-learning resources need to be created in a common framework (Babu, 2007). The reason for this is because resources are designed by a number of people from different parts of the world. These people need to follow the rules, or universally accepted standards, so that the end resource will work (Babu, 2007). Babu (2007) lists several benefits that arise from having standards in e-learning. These include interoperability, content packaging, content management, learning object meta data, course sequencing, convenience, flexibility and efficiency in “design, delivery and administration”. Varlamis and Apostolakis (2006), also add durability and scalability to their list of e-learning standards.
Feng (2003, as cited in Cressman & Friesen, 2005), identifies three main ideals for standards: uniformity, objectivity and justice. E-learning standards should keep in mind these three issues in that they should be designed in a way that is the same (as is the case in a factory), while still being flexible and customisable and available to all.
According to Babu (2007), when e-learning resources are created by observing the standards, these resources can then be accessed in a more efficient way by the public.
Standards are developed by a number of organisations such as IMS, ADL, SCORM, ISO, IEE and PROMETEUS. A popular e-learning standard, developed by the IEEE is the Learning Object Metadata standard (Cressman & Friesen, 2005).

2. Standards and Specifications
Standards are like rules that organisations formulate so that resources are created in a common way. Anyone who creates e-learning resources should adhere to such standards. A standard is made up from a number of specifications. By time, a set of specifications may become a standards, once it has been accepted as a general rule by some Standards Organisation (adapted from MSC4109 slides).
Varlamis and Apostolakis (2006), define standards as accepted, “unambiguous criteria” that are used “for implementation and conformance”. Specifications are defined as rules that are still “work in progress” and that can be amended by several bodies through recommendations.
2.1 From Specifications to Standards
How do a number of specifications become a standard? A process is involved in which a number of specifications are first drawn up according to the tasks and procedures of the learning process that is to be involved in the e-learning. These are then validated by means of developers who run pilot projects. The main quality that is looked for at this stage is the interoperability of standards. In fact at the end of this stage, where a potential project is chosen, reference models are created. These demonstrate how the e-learning standards can be interoperable. The specifications are then refined and standardised so that they become new standards which are finally spread to the e-learning community (Varlamis and Apostolakis, 2006).

The Sharable Courseware Object Reference Model (SCORM) was developed as part of the ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning) initiative by the US Government and the Department of Defence (Babu, 2007; Wikipedia, 2011). Babu (2007) says that the US Military aims to use this model to
“use, exchange, manage, track and reuse all of their learning content and data no matter its source or application”.
If this reference model can be used extensively in the military, then why not in the learning environment? The benefits seem to be many and if exploited well, this model can take e-learning to a new level.
SCORM, as its name suggests, allows users to share learning objects. This reference model allows for communication between the user and a host system, usually a Learning Management System (Wikipedia, 2011). SCORM 2004 is the current version of the learning model and uses XML (Extensible Markup Language) (Wikipedia, 2011). One of the benefits of SCORM in e-learning is that users can “bookmark” their progress, thus making e-learning a better experience for the user (Wikipedia, 2011). SCORM makes learning more flexible and adaptable to the individual’s needs.

Babu, S. C. (2007). E-learning Standards. National Seminar on eLearning and eLearning Technologies, 1(1), 88-91. Retrieved October 15, 2011, from

Cressman, D. & Friesen, N. (2005). The Politics of E-Learning Standardization. Retrieved October 15, 2011, from

Varlamis, I. & Apostolakis, I. (2006). The present and future of standards for e-learning technologies. Interdisciplinary Journal of Knowledge and Learning Objects, 2. Retrieved October 15, 2011, from

Wikipedia. (2011, August 17). Sharable Content Object Reference Model. Retrieved October 15, 2011 from

By Elaine
4. Metadata

Metadata is a way of giving more information about the data. You are transforming data (raw data) into (at least) semi-structured data.

NISO (2004) states ‘Metadata is key to ensuring that resources will survive and continue to be accessible into the future’.

Metadata helps eLearning attain the following activities. (Y. Chen & S. Chen, 2003)

  • Find (Searching for a resource)
  • Select (Choosing the resource)
  • Retrieve (Get information)
  • Combine
  • Use/re-use
  • Target

There are three ways to make data more meaningful and these ways are inter-linked.

4.1 Descriptive Metadata

Descriptive metadata describes a resource for purposes such as discovery and identification. It can include elements such as title, abstract, author, and keywords. It is also known as metacontent, “data about data contents” or “content about content”.
The advantage of descriptive metadata is that it facilitates the finding of relevant information. (NISA, 2004).

For metacontent to work effectively, it has to be consistent to avoid ambiguity (
Brase & Nejdl, 2003). For instance, ‘author is elaine’, ‘creator is elaine’, ‘writen by elaine’ are three different ways of expressing a related description for the same purpose in order to avoid misunderstanding.

4.2 Structural metadata

Structural metadata is how compound objects are put together, for example, how pages are ordered to form chapters. Most of the time, it works in a structural map where these metadata are linked together in the digital library object. It is needed to ensure that separately digitized files are structured appropriately. (NISA, 2004)

For example, in the eLearning context, a structural metadata would keep in order the reusable information objects used in the reusable learning object.

4.3 Administrative metadata

Administrative metadata provides information to help manage a resource, such as when and how it was created, file type and other technical information, and who can accessit. There are several subsets of administrative data. Example of which is rights management metadata for intellectual property rights and the original source object from which the digital library is taken.
NICS (2004) state the administrative metadata do not get much attention as one has to be a technical person to understand the knowledge of specific technical aspects of the objects beyond its file name and type.

5. Learning Object Metadata

A Learning Object Metadata is a metadata instance (the description) for a learning object that describes relevant characteristics of the learning object. This is used to manage the learning technology system. (IEEE, 2002)

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Metadata generation methodology for Learning Object. (Menendez, D. et al in Maltiadis, D et al, 2010)

The Learning Object Metadata (LOMv1.0 Base Schema) consists of nine such categories:
(IEEE, 2002)

a) General category groups the general information that describes the learning object as a whole.
b) Lifecycle category groups the features related to the history and current state of this learning object and those who have affected this learning object during its evolution.
c) Meta-Metadata category groups information about the metadata instance itself (rather than the learning object that the metadata instance describes).
d) Technical category groups the technical requirements and technical characteristics
e) Educational category groups the educational and pedagogic characteristics
f) Rights category groups the intellectual property rights and conditions of use
g) Relation category groups features that define the relationship between the learning object and other related learning objects.
h) Annotation category provides comments on the educational use of the learning object and provides information on when and by whom the comments were created.
i) Classification category describes this learning object in relation to a particular classification system.

So, a LOM description consists of attributes divided on the above nine categories. The following is a list of examples prefixed by the category. (Dahl & Vossen, 2007)

  • General: Title
  • Edu: Description
  • Class: Purpose
  • Relation: Resource
  • Technical: Format

6. Organisations and initiatives that are involved in the propagation of standards and specifications for eLearning

The 4 standard organizations are:

6.1. Advanced Distributed Learning

The Advance Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative was establish in 1997 to standardize and modernize training and education management and delivery. It is part of the Department of Defended (DoD) Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense.

ADL had the initiative of SCORM. ADL SCORM did a conformance test suite for the Compliance Requirements in the SCORM 2004 specifications.

6.2. IMS Global Learning Consortium

IMS Global Learning Consortium is a global, non-profit, member organization that strives to enable the growth and impact of learning technology in the education and corporate learning sectors worldwide. They developed the Common Cartridge standard, which is a format for creating and sharing digital content. In this format it includes SCORM in it’s specification of development.

6.3. Aviation Industry CBT Committee

The Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee (AICC) is an international association of technology-based training professionals. The AICC develops guidelines for the aviation industry in the development, delivery, and evaluation of CBT, WBT and related training technologies.

The AICC HACP standard for CMI is widely used by Learning Management Systems and other systems to call content and assessments. They contributed to SCORM, hosting content and assessment on webservers within a calling system.

6.4. IEEE Standards

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers is a non-profit professional association that is dedicated to advancing technological innovation and excellence. They propagate the annotation standard for SCORM. The standard is IEEE P1484.12.3.


Chen, Y. & Chen, S. (2003). Metadata for eLearning Objects.Retrieved October 13, 2011 from

Dahl, D. & Vossen, G. (2007) Learning Object Metadata General in the Web 2.0 era . IADIS International Confernce e-Learning. Retrieved October 13, 2011 from: __

IEEE. (2002). Draft Standard for Learning Object Metadata. (IEEE 1484.12.1-2002).
Retrieved October 13, 2011 from:


Menendez, D. et al. An approach to Metadata Generation Learning Objects
In Maltiadis
, D et al. (2010). Knowledge Management, Information Systems, E-Learning, and Sutainability. Part 1. Berlin: Springer.

NISO. (2004). Understanding Metadata. USA: NISO Press.