LM-Light: A New E-Learning Standard
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Why a New Standard?

Some years ago, I was asked to look into the feasibility of using web-based training in a small business. What I found at that time was that there were very few Learning Management Systems that a small business could afford, and that creating content to conform to the existing standards (AICC and SCORM) was so complicated that it generally involved purchasing commercial WBT tools. For the company that I was working with, that pushed it beyond their financial means.

Things have moved on. There are now commercial Learning Management Systems that are (just about) within the reach of small companies. And there are even Open Source systems that are being used widely - particularly in the educational community. But the AICC and SCORM standards are still complex, and so course development is still out of the reach of the average person.

One day late in 2005, I had cause to reflect on the initial growth of the Internet in the mid-1990's. Although some people will argue (with considerable justification) that the explosive growth was enabled by the development of de facto standards such as HTML and JavaScript, I would also argue that the fuel for that growth was the natural desire of normal people to write and publish, and that the simplicity of HTML coding provided them with a medium to express themselves. What, I thought, if we could do the same with web-based training? Maybe we could approach the dream of John Chambers (CEO of Cisco) when he said that '[t]he next big killer application for the Internet is going to be education. Education over the Internet is going to be so big, it is going to make e-mail usage look like a rounding error'.

And so the idea of LM-Light was born. Where the AICC and SCORM standards had been developed from the standpoint of the Learning Management Systems, LM-Light would be an alternative standard developed from the standpoint of the content developer with an emphasis on simplicity. Indeed, the design target was that someone could code a simple course in a matter of minutes using nothing more than a text editor. And, in order to achieve these aims, we've adopted a principle I like to call 'IDDT': It Doesn't Do That. In other words, we're more than happy to remove functionality if it makes the system simpler, more robust, and better suited to its target audience.

Since mid-2006, courses written to this standard have been used to deliver security awareness training courses to clients all over the USA through a partnership with Cosaint Inc. and this has proven that the standard is very practical - easy to work with when developing courses, and reliable when deployed though a Learning Management System.

Having shown that it works in practice, we feel that the time is right to release the standard to the public along with some of the tools that we've developed to help in creating and testing courses.

So there you have it. Whether or not it succeeds is now up to course writers, software developers and business owners.

Steve Addison
December, 2006


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