Is AICC Still Relevant?

eLearning standards make sure your training content is compatible with your learning platform. One of these standards is called AICC, or Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee. Quite a mouthful! 

The committee existed from 1988 to 2014 and created guidelines for the aviation industry. These guidelines focus on the development, delivery and evaluation of training technologies. However, AICC was not only relevant or helpful for the aviation industry. 

Instead, their standards were designed to help learning technology providers spread and eventually lower their costs. In other words, the aim was to promote online learning while reducing the cost of digital training. 

While these learning standards were needed by the aviation industry, this strategy gained broad acceptance and relevance to non-aviation and aviation users alike. 

‘But why are you writing about AICC now, if the committee stopped functioning in 2014?’ I hear you ask! Throughout this article, we plan to answer this question by exploring whether it is still relevant in the modern online learning landscape. 

Before we jump into the fascinating world of AICC, let’s explore eLearning technical standards in more detail. Understanding their purpose will help you to comprehend the true legacy of AICC.

Ready? Let’s go!

How Do Technical Standards Work?

Once you have purchased your learning management system (LMS) or your digital learning platform of choice and started designing your online learning content, you’ll face various decisions. These range from the course length to the different types of media you wish to include. 

But before you begin, you need to think about what technology standards your course content will follow to ensure it runs efficiently on your learning platform. 

Learning technology standards determine how your online learning courses interact with your learning management system. 

Learning technology standards, like AICC, SCORM, xAPI and cmi5 ensure your training content and LMS speak the same language

Let’s use a CD as an example! CDs are manufactured according to a common technical standard. This means that CDs can be played on any CD player. As such, the technical standard ensures devices and CDs speak the same ‘language’.

Similarly, you need to ensure your online learning content communicates seamlessly with your LMS. After all, your learning platform will be able to host and deliver any AICC-compliant content as long as your platform is built to accept it!

Now you know the basic idea behind technical standards. So, let’s jump right into the story of AICC!

The Birth of AICC

In the late 1980s, the aviation industry was at the cutting edge of online learning technology. After all, the industry used digital methods to train its airline workers. 

And by the 1990s, the aviation industry developed the AICC learning technology standard. This was the very first online learning specification for learning management systems. But how did it come about?

In 1988, a group of aircraft manufacturers, including Boeing, Airbus and McDonnell Douglas, joined forces to embark on a new project. This project was called the ‘Aviation Industry CBT Committee’ (AICC). As such, ‘AICC’ isn’t an acronym for the technical standard itself, but the group behind it.

Once formed, the collective started to develop a set of guidelines called Computer Managed Instruction (CMI001). The specification was created to address concerns airlines had about rising computing costs prompted by their new multimedia training solutions.

To overcome the issue, the main purpose of the committee was to standardise the training materials and technology airline workers used. And that’s exactly what they achieved!

AICC helped to ensure that the computer-based training systems the aviation industry used were interchangeable and compatible with other systems. As such, thanks to the standard, organisations could now host and deliver online learning content across multiple compatible learning platforms.

AICC Through The Years

AICC produced the first-ever technical specification for LMSs in 1993. It was designed purely for CD-ROM and LAN-based training (AGR-006). 

Once the internet became a thing, AICC updated its CMI with a new chapter, called ‘Runtime’. This chapter described how communications between content and LMSs should work online. AICC called this specification ‘HTTP-based AICC/CMI Protocol’ or HACP in short.

The committee added HACP to its specification in 1998 (AGR-010). This addition helped AICC spread beyond the aviation industry in no time!

In 1999, they further expanded their CMI001 specification and added a JavaScript API runtime interface. This was an alternative to HACP, and it was later re-used in SCORM, another learning technology specification, with some minor changes. What an acronym glory!

Adding additional guidelines and recommendations helped AICC meet the demand of their increasing customer base and evolving technologies. However, the launch of new and more comprehensive standards had a big impact on AICC as a committee and a technical standard. 

The Turning Point

Fast forward 22 years after the birth of AICC. In 2010, the group announced that it would begin to work on a replacement standard. This effort was later named cmi5.

In 2012, AICC announced that it had adopted the recently emerged xAPI specification for its cmi5. And perhaps unsurprisingly, in December 2014, AICC formally announced it had dissolved due to declining membership numbers:

“Our journey is at an end. Due to declining membership, the AICC membership has decided to dissolve the AICC. We are very proud of AICC’s pioneering work in learning technology interoperability specifications. It is quite a legacy that is still strongly influencing how most of us learn online today.”

Complying With AICC

We’ve mentioned various specifications and updates that AICC experienced throughout the years. But what do these actually mean?

To be classified as an AICC-compliant online learning course, your content must fulfil at least one of the nine AICC Guidelines and Recommendations. These guidelines and recommendations, called AGRs, define what compliance looks like. 

AGRs were released at different times to meet the needs of ever-developing technology. After all, we saw a huge jump in technology evolution during the existence of the committee. 

For instance, web-based CMI (AGR-010), was only released in 1998. This happened when the need for Internet connectivity became more prominent and web-based training took the world by storm.

In online learning, the two guidelines you’ll stumble upon the most are AGR-006 and AGR-010. AGR-006 covers computer-based training in general, whether that’s delivered through the internet, intranet, or even floppy disks (these guidelines are twenty years old, remember!). 

And as explored, AGR-010 is specifically for web-based content. This means it only covers training delivered online. All online learning that conforms with these two guidelines will work on any AICC-compliant LMS. 

AICC and Learning Management Systems

How AICC transfers data

So, now you should understand AICC better as a standard, but how does it actually work? AICC uses the HTTP AICC Communication Protocol, known as HACP, to facilitate communication between your LMS and course content. 

More specifically, it uses HTML forms and simple text springs to transmit information. The HACP methodology is a relatively straightforward way to transmit information to and from your learning management system. 

To learn more about how AICC works, explore the video below. Our very own Juliette Denny discusses the topic in-depth!

Advantages of AICC

In most situations, AICC has been replaced with the newer standards, like SCORM, xAPI and cmi5. But regardless of its old age, there are still some areas where AICC has an advantage or performs strongly!

1. Flexible Deployments

If you are using AICC, you can host your content and your digital learning platform on separate servers or domains. This means you can enjoy more flexible deployments. 

2. Security

Keeping content on separate servers also allows for more secure information transfer. AICC supports highly secure HTTPS data transfers. As such, if data security and training data integrity is your priority, AICC might still be a relevant addition to your technical standard stack.

Disadvantages of AICC

Perhaps as expected from a standard of this age, there are now several weaknesses to AICC. Unfortunately, its downsides are more prominent than its advantages, which is one of the reasons why AICC no longer enjoys popularity.

1. Lacking Support

One of the main disadvantages is that AICC is losing support. The AICC committee disbanded in 2014. This means that the standard won’t receive more updates. And as a result, it’s losing support from authoring tools

While authoring tools and learning management systems will still support the standard at a basic level, most instructional designers and content providers are leaving AICC behind.

2. Complicated Data Structure

AICC has always had a very complicated data structure. The standard requires a multi-step process to upload course content to LMSs. This means that it’s relatively complex to learn and use if you don’t have a programming background or coding skills.

3. Limited Tracking

The AICC standard is limited when it comes to metrics and tracking. For example, AICC can’t track course progress or completion rates. This is something we recommend every learning provider measures to prove the effectiveness of their courses.

As such, AICC has the most limited tracking capabilities of any of today’s most popular standards. 

4. Lacking Compliance

Last but not least, as mentioned, compliance is driven by nine guidelines and recommendations. For your content to be considered AICC-compliant, it’s enough you hit one of these guidelines or recommendations.

This, in turn, means that you can find systems that are technically AICC-compliant but lack some important features. These features will then need to be manually coded in. Similarly, not all compliant content works as well because it’s lacking in other AGRs. 

Comparing AICC To Modern Technical Standards

Selecting the right technical standard for your online learning content is an important decision. On top of AICC, today’s most common options include SCORM (1.2 and 2004), xAPI and cmi5. 

Every eLearning standard brings something different to the table. Indeed, all these standards have played a pivotal role in the history and development of online learning and LMS platforms.

eLearning standards timeline

Before we jump into exploring the other technical standards, let’s recap some of the main characteristics of AICC:

  • Communicates using HTTP messages
  • Your content and LMS can be hosted on separate servers
  • Complex uploading process
  • Course content cannot be easily broken down into digestible modules
  • Lacking reporting and tracking capabilities

All of the other standards have different strengths and capabilities compared to AICC:

SCORM

SCORM is one of today’s most common eLearning standards. It has dominated the industry for years. According to Software Advice research, 62% of businesses use SCORM for their training courses.

The first version launched as SCORM 1.0 in 2001, when AICC was still very much alive and kicking. In fact, the first version of SCORM focused on covering areas that AICC could not provide. As such, it provides better tracking and measuring options when it comes to pass / fail, post-test scores, course completion and certificates.

Similarly, SCORM focused on simplifying the upload process that is notoriously complex with AICC content. It communicates using JavaScript and consists of three components: content packaging, run-time and sequencing. 

However, by today’s standards, there are limitations in regards to in-depth reporting. SCORM is only able to capture formal online learning courses. It has also been criticised for the lack of mobile support and gamification opportunities.

SCORM 1.0 and 1.1 didn’t last long, but its subsequent versions, SCORM 1.2 and SCORM 2004, have become the most popular standards in the online learning landscape. Even still, it is now starting to show its age. And as a result, many organisations have transitioned to xAPI.

xAPI

In 2011, the ADL research group of the US government recognised that there was a need for a more robust online learning specification. That led to xAPI being released in 2013.

When you compare xAPI to SCORM and AICC, the main difference is that xAPI allows you to track learning activity from various sources. As such, tracking and measuring results is no longer limited just to your LMS.

xAPI, also known as Tin Can API or Experience API, works by defining learning activities using ‘noun, verb, object’ statements (for instance, ‘I did this’). When a learner performs an activity, the xAPI statement is recorded and stored in Learning Record Stores (LRS). 

Despite its relatively young age, xAPI has gained popularity very quickly. And it’s little wonder why!

xAPI empowers learning professionals to track and record offline access to content. In fact, it’s based upon the principle that learning can happen anywhere and at any time. 

Similarly, xAPI provides excellent mobile compatibility, which means that you can start your course on your computer and access it on your mobile device later on. Or the other way around!

By taking advantage of LRSs, xAPI can store in depth learner activity logs. This helps to drive better learning insights and organisational decisions. It also makes learning data considerably more portable.

CMI5

While xAPI is fantastic for capturing learning activities outside an LMS, it’s not structured enough to govern what sort of content should go inside an LMS. And that’s why cmi5 was born. It stands for ‘computer-managed instruction’.

The AICC group started the cmi5 project in 2010. It was first expected to replace both AICC and SCORM. But the launch of xAPI changed the plans. It was then developed to take advantage of what xAPI offers.

Now, cmi5 can be seen as a ‘profile’ for using and improving the xAPI specification. As such, it works in conjunction with xAPI while adding some new components. 

These components include, for example, authorisation, reporting and course structure that informs how LMS and xAPI activities communicate with each other.

The standard includes statements that fall into two categories:

  • cmi5 defined: tracks pass / fail, content completion, education, score and captures points for existing functions.
  • cmi5 allowed: open-ended and allows a high level of flexibility in data capture.

The Big Question: Is AICC Still Relevant?Is AICC still relevant?

AICC has had a relatively long and rich history as a technical standard. While the group officially disbanded in 2014, its legacy remains strong. It lives on thanks to how broadly organisations and educational institutions had implemented the standard in previous years.

Similarly, AICC paved the way for standardising the interoperability of online learning content. AICC guidelines and regulations formed the basis for SCORM and all other online learning specifications that came after it.

And that reason alone makes it relevant in today’s online learning landscape. Proper understanding of AICC will help you to understand today’s other technical standards. Instead of being a relevant technical standard, it remains of interest because it helps us to see how other online learning standards have progressed and developed.

We even argue that it might still have a place within your LMS. For example, if some of your company’s training materials were formatted for AICC, make sure to select an AICC-compliant LMS that is also SCORM-compliant. 

This helps you to ensure you can take advantage of your older content whilst simultaneously keeping one eye on the future.

While AICC is no longer the go-to standard, organisations still use it for legacy purposes. As such, it’s certainly worth knowing about the technical standard, even if its use will continue to decline. 

Final Words

AICC built a strong foundation for the learning technology standards that followed in its footsteps. With its nine guiding principles, the standard helped to meet the needs of various industries through the technological advancements of the early 1990s!

Even though AICC is no longer commonly used, we have a lot to thank it for. And this strong legacy alone is reason enough for us to remember the standard. By comprehending AICC, you can understand all of today’s learning technology standards better. After all, they are all based on AICC.

With various standards at our disposal, we are guaranteed to offer you the best possible learner and administrator experience. And if you would like to learn more about how we create those engaging learning experiences here at Growth Engineering, make sure to contact us today!

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