The IMS Common Cartridge interoperability standard provides a set of specifications that enable a wide variety of digital educational content to be accessed from a wide variety of learning platforms, including learning management systems, course management systems, virtual learning environments, portals, and web applications. Downloadable or web accessible content developed to conform to the specifications will "run" in a wide variety of conformant learning platforms.
Digital content is said to be in a "common cartridge", meaning that it complies with a specific version of the Common Cartridge standard. The Common Cartridge version number to which the content complies is very important as it prescribes that the learning platform must support that specific version of Common Cartridge.
The reason there are multiple versions of common cartridge conformance is that the specifications are evolving over time to support more functionality, much in the way that other digital formats evolve over time (.pdf, .doc, etc). Higher version numbers indicate support for additional features beyond lower numbered versions.
To determine if a common cartridge will run in a learning platform, it is simply a matter of matching the version number on the cartridge with the version or version supported by the conformant platform. So, for example, if digital content is designated as conformant to version 1.1 of common cartridge, it must be run in a platform that also conforms to version 1.1. Many platforms support more than one version or all of the versions of common cartridge. IMS provides a list of the platforms that have achieved conformance. The list includes the versions of common cartridge supported: see http://www.imsglobal.org/cc/allcc.cfm
|Details||Feature Available in Common Cartridge v1.0||Feature Available in Common Cartridge v1.1||Feature Available in Common Cartridge v1.2||Feature Available in Common Cartridge v1.3|
|IMS Manifest File||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|.imscc file name||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|LTI Links||more information||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|intended use attribute||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|1) Multiple-Choice (single Response)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|2) Multiple - Choice (multiple Response)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|5) Simple fill in the blank||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|6) Pattern Match||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|All LOM Fields||No||No||No||Yes|
|Embedded Files||APIP, IWB, EPub||No||No||No||Yes|
|Inline Descriptor File XML||No||No||No||Yes|
In viewing the features supported, it is important to note that even though a cartridge may be designated to be a specific version, it is not required to contain all of the features. For example, even though discussion forums is a feature that is available in either v1.0 or v1.1. a particular set of digital content (a cartridge) may not include any discussion forum content. Use of any of the individual features by the content developer is up to their discretion based on which features they wish to provide. Therefore, if you would like content that exploits certain common cartridge features, it is important when acquiring cartridges that you ask the provider which features they make use of in their content/product.
It is also important to understand that a platform that is compliant to a specific common cartridge version may not support all features enabled by that version. Features that are not supported are noted as"exceptions" in the platform conformance list. See http://www.imsglobal.org/cc/allcc.cfm and click on the name of the product to see any exceptions associated with it.
Even though a platform may not support all features, it must be able to ingest a cartridge without error and do something reasonable with portions of the cartridge it does not support. Typically this will involve a screen message to the installer of the cartridge indicating that something was found in an imported cartridge that is not supported.
Digital Content Developers may use metadata to describe and categorize the content within a cartridge. While metadata is only required at the schema version notation inside a cartridge it may be placed on any resource. Developers must use a subset of LOM (Learning Object Metadata) to describe their resources. Specifically, CC v1.2 includes a subset of LOM at the cartridge and resource level. There is also curriculum standards metadata at the cartridge, resource, and question item level. Futher work is being done to expand the metadata availability inside of cartridges. Ask your Content Developers to supply the metadata you need.
Learning Tools Interoperability v1.0 and v1.1 application links may be supported in Common Cartridge v1.1. LTI provides a standards-based way to launch web applications that appear seamlessly integrated in the learning platform. A learning platform receives a separate conformance mark in addition to the Common Cartridge conformance mark for achieving LTI conformance. This is because platforms can launch BLTI applications that were brought into the system via a Common Cartridge (if the platform is Common Cartridge compliant) or installed independent of a cartridge. Common Cartridge v1.1 provides a very convenient "deployment package" for LTI links alone or LTI links intermingled with other content resource types.
Originally it was the expectation that all compliant platforms would support all features of Common Cartridge. However, as the diversity and innovation in educational content evolves, a wide set of platform providers see advantages in implementing Common Cartridge. This means that there has been a desire for greater variability in the features that can be supported.
An ideal Common Cartridge platform supports all features of a version. However, for example, perhaps it does not make sense for a certain type of platform to support discussion forums. If that makes sense for the buyers of such a platform, then it is to everyone’s benefit to allow Common Cartridge to be used to enable interoperability while just leaving out the discussion forums feature.
The set of features exceptions that are allowed for each specific version of Common Cartridge are carefully managed through the IMS community process. See http://www.imsglobal.org/cc/ccexceptions.html for a table of allowable exceptions. Only approved exceptions are allowed to achieve the conformance mark. Providers of platforms may petition the IMS community to achieve approval for an exception. This keeps the list of exceptions reasonable and subject to a community process that encourages convergence in supporting most features.
When issuing an RFP for content or a platform that you wish to have Common Cartridge support, you simply designate the version or versions of Common Cartridge that you wish to have supported, along with the features. You do need to consider both content and platform acquisition requirements – as these need to match and support the Common Cartridge features you desire.
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