MADISON — A University of Wisconsin System initiative has created an online self-tutorial for academic, business, industry or government professionals interested in understanding more about standards in e-learning.

The self-tutorial is available at no cost through the Academic Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Co-Laboratory, which is working on interoperability standards that will help colleges and universities nationwide store, deliver and access online learning materials.

Headquartered in Madison and managed by the UW System and the Wisconsin Technical College System, the Academic ADL Co-Lab tests standards for sharing resources, trains educators about these standards and evaluates how effective the program is when applied to education.

The Co-Lab is offering the self-tutorial to teach tech-literate professionals about the concepts behind reusable learning tools called “sharable content objects,” or SCOs. These objects allow information to be shared across computer operating systems or platforms, for anywhere, anytime learning.

The web-based materials also explain the model used in creating these learning objects, known as the “Sharable Content Object Reference Model,” or SCORM.

“The Academic ADL Co-Lab’s SCORM tutorial is elegantly built out of reusable SCOs to explain how these standards were developed and what they mean for the future of online learning – especially in higher education,” said Academic ADL Co-Lab Commission chair Ed Meachen, UW System associate vice president for learning and information technology.

The Co-Lab’s self-tutorial is ideal for administrators or curriculum designers, and is open to everyone, not just academic professionals, said Robert Wisher, director of the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative at the U.S. Department of Defense.

“The sharable content objects being developed by the Academic ADL Co-Lab are an important component in our strategy to reach out to learners – in this case, learners who need to understand the nature of sharable content,” Wisher said.

Each user can access the online materials to meet his or her needs. Academic Co-Lab officials hope the reference materials will allow decision-makers to be better informed about e-learning technology as it is more widely adopted.

“The utilization of the tools to teach the utilization of the tools is in the best tradition of post-secondary education,” Meachen said.

The Academic ADL Co-Lab is part of an initiative established in 2000 by the U.S. Department of Defense. It is one of only three such co-labs in the country and the only one focused on higher education. The other two co-labs, in Alexandria, Va., and Orlando, Fla., support the federal government and the military.

The defense appropriations bill that President Bush signed into law in October included $1 million for the Academic ADL Co-Lab. The U.S. Department of Education also recently awarded the Academic Co-Lab a three-year grant totaling $517,565 to improve learning within and reduce the costs of online education.