LMS News

ATutor Open Source CMS Supports Content Interoperability Standard

Open source learning content management system ATutor has been updated to version 1.6.4. It now includes support for the IMS Common Cartridge Lite 1.0 content interoperability standard.

ATutor, which combines content management with social networking features, was designed with accessibility and adaptability in mind. Once deployed, ATutor allows educators to assemble, package, and redistribute Web-based instructional content, import prepackaged content, and conduct courses online.

Common Cartridge is an emerging content interoperability standard developed at the IMS Global Learning Consortium. The standard defines ways of packaging learning content, tests, activities, and tools together in a standardized form so they can be shared across learning platforms. For example, the content on The Open University's OpenLearn site imports into ATutor and vice versa.

"There has been a lot of talk about IMS Common Cartridge over the past few years; but despite many commitments to support the standard, up until now only one of the commercial systems (Desire2Learn), and none of the open source systems, have actually implemented it," said Greg Gay, technology transfer coordinator for the University of Toronto Adaptive Technology Resource Centre and project lead for ATutor. "There is now a CC 1.0 Lite-compliant implementation of Common Cartridge in the ATutor, adding to its long list of firsts implementing open standards. And, it's more than just the simple import/player tool; it's a whole common cartridge authoring and management system, used to import, edit, export, or create common cartridges."

"What makes this release important is that it is the first open source [learning management system] to comply with the Common Cartridge standard (albeit Lite)," Gay explained. "The source code is free to use and modify. It can act as a starting place for other systems looking at implementing Common Cartridge."

The Lite version lacks authentication, which, in the full implementation, is used to restrict access to commercial content. Since ATutor is open source, explained Gay, "We tend to promote open content, which requires no authentication (we may add it later)."

The new release of ATutor also includes common cartridge authoring and exporting, so users can create their own common cartridges or import other open content and modify it, to be exported again.

"We are trying to encourage other developers to add authoring and exporting to their systems, and truly implement content interoperability," added Gay. "The trouble has been that nearly all [learning management systems] that have supported interoperability standards would import, but rarely export standards-compliant content, essentially defeating the purpose of an interoperability standard from an 'open' point of view. We'd like to help remedy that."

An ATutor 1.6.4 Demo can be accessed here.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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