DITA Proposed Feature #12058

Design and language specification for DITA learning and training content specialization.

Longer description


We live in a complex world with many inter-related bits and pieces of information, many different ways to access that information, and a strong need to identify connnection points, objectives, and context for what we need to know, and what we need to learn.

In this environment, the challenges faced by developers of learning and training content are many:
  • How to find the context for developing and delivering the right content to the right person at the right time?
  • How to identify the learning goals and objectives?
  • Who and how many are the audiences?
  • How to pull together and integrate context from many different sources and content providers?
  • How to enable customers and partners to add, integrate, assemble, and deliver their own content?

These key challenges and issues for learning and training content and delivery mirror long-standing customer pain points and requirements for consistency of content and learning experience, for management of content to make it shareable across and within teams, for addressing and simplifying the information needed to support the complex environments, and for enabling the assembly and delivery of custom content to address specific customer contexts and use cases.

Statement of Requirement

Objectives of the DITA learning and training content specialization

The DITA Learning specialization has the following objectives:
  1. Provide a general top-level design for structured, intent-based authoring of learning content with good learning architecture, following DITA principles and best practices.
    Some specifics of good DITA design for learning content include:
    1. offers a starter set of specialized topic types that support structured, intent-based authoring of content for learning and training, including assessments
    2. provides a map domain for structuring the specialized learning topics as reusable learning objects, and for managing the linking and relationships among them
    3. offers basic map-driven processing to support topic linking, relationships, and simple sequencing
    4. includes a starter set of commonly-used learning interactions, for use in testing and assessment
    5. provides support for learning metadata based on the IEEE standard for learning objects metadata (LOM), for use in both topics and maps
  2. Establish guidelines that promote best practices for applying standard DITA approaches to learning content, which include:
    1. separation of presentation and content (as much as possible)
    2. separation of content and context
    3. single sourcing, repurposing, and reuse
  3. Provide basic support for processing DITA content for general delivery as learning and training, including print and presentation delivery to support instructor-led training (ILT) and web delivery for distance learning.
  4. Provide a framework for developing targeted support for processing DITA learning content for delivery with standards-based learning, specifically targeting SCORM. Extend DITA processing to support basic SCORM packaging and required SCORM LMS runtime behaviors. Build on best practices for behaviors to drive and present the interactions.
  5. Build on existing DITA infrastructures as much as possible, so learning content developers do not have to start from scratch.

Working assumptions

Working assumptions about learning content and how to support authoring and delivering it with DITA include the following:
  • The DITA learning specialization builds on a reusable learning objects (RLO) approach to learning content.
  • In this approach, a learning object comprises a "discrete reusable collection of content used to present and support a single learning objective," and consists of two primary information components:
    • instructional objects, which provide the structured framework for a learning experience - the overview, the summary, and the assessments
    • information objects, which provide the source learning content - the topic-based learning content and other supplemental content that supports the learning goals identified in the instructional objects
  • DITA topic types provide the meaning and intention to content contained in instructional and information objects, and as such, comprise the basic building blocks for learning objects.
  • DITA domains provide the mechanism for defining interactions, which can be used across the learning topic types and maps.
  • DITA domains also provide the mechanism for defining learning metadata, which can be assigned either in topics or in maps.
  • DITA maps arrange the DITA learning topics into a hierarchy of learning objects and organize such content for delivery as lessons, modules, and courses.
  • DITA specialization provides the mechanism for creating learning-based topic types, domains, and maps needed for instructional and information object content requirements.

Use Cases

Some use cases for using DITA for learning and training content include the following.

Enable indexing, searching, and retrieval of learning content
By structuring content with DITA topics and maps as self-contained learning objects matched with appropriate DITA metadata, it is possible to enable fast index, search, and retrieval of learning content that meets specific learning goals and objectives.
Creating custom courses quickly
A company has a large inventory of topic-based content that is used to provide technical and troubleshooting information about a set of componentized software products. It desires to enable field engineers to quickly identify technical content that is suitable for providing on-site training. With DITA learning topics and maps, the field engineers are able to quickly identify the specific technical content that matches specific learning objectives, and pull together the learning content that meets specific customer problems.
Making technical content available for direct sharing and reuse in learning and training
A DITA learning specialization makes it possible to define a context for and directly assemble and use existing technical content for delivery as learning and training. The DITA approach identifies consistent structures and patterns, and leverages them to enable a consistent approach for sharing content across teams. The result is much more opportunity to share content between different providers and across areas of expertise, to learn from each other, and to deliver content and the learning experience consistently. As a result, instead of copy, paste, and make unique as the norm, we have write once and share with others as the new norm.


This proposal has the following impacts:
  • Introduces a set of five specialized topic types for learning and training content
  • Introduces a map domain for defining structured sets of specialized topic references to learning topics as a learning object or learning group
  • Introduces a content domain for defining a starter set of learning assessment interactions.
  • Introduces a content domain for defining additional learning metadata, according to the IEEE standard for learning objects metadata (LOM).

Technical Requirements

For details about the technical requirements, see the "Design and language specification for DITA learning and training content specialization."


Costs associated with this proposal include the following:
  • Providing the DTD and XML Schema implementation of the learning topic, map domain, interactions domain, and metadata domains.
  • Developing sample content to illustrate the use of the specialization design with sample content.
  • Extending DITA editors and processors to support the learning specialization.
  • Extending DITA processors to support the learning specialization.


If accepted, this proposal provides the following benefits:
  • Content developers can use DITA for developing learning and training content.
  • Content providers can use DITA as the basis for reuse and exchange of learning and training content with others.
  • Content developers can use and re-purpose DITA content for learning and training assembly and delivery.