Reuse with the Learning and Training specialization

ScriptoriumTech / DITA3 Comments

You have your technical content in DITA, and you are reaping the benefits of reuse. Now it’s time to move your training content over, but it’s a little confusing to figure out how to structure your content with DITA Learning and Training elements. How can you best set it up to facilitate reuse with your existing DITA content?

To understand the various ways that you can reuse your content with the DITA Learning and Training (L&T) specialization, you should first know the intended structure of the learning map types.

Learning and Training Map Structure

There are two L&T map types: Learning Group Maps and Learning Object Maps. The reference elements in these maps are based on the <topicref> element, but there is a specific one for each of the L&T topic types.

Learning Group Maps

A contains one base element which is intended to represent the highest level of your content. (Let’s say that for you, those are chapters in an instructor guide.) This LearningGroup element can reference any L&T topic type, as well as any number of LearningObject elements, which are designed to represent the more granular levels of your content (Let’s say lessons). In that case this is what a Group Map for Chapter 1 might look like.

A Learning Group Map can reference any combination of nested LearningGroups, LearningObjects, or L&T topics that you need.

Learning Object Maps

The LearningObjectMap contains one base LearningObject element. Within this element you can reference any number of other LearningObjects and L&T topic references.

Then you can reference that LearningObjectMap in the LearningGroupMap instead of embedding it directly.

Note that although LearningGroups can reference LearningObjectMaps and LearningObjects; LearningObjects cannot reference LearningGroupMaps or LearningGroups.

Reusing standard DITA topics in L&T maps

The L&T maps will also allow you to reuse standard DITA topics. For example, if you have an existing DITA topic about the purpose of the machine (about_the_machine.dita) this topic may serve as a section in your learningContent. You use the learning and training element in the map (learningOverviewRef instead of a generic topicref), but the href will contain your concept topic file name.

Reusing L&T topics in standard DITA maps

Just as you can reference standard DITA topics in L&T maps, you can also reference L&T topics in a standard DITA map. In this case you use the element in the map, but the href will contain your L&T topic file name.

Scriptorium’s LearningDITA courses are created using a standard DITA map with references to L&T concept and assessment topics:

Principles of DITA reuse

You can still apply any standard DITA reuse mechanisms within your L&T content (and between it and your existing DITA content).

For example, you can create audience filters on a L&T map. You may do this to distinguish student and teacher content (tests and answer keys). You can also still conref elements into your L&T content (and from it), or use keys/keyrefs to define product names and key terms. For more information about these reuse mechanisms, visit our LearningDITA Introduction to reuse in DITA and Advanced reuse in DITA courses.


The Learning and Training specialization is meant to be flexible. You do not need to nest LearningObject inside of LearningGroups inside of other LearningGroups. For that matter you do not even need to use the L&T maps for your learning content. Find a combination of L&T maps and topic types that best reflect your content and support your reuse needs.

For more information about the Learning and Training specialization, including resources and practice exercises, visit the LearningDITA Learning and Training Specialization course.

If you need more in-depth assistance, contact us for consulting support.

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3 Comments on “Reuse with the Learning and Training specialization”

  1. Since it is possible to reuse learning and training topics in a standard DITA map, what is the purpose of the and ? Is there anything you can do with these two maps that you cannot do with a standard DITA map?

  2. My previous comment left out content in brackets. Here’s the full comment:

    Since it is possible to reuse learning and training topics in a standard DITA map, what is the purpose of the learningObjectMap and learningGroupMap? Is there anything you can do with these two maps that you cannot do with a standard DITA map?

    1. The L&T maps are useful if you have special processing or styling for your training content. For example, you may use map type to style L&T content differently in the HTML on your website to signal to students that they are entering a course. It would also be easier to select and add specific styling to different the different types of learning topics since each reference element in the L&T maps are distinct.

      Additionally, the L&T maps are compatible with learning object metadata (LOM). You can see the elements included in the DITA 1.3 specification.

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