Speaking of that $2 billion initiative by the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education that everybody is buzzing about, it turns out that, not only does it mandate a license for the educational resources it funds (CC-BY), it also mandates an interchange format. Namely SCORM. Rob Abel, CEO of IMS, has posted a long rant about why he thinks this is a bad idea. I don’t endorse all of Rob’s criticisms of SCORM, but I strongly agree with the point that SCORM and IMS Common Cartridge (the other main contender for a standard educational content interchange format) have substantially different affordances that are appropriate for substantially different use cases.
I understand why the Federal government wants to mandate a particular standard for content reuse, but I think it’s a mistake in this case. Educational content re-use is highly context-dependent, which means that no one standard is going to support all or even most of the relevant use cases. There will be times when SCORM is the best, times when IMS Common Cartridge is the best, times when RSS/Atom is the best, and times when just plain old HTML is really all that you need. Imposing a SCORM requirement for all resources will substantially increase the labor involved in producing them without necessarily bringing a payoff. The likely result will be fewer grantees will produce OERs and fewer of the OERs produced will be re-used.
The better thing to do would be to require that grantees include in their proposal a plan for promoting re-use, which would include the selection of appropriate format standards.