Rob Abel, Ed.D. | April 2021
"I love to change the world, but I don’t know what to do, so I'll leave it up to you." —Ten Years After
Doing Well by Doing Good via Participation in IMS Global Learning Consortium
Are you a social entrepreneur? Is your organization “socially responsible?” Perhaps your organization considers itself a “mission-driven” organization? Perhaps you lead or work for a “B Corp” (a Public Benefit Corporation).
All of these terms require more definition to be meaningful. But, generally speaking, they all connote commitment to a societal cause that is at least as important as the commitment to the bottom line. In addition, one can certainly argue that social change is imperative, as it would be hard to imagine a meaningful social mission of “keeping everything the same as it is now.”
I believe that the IMS member organizations and philanthropic funders of IMS (directly to IMS Global or via the Affiliated 1EdTech Foundation) can be very proud of the investment they have made and are making in IMS.
Indeed, regardless of the social mission of your particular organization, your participation in IMS is a contribution that will pay off for both your organization and for society.
Let me explain further.
The IMS Social Mission
The current mission (since 2010) is stated as follows:
The mission of the IMS Global Learning Consortium (IMS Global/IMS) is to advance technology that can affordably scale and improve educational participation and attainment. To ensure that the “Learning Impact” of technology-enabled innovation is achieved around the world, IMS Global’s influential community of educational institutions, suppliers, and government organizations develops open interoperability standards, supports adoption with technical services, and encourages adoption through programs that highlight effective practices.
At the heart of the IMS social mission is enabling new educational models that improve educational participation and attainment. These new models are supported by advancements in technology that IMS has a role in fostering. Open interoperability standards are one of three complementary core activities in IMS.
IMS as a Social Entrepreneur
Many experts define entrepreneurship as the act of creating a shift from one economic equilibrium to another. IMS members are the organizations that select which areas of technology we work on, but, very importantly, with an eye towards how they wish to evolve educational models. For instance, virtual, hybrid, and personalized education have not been a surprise to IMS members. They have been instrumental in creating shifts such as these in order to meet the needs of the future.
I think it’s fair to say that many education leaders don’t quite grasp how open interoperability standards relate to the social mission of enabling educational shift? The answer is pretty straightforward. It is very difficult to imagine a shift in educational models at scale without a massive effort to put in place the “plumbing” that connects the educational ecosystem in ways that make the shift easier for all stakeholders. You can’t get to scale without scalable infrastructure. Of course, individual organizations, institutions, suppliers, governments, benefit from the availability of infrastructure. But most importantly it enables them to better serve their stakeholders.
The IMS members are indeed creating a massive infrastructure based on open standards. Just look at the IMS Certified Product Directory, which keeps growing and growing. Please note that all products are recertified every year as the ecosystem infrastructure requirements (i.e. the open standards) evolve. Literally billions of interoperable interactions are occurring every day among products connected via IMS standards.
Perhaps you’re wondering how this infrastructure is different than getting high bandwidth, ubiquitous Internet? Well, we do need that, too. But the IMS open standards enable edtech product interoperability that makes products more available, usable, and insightful by making it easier for them to work together. Internet access provides a foundation of scale, but it does not by itself address the connectivity needed by the edtech sector to go where we want and need to go.
In addition to scale, the other key aspect of enabling social good in a relatively slow-moving industry such as education is sustainability. When you or your organization contributes to IMS, there is a high probability that the contribution is adding to work that will get adopted and keep evolving well into the future. The timing of innovation is difficult to predict. Thus, sustainability is not just a “nice to have” when it comes to social entrepreneurship in education. And, if a philanthropic organization supports IMS work through a grant, that grant investment will grow and sustain through the IMS member investment.
Perhaps as you are reading this you are having a difficult time figuring out how we measure the impact of all this beyond the adoption of standards and new technologies that use the standards? How do we measure the impact on students? After all, hasn’t there been a lot of investment in educational technology that hasn’t changed student success significantly? Well, we couldn’t agree more with that sentiment. That’s where the IMS community’s work in digital credentials comes in. The reality is that it is difficult to evolve the educational economy without some rethinking of how achievement is recognized and able to be turned into life currency. That is why we are so enthusiastic about enabling a wide variety of such shifts via the IMS micro-credentials work. These credentials are also a way to measure, in a much better way than we can today, the impact on students of the shift in educational models.
The above ideas are not theoretical. They have been shown through over 22 years of IMS experience. They are happening every day through the social entrepreneurship of thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations collaborating via IMS.
So, if you want to change the world, IMS is a good place for you to make an impactful and lasting contribution.
Whether you represent an IMS member organization or a non-member organization, please help us by showing your support for this important social mission by taking the Standards First pledge!