Common Cartridge is All About Sharing
The promise of Common Cartridge, like with SCORM and Experience API, is one of standardization and shareability. In the learning world, we like our uniformity. We achieve that through the application of models, standards, and specifications.
Models, Standards, and Specifications
Models show us a basic structure for how to put something together. The ADDIE model is a good example.
Standards provide a way to measure validity. We compare what we have developed to a detailed standard to make sure it is correct and consonant with best practices.
Specifications provide the rulebook for how something should be put together to play well with other systems or programs. They provide a way to make sure things can easily be ported and reused elsewhere.
That’s why the IMS Global Learning Consortium exists; to provide international specifications for e-learning design and development. They are also the stewards of Common Cartridge.
What IS Common Cartridge?
Common Cartridge, or CC, is a specification that describes a format for creating and sharing digital content. According to the IMS Global Consortium website, Common Cartridge solves two problems:
- A standard for developing digital course materials for interoperability and reusability
- Allowing for new publishing models that help make content modular, web-distributed, interactive, and customizable.
But wait a minute! Isn’t that what SCORM and xAPI do?
Well, yes. And no. Each of them contains things they have in common. Yet there are also things that distinguish each from the other.
- SCORM and xAPI are widely used in corporate environments and in educational settings. CC, by contrast, is primarily used in educational settings. There is a small implementation outside of that.
- While SCORM packages are exclusively e-learning courses, CC content package can be a course, an eBook, supplemental materials, or a combination. Experience API (xAPI) activity statements can describe anything even remotely learning related, whether e-learning or not.
- CC puts more emphasis on assessments than either SCORM or xAPI.
- All three are meant to be open standards. While ADL developed SCORM initially they aren’t the owners of it. They simply host and steward the specification. Same with xAPI. And with CC the consortium is simply a steward (and proponent) of the specification.
- Both SCORM and xAPI have broad support from software products to develop compliant content. In fact, a lot of the well-known brands support both. CC, on the other hand, has its support mostly in publishers for academia. That’s consistent with its use primarily in the educational environment.
Versions of Common Cartridge
The latest version of CC is 1.3. Yes, there was a 1.0, 1.1, and 1.2 before. Version 1.3 was released in April of 2013. The initial version was kept simple to allow for quick and easy adoption. Versions 1.1 and 1.2 made a few adjustments based on feedback from adopters.
Version 1.3 provides for new resources types plus support for extending the list. It also supports multiple question banks.
Versions are important as you need to know what your systems will support. If your LMS does not support 1.3 you will have issues. Always check.
While more lightweight than SCORM, the full specification (like SCORM) contains a lot of parts you may never use. So in 2015 IMS release what is called the Thin Common Cartridge Profile. It is a much simpler specification to deploy, containing primarily the things more frequently used in a simple implementation.
Should I Consider Common Cartridge?
Outside of academia, implementation becomes a matter of your content needs and tracking needs. If you tend to develop courses with plenty of supplemental material then CC could be a benefit. Relying heavily on assessments there could build a case for CC adoption. If you have more digital content that is just e-learning there may also be a benefit.
Overall, beyond that, there aren’t too many advantages of adopting CC. Not yet. It’s not widely adopted by commercial LMS and LCMS products. It has some support from the big names in authoring systems but “some” is the key word there.
BUT…keep it on your radar. It is starting to gain momentum, especially internationally. Being an open standard, you can expect contributors to it to go full bore in supporting it. So you will likely hear a lot more about it going forward.