Instructional Management Systems (IMS)
Prepared by Jim Petch
The Instructional Management Systems Project (IMS) (http://www.imsproject.org/)
represents a consortium of government, academic and commercial organizations
who are developing a set of specifications and prototype software for facilitating
the growth and viability of distributed learning on the Internet. It was
acknowledged by the meeting participants that any development in interoperable
education in the GIS field should probably work within the IMS model since
it appears to be the dominant model in higher education and one with which
major educational institutions in North America and Europe are already
aligning themselves. The IMS project provided a focus to much of the discussion
of the meeting and set out most of the issues which must be addressed.
There are two main areas of work in IMS: the provision of a set of
standards which will be published under IEEE and the testing of the standards
and the delivery mechanisms through a prototype. Both areas are under way
and parts of the standards are published in draft.
There are five main areas in which the project team is developing specifications
and building prototype code:
As well as briefly describing these basic components, Mark Resmer, IMS
Project Director, also commented on how IMS addresses a number of the areas
of concern earlier identified at the meeting::
Metadata - descriptive information about learning resources for
the purposes of finding, managing, and using these learning resources more
effectively. The IMS metadata dictionary, a part of the metadata specification
an expansion of the Dublin Core, is currently available and has defined
an extensible number of fields and values for labeling learning materials.
The IMS is also developing, with the National Institute of Standards and
Technology (NIST), a process for managing the creation and evolution of
metadata across different domains.
Content - interfaces which define the actions and responses that
IMS-compliant content may perform, including assessment, sequencing, reporting
data, bookmarking, notification and metadata. This involves a consideration
of system architecture and compliance with ActiveX/DCOM , JAVA/CORBA models
and the use of HTML, XML and CGIs.
Management Systems - functions such as access control, session management,
tracking students' progress through learning processes, control over the
virtual learning environment, and security.
Profiles - of students and instructors that include personal, performance,
and preference information.
External Interfaces - to services external to the core management
system such as electronic commerce, backoffice, full-text indexing systems,
digital library services, and databases.
The group recognized that effective adoption of IMS standards and procedures
within the GIS community requires an understanding of how these issues
map on to experience and materials in the area of GIS education. Resmer
identified several aspects of the GIS education community's concerns that
may necessitate special attention:
how IMS addresses the issue of intellectual property
how lineage is recorded in the metadata descriptions
authentication and how rights of access and use will be managed
the commerce model being developed to handle financial transactions
how IMS may provide assurance of quality through the use of review bodies
(a la Michelan stars), usage records and assessment of educational outcomes
by external bodies.
There is a need to separate content from infrastructure
There is an acknowledged distinction between training and education. Can
these share a common set of standards? Is all learning the same?
There are several layers of interoperability needed: from technological
(objects communicating) to semantics to institutional. Likewise, IMS is
middleware in which technology is the foundation, policy and institutional
matters is above this.
Given the need for localization in geographic information science, how
should learning profiles or educational settings be matched to metadata?
Can we establish hierarchical schemas in metadata to address geographical
or disciplinary foci?
What is the appropriate level of granularity given the need for localization?
Can we use nested hierarchies in metadata to address this? Can small objects
IMS may provide the mechanisms needed to address the incentive problems.
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