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Progress Report - Archives

October 1, 2003

Repository Design and Architecture, Repository Service Web Interface (RSWI) and Authoring Tool Design and Development
Note: While originally separated into distinct tasks these tasks are being described together because the development of the tools and technologies are highly interdependent. The TILE services are evolving into a single integrated system, and work on all ‘parts’ is progressing in parallel.

The focus in the past quarter has been on refinement of the integration of the various transformations and services into a whole, and on the interaction between the Web Interface and the Repository. This work is being done in conjunction with the work on the Authoring Tool interaction with the Repository, and is shaping the Repository API. Finalization of the API is dependent on a more stable IMS Metadata extension draft (see Develop IMS Accessibility Specifications below).

Work proceeds on the Alternate Content selection algorithm that is based on our extensions to the metadata specification, and on the implementation of the other transformations. The RSWI now implements annotation, topic exclusion, learner goals, as well as a classroom paradigm for course ‘enrollment.’

An additional focus has been on communication between the Authoring Tool and the Repository. An Authoring Tool / Repository Interaction Specification has been written and partially implemented awaiting the Metadata extension draft.

Develop IMS Accessibility Specifications

As previously reported TILE activities are dependent on the finalization or extensions of several IMS specifications. By embedding the TILE innovations into these international standards the impact of TILE will be much more far reaching, ensuring that all IMS compliant technologies worldwide will be more accessible.

During this quarter the extension to the IMS Learner Information Package called the AccessForAll element (aka ACCLIP) has been adopted as an IMS recommendation. It was the first IMS specification to be adopted without negative votes or requests for revisions. During the previous quarter it became clear that the Learning Design specification does not enable markup of the kind required by TILE despite the fact that it is a stated goal of the LD working group and specification. Members of the LD working group and TILE continue to work together to address this. The Content Packaging specification does not accommodate alternative or augmentative content. A proposal was put forth to include this in the last maintenance release but it was felt by the Technical Board that this was more than a maintenance revision. A group will be chartered in the beginning of 2004 to address this. QTI will inherit changes to the Content Packaging specification once they are finalized.

Extensions are required to Metadata specifications to accommodate accessibility requirements. During this quarter an IMS charter was drafted (by TILE members) and passed by the IMS Technical Board. The charter is far broader than traditional IMS charters. The group proposes to bring together the major groups working on Metadata standards to collectively arrive at a common set of accessibility Metadata extensions. These extensions would include Metadata regarding accessibility specification compliance (e.g., W3C WCAG compliance) and Metadata elements that correspond to AccessForAll. To date the group has been successful in recruiting participation from Dublin Core, IEEE, CEN-ISSS, Incite V2, CanCore, SCORM, W3C CC/PP, WCAG and Semantic Web. This group is chaired by Jutta Treviranus and Toni Roberts.

Within the constraints imposed by the progress toward the necessary specification extensions within IMS, progress toward deliverable completion is on schedule. Finalization of the authoring tool and repository is dependent on a fairly stable Metadata extension. Extensive work to finalize these tools and environments was halted until the draft extension was reviewed by the new IMS working group.

Content Creation and Conversion

The following is a synopsis of the progress made by various partners during Q3 2003 with respect to the provision of content for the TILE project:

Transitional Year Program (TYP) Content
Learning Skills Series
A complete module on Reading and Note taking has been finalized. Additional content modules on various aspects of the TYP learning Skills Series have been marked up according to W3C WAI guidelines and readied for online delivery.

Cancore Metadata has been constructed/assembled for this content.

Reasoning In The Sciences
Initial course material, including outline and objectives, has been assembled. A detailed syllabus has been prepared for online delivery. Instructional design work has been initiated in order to ascertain the most effective manner in which to deliver and repurpose content. A detailed series of course objectives has been assembled that will be used to construct learning pathways with the online tool, once it is ready for full production use.

Cancore Metadata templates have been constructed for this content.

Quantitative Reasoning

A course outline for this course has been constructed based on initial instructional design meetings held with the course instructor. Resources have been assembled, and a detailed list of these is being prepared for online delivery. These resources will be used in conjunction with course material to create an online learning environment that will be linked to aspects of the Learning Skills Series modules.

Cancore Metadata templates have been constructed for this content.

National Adult Literacy Database (NALD)
NALD content has been preselected based on its potential for reuse within the TILE system. This content, as well as the NALD database in general, is in the final stages of being checked for W3C WAI guideline compliance. New content on Technology and Literacy has been made available, and instructional design to incorporate this material is underway.

Cancore Metadata templates have been constructed for this content, and some Metadata has been assembled.

Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement (CERIS)

An extensive audit on one of the CERIS courses has been conducted, resulting in a complex overview of the course content and structure (total size: 3.32GB). Design decisions have been taken to select the content that will be marked up with Cancore metadata, and a template for this has been constructed.

Frontier College
A tutor’s guide booklet has been digitized (scanned and OCR) and broken up into 40+ individual pages for simplicity of navigation.

Work has continued on preparation of content from Joe Clark’s recently published book on Accessibility. Cancore metatdata has been created based on the template the ATRC has provided.
Negotiations are underway with Alias for ten, one-minute training videos with open captions.

Community Access and Technology
Content has been prepared for the thirteen-week course on Community Access and Technology, including sections covering people profiles (movers and shakers), adaptive device overview, links to other content/external repositories and other resources. Cancore metatdata is being prepared based on the template the ATRC has provided. Structuring of the content for Learning Design and Content Packaging is also underway.

Authoring of content is complete for an additional SNOW workshop module on the topic of the accessibility of courseware packages currently available on the market. Testing is occurring regarding Content Packaging interoperability between the current SNOW courseware tool, ATutor, and the TILE repository.

Canadian Learning Television (CLT)
The current focus of work with CLT is resolution of intellectual property and copyright issues related to use of their educational content. ATRC staff are currently working in consultation with this partner to drafting an IP policy regarding CLT content.

Digital Frog International (DFI)
During this quarter DFI released a science matrix beta for user testing. This is currently available online at http://www.sciencematrix.com/

Barrierfree Implementation in the ABEL Project

While awaiting tentative approval of the Metadata proposal the technical team was engaged in an additional task. As discussed with CANARIE, the Barrierfree Tools and environment is being deployed within the ABEL project. This required a number of revisions to accommodate the specific IP and permission concerns of ABEL.

During the third quarter, the Barrier-Free tools (the Barrier-Free Editor and Player, and Repository technology) have been revised and improved for use in the ABEL project. This work has included the following:

The user interface has been altered to improve usability within the ABEL environment, based on user feedback and testing.

Support for an external streaming media server has been added to the repository software.

A tutorial demonstrating how to use the Barrier-Free Editor is complete, and will be made available to the ABEL teachers along with the software.

The tools have been ported to and tested on Mac OS 9, Mac OS X and Windows.


July 1, 2003

Repository Services Web Interface
The Repository Services Web Interface (RSWI) will be the front end of the TILE services. It will provide learners and educators with access to the repository content, customized to their own learning and access preferences.

The underlying core architecture of the system has been implemented. The Preferences Wizard, which will assist learners in recording their preferences for use by the system, is also complete. The user interface (a consistent look & feel) for the wizard, and for the TILE web services in general, is being refined through iterative user testing.

Work is underway on the various technologies needed to transform content according to learner preferences. Our original list of eleven candidate transformations has been reduced, through partner feedback, to a shortlist of nine transformations. Of these nine, three are complete, and we are working on the technologies necessary to carry out the others.

Authoring Tool
The TILE Authoring Tool will assist educators in creating learning content that is easily transformed according to learner preferences. The Authoring Tool is evolving to be an integral part of the RSWI, sharing much of the underlying technology, and development is proceeding in concert with the RSWI work.

Authoring Tool Support for Accessibility.
We have begun working on integrating the A-Prompt evaluation engine into the TILE Authoring Tool development. This technology help to ensure that content being submitted to the repository follows recommended web accessibility guidelines.

IMS Deliverables
The IMS ACCLIP (Accessibility for the Learner Information Package) specification is now publicly available on the IMS website (http://imsglobal.org/accessibility/). A working group has been formed to update the IMS Metadata specification to ensure that resources described by IMS Metada can be transformed according to the preferences encapsulated in the ACCLIP. We are active participants in this working group.

Content Development
Partners continue to prepare content for the repository, including material on the following topics:

Reading and Note Taking
Adult Literacy
Web Accessibility
Community Access and Technology
New Developments in Accessible Curriculum
Video-based Science Curriculum
Photosynthesis and Biology
Currently the content is being prepared for web delivery, including metatagging according to CanCore specificiations.


April 1, 2003

IMS Deliverables
The projected technical deliverables were based on the assumption that the IMS Learning Design specification could be used as the basis for the Core Architecture Design that would be shared by the tools associated with the project. Over the last two quarters the technical team has attempted to apply the IMS LD XML binding to the functionality required in TILE without success. Meetings have been held with members of the IMS LD working group and the EML group (upon which LD is based). While the group all are of the opinion that the LD specification should do what TILE requires, that what we require was an explicit objective of the LD specification, they also understand that it presently does not accomplish what we need. The IMS working group have recommended that TILE propose an extension to LD. Thus rather than applying an existing schema, the TILE project must create an extension to the IMS LD schema. The project partners have considered adjusting the functional specifications to fit the capabilities of the Learning Design specifications but it was felt that this would compromise the primary objective of TILE and make it harder for educators to create transformable learning content. For these reasons an additional task and deliverable has been added to the project. The impact of this to the e-learning field worldwide is potentially fairly significant. What TILE requires is a departure from the perspective of the lesson or course as a sequential series of events. TILE takes the perspective that there is an intended learning outcome, objective or “competency criterion” and several alternative activities that a learner can engage in to achieve the intended learning objective. This learning object structure lends itself well to cumulative or collaborative authoring. Educator/authors can contribute alternative learning activities that support a particular learning objective.

While the Learning Design specification cannot be used as expected, the IMS ACCLIP specification has reached the Public Draft stage and is sufficiently stable to apply to the preference tools. Given that the Barrierfree and TILE staff led the ACCLIP activity, the specification encompasses all of the requirements of TILE regarding learner preferences.

During several forums with content partners and educators it was stressed that more research was required into scaffolds and supports for educators or authors of learning content. To this end several research activities have been shifted to concentrate on the needs of the educator when using a LOR to support inclusive teaching rather than to learning outcomes given specific transformation alternatives. The point was also made that learning outcome findings for the identified group could not be easily applied generally. Given the approach taken in this project, learning outcome gains made by a very small number of learners would justify inclusion of a particular transformation.

Given the shortcomings of the IMS LD specification, finalization of the core architecture has been further delayed. All technologies not dependent on Learning Design have progressed on schedule. All other deliverables and tasks not dependent on this specification have been completed as projected. Several tasks not scheduled for this quarter have been moved forward to ensure project completion on time.

Repository design and architecture
Functional specifications for the repository design and core architecture are complete.
Technical specifications are complete with the exception of the components dependent on the LD specification extension.

Repository Service Web Interface
The functional specification is complete and undergoing partner review. The technical specifications and Core architecture design are complete with the exception of the components dependent on the LD specification extension.

Communication between preference system and Web Interface
Development is complete with the exception of the components dependent on the LD specification extension.

Authoring Tool
The functional specification is complete and undergoing partner review.
The technical specifications and Core architecture are complete with the exception of the components dependent on the LD specification extension.

Authoring Tool Support for Accessibility
We have been working with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) working group to ensure that any new requirements being incorporated into the latest version will be reflected in the Authoring Tool accessibility checking. This work includes a specifications document that maps the original WCAG guidelines to the proposed new guidelines, and changes to our software to accommodate changes in the guidelines.

Draft common query protocol
This deliverable is dependent on collaboration with the Edusource project. Discussions have begun. The TILE project has drafted an API as has the Edusource project.

Community Kitchen Event
On February 28, 2003, participants gathered at the University of Toronto for the first TILE Community Potluck event, coordinated by the ATRC. Representatives from across Canada participated. The theme of this first community potluck was "Shaping Content" with participants in attendance taking part in a learning exercise aimed at introducing those present to the idea of shaping content using learning objects. The TILE Community Potluck raised several significant points related to authoring processes that will require further exploration, while simultaneously providing project participants with a first-hand view of the benefits of reusable transformable e-learning content. Canadian Learning Television was on hand filming this TILE community potluck event for use in a television spot about the project to be aired at a later date. Plans are underway for an event to be held in Alberta during the second quarter.

Learning Object Classifieds
A learning object classifieds was added to the web site.

Web Newsletter
A web newsletter was published and distributed to partners and collaborators and event participants.

Learning Outcome evaluation reports
Participant observation protocols were developed for this event to observe and capture data on how content partners would envision reusing learning objects. We gained valuable insight on this process that should enable the programmers to develop tools that support varying users who will use the software for various output requirements.

Liaison has continued between the content development team from the ATRC and the community partners. Discussions have focussed on selection of appropriate content for sharing, W3C WAI compliance, and development of learning design (instructional design) scaffolding.

NALD: Retrieval content has been identified, and preliminary work on learning design markup is in place. The latter will continue based on liaison with CanCore on how to process the DTD. Information on the recommended process for conducting the CanCore markup is being developed and will be forwarded to NALD.
TYP: A proof of concept example for one TYP “mini lessons” has been completed and we are now working on conjoining this with others. Contact with some TYP instructors has proved difficult. Content team liaison is pursuing communication regarding content development and will confirm participation of specific instructors with TYP Director.
CERIS: We have an abundance of content for CERIS and have established a reusability schema for this content. The content is ready to be processed for markup. Next steps will be establishing and filling any gaps that remain in the overall reusability instructional design.
CLT has continued to work on identifying suitable content for inclusion in the learning objects repository. The focus has been on science based videos including chemistry, physics and biology.
Frontier College has supplied several key text based resources for inclusion in the repository including their volunteer training manual and a book outlining specific strategies for working with children and youth requiring literacy support.
Digital Frog has continued development of their interactive learning object focussed on the process of photosynthesis. This interactive lesson includes graphical images, interactive activities and important science content and all are presented in an accessible format, intended to allow computer mediated use by students of all abilities.
CDRTI has been working to identify priorities regarding which deaf literacy related learning resources are best suited to conversion to electronic format and inclusion in the learning object repository.
SNOW team members have identified appropriate content from the IDEA program. The content is ready for markup. Existing workshop content related to adaptive technology has been revised and discussions have taken place with Ryerson partners regarding opportunities for sharing content.


January 2003

Project Reporting and Progress Tracking System
An on-line time sheet and partner reporting system has been finalized and used in generating this quarterly report.

IMS Deliverables
A proposal was submitted to the IMS ACCLIP (Accessibility for the Learner Information Package) working group consisting of a draft schema, an information model, use cases and an object model. These were reviewed at the IMS face to face meetings hosted by ATRC in Toronto in December. The ATRC prepared a set of exemplary models using the proposed schema and XML binding.

Learning Design Forum
A learning design forum was held to discuss the learning challenges to be addressed through the TILE project and strategize how mechanisms such as transformations and selective retrieval of learning content can be used to address these challenges.

Prototypes of candidate preference transformations Illustrative prototypes and mockups of candidate preference transformations were created and presented to the IMS working group and to partner experts.

Preparation of the content testbed has been moved forward. Copyright clearance (where applicable), conversion to compliant on-line formats and accessibility repair have begun.

Core Architecture Design
The design of the core architecture (which affects all of the technologies to be developed by the project) is nearing completion. The design is dependent on the IMS LIP specification (see above). We expect to begin implementation early in the next quarter.

Functional Specifications
Drafts of the Repository Services Web Interface and Preferences Wizard being written, and will be distributed to project partners for review in the first quarter of 2003.

Authoring Tool Support for Accessibility
A questionnaire was constructed and distributed to over 100 A-Prompt users worldwide. Results are being used to determine what users require in their reports in a learning object repository context. We have created several mockups of various reports and will be showing them to current A-Prompt users in the next 2 months.