Common Cartridge Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why should I care about Common Cartridge?
  2. What problem is Common Cartridge meant to solve?
  3. What is Common Cartridge?
  4. What exactly does Common Cartridge specify?
  5. Is Common Cartridge the same as SCORM? Wasn’t SCORM supposed to solve this problem?
  6. Given that it is more sophisticated than SCORM, is Common Cartridge more complex and difficult to implement?
  7. What is a Cartridge?
  8. What led the IMS Global Learning Consortium to focus on the problem of digital course materials and digital books?
  9. But aren’t SCORM-like learning objects the wave of the future?
  10. Is Common Cartridge too little too late - as obviously content is getting into learning systems somehow already?
  11. How will Common Cartridge “free the content” and impact the market for digital learning?
  12. But, isn’t the digital content provided by publishers today low value stuff from which they derive relatively little revenue?
  13. But, isn’t the idea of downloading self-contained content packages an old idea that is now outdated?
  14. Is SCORM included in Common Cartridge in some way?
  15. But don’t I need SCORM rather than Common Cartridge to “track” interactions with learners?
  16. Does QTI in Common Cartridge replace SCORM tracking then?
  17. But don’t I need SCORM to provide sequencing of content?
  18. Can I create courses, topics, or modules that allow pretesting and prescriptive content with Common Cartridge?
  19. Can I create or find Common Cartridges right now?
  20. Can I “play” Common Cartridges right now?
  21. How does interoperability of Common Cartridge compare to interoperability of SCORM?
  22. Which suppliers are providing Common Cartridges and Common Cartridge compliant systems today?
  23. Can SCORM content be converted to Common Cartridges?
  24. What is the Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance?
  25. What is available in the Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance?
  26. Why does IMS charge a fee for the Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance?
  27. Can Common Cartridge be extended or customized for the needs of specific communities based on market segment or region?
  28. Does the Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance also support conformance of IMS QTI and Content Packaging?
  29. Will IMS continue to evolve and maintain Common Cartridge?
  30. What improvements are planned for Common Cartridge?
  31. Will the K12 Common Cartridge effort result in a version of Common Cartridge that is incompatible with v1?
  32. What about Learning Tools Interoperability – when will that important piece of Common Cartridge be finalized?
  33. How do Common Cartridges and learning management systems utilizing them update learner information and progress?
  34. Can Common Cartridges be searched for and accessed via learning object repositories?
  35. How exactly will Common Cartridge support interactive books?
  36. Common Cartridge v1 is in public release – when will it be finalized?
  37. What are the advantages of Common Cartridge versus SCORM in supporting education, in ether higher education or K-12?
  38. Is Common Cartridge applicable to the corporate training and education segments?
  39. My learning management system provider tells me that they do not use Common Cartridge for creation or archiving because it does not preserve all of the features that the learning system provides. Is that true?
  40. I am responsible for procuring or managing the learning system and/or digital course materials for my organization. I’ve determined that my organization needs the features that Common Cartridge provides. How do I best encourage my supplier or a potential supplier to support Common Cartridge?
  41. As a supplier I am concerned that Common Cartridge will take us some time to implement given its extensive set of features and requirements. Is there anything we can do to incrementally adopt Common Cartridge?
  42. Will SCORM evolve to meet the needs that Common Cartridge addresses?
  43. But what about LETSI and SCORM 2?
  44. What is IMS’s view on cooperation with ADL and SCORM?
  45. Are the ADL and U.S. DoD aware of these concerns? What can be done to correct these issues with SCORM?


  1. Why should I care about Common Cartridge?

    Use of Common Cartridge advances the state of digital content and systems for learning. It supports and enhances the dominant and proven paradigm for quality learning and educational experiences: Internet supported learning. Common Cartridge enhances learning experiences by enabling flexible combinations of learning resources in an assessment-rich and collaboration-rich environment. Common Cartridge also provides standards that are a base platform for interoperability, reusability, and customization of digital learning content, assessments, collaborative discussion forums, and a diverse set of learning applications. These standards support market efficiency and open up the market for greater choice in both content and platforms. (See a diagram of Common Cartridge )

  2. What problem is Common Cartridge meant to solve?

    Common Cartridge solves two problems. The first is to provide a standard way to represent digital course materials for use in online learning systems so that such content can be developed in one format and used across a wide variety of learning systems (often referred to as course management systems, learning management systems, virtual learning environments, or instructional management systems). The second is to enable new publishing models for online course materials and digital books that are modular, web-distributed, interactive, and customizable. The focus of Common Cartridge is interactive collaborative learning situations, typically with a teacher, professor, or instructor involved in guiding a cohort. The learning materials can be online, offline, or both - a situation often referred to as hybrid or blended learning. Common Cartridge may be used to facilitate self-paced online learning as well, but Common Cartridge was developed specifically to enable support the online or blended interactive and collaborative courses and seminars that have become mainstream in the last 10 years for various types of education scenarios. (See a diagram of Common Cartridge )

  3. What is Common Cartridge?

    It's a set of open standards, freely available and without royalty, developed by a global industry consortium with over 80 voting members. These standards, if followed by content developers and learning platforms, enable strict interoperability between content and systems. They also support great flexibility in the type of digital content supported (content can actually be applications) and where such content is located (content and applications in a Common Cartridge can be distributed). (See a diagram of Common Cartridge )

  4. What exactly does Common Cartridge specify?

    Common Cartridge specifies six things.

    1. A format for exchange of content between systems so that there is a common way to interpret what the digital learning content is and how it is organized. The content is described in a manifest and the components that make up the manifest may be in the exchanged package or external to the package (referenced by URL).
    2. An authorization standard (access rules) for each component of the package. This allows "protected" content or applications (those requiring a license) to be contained in a cartridge in a flexible way along with unprotected content.
    3. A standard for the metadata describing the content in the cartridge - based on Dublin Core. Common Cartridge is extensible to allow other metadata schemas.
    4. A standard for test items, tests, and assessments. This standard allows learning systems to understand imported assessments as natively - so they can be manipulated (such as deciding what items are to be used and where in the flow of a course) as needed in the learning system.
    5. A standard for launching and exchanging data with external applications so that they can be part of a single learning experience orchestrated through the learning system. These can be literally any type of application in any location, such as social networking, wiki, external assessment systems, adaptive tutors, varieties of web-based content libraries, or other learning systems.
    6. A standard for populating online discussion forums for collaboration among students. This allows such forums to be pre-populated with potential exercises, discussion threads, and so forth. (See a diagram of Common Cartridge and Learning Tools Interoperability and Common Cartridge Content Hierarchy)


  5. Is Common Cartridge the same as SCORM? Wasn't SCORM supposed to solve this problem?

    No. SCORM was developed to support portability of self-paced computer-based training content. This is a very different set of needs than those of digital course materials that are used to support an online course where there is a cohort of students and an instructor, teacher, or professor. Common Cartridge was developed primarily to support the use of digital course materials and digital books in the instructional context. It was not designed as a replacement for SCORM. As the answers to the questions below indicate, educational scenarios require advances in assessment, interactive content, sequencing of content, collaboration, facilitation, and authorization that SCORM was not designed to address, but Common Cartridge was.(See a Comparison of Common Cartridge and SCORM)


  6. Given that it is more sophisticated than SCORM, is Common Cartridge more complex and difficult to implement?

    No. Remarkably, Common Cartridge is much easier to implement than SCORM. It is also easier to test content for conformance to Common Cartridge than it is for SCORM. As described in the answers to the questions below, Common Cartridge provides more functionality than SCORM, but does so in a different way, enabling greater simplicity while increasing the functionality and learning scenarios that can be supported.

  7. What is a Cartridge?

    The Common Cartridge format is incredibly flexible. A cartridge may be an assessment filled with test items, it may be an entire set of supplementary digital content that comes along with a textbook, it may be an online course, it might be a lesson plan, it might be a specific topic or learning object complete with topics, assessments, and feedback. Suppliers and developers of Common Cartridge materials are utilizing all of these examples and more. (See Common Cartridge Content Hierarchy)

  8. What led the IMS Global Learning Consortium to focus on the problem of digital course materials and digital books?

    Simply put, online courses with student cohorts and teachers/instructors involved, using books is a much more prevalent scenario than self-paced CBT-like content. The use of online learning in the education context has exploded in the last ten years. Ways to make it easier to incorporate and take advantage of third-party content in this ubiquitous scenario have become paramount.

  9. But aren't SCORM-like learning objects the wave of the future?

    Probably not, as the most highly valued types of learning still occur primarily as social experiences requiring instructors, teachers, or faculty. Also, the science of learning is not well enough understood to trust it to primarily self-paced experiences. This is not to say that self-paced learning will not continue to grow and play an important supplementary role. IMS does believe that the use of web-based content that can support both formal learning structures (such as courses) and informal learning (educational reference, on the job training, performance support) is increasing and will continue to increase substantially. Common Cartridge is well suited to address a wide range of scenarios for applying content to both structured learning and informal referencing and performance support. For this type of application, Common Cartridge supports "learning objects" more effectively than SCORM. (See a diagram of Common Cartridge )

  10. Is Common Cartridge too little too late - as obviously content is getting into learning systems somehow already?

    No. Common Cartridge is a set of standards based on existing practice. By definition, existing practice must be given time to stabilize before such a standard can be finalized. Over 35 organizations have contributed actively to the development of Common Cartridge, which captures the common denominator of what industry is already doing with respect to digital course materials - but not doing in a standard way. Perhaps more importantly, the problems that Common Cartridge addresses are far from solved. Third-party course content currently gets into systems by each publisher exporting to a platform-specific format. This creates additional cost for the publishers and also creates a significant hurdle for newer/smaller publishers as well as newer/smaller platform providers.

  11. How will Common Cartridge "free the content" and impact the market for digital learning?

    Today, a publisher has little motivation to put their content into the format of a new, emerging platform. In addition, the sharing of courseware and supplementary materials is becoming even more important, not less so, as open content and courseware initiatives are expanding worldwide. Exchange and customization of quality course materials in a way that is efficient for teachers and faculty is a key need in improving education opportunities worldwide. IMS believes that educational publishers, both traditional and new, will blaze new trails in regards to this. Finally, as the world moves toward digital books, such as the Amazon Kindle, the educational context needs a way to include interactive learning experiences within the digital book context. Common Cartridge has the ability to enable that scenario.

  12. But, isn't the digital content provided by publishers today low value stuff from which they derive relatively little revenue?

    The answer to that really depends on the publisher, but as a general observation that is probably true. In cases where it is true, Common Cartridge reduces the production cost associated with such content. But, Common Cartridge also provides a format that allows publishers to create much more interactive, high-value content if they choose to do so, with the additional benefit that it is portable to many platforms. Also, since Common Cartridge enables launching and exchange with external applications it allows publishers to develop new models for the learning experience that combine content and applications that are distributed in terms of what is physically distributed in the cartridge/package and what is hosted on the web.

  13. But, isn't the idea of downloading self-contained content packages an old idea that is now outdated?

    Yes. The scenario of downloading large packages of digital content is not what Common Cartridge is about. In fact, Common Cartridge was designed to break that mold. Common Cartridge is based on the idea of packaging up some content along with references to web-based content sources and applications. It is based on a new version of IMS Content Packaging, v1.2, that was also designed to address this need. SCORM is based on the older IMS Content Packaging v1.1.4 and, yes, this approach is probably becoming outdated. It comes from the legacy of computer-based training (CBT) that SCORM came from. What we have learned about "learning objects" over the last ten years practically speaking is that they can work well in context, but not out of context. The Common Cartridge approach enables a way to preserve context that is very light weight compared to the old approach that requires massive downloads. (See Common Cartridge Content Hierarchy)

  14. Is SCORM included in Common Cartridge in some way?

    No, support of SCORM is not required for a platform to be Common Cartridge compliant. If there is SCORM content contained within a cartridge (such as a SCO or collection of SCOs), it is up to the learning platform to be able to handle it. If this scenario is important to you, we recommend running that content using the Icodeon SCORM player (http://www.icodeon.com/ ).

  15. But don't I need SCORM rather than Common Cartridge to "track" interactions with learners?

    No. Common Cartridge enables much more sophisticated tracking of learner experience and progress using its standard for question and test interoperability (IMS QTI). SCORM provides an interface between content - which is essentially a self-contained "black-box" in SCORM - and a learning management system to communicate completion and scores achieved. In Common Cartridge this is achieved natively in the learning management system because it understands what the test items, tests, and assessments are. Therefore, the learning management system can easily record and track scores by direct monitoring of the included tests. (See a diagram of Common Cartridge )

  16. Does QTI in Common Cartridge replace SCORM tracking then?

    Again, Common Cartridge was created for a different set of needs than SCORM. Common Cartridge provides certain benefits for the digital course material scenario that SCORM does not. Since Common Cartridge conformant platforms understand test items, tests, and assessments natively, this enables a high degree of tracking, item and test analysis, and also flexibility in the digital course material or customizable book scenario. For instance, if a publisher provides a collection of question items and tests for inclusion in an online course, the instructor has complete flexibility in terms of what items or tests to include and where. The compliant platform will then track those items and tests and provide reports to the instructor or to other systems as enabled by the platform. The responses to those items can be analyzed. In addition, Common Cartridge enables the scenario where the content and test items or tests can be imported from different sources (including online repositories). So, a set of content on Algebra I can be imported as Common Cartridge from one source and a set of assessments and assessment items can be imported as Common Cartridges from a different source. This allows completely flexible instructor configuration of content and assessments from multiple sources of their choosing. This is literally impossible to do with SCORM. (See a diagram of Learning Tools Interoperability)

  17. But don't I need SCORM to provide sequencing of content?

    No. Sequencing of content based on learner needs existed long before the advent of SCORM. SCORM simply tried to codify various approaches to sequencing in a platform neutral way. Common Cartridge launches self-contained, arbitrarily complex learning applications using a standard called Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI). So, say you have a course on Algebra I and would like to include in it some online self-paced modules or an adaptive tutor from your favorite supplier. Well, assuming that the supplier provides a Common Cartridge containing the LTI interface to its online learning application (say Pearson's MyMathLab), you are in luck. Simply download and install that cartridge into the course and tell the student when to invoke it. The student can now take advantage of going to an adaptive tutor that is launched from within the context of your course, performs the needed pretesting and sequencing, and returns the relevant information to your course management system. Common Cartridge handles the single sign-on and content authorization. There are other ways to accomplish sequencing in Common Cartridge using the native support for IMS Question and Test - see the answer to the next question.

  18. Can I create courses, topics, or modules that allow pretesting and prescriptive content with Common Cartridge?

    Absolutely. Simply create a self-contained cartridge that points off to the needed prescriptive content on the web based on the test results. Since Common Cartridge supports IMS QTI natively, all the logic can be contained and manipulated directly by the LMS, as enabled by your design. The prescriptive or recommended content, based on the test results, can then be downloaded as a cartridge or offered as a web service using Learning Tools Interoperability. Note that Common Cartridge enables a teacher, professor, or instructor in the loop to influence the learning cycle, as needed.

  19. Can I create or find Common Cartridges right now?

    Yes. Download one of the tools available to create Common Cartridges. For instance, go to http://exelearning.org/ and download the open source eXe tool. Or, for content that already exists, use a conversion process. Open University converted 399 online courses to Common Cartridge simply using the specification (see http://www.imsglobal.org/cc/index.html ) and a manual process. For the latest and greatest tools and guidelines become a member of the Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance (see http://www.imsglobal.org/cc/alliance.html ), and check out the IMS Learning and Educational Technology Product Directory (http://www.imsglobal.org/productdirectory/directory.cfm ). The directory contains links to many hundreds of cartridges available from publishers right now. For instance, Elsevier has available cartridges for their top 100 selling textbooks available.

  20. Can I "play" Common Cartridges right now?

    Yes. There are several learning management / course management systems on the market today that support Common Cartridge, including ANGEL, UCompass, Agilix, CAMS, and Jenzabar. For the latest and greatest become a member of the Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance (see http://www.imsglobal.org/cc/alliance.html ). And check out the IMS Learning and Educational Technology Product Directory (http://www.imsglobal.org/productdirectory/directory.cfm ), the authoritative source on IMS conformance.

  21. How does interoperability of Common Cartridge compare to interoperability of SCORM?

    Common Cartridge was designed explicitly to obtain much higher levels of interoperability than SCORM. This was done by removing the run time component associated with SCORM and by achieving agreement on specific subsets (often referred to as application profiles) of widely used specifications. Because of the previously discussed native understanding of questions and tests, the content of a Common Cartridge is not a "black-box" as in SCORM, and therefore does not need a run time interaction for tracking or sequencing. Common Cartridge, therefore, enables learning platforms to "compete" on the sequencing and reporting options they can support, based on the sophistication of the assessments. In addition, Common Cartridge does not enforce sequencing as SCORM does. Common Cartridge enables complex sequencing of portions of content (such as that in an adaptive tutor, game or simulation) can be achieved by calling out to specific applications that could contain a non-restrictive, application-specific sequencing model. This is accomplished in Common Cartridge through the Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) specification. In addition, the suppliers working on Common Cartridge were able to agree on very specific approaches to content packaging, test items, and authorization. This greatly simplifies interoperability testing. In fact, Common Cartridges can be computer-tested for conformance using the Common Cartridge conformance test suite. (See a diagram of Common Cartridge and Learning Tools Interoperability)

  22. Which suppliers are providing Common Cartridges and Common Cartridge compliant systems today?

    Common Cartridge was developed and is supported by the largest global standards consortium of its kind, the IMS Global Learning Consortium. To see the latest set of IMS Contributing Members visit: http://www.imsglobal.org/members.html . Virtually all the major U.S. educational publishers and course management system suppliers support or have plans to support Common Cartridge. It is now receiving significant attention around the world from leading organizations such as KERIS in Korea - often referred to as the largest SCORM implementation in the world. The conformance program for Common Cartridge is new. So, literally no cartridges or platforms have achieved the official seal of conformance yet. But, IMS Global Learning Consortium has established a definitive source for Common Cartridge conformance. It is the publically available Learning and Educational Technology product directory. Visit the directory here: http://www.imsglobal.org/productdirectory/directory.cfm . The public can search this directory to find out which products implement Common Cartridge and other IMS standards. In the coming months, those products passing conformance tests will be designated with Conformance Marks in the directory. The directory is the single authoritative source on Common Cartridge conformance. Conformance marks will begin appearing in the directory soon.

  23. Can SCORM content be converted to Common Cartridges?

    Yes - and this would be the recommended approach if there is a desire to use content for the digital course resources scenario. The reason is that Common Cartridge provides a flexible format that frees up the assessment and tracking information to be natively understood by the learning platform and therefore the instructor can manipulate the learning experience. This cannot be done in SCORM because such content is a "black box". The Common Cartridge approach also eliminates the need for the very "heavy-weight" tracking of SCORM, which is a serious limitation on scalability. In addition, IMS has developed an automated conversion from certain types of SCORM content to Common Cartridges. This tool is currently available to members of the Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance community (http://www.imsglobal.org/cc/alliance.html ). Conversion of SCORM assets to Common Cartridge assets (called "learning applications") is relatively straightforward because they are both based on IMS Content Packaging, which is proposed for international standardization in ISO/IEC JTC1 SC36.

  24. What is the Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance?

    The Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance (http://www.imsglobal.org/cc/alliance.html ) is an online community for those interested in developing Common Cartridges, learning platforms that can run Common Cartridges, achieving Common Cartridge conformance, subscribing to the latest news on Common Cartridge, and end-user institutions desiring IMS support in adopting Common Cartridge. Membership in the Alliance is free to IMS Contributing Member and Affiliate organizations (for more information see http://www.imsglobal.org/joinims.html ). For non-IMS affiliated organizations or individuals, a small annual fee to help recover costs associated with the alliance is requested. You can sign up for membership online (http://www.imsglobal.org/cc/alliance.html ).

  25. What is available in the Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance?

    The Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance (http://www.imsglobal.org/cc/alliance.html ) provides:

    • Demonstrations
    • Sample cartridges, which you can use with the tool/platform of your choice or examine how they are constructed
    • Implementer tools for testing your implementations (e.g. authorization server, LMS/tool test targets for tools interoperability) and offering sample code to show how it's done.
    • Conformance tests, the cartridge test system and guidance on testing the conformance of your LMS to the specification and access to the CC test data set.
    • Events offering webinars and information sessions to increase Common Cartridge understanding and use.
    • Marketing resources: Download the CC & LTI Alliance logo and other marketing materials for use in your own literature.
    • The absolute latest specifications, notes, and proposed changes managed by the Common Cartridge Accredited Profile Management Group (APMG).
    • Presentations from webinars and meetings.


  26. Why does IMS charge a fee for the Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance?

    The IMS Global Learning Consortium is a non-profit member consortium. Providing a quality development and user network requires resources. The IMS Contributing Members fund much of the Alliance activities. However, those interested solely in Common Cartridge are asked to pay a small annual fee to help cover the costs. The value provided in the Alliance is orders of magnitude greater than the fees.

  27. Can Common Cartridge be extended or customized for the needs of specific communities based on market segment or region?

    Absolutely. In fact, IMS provides free tools to enable the development and registration of such "application profiles." These processes and tools apply to all IMS standards. To access these tools, simply go to the IMS Profile Registry page: http://www.imsglobal.org/profile.cfm

  28. Does the Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance also support conformance of IMS QTI and Content Packaging?

    Yes. The Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance is also providing management of conformance for IMS QTI and IMS Content Packaging. This includes the application profile of IMS Content Packaging used in SCORM 2004. It also includes application profiles for QTI v2.1 which is not included in Common Cartridge v1, but will be included in future versions.

  29. Will IMS continue to evolve and maintain Common Cartridge?

    IMS will provide ongoing management of Common Cartridge through the Common Cartridge Accredited Profile Management Group (APMG). The APMG is the group of IMS member organizations that are actively implementing Common Cartridge. The APMG is responsible for evolution, maintenance, conformance processes, and governing the Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance. New compatible versions of Common Cartridge can be expected to be released every 12-18 months.

  30. What improvements are planned for Common Cartridge?

    IMS has several active efforts that are already prototyping and testing enhancements to the Common Cartridge and exploring the best practices for implementing it. Most notably the K12 Schools Common Cartridge effort (see http://www.imsglobal.org/cck12.html ) is looking at providing some enhancements to Common Cartridge v1 that are driven by K-12 segment needs, but are also applicable across segments.
    These are:

    1. Support of new application profiles of QTI v2.1 capable of supporting a wide variety of item types, including dynamic/adaptive content and formative and summative assessment. This includes high stakes assessment.
    2. Support of specific application profiles for lesson plans that allow modular deconstruction of content for searching, previewing, and retrieval.
    3. Support of vendor-neutral tagging of learning objects according to curriculum standards and learning objectives.
    4. Use of IMS Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) to support application-to-application interoperability among learning systems both within the enterprise and on the Internet, enabling software as a service scenarios.
    5. Support for linking into a variety of eBook formats.

    In addition, there is great interest in adding IMS AccessForAll (see http://www.imsglobal.org/accessibility.html ) and IMS Learning Design (see http://www.imsglobal.org/learningdesign/index.html ) to Common Cartridge. (See a diagram of Learning Tools Interoperability)


  31. Will the K12 Common Cartridge effort result in a version of Common Cartridge that is incompatible with v1?

    No. The enhancements being developed for the K12 Common Cartridge provide valuable features that can be used across segments and will be folded into a future version of Common Cartridge.

  32. What about Learning Tools Interoperability - when will that important piece of Common Cartridge be finalized?
    The current work on Learning Tools Interoperability (see http://www.imsglobal.org/toolsinteroperability2.cfm ) is based on learning's from IMS Tools Interoperability guidelines - which was first implemented about 5 years ago - and the significant product experience of leading industry providers now leading the group (including Wimba, Blackboard, Pearson, eCollege, Microsoft, and Sakai). It often takes years for a critical mass of practice, leadership and support to emerge around a new standards area. Significant prototyping based on the latest formulation is occurring both within the context of Common Cartridge and outside of it. A "SimpleLTI" is currently available to IMS members for initial support of limited scenarios (for more information on SimpleLTI, contact us. A more complete LTI formulation will begin to appear in products from IMS member organizations toward the end of 2008 and early 2009. (See a diagram of Learning Tools Interoperability)

  33. How do Common Cartridges and learning management systems utilizing them update learner information and progress?

    IMS Learning Information Services (see http://www.imsglobal.org/lis.html ) and related works, such as IMS Learner Information Profile (see http://www.imsglobal.org/profiles/index.html ), IMS Reusable Definition of Competencies and Educational Objectives (RDCEO - see http://www.imsglobal.org/competencies/index.html ), and IMS ePortfoliio (http://www.imsglobal.org/ep/index.html ) provide the necessary schemas and services to support recording of learner progress and interaction with student and administrative systems. (See Comparison of Common Cartridge and SCORM)


  34. Can Common Cartridges be searched for and accessed via learning object repositories?

    Yes. Common Cartridges use simple Dublin Core Metadata Element Set (mapped to the corresponding elements in LOM) and metadata for cartridges can be extended as needed. IMS currently has an activity that is looking at using a variety of existing standards from eLearning, generic repository, and library repositories to enhance search and retrieval of Common Cartridge (IMS Learning Object Discover and Exchange - LODE - see http://www.imsglobal.org/lode.html ).

  35. How exactly will Common Cartridge support interactive books?

    IMS natively supports collaborative learning, distributed content, inclusion of web learning applications, and interactive test items, tests, and assessments. These capabilities are expected to fit the needs of interactive educational books very well. Common Cartridge version 1.1, due for release to the Alliance in 2010.  In addition, IMS has an adoption practice activity focused specifically on developing prototypes and requirements for scenarios like this. (See a diagram of Common Cartridge)

  36. Common Cartridge v1 is in public release - when will it be finalized?

    Common Cartridge v1 is now final and freely available at: http://www.imsglobal.org/cc/index.html
    Common Cartridge is the most supported learning technology standard for this stage of its existence ever. Version 1 underwent prototyping and testing for well over two years across the community of IMS member and Affiliate organizations.

  37. What are the advantages of Common Cartridge versus SCORM in supporting education, in ether higher education or K-12?

    SCORM's lack of assessment standards and lack of transparency in the assessment area in general as well as lack of resource transparency and ability to support collaborative learning with instructors involved, make it poorly suited for educational scenarios. It is universally acknowledged by educators that improving assessment opportunities, both formative and summative, including self-assessment, is key to improving learning. eLearning experts agree that one of the most important potential advantages of online learning should be the ability to provide more assessment and, most importantly, be able to analyze the results from those assessments. IMS QTI (see http://www.imsglobal.org/QTI.html ) is a robust assessment standard that enables the analyzing of test items and tests. This is fundamental to improving the assessment process. Thus, the inclusion of QTI in Common Cartridge is fundamental to improving the future of education. SCORM assessments and activities are "black-boxes" from which little can be learned. The good news is that as SCORM content is converted to Common Cartridges the content and assessments can be "opened up" into transparent QTI that is natively understood by the learning management system. In this way, Common Cartridge allows teachers and administrators to better understand progress and design appropriate remediation. In addition, Common Cartridge is designed to support the collaboration and guidance needed for quality educational experiences. (See a diagram of Common Cartridge)

  38. Is Common Cartridge applicable to the corporate training and education segments?

    Yes. The challenge of interoperable digital course assets for support of classroom instruction, online seminar series, corporate universities, referencing, and performance support is just as important in the corporate segments. The applicability of Common Cartridge is dependent on the usage scenario - not the segment. The transparency into testing and assessment that Common Cartridge provides as compared to SCORM, makes it ideal for those organizations that want to better understand the specific challenges to understanding of corporate strategies and so forth, as opposed to simple delivery of content and tracking that SCORM provides. In addition, Common Cartridge is the perfect vehicle for training units that desire to develop their own web-based prescriptive content that pretests individuals and then sends them directly to the content that is most needed. Common Cartridge allows such content to be easily organized on the web so that it can be used for refresher courses or modules as well as referencing needed for performance support. This is because Common Cartridge is much lighter weight than SCORM. It is anticipated that there will be much use of Common Cartridge across all global learning segments. (See a diagram of Common Cartridge)

  39. My learning management system provider tells me that they do not use Common Cartridge for creation or archiving because it does not preserve all of the features that the learning system provides. Is that true?

    It is true that the Common Cartridge standard does not capture every feature of every learning system. Most "standards" are not meant to capture every aspect of a system. Standards are the denominator that cuts across systems. They are the platform to build customizations and value-add on. Eventually some of those customizations are added into the standard - if they become widely adopted. Great standards like TCP/IP do not solve every problem - but they become the foundation upon which other more advanced features can be added. So, while your learning management system provider is correct, they are also coping out a bit. What they should be doing is using Common Cartridge to capture those things Common Cartridge does specify, and then adding extensions around it to capture the features that Common Cartridge does not yet support. If they do that, then interoperability of at least that core denominator is captured and, at the same time, the extensions mean there is no loss in fidelity when restoring to the same learning management system. Now, the next question you need to ask your supplier is whether if not they are participating in IMS to help evolve that denominator so that more and more can be transferred between systems. You can find out if they are by checking the list of IMS member organizations at http://www.imsglobal.org/members.html. (See a diagram of Common Cartridge)

  40. I am responsible for procuring or managing the learning system and/or digital course materials for my organization. I've determined that my organization needs the features that Common Cartridge provides. How do I best encourage my supplier or a potential supplier to support Common Cartridge?

    There are at least a couple of ways to help make this happen. The first and most direct is to refer suppliers to the Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance http://www.imsglobal.org/cc/alliance.html . Through the Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance they can receive all the support needed to adopt Common Cartridge. Membership in the Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance or as an IMS Contributing Member or Affiliate organization is fundamental to staying in touch with the latest Common Cartridge development activities and conformance. Another action you can take is for your institution to join the Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance and work with IMS staff to help validate vendor claims. Institutional / end-user organizations are very affordable. IMS provides support for end-user organizations in the Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance by working directly with suppliers you designate to witness and verify conformance. While IMS cannot force suppliers to do anything, IMS can act as a liaison and neutral party that can verify conformance to the benefit of your organization as well as the larger Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance community. IMS can make the results of tests available to the end-user community.

  41. As a supplier I am concerned that Common Cartridge will take us some time to implement given its extensive set of features and requirements. Is there anything we can do to incrementally adopt Common Cartridge?

    Yes. First of all, not all content has to implement or use all features of a Common Cartridge. A Common Cartridge compliant cartridge may just implement a subset of the features. Thus, you can develop and certify cartridges using the test system even if they are relatively simple. If you provide a learning platform, there are also things you can do to ease adoption. While full Common Cartridge conformance requires support for all features, IMS is also offering conformance to pieces of Common Cartridge. This includes conformance to the application profiles of Question and Test (QTI) and Content Packaging (CP) used in Common Cartridge. This means that your learning system can incrementally adopt key pieces of Common Cartridge and receive acknowledgement. This enables you to create a roadmap and development plan in terns of the sophistication of Common Cartridges you can support. For more details on this, join the Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance (see http://www.imsglobal.org/cc/alliance.html ). (See a diagram of Common Cartridge)

  42. Will SCORM evolve to meet the needs that Common Cartridge addresses?

    One can guess that it is unlikely given the history and focus of SCORM. SCORM was developed by training experts to address training issues. Unfortunately, whereas training is a subset of educational requirements, education is not a subset of training requirements. SCORM has been applied as a first step toward reusable online content in a limited number of educational contexts. But it simply falls short of what is needed to facilitate quality educational experiences. As the worldwide web started becoming ubiquitous in the mid-1990s there was great excitement about the potential of creating modular content, so-called learning objects, and all forms of online learning. There was much venture capital invested and many different attempts at automating the learning process, starting from what the world knew best up until that point, something called computer-based training (CBT) – putting multimedia content on a CD ROM and playing it on a PC. The CBT market, including the content and tools to make it, was a rather small niche market at the time. Instructor led training, books and classroom learning dominated. SCORM came out of the CBT world and the need to move this sort of thing to the web. Fast-forward more than 10 years from that point to today. While there is still excitement about self-paced learning and the concept of learning objects, the reality is that it is still a rather small niche market. Learning management systems have arisen to make it easier to automatically disseminate and track the usage of digital self-paced learning via the Internet, but primarily in training/conformance type scenarios. The problems and focus of Common Cartridge, as described above, are very far from this scenario, and much more ubiquitous. That is because the scenarios that Common Cartridge addresses are proven to be more effective in delivering high quality learning and education. (See Comparison of Common Cartridge and SCORM)

  43. But what about LETSI and SCORM 2?
  44. For over two years IEEE ISTO, put forth the SCORM brand, and indicated that they were organizing LETSI to become the steward of SCORM and to create “SCORM 2.” IMS GLC believed that this was a misuse of government property and filed an official protest with the U.S. GAO. It turns out that as of March 2009, the DoD General Counsel appears to agree. They have issued a letter that makes it very clear that ADL will continue to develop SCORM, not LETSI.  See the letter here.
    LETSI continues to publish its “Assumptions” document – which is based on the totally erroneous foundation of LETSI being the steward for SCORM. As much as the current SCORM may be outdated, it has been a useful step forward with respect to the niche area of self-paced computer based training in a web-based world. In addition, because the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), which developed SCORM, requires SCORM conformance, many vendors have been forced to implement SCORM. So, there is a high degree of familiarity with it. As discussed below, Common Cartridge takes into account the tremendous investment global industry has made in SCORM and preserves that through adoption of a common packaging standard (IMS Content Packaging) with a clear migration strategy.

    LETSI is also clearly dominated by those with expertise in training, not education. The acronym "LET" - Learning, Education, & Training - is in itself a misleading label. Education and training have some commonalities, but they are significantly different markets. Very few organizations, except very large ones with separate divisions of focus, participate in the Education and Training markets. LETSI leaders have and continue to refer to the "LET community." There is literally no such thing. We do not see anything in the work plan of LETSI that has potential to contribute to the education markets. And there are few participants that represent the interests of education.
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  45. What is IMS’s view on cooperation with ADL and SCORM?

    IMS’s perspective is that ADL and the U.S. DoD could be a useful force in the learning industry if they would cooperate with industry organizations such as IMS GLC rather than attempt to dominate them. What has happened in the past is that the large investment made by the U.S. DoD in SCORM and the subsequent requirement for conformance to do business with the U.S. government, has skewed the use of SCORM into markets where it is not a good solution. Industry standards consortia bring to bear the interests of all the parties that created the standard and who are committed to implementing it. Working within the standards setting bodies will improve the resulting benefit to industry.

    Involvement of government organizations in standards development and dissemination is extremely important for the success of standards. But, IMS's experience with ADL is that ADL has "gamed the system" toward its own objectives rather than those of broader industry, while at the same time forcing broader industry down its limited path. The result of this has been an industry concentration on a relatively small part of the interoperability challenge as it relates to learning systems - migration of self-paced learning content, that is, CBT, to the Internet, in a training context. While the vision of ADL and SCORM was/is admirable with respect to learning objects, it addresses a very limited and non-pervasive part of the educational spectrum. ADL's activities outside of industry standards consortia have resulted in inappropriate use of standards, such as IMS Simple Sequencing. ADL, based on its vision, used Simple Sequencing as a design specification, the complexity of which goes way beyond what industry needs for interoperability.

    ADL has also used a misleading terminology - reference model - to describe what they create. But, in fact what they have created are alternative standards. IMS has asked ADL to work within the standards context and involve industry to correct this situation. ADL has refused. We are hopeful that ADL will come to a better understanding of their role and truly cooperate with organizations such as IMS GLC in the future.


  46. Are the ADL and U.S. DoD aware of these concerns? What can be done to correct these issues with SCORM?

    IMS has invested an enormous amount of time, effort, and money communicating these issues to ADL, and the U.S. DoD (the Readiness and Training, Policy and Program Directorate, Office of the Secretary of Defense) over more than a two-year period. Conformance to SCORM should not be forced or implied by the U.S. government until it is proven to work better and should never be forced or implied in the education markets - as it is a poor fit for education segment requirements. In addition, ADL must work with IMS to develop conformance that industry supports. This will correct the inappropriate use of IMS standards and conformance requirements that are costly, unrealistic and are seriously flawed. IMS has also invested an enormous amount of time and effort attempting to educate LETSI and IEEE ISTO (the organizational home of LETSI) on these issues.

SCORM is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Defense.