Notes from April 2008 Central Texas DITA User Group meeting

Better late than never, I suppose. I’ve had these notes on my hard drive and want to post them to the cloud of my blog.

John Hunt, DITA Architect in the Lotus Information Development Center at IBM and DITA Learning and Training Content Specialization SC chair, presented Using DITA Content for Learning Content Development at the April 2008 Central Texas DITA User Group meeting. He gave an overview of work being done on the new Learning and Training Content specialization that will be part of OASIS DITA 1.2 release. (Updated to add: see DITA Learning and Training Content Specialization SC for additional information and download links for the Open Toolkit Plug-in that contains the approved specialization.) He then followed up with a live demonstration of creating, assembling, and delivering topic-based learning and training content, delivered both as a SCORM-compliant package and as simple XHTML.

In the room we had about 20 Austin attendees and on the phone, a handful more in Ann Arbor, with John Hunt, our presenter, presenting from Massachusetts. He has worked with DITA for 9-10 years, but interestingly, has met Don Day in person only once.

Learning specialization will become a DITA standard in next OASIS release.

John led with a very recent newspaper article, about re-creating the Jefferson Library – “Re-created Library Speaks Volumes About Jefferson” Amy Orndorff, Washington Post, Apr 11, 2008 (John’s talk was on the 16th!) The library was given to the Library of Congress for $24,000 in 1815. Jefferson had created his own taxonomy – memory, reason, or imagination. Automatically, John wondered if you could parallels to reference, concept, or task. Ah ha!

Fascinating – Jefferson did mashups of books by tearing them apart, even different language books, and then would bind them into new books – reassembly of content 200 years ahead of his time.

Industry context – trends – smaller, faster, leaner for creating and delivering training content.
Content as reusable learning object helps… RLOs (Reusable Learning Objects) were developed at Cisco in the 1990s, similar to legos as building blocks – different structures with the same set of Legos.
LCMS (learning content management system) came into being.

Training can move from a “craft” approach to a DITA content approach, standard.
Craft = every deliverable unique, every context one-of-a-kind
Craft = presentation oriented, labor intensive
DITA = content and deliverables have consistent structures and patterns, so available for reuse and repurposing
DITA = collaboration and reuse becomes the norm

IEEE LOM (Learning Object Metadata) is a standard for the learning metadata domain. See
Build maps + specialized processing = generated learning deliverables such as tutorials, courseware and e-learning, ILTs, SCORMs=mandated for training delivered to the U.S. Govt. (Dept. of Defense), Textbooks. In case you’re wondering, SCORM stands for Sharable Content Object Reference Model – SCORM is a set of specifications created by the Advanced Distributed Learning initiative (ADL). The ADL website has that SCORM runtime freely available, see

Learning objects contain:
– Instructional objects: overview, content, summary, assessment
– Informational objects: concept, task, reference, also known as Facts, Concepts, Procedures, Principles

5 new DITA specializations as learning types – learningPlan, learningOvereview, learningContent, learningSummary, learningAssessment

Midnight at the OASIS – 32 members on the sub-committee, working drafts, Lang. Spec available for inclusion in DITA 1.2 (Nov 13, 2007)
Specializations of 5 topic types.
Also, three domains are available:

  • Learning interactions domains – open question, true/false, single select, multiple select, matching, sequencing, hotspot.
  • Learning map domain – learning objects and groups, makes learning content available for use in any DITA map
  • Learning metadata domain – makes learning metadata available for use in learning topics and maps.

What does DITA bring to learning content?
Consistency all around (content, processing, delivery)
Can grow as DITA grows – add a Flash object

DITA vision – a platform for collaboration

DITA specialized tags contain “lc” for learning content – lcAudience, lcObjectives, lcDuration, lcPrereqs, lcChallenge (instructions follow that address that challenge), and so on.

Manifest file informs the navigation that is then imported inside the zip file into a sample run-time environment – Advanced Distributed Learning. Has Suspend and Quit buttons, as well as Previous and Continue buttons. Assessment section has questions, true and false with javascript that lets you find out if your response is correct or not.

He showed an embedded Youtube video using the DITA object tag within the Summary object. See Double bonus slide for embed code.

Q: Are you re-inventing the wheel with DITA since scorm and ilm are already standards.
A: Scorm is a packaging and delivery standard. Scorm is silent with regard to content.

Eliot Kimber, Really [ ] Solutions, uses the DITA solution for practice test books for each states – remapped element names to new element names and he gets all the SCORM online assessments pretty much for free because he’s using DITA. Nice.


  • July 8, 2008 - 12:45 pm | Permalink

    So a question I asked more than a year ago is “What will happen at the intersection of SCORM and DITA?” Will we author in DITA and then use XSLTs to transform to SCORM as needed or vice versa, or should companies develop content in their own DTD and transform to DITA and SCORM as needed? Is an answer evident from the presentation of the DITA experts?

    And to add to your DITA news, there’s a brief mention of Microsoft (of all companies) working with DITA — see my blog entry at (

  • July 8, 2008 - 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Hi Bill, my memory is fuzzy, but I think the point is to author in DITA (using this DITA Open Toolkit plugin, with DTD and XSD schemas, sample content, and documentation sources from and transform to SCORM. That’s how Eliot Kimber got his SCORM-compliant online assessments for “free” since the content was already in DITA – he just re-did the element tagging (mapping carefully) and he was good to go.

    Wow, great find of the Microsoft Word/Sharepoint/DITA workflow with DITA Exchange. Sharepoint’s at so many larger companies now… that’s big news. Thanks for sharing!

  • Leave a Reply