EPUB and SCORM: A Healthy Affair?
They are both the most popular ingredients of elearning. For some reason, they were just not made for each other. In education, ebooks are an essential component for delivering knowledge to students, remotely and interactively. SCORM on the other hand, is the popular standard for web-based elearning, with sharable content objects (SCO) at its heart. SCORM allows for communication between the LMS and the e-learning content, which leads to the primary advantage of tracking user activity and reporting progress.
I am surprised how most LMS’s do not have built-in support for EPUB. Take Moodle for example. You can add a Book Resource, which allows you to manually enter book content chapter by chapter. Despite the existence of an external EPUB import add-on, I find it disappointing not to have EPUB as a supported resource at the core of the LMS. Some academic organizations prefer to have their ebooks delivered through a separate portal. Nevertheless, EPUB support in an LMS is crucial.
That leaves us to the only safe option for displaying ebooks in an LMS: SCORM. By turning your ebook into a SCORM package (SCO), not only will it display nicely in the LMS, but also gain advantage of all the beautiful SCORM features, such as reporting progress, tracking interactions, etc. But there is a catch. The SCORM package is basically a compressed web app, not a file format. It must be able to run on its own. A mere EPUB file would not do, but a reader must exist alongside to display the ebook. You will find a number of readers supporting SCORM available for that purpose, such as our own Kotobee Reader.
SCORM was designed with the intention to evaluate students in various ways. Different activities can have different objectives, all reporting back scores and completions statuses. It can go down as deep as reporting single interactions within larger objectives. The perfect scenario would be examination questions. That’s something extremely measurable. But how do you measure a student’s reading?
Give a little kid a book, and tell him to read. Come back an hour later. How do you measure how close he reached the objective of reading? Let’s look at a few options:
- Check whether he still has the book open
- Examine him with some questions about the book
- If you had planned it beforehand, you could have a close-by assistant to check how long he spends on each page
- Have your assistant check whether he flipped through every page of the book
Can you think of any more?
Although all of these would be interesting metrics, they do not do justice to the objective of reading a book. Let’s see how. If the student still has the book open, it does not mean he has been reading throughout the whole hour. Examining him with questions about the book, can measure his knowledge about the facts, but not prove that he actually read the book. Finally, a cheeky student can flip through every single page of the book, and doze away for a few minutes before jumping to the next. If you have ever taught in a classroom, you will know how common and contagious those students are.
I think the point made is clear. SCORM with ebooks can be used for tracking reading statistics but inaccurate in evaluating reading objectives. That is why the optimum combination of SCORM and EPUB would be as follows:
- Track user navigation to understand students’ reading habits
- Track multimedia usage inside the EPUB to rank interesting content to students
- Create practice questions to evaluate the students’ understanding, and report the scores to the LMS. Each practice question block is an objective on its own, to measure the student’s understanding
- Assign a single score to the entire ebook module, by combining the different scores together using weights
Learning objects need to be closed. For question activities, it is easy to mark the end of the activity. That is basically when the student answers the final question, or reaches the end of the sequence. How do you mark the end a reading activity?
You can not mark a book module as complete just because the student has reached the last chapter. Especially for textbooks, students may be jumping back and forth between chapters and the appendix/references. Hence navigation is not always sequential. This is an issue that needs to be addressed. The safest way to currently resolve this is to include a custom button at the end of the last chapter, saying End Reading. This would report to the LMS that the status is complete, and calculate the overall score based on the separate objective scores inside the book.
These are thoughts regarding SCORM and EPUB. I expect there to be further development in the future in this area, particularly with the increasing interest in interactive ebooks in the K-12 market. At the moment, the alternative is to rely on embedded EPUB readers that integrate with the SCORM run-time environment, to report all the behavior mentioned above.
What do you think?