Making sense of the process
What then is the process of the Structured Content Development Model? Much like its predecessors, the process begins with an analysis.
Building structure. This part of the process can be outlined as follows:
A. Who is the learning for?
i. Student profile
iii. Level of Expertise
B. On what type of content is the training based?
C. How will the instruction be packaged?
One of the differences between the analysis here and the typical front-end analysis is how the results are treated. For the most part, instructional designers use the information from front-end analysis to build a paradigm under which learning will occur. Those results do not physically show in the development cycle, however. With the structured content development model, content can actually be semantically marked up with the results from a front-end analysis to help segregate and reuse it.
Organizational taxonomy. The next phase of our analysis focuses on developing and using a taxonomy, which covers the following.
- describes your organization (Who, What, How)
- helps in choosing an instructional approach
- directs the selection of delivery methods
- assists in drilling down through content.
Once again, creating an organizational taxonomy is not to get a general sense of
how communication flows within an organization, although this is certainly
important. Rather, the results of this information are used at the ground level
when creating metadata about the content.
Schemas are the evolution of the information mapping process and the culmination of the information gathered to date into a structured model that imposes itself on the design process. Schemas impose structure using organizational taxonomy, ensure consistency within an organization, and save time and money. Basically, schemas are a set of rules for designing instruction that delivers the right information to the right people in an appropriate way.
Schemas both limit and empower a designer to construct learning programs that are standardized throughout an organization. Having everybody using the same set of rules will save time and money. Schemas do not dictate how information looks; schemas dictate how information is broken down according to approved standards within an organization.
Separate content from presentation
When practitioners talk about reusability, most don’t necessarily have plans to reuse content across media. Most practitioners plan on reusing one piece of electronic content in different curriculum or within different electronic environments. Through the Structured Content Development Model, content and presentation and delivery are all separated from one another. Content can then be moved from one presentation layer to another and from one delivery mechanism to another without ever having to rewrite content.
The old way of designing and developing e-learning was to hard code content into a presentation layer and delivery template. Designers were able to garner enough information during the analysis to find the best match for content and hardcode its associations based on that information. Instead, the Structured Content Development Model allows designers to describe their content as being appropriate for different types of presentations and different types of delivery mechanisms. By declaring content fit for a presentation layer or delivery template, content integrators can easily manipulate content and reuse it according to a predetermined set of rules.
Applying design templates
Once the rules have been worked out and content semantically marked up, the content can then be applied to different design templates and delivery templates.
Design and delivery are usually tied together but don’t have to be. Content that has been described as being appropriate for print and for online delivery can have a design template appropriate for Adobe Acrobat delivery and a second design template appropriate for delivery on an LMS. You can even have different delivery templates based on the type of LMS. In the case of the LMS, there is one design template but two different delivery templates.
Finding tools that can help you
One of the keys to making this model work for you is finding the right tools to help you manage content, design templates (style sheets), and deliver templates. There is a new breed of content management systems, such as ThinkingCap Studio® from Agile. Most of these tools provide content management, XML-based authoring tools, style sheet management, and the ability to create multiple delivery templates that automate the packaging of content.
Before selecting the tool that’s right for your organization, be sure to consult with practitioners that have experience implementing this model to help you create the right infrastructure within your organization and to get the maximum benefit.
Can I still use Flash?
The Structured Content Development Model doesn’t dictate the tools that you can or cannot use. Any questions about using Flash, Camtasia, Dreamweaver, and so on should be determined through other criteria. In fact, tools such as the Flash authoring environment can be used in conjunction with XML-based editors so that content resides out of Flash and dynamically assembled based on the proper tagging of content.
Published: November 2004