10 December 2005

Developing Reusable Learning Content [and DITA]

You operate in government or a big corporation. Training is key. Such much content to identify, develop, organize, shelve and maintain in the form of course content. So many decisions to take - how to organize learning content, or to reuse it for new or similar learning requirements... How can you cut through to vital decision points?

Vital decision points are anchors for your learning context. Large knowledge-based organizations (1,000+) need to provide internal learning opportunities for their employees, partners and clients. How courses are developed, shelved, delivered and maintained represents a myriad of decisions that have to be taken, such decisions giving form to the learning context of the organizaton. One anchor point of this learning context consists in choosing a methodology and/or tool to develop course content.

In a recent article, Larry Bouthillier comments on An XML-based information architecture for learning content called Darwin Information Architecture Typing, or DITA, developed by IBM. In Larry's words:
In a nutshell, DITA provides an extensible structure for organizing content into reusable blocks. At the lowest level, a "DITA topic forms the most basic information unit -- short enough to be easily readable, but long enough to make sense on its own." At the top level, a map applies context to topics and organizes them into a deliverable information product. DITA is totally generic with respect to the content it can organize, but what John's information architecture team did is to extend DITA to represent an academic learning curriculum.
Interesting. I suspect, however, that many organizations will prefer an integrated end product or solution as opposed to developing their own DITA-based learning environment. I have no idea where IBM plans to take this, presumably they will build a front-end to DITA and offer clients an integrated corporate learning platform, something that can be used right away, like desire2learn, for example. Something has to happen to make DITA more palatable or, in JoAnn Hackos words, to make DITA "tip" - see her article on topic.