Instructional Management Systems (IMS)
Will Change How Education is Designed and Delivered
Instructional Management Systems (IMS)
will change the way we design and deliver education. Distance
and distributed learning have become accepted methods to deliver
education and training. The
next step is toward creating learning objects and a movement
away from thinking that instructional design must produce a linear
The Change in the Course Preparation
You want to put together a new course to
offer as a classroom resource, to accompany satellite or cable
broadcasts, or to offer on the Web. Through Web-based IMS libraries
with searchable meta-data tags, you quickly locate and view the
best learning objects for the course. You select materials that
you can use (re-purpose), some that need editing, and decide
that you need to create others.
You review the copyright and cost tags
and generate a purchase order. You drag everything into an IMS
learning environment system, create the new learning objects
and drag them in. You complete the object sequencing, view the
objects for learning style and multiple intelligences appropriateness,
and check links.
The course is ready for students to log
on from a school, office, home or road site. The IMS learning
environment recognizes the student by ID, learning styles, modules
completed, or other special needs. It creates a Web page individualized
for each student on the fly. The system provides the administrative
tracking for registration, assignments, grades, and portfolios.
The systems will be highly interactive, provide e-mail, chat
rooms, audio, streaming video, videoconferencing and other technology
based learning methods as they become available.
It's an ideal way to deliver individualized
instruction to learners and it assists them in their progress
toward self-directed learning.
The IMS system is based on national/international
libraries of resources defined by meta-data tags. There will
be many vendor created learning environment software applications
but they'll all operate on international standards.
Meta-data is data about the data. It's
a list of information about one learning resource that could
be as small as several seconds of video or as large as a book.
Tags are simple but more explicit than current numeric library
codes. Meta-data tags are the search tools that will manage the
information glut and find the materials that we need.
General information includes a title, language
and description. Life cycle data focuses on the version and contributors.
Technical Information covers format and location. Rights includes
cost and copyright. Classification covers purpose and keywords.
Educational tags include interactivity type and level, learning
resource type, semantic density, intended end user role, learning
context, typical age range, difficulty, and typical learning
time. There are other tags.
At the top of the hierarchical view is
the "root" element that contains many sub-elements.
Using the tree metaphor, there are "branches" and "leaves"
which can be used to provide information about pedagogical/andragogical
methods. When you start the resource search, you'll fill in a
meta-data form which allows significant detail. It will reduce
the materials presented to you from the thousands that current
search tools present.
Why is IMS necessary?
It will allow us to easily find materials.
It provides the copyright and cost information so it saves search
and negotiation time. The IMS libraries are reusable resources
for all of us. There's no need to create English 101 again (and
again, and again). Linear materials such as video and text can
be broken into chunks of material - learning objects, that will
allow their reuse by many educators and institutions. If you
want to sell the learning objects that you've created, this is
the way to do it.
Many groups are already going through their
existing materials, editing them, and getting ready to provide
them as repurposed learning objects. It provides information
management through automated methods which discover, catalog,
sequence, deliver, and maintain the available data. It is standards
based and provides online infrastructure to manage access to
materials and learning environments.
EDUCAUSE (formerly Educom) launched the
initiative in 1994. It identified the common need among educational
institutions to develop Internet strategies, to customize and
manage instruction, and to integrate content from multiple publishers
in distributed learning environments. Increasing access, improving
quality, and reducing costs of learning environments requires
the development of a substantial body of instructional software.
Making learning environments learner-centered
without such an environment is difficult. That is the main reason
that so many Web-based courses are poorly done. The lack of standards
has impeded sharing across institutions and across a wide range
of technical environments. The platform dependence on the Web
has substantially improved access to learning material, but the
access is limited at best. Finding relevant, valuable, and interesting
information is difficult without embedded data that allows searching.
Learning portals which boast thousands of courses are an interim
solution to provide access, but they don't provide individualized
The Web has become a content repository
that leads to the perception of interaction rather than a space
that supports collaborative and necessary interaction for learning.
Interactive technologies are developing to augment standard HTML,
but translating the resulting content across sites requires a
significant expertise and time. The development of online learning
environments has been hampered by the lack of electronic commerce
solutions to compensate the production and distribution of content
The incentive to use IMS will be apparent
when you first see prototype systems such as TVOntario's video-on-demand,
TEC/PLS' Personal Learning Profile online learning style assessment,
or Oracle's iLearning. The IMS Project standards and tools are
a better way to deliver distributed learning for all areas of
from "Prism on
the Future," Teleconference Magazine, November 22, 1999,
by Carla Lane, Ed.D.