A trend toward standards-based distributed computing applications is now well established. This trend extends to all data processing and information exchange domains: online learning and all other Web applications. You likely know that HTML, XHTML, and XML are specifications that have become de facto standards. No one company invented and owns licensing rights to these technologies, which is likely a prime reason they are ubiquitous in our field. The specifications for these and many lesser known open standards were created by academics and professionals worldwide, working together as a consortium of interested parties dedicated to improving technology-based systems for the betterment of all. The model for developing online learning standards is quite the same. The sponsors for learning standards initiatives—U.S. Department of Defense, aviation industry, colleges and universities, professional organizations—have no commercial interest in standards other than reducing development costs for their constituents. The sponsors, the demanding training buyer, and now the tool makers agree that we should move forward with standards-based technologies for online instruction.

Visit the primer Overview of E-Learning Standards for a brief description of significant initiatives. However, this is only the beginning of the story of e-learning standards. Other organizations and special interest groups—ARIADNE, Prometeus, CEN/ISSS, CETIS, ISO/IEC JTC1 SC36, BSI—are formulating standards. Will they prevail? Even Microsoft attempts to sway standards with its Learning Resource iNterchange 3.0 (LRN) Toolkit. The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative Standards Working Group and the W3C are working on specifications for a universal description of Web resources and the creation of a Semantic Web built with a Resource Description Framework (RDF), and Web ontologies. The work in W3C has considerable influence on standards being developed by all the e-learning initiatives. All of these specifications will some day impact e-learning as it becomes the pervasive vehicle for lifelong learning.


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