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28 November 2008 / erikduval

Standards for Technology Enhanced Learning

I am working on a paper about the role of technical standards for Technology Enhanced Learning…

As another experiment in open research, here are my current thoughts

  1. The main issue is no longer that we do not have sufficient standards. Rather, we have maybe too many and, more importantly, we don’t make use of them in very advanced ways… Tools are lacking or too much let the standard shine through, rather than focusing on the user experience.
  2. We should avoid continuing the ‘not invented here’ approach that  has made us develop learning specific standards when there may be quite appropriate standards already out there or being developed.
  3. Standards should not be research oriented but rely on proven practice. Of course, standards enable deployment at large scale, and  therefor make it possible to do research on global infrastructures.
  4. Standards enable openness, and that enables innovation – that is another way for standards to be relevant to research.

I would LOVE your feedback, comments, questions, examples… You can comment here, or email me or twitter me



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  1. Martyn Cooper / Nov 28 2008 10:33 pm


    Re: your point 3

    This raises the challenge of how to develop standards that serve innovation. If you wait for proven practice to be established then:

    – one it begs the question why is the standard needed if the practice has become established without it

    – and two, given the lead time to establish agreed standards, will they still be relevant to what practice becomes by time that process is completed.

    I strongly hold that much of educational standards development has suffered from insufficient implementation of the prototype standards as part of their iterative development. So many un-envisaged issues surface at implementation. If working prototype implementations are realised they can be tested within established practice. This will serve harmonised innovation in the standards, the practice and the technical implementation.

    My thoughts – take them or leave them.



  2. erikduval / Nov 29 2008 11:55 pm

    Thanks for the feedback, Martyn!

    I think that we basically agree that standards need to have gone through sufficient implementations (plural!) before they should be finalized. It seems to me that we should start from a situation with different solutions for the same problem, and then work on a common solution, implement it as a replacement for the original solutions, learn from that effort and then standardize.

    I sometimes have the feeling that we’re initiating the development of a standard as the first solution to a problem that nobody has solved in his own context yet. That is what I wanted to caution against…

  3. Wolfgang Reinhardt / Dec 1 2008 12:22 am

    Hi Erik,

    I think you mentioned an important fact: openness of learning. Only if we can use open standards (LOM, iCalendar, RSS and many many more) we can create innovative technology enhanced learning scenarios. I would agree Martyn that waiting till it’s proven practice makes standards comming too late. We really should be more practice-oriented in order to come to standards. Let several groups think about and implement some early stuff and then put it together. Afterwards do this step over again. I believe that practice leads to better and better applicable standards.


  4. Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) / Dec 10 2008 1:47 am

    Hi Erik

    Your blog post covers a topic which is of great interest to me – how to exploit open standards which deliver their goals whilst avoiding standards which fail, for whatever reasons, to justify effort spend in using them.

    I’ve written a number of papers on approaches to the secltion process. See for example:

    Addressing The Limitations Of Open Standards
    Kelly, B., Guy, M. and Dunning, A. Museums and the Web 2007, San Francisco, USA, 11-13 April 2007. Conference Proceedings (CD ROM).

    A Contextual Framework For Standards
    Kelly, B., Dunning, A., Rahtz, S., Hollins, P and Phipps, L. WWW 2006 Edinburgh, Scotland 22-26 May 2006. Conference Proceedings, Special Interest Tracks, Posters and Workshops (CD ROM).

    A Standards Framework For Digital Library Programmes
    Kelly, B., Russell, R., Johnston, P., Dunning, A., Phipps, L. and Hollins, P. ichim05 Conference Proceedings, ichim05 Conference, 21-23 Sept 2005, Paris.

    In addition my blog posts on standards are available from:

    Let’s keep in touch on this topic.

  5. Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) / Dec 10 2008 1:49 am

    Oops, the URLs for the papers weren’t published. The papers are linked in from:

  6. Paul Hollins / Jan 16 2009 2:14 pm


    Interesting concepts with which I boradley agree but I would pick up on the point you raise ” standards(should) rely on proven practice” as Martyn suggests this could be probalamtic in terms of supporting innovation whilst considertaion of exisiting practice is important of equal importance is the “business need”, develop standards to address an exisiting “pain pont” this naturally requires very significant “practitioner” input but is not necassarily constrained by exisitng practice and convention.


  1. Keep your promises! « Erik Duval’s Weblog
  2. Thoughts On Erik Duval’s Post On Standards « UK Web Focus
  3. Promised and Published « Erik Duval’s Weblog

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