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Common Cartridge Frequently Asked Questions

Common Cartridge Frequently Asked Questions

 

  1. What is Common Cartridge and Thin Common Cartridge?
  2. What problems can Common Cartridge solve?
  3. What's the connection between Common Cartridge and SCORM? 
  4. Common Cartridge has been around a long time. How is it maturing?
  5. Can I see which suppliers are providing Common Cartridges and Common Cartridge certified systems today?
  6. Will IMS continue to evolve and maintain Common Cartridge?
  7. Do older versions of Common Cartridge and Thin Common Cartridge still work?
  8. Is Common Cartridge applicable to the corporate training and education segments? 
  9. How can Common Cartridge / Thin Common Cartridge impact the digital learning experience of content, resources, assessment, and learning materials?
  10. Can I create or find Common Cartridges right now?
  11. Can I “play” Common Cartridges right now?
  12. Which suppliers are providing Common Cartridges and Common Cartridge compliant systems today?
  13. Why should educational institutions want Common Cartridge?
  14. What is the Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance and what is available in it?
  15. Why does IMS charge a fee for the Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance?
  16. Does the Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance also support conformance of IMS QTI and Content Packaging?
  17. Will IMS continue to evolve and maintain Common Cartridge?
  18. Will the K12 Common Cartridge effort result in a version of Common Cartridge that is incompatible with v1?
  19. What about Learning Tools Interoperability – when will that important piece of Common Cartridge be finalized?
  20. How do Common Cartridges and learning management systems utilizing them update learner information and progress?
  21. Can Common Cartridges be searched for and accessed via learning object repositories?
  22. How exactly will Common Cartridge support interactive books?
  23. 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?
  24. 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?
  25. 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?

 

  • What is Common Cartridge and Thin Common Cartridge?

    It's a set of open standards, freely available and without royalty, developed by a global industry consortium. 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). 
    Use of Common Cartridge advances the state of digital content and systems for 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. 
    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. 
    Version 1.4 of Common Cartridge/Thin Common Cartridge became available to IMS members in the summer of 2020. 

 

  • What problems can Common Cartridge solve? 

Common Cartridge is a packaging standard for content that simplifies exchanges between systems; Thin Common Cartridge makes that exchange digital. Common Cartridge specifies seven 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. 
  7. A method to align content, or bundles of content, to specific academic standards.

Back to Questions

  • What's the connection between Common Cartridge and SCORM?

    Common Cartridge takes into account the tremendous investment the global industry has made in SCORM and preserves that through adoption of a common packaging standard (IMS Content Packaging) with a clear migration strategy.

  • 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. 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.

  • 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. 

  • SCORM content can be converted to Common Cartridges, 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. 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.

  • 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 hereLETSI 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, 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.

  • Common Cartridge has been around a long time. How is it maturing?

    Common Cartridge’s version 1.4 takes into account feedback and requirements from the field, which includes K-12 and higher ed institutions as well as suppliers. This latest version of the specification is the first update in over five years. The K-12 profile, the tighter connection to LTI, the inclusion of the OpenVideo specification, and the greater alignment availability to CASE GUIDs all result in a more mature specification to meet the needs of the ever-evolving content marketplace and its users. 

  • Can I see which suppliers are probiding Common Cartridges and Common Cartridge certified 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 Members visit the IMS Membership page. Virtually all the major U.S. educational publishers and course management system suppliers support or have plans to support Common Cartridge. See the IMS Global Learning Consortium publically available product directory for verified, certified member suppliers who support Common Cartridge. The public can search this directory to find out which products implement Common Cartridge and other IMS standards. The directory is the single authoritative source on Common Cartridge certification.

  • Will IMS continue to evolve and maintain Common Cartridge?

    IMS provides ongoing management of Common Cartridge through the Common Cartridge working group, the Digital Curriculum Product Steering Committee, and feedback from IMS members. The Digital Curriculum Product Steering Committee monitors all specifications within the digital curriculum domain, informs any certification changes, and can serve as a catalyst to start work on a new version of the specification. 

  • Do older versions of Common Cartridge and Thin Common Cartridge still work?

    Earlier versions of specifications will still function when a new version becomes available. IMS may no longer certify earlier versions of a specification, but that does not  mean that version is no longer functional. IMS and its members react to feedback from the market and users by updating specifications, and those updates often result in new version releases. If a deprecation of a specification occurs, information about that depreciation will be available on the IMS website.

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

    Yes. The challenge of interoperable digital course assets for support of instruction is just as important in the corporate segments as it is in K-20. The applicability of Common Cartridge is dependent on the usage scenario, not the segment. 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.

  • How can Common Cartridge / Thin Common Cartridge impact the digital learning experience of content, resources, assessment, and learning material? 

    Online learning as a delivery modality is scaling exponentially in all sectors.  Ways to make it easier to incorporate and take advantage of third-party content in this ubiquitous scenario have become paramount.

  • Third-party course content often 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.

  • Common Cartridge enables the 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.

  • Common Cartridge reduces the production cost associated with 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.

  • 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 /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 /cc/alliance.html ), and check out the IMS Learning and Educational Technology Product Directory (/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.

  • 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 /cc/alliance.html ). And check out the IMS Product Directory, the authoritative source on IMS certified products.

 

  • 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: /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: /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.

 

  • Why should educational institutions want Common Cartridge?

    Common Cartridge and Thin Common Cartridge improved the efficacy of educational technology systems by providing institutions and suppliers with a standard and secure way to easily transfer, use, and get metadata from learning resources. Insisting on Common Cartridge gives faculty more control to integrate third-party resources, apps, and tools in the LMS, wherever and whenever, and can be assured that assignment and grade results are automatically synced to the grade book of record. Common Cartridge also lowers the time and cost to integrate digital resources into an institution’s learning ecosystem.

  • What is the Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance and what is available in it?

    The Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance (/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 /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 (/cc/alliance.html ).

  • The Common Cartridge & Learning Tools Interoperability Alliance (/cc/alliance.html ) provides:

  • < >DemonstrationsSample cartridges, which you can use with the tool/platform of your choice or examine how they are constructedImplementer 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.

Back to Questions

  • 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.

  • 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.

 

  • 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 /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:

    < >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.Support of specific application profiles for lesson plans that allow modular deconstruction of content for searching, previewing, and retrieval.Support of vendor-neutral tagging of learning objects according to curriculum standards and learning objectives.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.Support for linking into a variety of eBook formats./accessibility.html ) and IMS Learning Design (see /learningdesign/index.html ) to Common Cartridge. 

     

  • 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.

  • What about Learning Tools Interoperability - when will that important piece of Common Cartridge be finalized?
    The current work on Learning Tools Interoperability (see /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. 

  • 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 /lode.html ).

  • 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)

 

  • 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.

  • 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 /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.

  • 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 /cc/alliance.html ).