Production of flexible and distance learning materials normally involves many actors from different fields such as publishers, course experts, educational technologists, instructional designers, and administrators.
Due to the size and the structure of the European Market it is a common assumption that considerable advantages and economy of scale could be obtained producing courses and course materials for the European market at large.
At present there is little knowledge about which types of technologies are suitable to design such a system. The question is also, how the system should be managed and maintained, which types of services are needed, which problems are associated with production of training materials in a multicultural environment, cost implications, changed qualification- and organisational requirements, and legal problems which may arise from producing in a distributed electronic environment.
It is against this background that the COSYS project was conceived.
The Pick and Mix system has been developed enabling a customer to access a database remotely in order to get an overview of the objectives, target group and course description of existing course material within a given learning domain. The customer is able to 'pick and mix' learning resource modules according to their specific requirements in order to create customised books and training materials.
The project defined the issues arising from the implementation of learning technologies across a mix of public and private organisations in SMEs, multinationals and educational institutions. It investigated at 'grass roots level' the long-term shift of education and training towards a more open structure in which the role of the teacher is no longer that of content provider, but a coach and guide to learning resources.
The COSYS project will pilot a distributed course production and delivery system and test such features as:
Co-authoring with on-line access to course materials stored in a database. This includes help facilities and a variety of communication options spanding from E-mail to computer conferencing, and ISDN
Version control and tailoring
Distributed on-demand printing
Integration of information and training systems
On-demand training of sales and service staff
Administration, up-dating, billing, copy rights.
The basis for the piloting is five real life user environments representing the publishing sector, in-house training in a major multinational company, a European sectoral network in the graphical industry, and a European network of course producers and course providers of open learning in open universities and in industrial training.
The Cosys system is based on an integration of standardised hardware, software, and telecommunication solutions. The COSYS system will be independent of data formats building on SGML for storing and exchanging objects in the system, and conversion tools to and from the most common applications from the PC and Macintosh environments for distribution of materials.
The COSYS system may best be described as an integrated co-production and service environment for publishers working with new publishing concepts such as on-demand publishing and the electronic book, and for course producers and in-house training departments who wish to offer new types of training services based on customization and diversified target groups.
The COSYS system will with its open structure be adaptable to environments with different technological platforms, and to a wide range of services for production, managing, redesign, and distribution of training, information, and marketing material.
The services offered in the COSYS system will cover the following:
The development and production phase with a number of co-authoring, and instructional design services.
The distribution phase with a number of query, ordering, and lay-out services.
Management and administration covering both system management services, but also with features such as production control, handling copyrights, billing, and customer support.
Growing and recurrent training needs following the rapid technological change set new types of demands to the provision of course and production of course materials. In technological sectors characterized by rapid innovation, knowledge quickly becomes obsolete. This does not only require new forms of course supply based on flexible learning, but also different ways of producing, and handling training materials in a flexible and customer oriented manner.
The underlying idea in COSYS is that the training manager in an easy manner may overview what type of resource materials are available within a specific sector, or to specific target groups. Furthermore the system offers different types of support for example style sheets and conversion tools, so that materials can easily be designed, tailored, updated, maintained, and assembled in such a way that they can meet the training needs of diversified target groups.
The market for the COSYS system is thus publishing companies, courseware producers, and trainers in in-house training departments, open universities, and sectoral networks offering new types of customer oriented publishing and training services.
The success of the COSYS system will be measured against such topics as:
Will it through the services in the COSYS system be possible to reduce the lead time for production of course materials, an essential issue if problems related to rapidly changing qualification requirements are to be met.
Will it be possible to implement a generic COSYS model in already existing production and training environments based primarily on their existing hard- and software.
Will the COSYS system prove to be a cost-effective solutions to on hand create scale in the production of technology based training on the other hand respect the diversity of the European training market, whether seen from a publishing, in-company, from an in-house training department, or from an open university perspective.