AICC- Still a Viable Course Standard-

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AICC- Still a Viable Course Standard- Powered By Docstoc
					?A Peek Into the Standard

Many in the e-Learning industry know that "AICC" is not only a standard… but also
the committee that defines it. The AICC, Aviation Industry Computer-based training
(CBT) Committee, was formed in 1988 by aviation manufacturers such as Boeing,
Airbus, and McDonnell-Douglas to standardize the delivery of CBT at a time when
multimedia training was becoming increasingly popular. And over the years, AICC
implementations have spread to many other industries.

AICC originally focused on local file-based operations. But in 1998, it expanded to
include an HTTP/web-based interface known as HACP (pronounced "hack-P," and
which stands for HTTP-based AICC/CMI Protocol). Soon after, the standard was
again updated to include a JavaScript run-time interface. And as a result, AICC
courses worked in the growing number of e-Learning projects that operated across the
web. Today, HACP is the most common type of AICC course in LMS e-Learning

Technically, AICC courses are defined using several files, which describe their
content and structure. The files are generally known by their file extensions:

CRS—This file contains information about the course as whole, such as its creator,
title, description, and total number of lessons.

AU—This file describes the course's Assignable Units, which correspond to lessons in
a non-AICC course. This data includes the names of the files that launch the lessons,
each lesson's mastery score, and the maximum time that students are allowed to take
and pass the lessons. This file includes a file_name item that is actually a URL. See
AICC Strengths for Today (below) for more about that.

CST—This Course Structure file holds basic structural data, including a list of all
AUs. And this list usually determines the order in which lessons are given to students.

DES—This Descriptor file contains information about all course elements.

The AICC standard defines three additional file types, but they aren't used as often as
the above. They are: Objectives Relationships (ORT), Prerequisites (PRE), and
Completion Requirements (CMP).
Installing an AICC Course

Before students can take an AICC course through an LMS, the course must be
installed on the LMS. The method differs between LMS systems, but typically goes
like this:

(1) The CRS course file is located and parsed.
(2) A definition or shell is created in the LMS database for the course that's listed in
the CRS file. Any required course properties are also populated with values from the
CRS file.

(3) Similarly, course lessons are created in the LMS and the lesson properties are
populated from the AU file. These lesson properties include the path to the lesson file,
the lesson's passing grade, and so on.

It's very important that the LMS system be able to overwrite an existing AICC course.
Then, whenever the course is updated, simply re-installing it will deploy those
changes on the LMS.
AICC Strengths for Today

Perhaps the AICC standard's strongest feature for today's e-Learning applications is its
implementation of "Cross Domain Course Content." This allows a course definition to
exist on an LMS server, while the course content sits on a different (often remote)
machine… even one located outside the LMS home network. This lets content
providers keep their content on their servers, content that a remote LMS can call-up
and display when students take the AICC course.

The AICC standard accomplishes this by using a signed Java applet. Signing is critical
because the web domain the course is launched from (the domain of the LMS) usually
differs from the domain that the course content comes from. And an unsigned Java
applet would see this difference as cross-site scripting, and reject it as a web attack.

Here's how Cross Domain Course Content works:

(1) When a student launches an AICC lesson, the filename/URL in its AU file points
to another internet (content) server.

(2) Call-back information is sent to that remote content server, so that it knows which
LMS server needs to communicate with it during the AICC course.

(3) The remote content server then attempts to open a communication channel back to
the LMS server that launched the lesson.

(4) And once two-way communications are established, course content is can be
pulled from the content provider's location, through the LMS server, to the student
A Tool for Our Times and You

The AICC standard has taken a number of years to reach today's robust state. And
Cross Domain Course Content makes it an ideal tool for distributed, global, training
applications. But there have been so many revisions to the standard, that it's still hard
to know what an AICC-compliant LMS really is. LMS products can claim to be
AICC-compliant, even when they support only the standard's core features. As a result,
it's wise to delve into details when acquiring an AICC-compliant LMS!

Another industry standard (SCORM) has also experienced strong growth. [See my
article "SCORM and the Learning Management System (LMS)" (at
/articles/scorm-and-the-lms-article.htm.] And as a result, AICC actually went out of
vogue for a while. But it's enjoying a resurgence, and its ability to support Cross
Domain Course Content is largely responsible. So if you don't need or want your
LMS vendor to also host your course content, AICC may be just the tool for you.

Stuart Campbell is Director of Software Development for SyberWorks, Inc. He
previously served as a Principle Software Engineer, Senior Consultant, Senior
Software Engineer, and Development Specialist for companies such as Brooks
Automation, Digital Equipment, and Honeywell Control Systems.

SyberWorks, Inc. is a leader in the custom e-Learning Solutions and Learning
Management System/Learning Content Management System (LMS/LCMS) industries
for Fortune 1000 corporations, law enforcement, healthcare, and other industries.
Since 1995, SyberWorks has developed and delivered unique and economical
solutions to create, manage, measure, and improve e-Learning programs at companies
and organizations in the United States, Canada, Europe, and around the world.