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Learning Impact Blog

Inside the Transformation - Part 1

This is part one in a series of blog posts from the IMS K-12 team focusing on interoperability and its advantages for educators and instruction in K-12 education, especially during the current pandemic.

How Interoperability Supports Your Transition to Digital Learning

A quick glance at any recent edtech news shows that the unexpected pivot to digital learning is a challenge for most K-12 schools and districts. In fact, it has been such a challenge that Steve Buettner, Director of Media and Technology at Edina Public Schools in Minnesota, suggests that we shouldn’t call it “digital learning.” Rather, it should be called “remote or emergency learning” to distinguish these reactionary practices from true digital learning. Yet some districts like Edina are making the transition from face-to-face to remote digital learning more easily than others. One key to their successful pivot? The interoperability of their digital tools and resources. 

In a nutshell, interoperability is the driving force that allows you to improve opportunities that enhance teaching and learning with your digital ecosystem. Technically speaking, it’s the ability of your learning apps and tools to connect and exchange useful and meaningful data. But for teachers in K-12, interoperability can be a game-changer, dramatically reducing time on tasks and increasing student and class engagement and management. Interoperability provides students, parents, and administrators with a consistently positive experience using technology resources. 

The Design of a Digital Learning Ecosystem

Edina Public Schools is one of the many school districts strategically designing ecosystems of digital platforms, content, and tools to support effective classroom instruction and enable a variety of modern learning experiences and models such as virtual learning, blended learning, and distance learning. All of these instructional models usually involve digital learning. Although districts select different educational technology resources, a core feature of an effective digital learning ecosystem is that it’s interoperable. IMS open standards are the preferred way to achieve this interoperability.  We connected with several K-12 leaders engaged in the work of edtech interoperability to see how the changes from the emergency COVID-19 pandemic response are affecting their districts and revealing about the future of their digital ecosystems to better assist their teachers and students, parents and guardians.

Most of the digital ecosystems designed by these districts are comprised of some configuration of the following core platforms to assist teachers in facilitating digital learning: 

  • Single Sign-On (SSO) Platform or Portal
  • Learning Management System (LMS)
  • Student Assessment Tool or System
  • Student Information System (SIS)
  • Learning Object Repository (LOR) of Digital Resources
  • Productivity Suite(s) 

Modifiable IMS Ecosystem image

Typically, the various core systems above, as well as other applications, are often accessed via a portal or platform that supports single sign-on (SSO). The learning management system (LMS) is usually the core of a district’s digital ecosystem with integration points to their student information system (SIS), a learning object repository (LOR) of digital resources, and a student assessment system. Similarly, the data, content, and assessments pass back and forth seamlessly through integration with the LMS as the usual delivery system. Interoperability among all of the above systems eliminates the need for learners to log in separately on external systems to complete learning activities, engage with digital resources, and complete assignments and assessments. This seamless interoperability also keeps teachers from having to enter grades or other information into multiple platforms and provides greater insight into useful data regarding student performance.

To understand in greater detail how districts provide such interoperable teaching and learning experiences, we had in-depth conversations with Hall County Schools in Georgia, the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township, Edina Public Schools in Minnesota, and Broward County Schools in Florida. We asked them about specific components and implementation of their digital ecosystems. And we touched base with several other districts, to find out what they're doing. Over the next few weeks, we will continue sharing their strategies, experiences, and future plans to inform and guide you in the design and implementation of ecosystems to effectively support digital learning. We hope you will find this information useful and actionable as you adapt your technology and instruction to today’s new normal!

In the next post, we will explore the value of a learning management system for pivoting to remote instruction.

IMS Global CEO Rob AbelRob Abel, Ed.D. | May 2020

 

"Getting in tune to the straight and narrow" —The Who

As May—the month when the IMS Learning Impact Leadership Institute typically occurs—comes to a close, IMS has been busy (especially yours truly) in capturing the learnings from what our members are experiencing. We have created a free series of recorded webinars, some 1-on-1 interviews, others expert panels that you can find on the Learning Impact On-Demand site.  

The primary findings so far have me feeling good about the impact of the collaborative work here in IMS.

From a recent survey of IMS institutional members across K-12 and HED, 95% indicated that their relationship with IMS has helped them prepare for the transitions that are occurring due to COVID-19. More importantly, the Learning Impact On-Demand interviews indicate that a productive edtech ecosystem fostered by IMS collaboration enables institutions to focus on serving their stakeholders better now and into whatever the future may bring. While educational institutions have generally struggled to move to remote/online learning over a period spanning anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, IMS Contributing Member institutions and suppliers are not only prepared but see this as an opportunity to help accelerate progress in their support for digital teaching and learning.

In the near term, the emphasis has been on building off of strong foundational core capabilities in both the technical and instructional domains. A robust core of highly interoperable systems and a consistent set of instructional strategies has made scaling up to unprecedented user levels much easier. Hold tight to your existing instructional strategies while adapting them to online has been a key ingredient for success. The LMS has been of central importance in HED where it was a mainstream mission-critical system already and rapidly rising in importance in K-12. IMS institutional members have also put a major emphasis on the human dimension, namely empathy for an unprecedented rate of change and meeting the faculty "where they are" across a wide range of comfort levels. IMS supplier members have played a significant role in responding to the needs for scale-up in everything from working with their cloud hosting providers to helping set up thousands of courses to help faculty get online. In K-12, there has also been a major emphasis assisting parents in adjusting to their now more substantial role in the educational process, with knowledge-based resources and call-in support. 

Institutions that have had a more substantial set of online offerings or "practice" in terms of digital snow days could leverage those learnings. Understanding the need to balance screen time with other activities has turned out to be a big help in organizing remote education modalities. Finding the right balance between synchronous and asynchronous and generally moving away from live lectures—even though that has been the primary gap filler in the short term for many institutions—is another. However, equity in terms of meeting the needs of all students during this unimagined combination of scale and length of remote learning has been the biggest challenge. While this has been a bigger challenge in K-12 it has also been a challenge in HED.

The necessity for greater collaboration has led to some breakthroughs. Both HED and K-12 institutional members in IMS are reporting unprecedented levels of collaboration across boundaries within their institutions, and with supplier partners, as well as with fellow IMS members, where relationships have built up over the years. 

The IMS community's most significant technical challenges have come in needing to address privacy, security, plagiarism, and identity, specifically related to those technologies that are required to fill the void associated with 100% remote education. These areas have been web video conferencing, assessment, and proctoring, but also having technology in place to communicate to all stakeholders, at an unprecedented scale and rate, to inform everyone what is going on and provide support. 

Right now, IMS is working closely with our institutional members to close any gaps that might exist in their digital ecosystems. This also includes working with members to address key issues in time for fall, such as the importance of data from instructional systems and what are expected to be greater levels of innovation in the use of instructional resources and modalities—after so many are gaining experience and motivation in using the wide range of technologies at their disposal. For the more advanced institutions, there will be a greater emphasis on competency-based models.

All of which brings me back to getting in tune with the primary goal. The original theme of the 2020 Learning Impact event was Equity, Agency, and Mastery. We believe these imperatives capture the evolving definition of student success. We decided to focus the recast webinar series on the impact of the rapid scale-up digital learning. Indeed, it is turning out that these remote education scenarios are requiring an acceleration in getting better at equity, agency, and mastery. If you've got the foundational digital ecosystem in place, then focusing in on a better way forward comes naturally—even during a pandemic it seems.

More learnings to come in future posts. Stay tuned.

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IMS Global CEO Rob AbelRob Abel, Ed.D. | April 2020

Effective Digital Teaching and Learning in the COVID-19 Era and Beyond

"IMS will be capturing and synthesizing the learnings from our members as they deliver digital learning at unprecedented levels and prepare for more to come." —Dr. Rob Abel

We are learning so much right now as more and more are involved in the practice of using digital technology to support an unprecedented move to virtual learning in both K-12 and higher education. We are learning about the limitations and advantages of a wide array of technologies—some relatively new and some that have been with us for a couple of decades. We are learning what is needed to support at scale.  

Yes, it is true that the radical nature of the shift may not be giving us much time to be thoughtful. But as an old Chinese proverb said, loosely translated: "The best time to plant a tree would have been long ago, but the next best time is now." We are all making changes based on necessity, so the goals are to make improvements for the future and for today if we can.

It is in this spirit that IMS launches our on-demand virtual series on "Solutions for Highly Effective Digital Teaching and Learning." IMS will be capturing and synthesizing the learnings from our members as they deliver digital learning at unprecedented levels and prepare for more to come.

My expectations for this series are high. IMS members are the leaders on the planet when it comes to digital learning, technology agility, and scale. I will be involved in facilitating these conversations along with others on the IMS team. What we are most interested in is what we have learned so far, and how can we all be more effective going into the summer, fall and beyond?

I will be providing synthesis and analysis right here in the monthly newsletter and Learning Impact blog. All of the recordings from this series will be made available as a public service.

Let's keep the learning going!

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IMS Global CEO Rob AbelRob Abel, Ed.D. | March 2020

"I need a miracle everyday." —The Grateful Dead

What will we learn from 100% online,  physical distancing, and the great education interruptus?

They call it a "black swan" event, one that is so unlikely it is supposedly unpredictable and, therefore, not possible to prepare for in advance. I think in this case, that could be questioned. I think in this case society will conclude that we can prepare for the next COVID-19. The question is, are we willing to invest in that preparation? And will we invest smartly based on what we have learned?

The world has a long way to go before all the lessons from the COVID-19 nightmare are understood. Right now, I see miracles every day. I see classes and labs moved online not just at a record pace but at an impossible pace. I see extra effort to get food to kids when schools close. I see supplier partners stepping up to provide more access at no additional cost.

In IMS, we hear some nice tributes to how our community work has enabled our institutional partners to be more prepared than they might otherwise have been for this situation. 

"We're relying on IMS work more than ever, having just moved nearly all university instruction online in a week….that certainly wouldn't have been conceivable 10 years ago."
—Mark McCallister, Director, Academic Technology, University of Florida Information Technology

"Without a single point of entry into our digital learning platform (eCLASS) for our staff and students—all enabled through interoperability standards—we couldn't use the wide variety of tools and instructional resources our teachers are currently employing during our Digital Learning Days to maintain instruction for 180,000 plus students effectively. We greatly value our ongoing partnership with IMS and continue to adopt common standards as they become available."
—Kevin Tashlein, Ed.D., Chief Strategy Officer, Gwinnett County Public Schools

IMS wants to spread this wealth—made possible by the investment of the IMS members—and wants to help all institutions better prepare. And there is no better time to start than right now!

Therefore, we are stepping up with free access to developer and certification resources, and related support to help the ecosystem ensure better options for virtual now and into the future. We don't have unlimited capacity to do this, so we are counting on referrals from institutional IMS Contributing Members to help us prioritize. Our hope is that this offer will help in making decisions on what products to use to deliver a better virtual experience, by making it easier for products that might not be fully IMS compliant to get there faster than otherwise possible. HED and K-12 district/state members will receive an email next week with more details on the IMS Vanguard Certification Program and how to submit your supplier referrals.

Finally, stay tuned for more info on our plans for the Learning Impact Leadership Institute. As I mentioned in a prior email, we will have this information out at least 30 days before the event. And next month, I will hopefully write more on what I hope to be some lessons learned. But for now, stay safe, and let's keep the miracles coming!

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IMS Global CEO Rob AbelRob Abel, Ed.D. | February 2020

Equity, Agency, and Mastery: Shaping the Future of Student Success

"Talk about a dream. Try to make it real." —Bruce Springsteen

Many of you, the leaders in the IMS community, are making digital transformation happen in education every single day. Never mind that education as a sector is still trying to define digital transformation—there is no doubt that it is happening. The work of IMS is playing a big role, and in many instances, at the forefront of those changes. My sincere hope is that we see the "big picture" in terms of leveraging transformation toward strategic goals, rather than transformation happening "to us" by the sheer magnitude of the acceleration of tech in all aspects of life. I'm sure it's a combination of both. But when I ask education leaders the goal of digital transformation, I almost always get the same answer: student success.

Data from many decades of experience tells us that indeed there is a strong correlation to the percent of the population that has completed post-secondary education to personal prosperity. In the U.S., the recently released report on Lumina Foundation's A Stronger Nation provides an impressively detailed accounting by state and metropolitan area. The U.S. increased from 37.9% post-secondary attainment in 2008 to 48.4% in 2018. 

Tuning up the current pathways and pipelines is always a good thing. But, when we apply yesterday's data and metrics to the future, they are often inadequate in terms of helping us create the future we seek. When students graduate, they get something called a transcript. This should provide useful information to all stakeholders in the education system, and most importantly, to the student in terms of their pathway in life. Does the transcript provide this? At the recent IMS Summit on Digital Credentials, we heard directly from leading university registrars that the transcript is largely a "celebratory document"—rather than a useful purveyor of information. If student success is graduation, then it seems to make sense that the information provided on the transcript should be more helpful in capturing the uniqueness of both the student and the educational experience. 

This is a different kind of thinking about the goals of education. It is about education becoming the incubator of talents resulting in workforce diversity, rather than a competition and sorting mechanism. It's about uniqueness versus sameness.

Our goal in IMS is to develop the leadership to make this purposeful transformation, from right down in the technology trenches, to C-level individuals. As a community, we see where this is going, and we address key leverage points in the connective tissue of the educational ecosystem. By defining and enabling what the ecosystem can support, we are laying the groundwork for purposeful transformation. 

Equity, agency, and mastery. Three simple words that, to me, define where the industrial age education needs to go. These are not my words.  These are your words. The members of IMS, I believe, are the leaders in the transformation that is already beginning in some quarters and will continue to gain. Through countless meetings and conversations, you have convinced me that there is no other place to go. This is the dream that we in education are pointing toward.

Please join me as I facilitate the keynote discussion at Learning Impact 2020 in Denver, starting at 3:00 PM on Monday, May 18, 2020. We are featuring our friend Yong Zhao and an all-star panel to discuss: Defining the Next Generation of Student Success: Equity, Agency, and Mastery in a Complex World.

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IMS Global CEO Rob AbelRob Abel, Ed.D. | January 2020

Simple Ideas Changing the Path of EdTech

“Will the circle be unbroken?” —The Carter Family

As we enter a new decade, I find myself pondering an age-old question at the heart of the well-known gospel song that has recently received prominence via the Ken Burns series on Country Music. What endures in this life and beyond?

I would submit to you that what is enduring about the IMS Global Learning Consortium and the collaborative work of the member organizations are a few rather simple, but powerful ideas:

  • We must invest in coming together to enable and own the future we seek. The stakeholders in the development and adoption of educational technology, including institutions, suppliers, and governments, must come together as partners to encourage, own, and support the evolution of edtech innovation. This idea is all about leadership in sponsoring and engaging to find the areas where we can all work together for a better future. When done right, together, we go farther faster. It’s about leadership among C-level executives that they need to be the leaders in ensuring the engagement in setting the course and bringing the resources.

  • We can define and evolve the connectivity that enables our technology ecosystem. The primary objective of the IMS collaboration is an acceleration of progress in terms of technology innovation that supports end-user productivity and the ease by which innovative educational ideas can be implemented. There is an underlying hypothesis here that a collaborative ecosystem of connected products designed to work together is a better future. We know this to be true for two reasons: (1) disconnected products and educational achievements are “expensive” because someone must do the work to connect them to the larger ecosystem, and (2) there is no single supplier that can be the all-encompassing solution or provide the complete ecosystem for the end-users in education. This is all about breaking down barriers to the future, whether they be integration barriers or K-12, HED, corporate learning barriers.

  • We must share and learn from our collective impact measured by the success of every student and the diverse missions of each of our partner institutions. The bar for success can be no less than fundamental and sustainable change for the betterment of each student and our educational systems worldwide. Igniting of passion for learning and education is what unites the IMS community. But it is also the fact that we create tangible impact today that changes the future. The world of edtech is fundamentally different now than before IMS Global’s success with LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability). That is just one example of quite a few impressive accomplishments that come from the IMS partners focusing on fundamental leverage points in the ecosystem. The point is that such a historic level of collaboration needs to manifest itself in enriching teaching and learning experiences on a large scale.

The successes we have had so far as a community have come from focusing on these pretty simple ideas that hopefully, with your help and commitment, will endure.

This year’s Learning Impact Leadership Institute has the theme of Equity, Agency, and Mastery: Enabling the Next Generation of Student Success. We are all very excited about how the program is shaping up—so please check it out and join us in Denver, May 18-21, to help us make a better edtech ecosystem!

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IMS Global CEO Rob AbelRob Abel, Ed.D. | November 2019

"I don't ask for much, I only want trust, and you know it don't come easy."—Ringo Starr

"When it comes to data and analytics in education, trust is everything.  All other progress is dependent on establishing trust in the data and in the ecosystem."–Rob Abel, EdD.

What a great week of meetings recently at the IMS quarterly in Redmond, including our 5th annual Learning Analytics Summit, an event that looks across K-12 and higher education in terms of data, analytics, and student success. IMS is as strong as a proponent on the potential of data and analytics in education as you will find. But the "data" topic is one that requires great care—and will require a much higher level of trust in the education sector than we have today.

To make the point, last week's EdWeek update had lead articles on how the U.S. education system may be to blame for poor adult literacy; how more than $1 billion in K-12 edtech licensing goes to waste; and an opinion on how personalized learning may be exacerbating educational inequity. And higher education has its share of image issues in terms of the enormity of student debt, a recent highly publicized admissions scandal, etc.  

Data and analytics, especially learning analytics, requires levels of transparency and trust beyond anything we have seen in the past. So, how do we get there?

I tried to capture some of what I believe the learnings are regarding data and analytics in education in my short opening keynote. I also learned a lot at the event. I'm going to summarize right here, right now:

  1. The right approach to learning analytics is to set measured expectations on the near-term return on investment from data. Over-hyping of data is not our friend in the land of edtech. The hard part about data isn't getting data. The hard part is making sense of data and taking action on data. Most institutions in their current forms are not set up to act on data. Add to that the fact that understanding how and if learning is improved is science under development. Today, most of the return on investment for data in education are data warehousing type applications on relatively obvious use cases, where the key challenges are a flexible architecture (able to handle all key data sources) coupled with building clear decision making and action paths from the data. This would be the correct expectation to set today while the data science and technologies evolve.

  2. Institutions need both IT and instructional strategies for data. Data as a strategy is not a strategy or even the right starting point for educational improvement. How many decades now have we witnessed that the collection of data in vast quantities has only confirmed how poorly we are doing? For data to be useful, it needs to help measure the success of a set of strategies that encompasses the user experience with technology as well as the instructional models being pursued (some might call this academic or digital transformation). The usability of technology is by far the single most important determinant of whether technology may improve something. Without a focus on integration for usability, we can pretty much guarantee the data is not going to be very helpful. Right along-side usability is instructional diversity, agility, and choice. Then, most importantly, there must be an associated instrumentation strategy for the data to be useful.

  3. Realize that we have a long way to go in the evolution of meaningful data to improve learning. The insightfulness of data is directly related to how good the instruments of measurement are. Why is this a challenge? Well, there is a lot of questioning these days about whether the current approaches to measurement that we have today are the ones needed for societies of the future (or even for today's societies). The data can only get better if the instruments of measurement advance. The comparison I like to make here is to healthcare, where it took decades of experimentation and research to discover and make useful the technologies that provide valuable data (e.g., electrocardiogram). 

  4. Partnering together—as institutions and with supplier partners—is essential to get to the future. Institutions will be deeply involved in edtech research on efficacy, but it will ultimately be up to suppliers to prove the efficacy of their products. In healthcare, hospitals are engaged in research studies, but it is the suppliers that must prove the efficacy. Same in any other industry. It is up to organizations like IMS to provide the data interoperability foundation to enable this collaboration. Even the relatively simple use case of gauging relative and appropriate "use of technology" is not a simple use case from an R&D perspective. Thus, if you are being sold on the idea that data on usage or efficacy that is generated without appropriate controls is going to tell you something, well, please be careful. Instead, suppliers are going to have to get much better at not only providing data but being very clear on what that data means, i.e., how should the user interpret the data?

  5. This is a good time to be collaborating on data analytics architecture. Each institution is going to need a scalable real-time architecture for data collection, processing, and analysis. As IMS members have been learning through various implementations over the last five years, analytics requires the power of a data warehouse and the flexibility of a data lake at the speed of real-time in-memory processing. The bad news is that this is a rapidly developing area that almost ensures that whatever solution you pick today will evolve each year significantly. The good news is that this is where enterprise-class cloud products (e.g., SAP Hana, Microsoft Azure, AWS, etc.) are going to speed the evolution of the solution. Interoperability standards need to address specific key issues to enable the foundation for learning analytics without going too far in terms of limiting innovation.  

  6. Privacy and security need to be built into the architecture, and data usage must reflect institutional data and analytics principles (such as these). Collaboration on privacy is within our grasp, as shown by the uptake of the IMS App Vetting work as a collaborative process among institutions and supplier partners. The reason this is important is that privacy is all about trust—and we must build trust together. Privacy of data in education is an especially large challenge because the institutions will be held responsible for getting this right. But the suppliers also have a huge stake as edtech without trust is not going to work. The IMS App Vetting work has me feeling we are on a good path here—useful right now and will only get better as we go.

  7. Beginning with student achievement in mind is the right way to go about developing the analytics strategy and tools. This is similar to #2 above in terms of instructional strategy, but here I am talking about addressing the level of student progress toward the credentials that an institution provides. In IMS, we see the world of educational credentials evolving considerably. But even in today's world of state learning standards for K-12, the ability to tie data collection directly to progress toward the final objective is going to be of most use to faculty, students, parents, and administrators. If the edtech learning analytics dashboards developed do not tie to the educational goals it will make them hard to interpret and act on. These dashboards must be available at the right place at the right time. Think interoperable messaging and usability of data. Think data that drives instructional diversity. In addition, the interventions are key data to be tracked and analyzed. 

There is a lot to do, but hopefully, the above does not sound pessimistic. Realism is not pessimism. We are putting in place the technical foundation that enables a future that is going to take a while to develop. But in the meantime, we already have excellent standards for moving data around (such as OneRoster, LTI, Caliper, and CLR) in a semantically rich and transparent way. Just encouraging these standards and evolving them as a community will help us build that foundation. I know we can do it.

But we are also building a more important foundation. We are building trust in the edtech ecosystem and the ecosystem participants. When it comes to data and analytics in education, trust is everything. All other progress is dependent on establishing trust in the data and the ecosystem. So trust is our biggest challenge and opportunity. I know that I speak for all IMS member organizations when I say that I know we will do our part!

In IMS, we all learn together—and I encourage you to take advantage of these IMS quarterly meetings. The next one features the annual Digital Credentials Summit, February 10-13, near Atlanta. Join us!

 

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IMS Global CEO Rob AbelRob Abel, Ed.D. | October 2019

"Let me take you on a little trip, my supersonic ship's at your disposal, if you feel so inclined—The Kinks

"I am struck by how similar the secular and strategic trends are in both HED and K-12 moving forward." —Rob Abel, Ed.D.

It's been a lot of miles and a lot of smiles the last 30 days or so—IMS Japan Society Conference, IMS Europe Summit, EDUCAUSE, OESIS/PIVOT announcement—but I'm pleased to report that IMS is on the right track and doing the right thing.

Since the last newsletter, I've been in more meetings than I can count with both higher education and school leaders. I am struck by how similar the secular and strategic trends are in both HED and K-12 moving forward:
  • In the coming years, enrollment will be going down along with government financial support. 
  • The already increasing watchful eye on cost and student debt will grow.  
  • These trends will increase competition, requiring greater distinction/differentiation in conjunction with increasing pressure on the costs of doing business.

In IMS, I see the leaders who are ready to embrace these challenges as the impetus to evolve education to a more authentic, passionate, equitable, and productive future. Low cost, high-value interoperability that works out of the box is essential to provide a foundation for meeting these challenges. I don't see the hype in the IMS community. I see steady progress in tackling the tough issues with thoughtful, sustainable solutions backed by unparalleled support coming from over 540 sector organizations.

  • LTI 1.3 and LTI Advantage (Innovation at the Speed of Now) has become the foundational interoperability specification for higher education. Its world-class security model and ability to configure app integration and exchange data in real-time—all easy to implement given the reference implementations available from IMS—means that LTI Advantage will rapidly take the place of existing LTI implementations and expand adoption even further.

  • OneRoster has become the foundational interoperability specification for K-12 education. OneRoster 1.2 features the LTI Advantage security model and a host of improvements. Via the 1EdTech testing system, districts and suppliers are now able to characterize their OneRoster integrations fully and check for compatibility in a low cost, scalable fashion that has never been available in the past for any interoperability standard.

  • Edu-API and Integrated Analytics. At EDUCAUSE, IMS showed outstanding progress to put in place a set of APIs that solve the provisioning needs of HED—a HED broader version of OneRoster—while also providing a critical foundation for real-time analytics. At this point in the market evolution, it is essential to support Caliper and other data formats. The formats are not the issue. The issue is scalability, openness, and privacy protections of the architecture.

  • Caliper Analytics continues to grow in usage, including in K-12. On this trip, a supplier showed a real-time global map showing Caliper events— over 15 million a day! But...the situation with the use of data for teaching and learning purposes is going to be a long road (as we have been saying for some time now). The dangers of biased exploitation by teachers or administrators or lock-in from your favorite vendor are too great right now, IMHO. LTI Advantage and Caliper will seek to provide the insurance that individuals and institutions need concerning these dangers.  

  • The IMS App Vetting and Privacy Program is the right thing in the right place at the right time. IMS has not only vetted over 2,500 edtech products based on a HED/K-12 community-developed rubric, but we are also proceeding to turn the rubric itself into a community-managed process. Indeed, it is the community process—suppliers and institutions working cooperatively—that differentiates the IMS work from all other privacy work to date. The other difference maker is that it is simply better at understanding the privacy ramifications.  Unfortunately, despite the numerous state laws and model contracts based upon them, they seem to fall short in some pretty basic areas that apply to an educational ecosystem. Not to worry, though, as the IMS rubric complements and makes this other work better and has the added benefit of being something everyone—teachers, students, and parents included—can understand. 

  • IMS CASE (Competencies and Academic Standards Exchange) Network is real, is working, and is already being used to reduce the lock-in and lack of innovation perpetuated by current proprietary approaches to align content to state learning standards. While many pieces need to come together to unlock this puzzle fully, it is clear that state and district leaders get it and are going to make it happen.

  • 1EdTech is rapidly moving forward to support the OneRoster APIs, LTI Advantage, Thin Common Cartridge, and CASE Network. No more guessing whether the integrations will work out of the box, what features are supported, and what metadata is included. 2020 is going to be an exciting year for standards-based interoperability thanks to the investment by IMS and key supporters in 1EdTech.

  • IMS continues to lead the world of assessment forward with a full set of developments. IMS QTI 3.0 is nearing public release—and has been widely hailed as yet another breakthrough in terms of accessibility, rendering, and support for technology-advanced and custom interactions. IMS is also in the process of releasing a Computer Adaptive Testing specification and a Proctoring specification. Add to this an extension to OneRoster to support Assessment reporting. IMS is working closely with CCSSO and other states/national agencies to help with the transition to this new version.

  • The IMS digital credentials work—namely Open Badges 2.0, Comprehensive Learner Record (CLR), and CASE, as a way to capture the frameworks—is opening up what I believe is needed most for the future of education, i.e., better ways to capture student achievement and for learners to tell their story to enable a lifetime of opportunity. 

  • IMS is cutting across K-12, HED, and corporate and informal learning. There was a time 20 years ago when it was clear that each of the sub-sectors in the learning space had to be treated independently without going insane trying to figure out the nuances. I would have been the first one to tell you that. But today, it is no longer true. In fact, overcoming the largely artificial barriers between sectors is key to getting to the new models we need in the future.

To summarize: We'll take this planet, shake it round. And turn it upside down. My supersonic rocket ship.

Okay, so that was really just more lyrics from the song. Stay safe, and Happy Halloween!

 

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IMS Global CEO Rob AbelRob Abel, Ed.D. | August 2019

"One is the loneliest number." —Harry Nilsson

"Without ongoing leadership and commitment from end-user and supplier partner organizations working together, no amount of standards-making or APIs will achieve the return on investment the education sector requires to lift all stakeholders toward educational innovation and impact." –Rob Abel, Ed.D.  
 
In the last Learning Impact blog ("Commitment and everything that goes with it"), I wrote about how achieving plug-and-play integrations in educational technology is best supported with a "pay to play" committed membership model. 
 
One can be a very lonely number when a single institution or school district faces the daunting task of supporting the innovation needs of all faculty and students while at the same time addressing cost and resource constraints. We often look to our fellow organizations to share knowledge and experiences we can trust. That is the norm. However, is it good enough? Alternatively, are we still mostly alone when it comes to the actual implementation of our institutional ecosystem? So a related question is, are we utterly reactive to developments in the marketplace, or are we helping to influence the developments in the market? It is tough to influence market direction as a single entity acting alone.
 
However, "one" can be a mighty number in the sense of "E Pluribus Unum," a Greek phrase that means "from many, one." E Pluribus Unum is well known as the motto of the great seal of the United States as they were forming from a set of independent colonies. At that time, the need for one coordinated effort from many colonies was not a nicety, but rather a necessity.
 
I think it is clear that if we want to propel education innovation and effectiveness for all students to the next level that an "E Pluribus Unum mentality" among the stakeholders is a necessity both in HED and K-12. Without ongoing leadership and commitment from end-user and supplier partner organizations working together, no amount of standards-making or APIs will achieve the return on investment the education sector requires to lift all stakeholders toward educational innovation and impact.
 
The 1EdTech ecosystem initiative created by the IMS Board of Directors was first announced in concept at the 2018 Learning Impact Leadership Institute in Baltimore. The idea behind 1EdTech is simple. Education leaders care about having a reliable ecosystem of innovative products they can configure to their needs efficiently and effectively. It is the ability to achieve one seamless ecosystem from the many diverse interests of end-users and suppliers that is the goal. 1EdTech focuses on ensuring we collectively achieve the end goal.    
 
While some of us wireheads know that the best way to get interoperability at scale across a highly distributed market (in terms of lack of a dominant set of suppliers) is having a really good set of standards that enable plug-and-play integration and a committed community that makes them a reality in practice. That, of course, is what IMS is all about, but the reality is that most education leaders are not going to care about tech standards. So even if they care enough to ask for standards, it is only a first step because even standards that undergo a rigorous community and testing process (like IMS Global's, which is the only one of its kind in the education space) have a wide variety of implementation in practice. Some of that variation is built into the standard for flexibility, but even more variability comes from incorrect implementation.
 
Fifteen months after the announcement, 1EdTech is now becoming a real thing beginning to be used by several of the world's largest edtech providers and by an early adopter set of school districts. All indicators so far are that 1EdTech can provide tremendous value to all stakeholders.
 
1EdTech right now is software that enables suppliers and institutions to efficiently, accurately, and transparently manage data movement. For school districts, 1EdTech is enabling them to achieve transparency into data movement and supplier requirements for data. For suppliers, it enables them to clearly articulate their requirements for data one time that can be used by all school districts to understand compatibility. For the IMS community, it is enabling us to understand, remediate, and evolve the standards so that they are truly plug-and-play in practice.
 
1Edtech is also likely to become a services integration strategy for a set of related IMS activities, like the CASE Network. The idea is that IMS has developed and will develop "utilities" that are for the purpose of understanding the fit of a product into a standards-enabled ecosystem. Today a person needs to be an expert on a wide variety of standards and yet the results in terms of plug-and-play integration are not as good as we would hope. Tomorrow, 1EdTech utilities will enable education sector participants to understand which products work together, what data they exchange, what features those data exchanges enable, and whether the exchanges are based on open standards. End-users will not have to be experts on LTI, Caliper Analytics, OneRoster, QTI, CASE, and other standards to get the benefits of a robust ecosystem of interoperable products.
 
The other area that 1EdTech will have a profound impact on is data privacy. IMS is already providing leadership in privacy through the IMS App Vetting and Privacy program that has been used to vet over 2,000 products so far. 1EdTech provides the transparency of data movement that allows all stakeholders to work together on privacy issues—and for parents and students to protect data as desired.
 
Wouldn't it be great if taking the high road were also the easy road? The 1EdTech design is based upon input from a broad array of IMS members—and I believe 1Edtech will make the lives of suppliers and institutions much easier than it is today in terms of ensuring digital on day one and instructional impact.  At least that is what we see so far.
 
Something like 1EdTech is only possible because of extraordinary leadership. I especially want to thank the initial set of school districts that are putting in the extra time and effort to help us get this right. We're keeping this pretty low key on purpose to ensure we get it right before scaling it up. So far, it looks like 1EdTech is something that the IMS members will be very proud of and we hope to have all of you benefit from it as soon as possible.
 
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IMS Global CEO Rob AbelRob Abel, Ed.D. | July 2019

"Commitment, and everything that goes with it"—LeAnn Rimes

“This is the type of collaboration where the parties commit to a long game of development, adoption, and ascertaining of impact.” —Rob Abel, EdD.
 

In the last blog (“Won’t you give me a reason why?”), I wrote about one of the ongoing challenges of achieving effective use of technology in teaching and learning, namely that a “how” or “what” without a clear “why” typically leads to low adoption, low impact, and lack of sustainability. Leadership in edtech—whether at the institutional level or the sector level—requires achieving clarity of “the why.”  

The “whys” in edtech have quite a range in terms of their profundity, ranging from the straightforward need to support faculty in what they want to do, to how do we leverage data in a way that is fair, unbiased, and effective? Thus, collaboration with peers/colleagues you can trust can help refine the whys. 

When you are a person responsible for making edtech happen at scale, the whys very quickly lead to the hows and whats. The hows and the whats may simply be a matter of choosing among the market options and learning from the choices made by your peers. Again, collaboration you can trust is helpful.

But, what if the “why,” “how,” or “what” is more significant than you can solve on your own? What if they require substantial movement/change in the market? For instance, how do we provide support for a wide array of innovative tools desired by faculty and students via seamless integration while at the same time ensure high quality, actionable, transparent movement of data? Achieving the answer to that requires a committed collaboration that is about creating significant marketplace changes. IMS is all about enabling those changes by attracting a committed, trusted, and effective collaboration of institutions and suppliers who are dedicated to the proposition of high-performance plug-and-play interoperability using open standards.

This is the type of collaboration where parties commit to a long game of development, adoption, and ascertaining of impact. It requires long term involvement among committed partners—those that can move and sustain market change. It’s essential to understand what this is not. It is NOT throwing some standards out to the marketplace and hoping that it will change something. We’ve been through 20 years of that, and it hasn’t worked. Worse, it’s actually hurt in terms of the most serious parties pretty much ignoring all standards work because it just hasn’t resulted in an adequate return on investment—custom integrations were still the coin of the realm with at best lip service to “standards” as needed to respond to RFPs.

Today, things are different. They are not as different as we want—we still have a ways to go. But, thanks to the IMS community, there are a set of leaders (spanning institutions and suppliers) that are committed to changing what happens across the sector for the benefit of their own organization—as well as all those desiring to gain critical mass in enabling new models of education. Do we agree on everything? Of course not. But we are genuinely collaborating in a way that has fundamentally changed the technology experience and gives us hope beyond what any of us can achieve on our own, shaping the future of the edtech ecosystem.

More than six years ago I wrote a blog that detailed why IMS Global’s “pay to play” membership model was the best way to enable the changes we seek (Seven Reasons Why A Membership Model is the Best Way to Get to Open Standards in Education). I’m delighted that our impact and growth since then—which were by no means assured—have helped validate those ideas. Thank you for making it all possible!

 

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