Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 1322.26 formally assigns responsibility to the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative and Defense Advanced Distributed Learning Advisory Committee (DADLAC) for maintaining the Instruction’s fungible references. The fungible references serve as the official reference and support resource for DoDI 1322.26 and defines technical requirements and best practices across the DoD.
The fungible references contain the most current technical information available regarding the contents of DoDI 1322.26. DoD Components are encouraged to refer to the fungible references on a regular basis for the latest available technical information and guidelines.
The ADL Initiative and the DADLAC update the fungible references when new information or recommended changes to standards, specifications, conformance, testing, acquisition, and other distributed learning topic areas are identified. Thus, the fungible references are expected to change on a routine basis due to DoD evolving needs and technological advancements—too frequent to include in the base Instruction content outlined in the DoDI 1322.26.
The fungible references are organized as follows:
- Technical Specifications and Standards
- Implementation Guidance
- Other Acquisition Guidance and Development Considerations
A glossary of distributed learning terms relevant to the instruction and its fungible references can be accessed on the ADL Initiative website.
Technical Specifications and Standards
Distributed learning specifications and standards are published technical documents designed to ensure interoperability of learning technology products, services, and data. Specifications and standards help establish consistent protocols that can be universally understood and adopted to simplify distributed learning processes.
The ADL Initiative is the principal steward of three distributed learning specifications: Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM®), Experience Application Programming Interface (xAPI), and cmi5. The affordances of SCORM, xAPI, cmi5, and the various types of distributed learning they support, underpin the DoDI 1322.26 policy.
Specifications and standards make it easier to understand and compare competing products and systems. It is only through the application of such standards that new distributed learning products can be tested and verified for conformance. The ADL Initiative oversees the distributed learning conformance testing software for SCORM and xAPI.
The DoD should consider the following specifications and standards when acquiring distributed learning solutions:
- xAPI is both a learning-technology specification and a suite of web-service application programming interfaces (API) that support a simple object-based model for describing, recording, and accessing one’s experience or performance within a formal or informal learning activity. xAPI is transitioning from a technical specification to an international standard (to be completed by 2021). Additional information is available at xAPI Vocab Server (http://xapi.vocab.pub/)
- cmi5 is a specification that includes an xAPI Profile and allows all of the functionality of SCORM with the benefits of xAPI. The cmi5 specification replicates SCORM functionality, with the intention of replacing SCORM as the de-facto format of online courses and traditional computer-based training. Products that fully support cmi5 will also support xAPI. Additional information and resources are available at the cmi5 Project on GitHub (https://aicc.github.io/CMI-5_Spec_Current/)
- SCORM is a legacy collection of specifications and standards that enables self-paced, asynchronous distributed learning that is delivered through a web browser. Additional information is available at DoDI 1322.26 SCORM® Reference (https://adlnet.gov/policy/dodi-scorm/)
- IEEE 1484.20.1 – Reusable Competency Definitions is an emerging standard that defines a data model for describing, referencing, and sharing competencies, primarily in the context of online and distributed leaning. This standard provides a way to represent formally the key characteristics of a competency, independently of its use in any particular context. It enables interoperability among learning systems that deal with competency information by providing a means for these systems to refer to common definitions with common meanings.
Acquisition of Training and Education Systems
The DoD conducts acquisition of distributed learning systems, such as learning management systems (LMSs), learning content management systems (LCMSs), or learning record stores (LRSs), in support of its training and education programs. DoD Components should consider the following before acquiring new distributed learning systems:
- Standards Compliance: DoD Components shall develop or acquire distributed learning systems that support the latest versions and editions of existing distributed learning specifications and standards to maximize interoperability.
- Data Interoperability: DoD Components shall consider acquiring distributed learning systems that enable the transmission of data to other systems, such as those that support human resources, student information management, and training management.
- Adobe Flash™: DoD Components shall thoroughly examine the controls, interfaces, and capabilities of distributed learning systems for Adobe Flash use or reliance before acquiring them. Deprecation of Adobe Flash will render dependent features useless and create security vulnerabilities within the system.
- 508 Compliance: DoD Components shall thoroughly examine 508 compliance of any new distributed learning systems and its applications, including authoring tools. The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, commonly referred to as VPAT, is one method for such examination. VPAT is a document used to evaluate how accessible an application is according to the Section 508 standards.
SCORM and xAPI Implementation Options
DoDI 1322.26 establishes guidance for use of SCORM and xAPI that includes adopting existing distributed learning specifications and standards to support interoperability of distributed learning systems. The ADL Initiative updates the fungible references as best practices emerge and/or alternative practices for SCORM and xAPI are deemed to be preferable for distributed learning.
DoD Components shall adopt existing DoD Information Technology Standards and Profile Registry specifications and standards using one of the following options:
Option 1: Implement a SCORM-conformant LMS
- Conform to all mandatory requirements for a supported version of SCORM (supported versions are SCORM 1.2, SCORM 3rd Edition and SCORM 2004 4th Edition).
Option 2: Implement SCORM-conformant LMS with LRS
- Conform to all mandatory LMS requirements for a supported version of SCORM (supported versions are SCORM 1.2, SCORM 3rd Edition and SCORM 2004 4th Edition).
- Conform to the xAPI specification version 1.0.3 or IEEE 9274.1.1 2020.
- Can optionally conform to the xAPI SCORM Profile to support translation and exchange of historic and incoming SCORM data to xAPI.
- Can optionally conform to the Quartz version of the cmi5 specification to support launch, packaging, and other cmi5-specific features.
- Can optionally send or receive data to and from other LRS implementations.
Option 3: Implementing Standalone LRS
- Conform to the xAPI specification version 1.0.3 or IEEE 9274.1.1 2020.
- Conform to all mandatory LRS requirements for the targeted version of xAPI.
- Can optionally send and receive data to or from other LRS implementations.
- Can optionally conform to the Quartz version of the cmi5 specification or to the SCORM Profile.
When deploying Option 2 and Option 3, which leverage xAPI, the following processes must be followed:
- When mapping trackable events to xAPI Statements, the vocabulary in xAPI (e.g. Verbs, Activity Types) should leverage a suitable existing vocabulary found in known xAPI Profiles. Existing vocabularies must be used rather than creating a new vocabulary term that performs the same function. The ADL Initiative maintains a listing of these profiles deemed to be suitable for DoD usage. Note: The term “vocabulary” is used loosely in this guidance and will be replaced with the term “concept” when using Linked Data solutions, such as those that leverage the xAPI Profile Specification.
- If the intended function of an xAPI Verb is slightly different from an existing verb, or additional information is needed, use the xAPI properties context, result, extensions, or other xAPI mechanisms to add this data to the Statement.
- Where applicable, use of entire xAPI Profiles is highly encouraged. Examples include cmi5 for course-based content and the Video Profile for any sort of media (audio/video). A complete list of known xAPI Profiles can be accessed from this ADL resource.
- If existing xAPI Profiles do not meet organizational requirements, then consider creating a new xAPI Profile. The xAPI Profile Specification must be followed for the creation of any new xAPI Profile. All new vocabulary should be a part of an existing or new xAPI Profile. All new xAPI Profiles shall be shared with the ADL Initiative such that they may be put online for discovery at a single point of reference.
- Profile authors must follow Internationalized Resource Identifier (IRI) design best practices. The following IRI pattern should be adopted by anyone creating new concepts for a profile: https://w3id.org/xapi/ [profile name] / [concept type] / [concept]. Profile authors should only customize the content in the IRI in brackets. For example, the Video Profile Verb, https://w3id.org/xapi/video/verbs/seeked, follows this pattern.
- xAPI Profiles should include information about the profile such as the name of the profile, a description, the organization or person that authored it, and the date/time it was published.
In the context of distributed learning, metadata provides information (e.g., author, file size, subject, title, duration) about learning content, activities, and experiences. Many types of metadata exist, including descriptive, structural, administrative, reference, and statistical metadata. Learning resources at any level of granularity can be described with metadata, but the value of metadata goes beyond the basic use case of providing descriptive information. For example, metadata can also be used to estimate the relevance and efficacy of learning material or to power AI-based recommendation systems.
DoD Components should adhere to the following guidance:
- To maximize the effectiveness of metadata, learning resources must be classified into specific resource types (learning content, activities, and experiences), as different attributes apply to each type. For example, physical location may be an essential characteristic for a live field exercise activity but not applicable to a textbook or online video content used as part of that larger training activity.
- When creating learning resource metadata, DoD Components should enforce controlled vocabulary for categorical data. This optimizes searchability of learning resources (by end users) and interoperability (among different services in a distributed learning ecosystem).
Section 508 Accessibility
Federal regulations mandate electronic and information technology resources be made accessible to people with disabilities (e.g., “508-compliant”). Access to these resources and the experience using these resources shall be comparable to non-disabled individuals in compliance with the requirements, applicability, and alternatives provided in DoD Manual 8400.01-M, Procedures for Ensuring the Accessibility of Electronic and Information Technology (E&IT) Procured by DoD Organizations. Current specific standards and methods for development and testing distributed learning systems for Section 508 compliance are available at Section 508.gov.
Deprecation of Adobe Flash
The Adobe Flash plug-in is a browser-based technology which has been commonly used to support the development of web-based courseware and content by the DoD. Due to ease of use and popularity in distributed learning authoring tools, use of this technology in DoD distributed learning systems is rampant. In the year 2020, Adobe Flash will no longer be supported by Adobe or by commonly available Internet browsers allowed for use within DoD environments. As a result, DoD Components:
- shall not develop, fund, pay for, or acquire any distributed learning content, tools, websites, or any other capability that contains any Adobe Flash code of any version or derivative of Adobe Flash.
- shall not update, modify, refurbish, or re-engineer any distributed learning content, tools, websites or any other capability to a state in which it contains Adobe Flash code. This includes non-Adobe Flash modifications that leave the content, etc. in a state of containing Adobe Flash.
- shall carefully analyze the user interface and output of authoring tools, including web tools or plug-ins, currently in use for underlying Adobe Flash technology, and desist in usage of tools found to contain or use any form of underlying Adobe Flash technology.
Other Acquisition Guidance and Development Considerations
Security: DoDI 1322.26 does not specifically address cybersecurity considerations, although the ADL Initiative recognizes that such considerations are imperative for distributed learning implementations. Recommendations, such as the deprecation of Adobe Flash, may be made as a result of a combination of provisions, including security.
Technical Publications: When specifically acquiring or developing Interactive Electronic Technical Manuals, consider the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) or S1000D specifications.
DoD Information Technology Standards Registry (DISR) is an online repository of Information Technology (IT) standards. The standards are intended to facilitate interoperability and integration of systems within the Global Information Grid (GIG). Access website.