Wednesday, July 23, 2008

XML - why do I keep hearing this?

I keep hearing "XML XML XML".  Yes, it is a good file storage format -
but it only becomes a displayable content when you combine in style
sheets. A series of XML pages does not make a course any more than a
series of text pages does. Downloading and editing XML in a text/XML
editor (like Notepad) is a somewhat cumbersome approach that I wouldn't
impose on an SME.

Besides, with all the extensibility options for XML, we're back to a
tower of Babel. For example, suppose there is a 3.25.
All we know is that someone called it a value. How did they calculate
it? We don't know. What can we do with it? We can display it with the
format for "value", whatever that may be. Instructionally, it still has
no meaning. The big advantage I see to XML is that you can get
open-source (free) parsers. So you can break down XML files into the
component variable/value pairs without starting from scratch. However,
you still need to understand what to do with each variable/value pair in
order to gain any advantage from it. XML is not a solution - it is an

So, I would say "Microsoft Office converters" do NOT fall into the
authoring system categories. Without going outside the Microsoft Office
tools themselves, you can already save as XML, MS-HTML (their own
special flavors), etc. You'll need to consider Excel, PPT, Notepad,
WordPerfect, WordStar, TeX, and MS-Word appropriate eLearning Authoring
tools if you consider a format converter a tool also. A tool should at
least add some instructional value (e.g. trackable test questions).

The category I missed/excluded was LCMSs. These are database
repositories from which you are able to create courses by assembling the
pieces that have been placed into the database. Their installation and
support costs/requirements can be quite high. I prefer a stand-alone
software approach (like MS-Word, MS-Excel, ReadyGo) to authoring
documents, spreadsheets, etc. Also, I like to review the content before
it is published to ensure that I don't produce ransom note appearances
by just bundling together a grab-bag or content.

1 comment:

edCetra Training said...

The reasons why XML:
1) No need for any proprietary software to access content. True notepad isn't viable for having SME's edit content, but at least you don't have to worry about your vendor going out of business and taking their tool which helped you create your elearning with them.

2) Training programs are rarely one deliverable. Being able to single source content saves money, time and is undeniably easier to maintain.

3) XML is consistent with a network economy. Semantically marking up your content (done properly) allows your content to exist in a network where it can be found and accessed. I'm not talking simple metadata here a.k.a SCORM but XSD schemas based on instructional value to student.

4) XSLT, XSLFO which transforms your content into a web or PDF format can be created, modified, etc using standard off the shelf software.

5) Once all your templates are built, 80% of your work is done!

XML is a far more efficient development platform over the long run than any of the proprietary 'rapid develoment' tools out there. This is because at the end of the day, when the next big thing comes along, I will be able to move my content and transform it without having to re-author. I know this to be true because my company does it each and every day!