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Watch out for flying cars

This post was written by Andrew Downes and first appeared on the Epic blog on 4th March 2013.

flying cars using tin canWhen I drive my car, I follow standards and rules that help me to drive alongside other road users safely. I always drive on the left, which means I avoid head on collisions because all the other cars in the UK follow the same standard. It’s not that there’s anything intrinsically safer about driving on the left, but the fact that everybody follows the same rules helps to prevent collisions.

Following standards is important, but this is only a small part of driving safely on the same road system as many other vehicles and drivers. I also have to pay attention to what those other drivers are doing and communicate my own actions with indicators, brake lights, hand signals, shouting or sounding the horn. If I drive through a green light, within the speed limit, and I’m on the correct side of the road, then I am standards compliant. If I then ignore the brake lights on the car in front, or turn right suddenly without indicating, my driving won’t be compatible with other road users. Standards compliance on its own does not ensure compatibility or interoperability.

Learning tracking standards are the same. Compliance is part of the solution, but it doesn’t guarantee that everything will fall into place without us thinking about it. This was true of SCORM, but it’s even more true of Tin Can. Tin Can is a much more flexible and diverse standard than SCORM. This brings a number of benefits, but it also makes interoperability an even more interesting challenge. Once everybody is in flying cars, we will need to pay even more attention to where they are going and be prepared for cars to appear from any direction – the same goes for Tin Can!

The main areas of flexibility in Tin Can are verbs, activity types and extensions. There is also some flexibility in how statements are structured and how existing properties are used. If our tools and e-learning are to work together, we all need to do things in the same way. Let’s take verbs as an example. If we are making a tool to track sales figures in order to identify which staff need training, then we need to make sure that we use the same verb set as other tools created to track sales figures. If two tools use different sets of verbs, reporting tools will have a harder time merging and comparing the data. This means that in addition to being Tin Can compliant, we need to communicate and collaborate with other Tin Can implementers. If we don’t, there’s a risk of collision down the road.

Epic can help ensure your tools and e-learning are compliant with the standards you want to use, including SCORM and Tin Can. Our Tin Can gurus are active in the Tin Can community and will help ensure that your solutions are compatible with those of other Tin Can implementers.