Learning Impact Blog
Some of the best interoperability standards capture the “dah” situations where custom integrations just add cost and little to no value beyond what a standardized integration brings.
Every K-12 student system, learning platform and application (of which a large district is dealing with hundreds) all solve the same problem – synchronizing the information on the courses, the teachers, the students – in terms of who should have access to what (aka authorization to tech people). But, they all solve it differently.
This has turned out to be the cause of massive time, cost, headaches for school districts.
IMS Global has many years experience addressing forms of this problem in higher education. One of IMS’s oldest and most widely used specifications is something that is now called Learning Information Services (used to be called IMS Enterprise back in 1999 when it was first created). About three years ago IMS members doing some work in the state of Delaware began collaborating on a simplified and extended version of LIS for K-12.
Not long afterwards (about 2 years ago) Orange County Florida (George Perrault) came to IMS with the same issue – but a higher sense of urgency. People in districts who are responsible for the availability of curriculum material (usually a pretty small group or many times even one person) have been drowning in this problem for a long time. The thing is that George saw a solution to the problem and recruited a trusted supplier (Classlink) to help implement the solution while working with IMS. The net result is OneRosterTM. One set of file formats and RESTful web services to exchange roster information. The advantages of OneRoster are clear:
1. No longer needing to spend the time and money to support all the special rostering formats of all the different EdTech products, publisher content and apps.
2. The district has complete control over their roster information and decides which applications receive which portions of the data.
3. It’s an open standard from IMS Global – so ability to add/upgrade/switch among the very large IMS Global ecosystem is a given.
4. When used in conjunction with IMS LTITM (Learning Tools InteroperabilityTM) to launch and communicate with the rostered apps, a seamless foundation for providing insight to teachers, students and parents with respect to engagement and progress is established (an advanced topic that is the academic motivation for connecting these apps in real-time).
There are a few districts and suppliers that are implementing OneRoster now, with plans of at least 30 leading districts to go live in Fall 2016. Indeed, school districts, led by Brevard County Florida, have organized their own “pledge site.”
When you find the “dah” everyone agrees – institutions and suppliers. I was pleasantly surprised along this OneRoster journey that even the suppliers were tired of the myriad of formats. This is a good sign: Suppliers are realizing that it is better to expend resources on improving the digital apps, tools, content than on myriad custom integrations. This is exactly what standards are meantto do: Shift the investment from the connectivity so that it can go towards the quality of the products.
But, K-12 suppliers planning to be ready to implement OneRoster in time for Fall 2016 back to school need to get ready now. IMS is facilitating a special hands-on boot camp and plugfest for OneRoster at the IMS quarterly meeting the week of February 22 at University of Maryland, University College.
At the February quarterly meeting OneRoster session, leading OneRoster supporters, such as Classlink, HMH, McGraw-Hill, Pearson, SAFARI Montage and others will be there to help the IMS community members learn how to implement OneRoster and perform conformance certification.
At the May Learning Impact Leadership Institute in San Antonio, Texas a follow-up session will be held, including witnessing of the plugfest results by IMS district members.
Hope to see you in February and May!
Well, while there is no way to know for sure, I would put good money on IMS Global being the most rapidly going of any major tech standards consortium around the world. Indeed, most tech standards organizations we know of are at best flat to down – some way down. Unfortunately, many other education-related standards activities have perfected the art of treading the same old tired waters of highly restrictive standards created by a few "standards experts" rather than the marketplace.
Bucking the trend, 2015 was another year of record growth for IMS Global Learning Consortium. IMS added 65 net new members bringing the total member organizations to 339 at end of year. As many of you know, IMS had a total of 50 members in early 2006. So, in 10 years we are roughly at 7x and, of course, are adding more members a year now than we had total in 2006.
Why is IMS growing so rapidly? IMS is a key factor in sector advancement in several very important areas: scalable adoption of digital learning tool/app/platforms, learning analytics, digital educational credentials/competency-based education, e-assessment and integrated digital curriculum.
What is the effect of this growth? IMS is having a very positive impact on the educational technology sector. And the reach is growing. In 2015 IMS presented 50 times at major events! Not counting our own. Almost 1000 people attended IMS events in 2015. IMS continues to grow its collaboration with high quality partners such as EDUCAUSE, APLU, AACRAO, Internet2, CNI, C-BEN, ISTE, CoSN, The Council of Great City Schools, IDPF/ePub, W3C, Mozilla Foundation, MacArthur Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
At least as important is the amazing uptake of the IMS standards in the EdTech sector. Believe it or not, there are now over 70 learning platforms (of a wide variety) that are IMS certified as consumers of LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability). There were a total of 157 conformance certifications issued by IMS in 2016 – roughly 3 a week! Here are now more that 375 products that have been certified. You can take a look at the new Product Directory section of the new IMS web site, available at imscert.org.
Speaking of the new web site: Wow! Lot’s of work for all concerned – but well worth it. It is a lot easier to understand the IMS Initiatives and IMS Technical work, not to mention the different opportunities for membership, supplier leadership and institutional leadership.
All of this is possible because of the leadership and investment made by the IMS Member Organizations. IMS is primarily about one thing: The education sector leading and taking responsibility for the shape of the EdTech ecosystem of the future. Everyone invests a little and gets a lot in return by collaborating on the open EdTech ecosystem.
I am very pleased and proud of the breakthroughs the members are making every day! 2016 is going to be another great year as the open EdTech ecosystem continues to grow and revolutionize the ease with which innovation can make its way in education institutions around the world.
2015 was so busy that I found it difficult to find time to update the blog. Fortunately, IMS’s growth has allowed us to add some great staff, in addition to those you already know and love. I’m hoping to write more frequent, brief blog posts to let you know about the IMS Global priorities and accomplishments.
Educause Review Online - Progress Report on CBE Standards
IMS Global, in collaboration with C-BEN, the Competency-Based Education Network www.cbenetwork.org is leading the development of prototype technical standards for CBE. Working with the contributing members below and numerous institutional members, the CBE Standards team led by Dr. Jeff Grann of Capella University are developing prototype standards for common use cases to manages competencies and exchange data.
In addition to working through thorny data exchange issues with CBE, the working group has undertaken an ambitious proof of concept for a digital Extended Transcript, following guidance from AACRAO and an assembled group of registrars and subject matter experts led by Joellen Shendy, Registrar of University of Maryland University College. “eT”, as it is called, was developed by Learning Objects and Accreditrust for the project and implements a JSON-LD digital document designed by IMS chief product architect, John Tibbetts. Look for a demonstration of the Extended Transcript at Educause.
The collaboration with C-BEN is part of a Bill and Melinda Gates funded project called TIP – Technical Interoperability Pilot, an R&D project underway through 2015 with thirty-five C-BEN institutions that have, or are, implementing CBE programs. The project’s goal is to speed the delivery of high quality, interoperable software for CBE to the market. For an in-depth understanding of the C-BEN project, read this recent article in the Educause Review online: http://er.educause.edu/articles/2015/10/competency-based-education-technology-challenges-and-opportunities
It’s early days for the formation of interoperability standards for CBE but the group has made marked progress toward its goals and IMS is committed to continued leadership in standards for CBE and digital credentials.
IMS partners with Mozilla Foundation to accelerate adoption and interoperability of badges in the education and workforce sectors.
“We are pleased that IMS has decided to partner with us to help with the evolution, adoption and promotion of Mozilla Open Badges,” remarked Mark Surman, Executive Director, Mozilla Foundation. “IMS has a unique focus on educational technology worldwide that we’re sure will enable substantial progress.”
We’re calling it the IMS Digital Credentialing Initiative (announced today here), IMS DC, but most people are probably just going to call it IMS Badges.
Many thanks to our friends at Mozilla Open Badges, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Badge Alliance for helping make today’s announcement possible.
Everyone knows that IMS is always leery of technology that is overhyped in the education sector (see Learning Impact keynote focused on “disruption” and the hype cycle). New technologies are just tools. It’s really all about how those technologies support where education needs to go.
Two hot topics that are receiving a lot of hype these days are Competency-Based Education (CBE) and Badges (meaning digital badges ala the Mozilla Open Badges specification).
Interoperability is the thing IMS tries to get right for our community/eco-system. Interoperability is all about enabling innovation at scale. Lot’s of great stuff can happen at small scale – but it is a foundation of interoperability that enablies leveraging of a community investment. Jumping in early in the cycle is not necessarily a bad thing – indeed, being somewhat ahead of the market is good for interoperability. But, our IMS members expect us to make good decisions with respect to what we focus our time and resources on. So, we are always using all our market engagement to determine if something receiving hype “has legs” and can “cross the chasm” into mainstream adoption.
However, IMS had already jumped into Competency-Based Education in a very big way and NOW will be making a substantial new investment (hiring 4 additional staff, the leaders from the group known as the Badge Alliance) partnering with Mozilla to advance educational badges.
IMS thinks that CBE and Badges are probably going to become intertwined as both progress into the future. CBE, at its most broad interpretation, is about relaying information about what a person is capable of doing, ideally including evidence. The current Mozilla Open Badges specification is, in our opinion, the best work so far in enabling a digital representation of the accomplishment and the rubric. So, IMS believes we can do something good with the combination of these two ideas, something that can apply to all levels of education (K-12, HED and Corporate Education/Training).
IMS also believes that that Badges have an obvious role to play in terms of what they seem to be used for mostly now – capturing some sort of extra-curricular activity that can be vouched for in some way.
What IMS will bring to this in addition to our 300 member organizations, our partnerships with AACRAO and C-BEN (Competency-based Education Network) is that we know a thing or two about interoperability. We also happen to have some leading specifications that are all about enabling capture of educational progress and data (IMS ePortfolio, IMS Learning Tools Interoperability, IMS Caliper Analytics, IMS Question & Test Interoperability) – see architecture diagram below.
Thus, our goal is to see if we can help establish badges as a common currency in educational credentialing in at large scale by providing the necessary interoperable foundation. In short, we think this is going to be a very productive marriage!
With the release of the IMS Global Annual Report for fiscal and calendar year 2014 I wanted to pass along a few heartfelt words of appreciation to the IMS members – a group of organizations that is reinventing the EdTech sector literally every day.
IMS Global is a very unique collaborative in which a collection of organizations that compete in the education sector agree to work together to advance the effective use of technology to serve education. Each IMS member organization, especially the Contributing Members (the voting members who are paying substantially greater annual dues and driving the IMS work agenda), understand that the goal is to help advance the entire sector.
Of course there are lots of other non-profit organizations where collaboration of various kinds occur. But in IMS the stakes are higher than most. IMS is constantly pushing the envelope on how to make educational technology more open and seamless across a myriad of suppliers and institutions. This goes against the grain and traditional wisdom of the platform dominance strategy that has been witnessed in much of the computing industry thus far in its relatively brief history (since the 1980’s or so). This sort of platform dominance is not going to happen in education as I have written about many times (see for instance here).
But, most importantly, the IMS members don’t just understand, they act. Everyone knows that the IMS staff is the best in the world at what they do. But, it is the development and adoption led by the IMS members that has gotten IMS to over 450 conformance certifications, including over 40 learning platforms.
Indeed, the growth curves for IMS Global are indicating that the IMS community is succeeding in deploying the shared architecture for educational innovation. In 2014 IMS Global added a net 56 new members against what had been a very consistent track record of adding a net of 20 a year for the prior 8 years. Twenty a year may not sound like much, but it is quite good for a standards consortium like IMS in an age that is dominated by “single-company standards” that are propagated for free under various tactics that support the originator’s platform dominance strategy. Even many “standards” activities and organizations are cleverly organized to give the appearance of distribution of control when closer examination shows a few primary beneficiaries. That is not the way IMS has ever worked or works today. IMS is truly a member-based consortium that seeks to provide benefit to all of our members (now approaching 300 as of this writing). And in IMS the voting members are equally weighted among institutional members (end-users) and suppliers.
So, my sincere “thank you” to each of the IMS members for paving the high road in developing the educational technology sector, and along the way enabling breakthroughs for how we all are thinking about “an architecture for educational innovation.” It has been a great honor for the IMS Board of Directors, the staff, and myself to play a small part in your momentous achievements so far – with many more to come!
See you at Learning Impact May 4-7, Atlanta! If you’re not going you are missing probably the BEST benefit of being an IMS Member . . . The Future of EdTech Starts Here!
Thanks for your leadership,
A little more than a month away, we could not be more excited about the 2015 Learning Impact meetings! May 4-7 in Atlanta, GA USA
Every year the overall theme is “Learning Impact” – which is IMS’s branding for how to apply technology to better support effective teaching and learning. Every year we look at innovative educational models, innovative technologies and the application of IMS’s ecosystem and open architecture to better enable these. We call it a “leadership institute” because leadership in EdTech requires understanding how new models, technologies and architecture are going to come together to enable the future – either within your institution, your products or your nation state.
As we get close to the event the IMS staff and members are working to hone in on the “hot topics.” For us this is about not just understanding but taking forward-looking action to advance the open architecture to enable educational innovation.
This year for the first time there will be a special set of wrap-up meetings at the end of the conference, one for the IMS technical community (see the IMS Technical Congress Summit) and the other for the IMS institutional community (see The K-20 Institutional Priorities and Collaboration Summit).
Here are some of the key themes we will be focusing on at Learning Impact 2015:
Digital Curriculum Strategy
What is your digital curriculum strategy? Answering this question is the leadership you need going forward. In addition to a lead off keynote from one of the world’s foremost experts on science and technology education, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, President of University of Maryland Baltimore County, we will have a killer K-12 curriculum leadership presentation and panel led by LeiLani Cauthen, CEO of the Learning Counsel (who has traveled the country engaging superintendents on the curriculum strategy challenge). Dr. Hrabowski’s presentation and challenge to the IMS community will coincide with the release of a new book he has written on the topic, “Holding Fast to Dreams.” The book shares a holistic view on how we must work to support the educational success in science and technology for all students. Attendees can get a signed copy immediately following his opening keynote.
K-12 community leadership in IMS on the digital curriculum strategy issue has been nothing less than phenomenal over the last year, receiving quite a bit of media attention. This leadership has lead directly to several breakthroughs in interoperability, namely Thin Common CartridgeTM and OneRosterTM. And, there are two other initial implementations that are likely to turn into IMS standards: mobile single-sign-on LTI and LTI search service. K-12 suppliers are responding nicely with a next generation of interoperable platforms, content and tools. Yes, there is a long way to go, but the directions are very promising – the right conversations are happening at leading institutions and the technology infrastructure is taking shape.
HED has only had small pockets of institutional leadership on digital curriculum strategy, since most decisions are made at an individual faculty level in HED. But strong leadership is occurring via organizations like the University of Phoenix and the Unizin Consortium. The strongest trend we are seeing in HED is the rising of the academic technology support groups to help faculty integrate, and in some cases develop, a variety of innovative learning tools (using LTI® of course!) to fit their needs. I expect that we will see and hear about lot’s of exciting developments from both traditional and up and coming publishers working on HED digital curriculum as we do each year.
Enabling Data 2.0
Data analytics is a hot topic in education in general and perhaps the hottest topic in HED. IMS is helping move the sector to what we call “enabling data 2.0.” What was data 1.0? Where we are now? Educational institutions have been largely figuring out what they can do with what they have, namely a lot of dirty data and ad hoc dashboards/alerts in a myriad of products. Going forward the question will be, “What is your institutional data architecture?”
IMS has been working with suppliers and institutions via the IMS Caliper AnalyticsTM initiative to provide both a framework and usable code to enable institutions to answer this question and suppliers to fit in. Caliper has made incredible progress over the last year with fielded systems now generating millions of Caliper events a week – all based on a framework that a diverse set of suppliers and institutions could agree on from the start. This has huge potential ramifications on getting beyond today’s dirty data machinations.
However, IMS is also tackling the issue of meeting the today’s dirty data world half way. IMS recently launched Caliper RAM (real-time analytics messaging) led by a marquee group of universities who have their own ideas on how to apply Caliper to rapidly evolve existing systems, such as learning platforms and data warehouses, to something much more useful to institutions than what they can do today. In the next year we will see the beginnings of profound changes in the data architectures of leading IMS institutions and edtech suppliers.
In K-12 we are already seeing movement of leading suppliers toward Caliper. However, institutions are primarily interested in getting enough “data” to power recommendation engines and support the overall trend toward greater flexibility in curriculum resources (see next item on Integrated Assessment).
What do we mean by Enabling? Simply that the effective use of data in education is in its infancy and therefore, while IMS has plans for scale, we are constantly honing in on big impact from very focused and simple data constructs – epitomized by something we have been calling the “engagement profile” (but really probably needs a better name).
In the U.S. since 2000 there has been an obsession with “no child left untested.” While the intentions were good there have been some unintentional consequences, namely focusing on tests rather than learning. In recent years the attempt to improve the situation with better thought out approaches, namely the Common Core standards and the Race to the Top Assessment initiative (which feature better curriculum models and much more innovative testing constructs) have been met with a lot of resistance because they still look like the same thing to most people.
In the meantime other parts of the world have come to the realization that paper testing that can be replaced by e-assessment should be, because of dramatic improvements in time to feedback and saving of processing costs.
From the IMS perspective there has been some very good news out of all of this that the IMS standards have had no small role in. Interoperable assessment alternatives make it possible to do what we are seeing convergence on, namely utilizing assessment of myriad types in myriad ways during instruction to get the data to students, parents and teachers – and thus help them directly. Some would call this “formative” assessment or “authentic” assessment. Interoperability of diverse assessment tools and item banks via standards like LTI, Common Cartridge, QTI and APIP are bringing together instruction with assessment in ways that gets us away from teaching to tests and toward rapid feedback to those that need it.
While much of the benefit of the above is in K-12, HED is also experiencing a resurgence of interest in e-assessment. Some of this is simply better integration, and therefore usability, of assessment products (formative and summative) – one of the strongest holdouts in terms of being “silo’ed” within the academic enterprise. But there are other areas of innovation in HED including adaptive content systems and emergent e-assignment products (areas of strong participation in IMS for years).
Digital Credentialing Options
Competency-based education (CBE) is another hot topic in HED. IMS is leading the way on interoperability of competency constructs for use within institutions. This includes digital extensions to the traditional transcript motivated by the very obvious fact that CBE will be most valuable to students if they can claim such on the official student record. IMS is working closely with registrars, academic leadership, IT and suppliers to move this forward in a pragmatic fashion. 2015 will be a year of substantial progress.
However, the above CBE/transcript innovation is really potentially a subset of a larger trend, sometimes referred to as “badges,” but what IMS likes to call “Digital Credentialing.” There is a strong move afoot to capture digitally a wide range of human accomplishment in many settings, including education and training. IMS has a long history of standards that are connected to this space, such as IMS e-portfolio, learner information packaging, etc. IMS is actively moving on plans in this area to be highlighted at this year’s Learning Impact.
And the Future Learning Platform Will Be . . . .
All of the above folds into our penultimate panel regarding the future of the learning platform, this year entitled, “What Will Become the Core Learning Platform for K-20 Education?” moderated by Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed. Please note that this panel has traditionally been a great predictor of where the mainstream will be in about 3 years (for instance see this summary blog post providing analysis that indicates Canvas is moving in the right direction and why).
As discussed elsewhere, we are expecting big movement in the next three years with respect to learning platforms in K-12, HED and cutting across. Some be a fun and insightful Learning Impact! The Future of EdTech starts here!
More than nine years into the IMS and I have to say that right now is the most interesting time regarding “the future of the LMS.”
Every year at the Learning Impact Leadership Institute we have an ending panel that is the place where attendees can hear the leaders of the LMS industry “tell the truth” (quoting Pearson executive from prior year). However, we no longer call this panel the LMS Smackdown because some prior participants objected to that connotation. So, this year’s session is entitled, “What Will Become the Core Learning Platform for K-20 Education?”
IMHO the future regarding the LMS has never been more uncertain across K-20 than it is right now. Here’s why:
- Canvas seems to be taking market share from everyone – high end and low end – but does Canvas have a sustainable business model? Is Canvas in market share grab mode much like WebCt, Blackboard, etc in the early days with the price increases coming down the road?
- Does Canvas success mean the beginning of the end for the open source models of yesterday, Moodle and Sakai?
- EDUCAUSE and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have neared completion of phase one of the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment (NGDLE) project – explicitly looking at what comes next. EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative Leader Malcolm Brown who has led this effort is moderating this year’s panel. Having participated in all three NGDLE face-to-face meetings I can tell you that there is unanimous agreement from institutional leaders that major evolution is required.
- Alternatives are numerous. There are now over 40 Learning Platforms certified as IMS LTI consumers and growing. They include traditional LMSs, MOOCs, learning object repositories, competency-based learning platforms, portals/mobile app launchers, instructional management systems and custom institution-specific learning platforms. Thus, evolution is happening at a rapid pace.
- Working on the NGDLE and seeing what is transpiring in IMS it is very clear that institutions want more than their ANY LMS can currently provide in many areas, a key one being as a provider of analytics. And they want it now. In some sense this makes one wonder why so many seem to be switching horses now when it is unclear how they get to what they want?
- Leading districts are adopting K-12-oriented Learning Platforms to organize their digital content – an absolute necessity going forward. School districts have 100’s of grade and subject specific learning resources moving to digital. The standard functionality they require is different than the HED LMS, but has some overlap. There are no clear front-runners or market share leaders yet in this new category.
- Due to the large number of digital resources noted in the previous point, the K-12 sector is AHEAD of the HED sector in several critical areas as it relates to content and platform interoperability. The K-12 sector is pushing the envelope when it comes to interoperability for mobile apps, metadata, search and recommendation engines. Things are moving much faster right now than the traditional HED LMS ecosystem is used to. Can the HED LMS’s keep up? Some are, some are not.
- e-Assessment, whether summative or formative, is much more important in K-12 than HED. Integration of world-class assessment is a critical success factor for K-12. But, there appears to be renewed interest in e-assessment integration in HED now, too.
- Since IMS standards allow all types of apps to interoperate, whether via an LMS or not, some districts are wondering if they need an LMS at all? Or just a portal/learning object repository?
HED + K-12
- Despite some differences, it is very clear that there is potential for convergence in terms of the learning platforms that could support HED or K-12. The HED LMS is short some key functionality needed to serve K-12 – but not too far off.
- It is 100% crystal clear that the developments in each sector are affecting the other. For instance, K-12 leadership in e-assessment and content interoperability is enabling advancement in HED e-assessment.
- The content as the LMS? IMS Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) has enabled content to be both the application and the learning platform. It is very clear that smart publishers will be providing lots of LMS-like functionality from within their content.
- More bespoke and customized learning environments. Interoperability make it easier to roll your own portal or LMS. Indeed IMS interoperability makes it possible to configure a set of the 40 certified learning platforms and 100’s of tools to configure a comprehensive set of functionality, old and new – including the multi-LMS institution.
In summary, my sense is that right now is when institutional leaders should be paying attention because we are rapidly moving into a new phase of “LMS.” It is time to understand what is possible and how the leading suppliers are enabling the future.
For suppliers my simple advice is that this new phase will require working very closely with your customers and future customers to give then what they need. You are going to need to move faster than in the past. Being able to adapt rapidly to your customer’s needs is going to be more important than large stacks of features built in.
We are very pleased to be at the forefront in IMS in making those conversations happen, and more importantly, putting the technical foundation in place that makes sustainable progress possible.
Two weeks ago Apple announced earnings. It was the biggest quarterly profit in history: $18 billion USD.
The success of Apple continues to add to Steve Jobs legacy as a legendary entrepreneur, visionary and leader. Jobs had so many insights toward the future. One was that computers should be as easy to use as toasters. And, Apple has clearly been at the forefront of usability.
One of the strategies Apple has executed on very well is “vertical integration.” Vertical integration means tight control over all aspects of the stack (software and hardware) that make up the whole product experience for the customer. Such control can maximize usability because there in nothing left to chance in terms of how things may fit together. For Apple this formula has contributed to great products that have set the benchmark for the industries Apple has entered.
Getting products from different suppliers to “fit together seamlessly” has been a challenge, even when suppliers choose to work together to deliver the stack.
I remember (many years back) how after hours of trying to connect an early model digital camera to my WinTel (Microsoft Windows OS, Intel processor) computer, and failing, I hooked it up to my Mac and the pictures just imported automatically. It just worked. More recently, when I switched from my Apple phone to an Android phone I was pleased with all the options I had – but it has also made things a lot more complex and confusing.
The egos of visionaries and product designers seem to go hand-in-hand with wanting to “go it alone.” Such personalities don’t have time to wait for others to catch up or tolerance for less than perfect fit, form and function. Perhaps oddly, however, great egos don’t have any problem using community work as the basis of their products if it makes sense (e.g. UNIX as the basis of Mac OS). They just create their own version. I don’t refer to “egos” here in a negative sense – as getting to a great product has often been driven by such individuals or organizations.
Therefore, in the real world these very admirable goals of (1) wanting to innovate fast, and (2) wanting to be the most usable, best, unique platform, cause a tension with working in a community to create what is in essence a community platform that anyone can get in on.
This has resulted in a lot of “half-hearted” support for community-driven interoperability standards (in many industries, not just education). A lot of product companies are sort of half-in and half-out. They’d like standards to make it all work perfectly for them, but that’s not likely to happen unless they can actually take the time to engage and contribute – so sometimes they engage just a little (when there is a clear benefit) and sometimes they want to just “be like Apple” (bring all the pieces together on their own, including customizing standards to support their proprietary ecosystem). After all, $18 billion profit sounds pretty good. And, hasn’t Apple created a huge, innovative ecosystem?
The bottom-line is that creating a truly seamless and productive user experience as well as scaling an ecosystem of innovation via a community model is definitely a challenge. A lot of things have to come together.
Why then do IMS community developed standards that enable a large-scale community architecture for educational innovation make sense?
- The education market requires greater innovation and diversity. A long history of market forces that have converged computing platforms to a relatively small number of dominant providers that evolves over time (today Microsoft, Apple, Android, Amazon). But, there has not been a similar dominance of just a few providers in the digital education sector. Indeed, just the opposite sort of evolution is occurring, where the diversity of digital learning resources, tools, platforms is growing dramatically (indeed, the success of things like tablets and app stores has helped make this happen).
- Usability is not as readily defined and achieved in education. When it comes to disaggregation and combination of digital learning resources, tools, and platforms there is no known, simple, proven formula. It is not clear exactly what the components need to be and how they need to interact. Some things are relatively clear, but many are not. To get to success educational buyers must maintain a lot of flexibility into the future. They must be able to experiment and evolve efficiently. This inexactness of how best to achieve an end goal of more effective and personalized learning is daunting for even one institution or school district. It is compounded significantly when one takes a global view and realizes that most educational ecosystems (and goals) are regional in nature.
- Innovation must be much more efficient in education. The combination of the realities of #1 and #2 imply that creating the seamless user experience – the one that makes the digital experience efficient, effective, viable – must be achieved across a very broad and flexible ecosystem. Institutions have no choice but to require choice as we evolve to digital education resources and experiences. But if choice is too “expensive” (expensive here meaning too difficult for teachers, student, administrators to adopt) then innovation is stymied.
In IMS we see these forces at work everyday. It’s pretty clear. What will lead to an “Apple-like” usability and innovation vision for technology in the education segment? It requires a very community-driven, non-Apple-like strategy. The strategy is to build a community ecosystem of products that can work together efficiently and effectively while we also further our individual products and institutions.
From the institution’s perspective the desired strategy for a supplier is to fully embrace the community ecosystem and drive it as the suppliers own. Don’t just dip in half-heartedly when it helps your business. Be part of accelerating the progress by making the community interoperability the primary interoperability your organization invests in. Make the 1-click integration of IMS ubiquitous and work with the community to make it better. That is what will help your customers get to where they want to go.
We have seen a small handful of suppliers really do this well – and in every case it has resulted in tremendous business success. The customers see the value.
In the education sector, whether you are a supplier of products or a service provider (for example IT, curriculum, academic services) to those using the products, there is no better way of putting your customers first than by helping to make the plug and play ecosystem of innovative resources, tools and platforms a reality.
If your organization has its own “special” versions of standards and aren’t working with the IMS community to truly participate in and build the plug and play ecosystem at scale – well – unfortunately you are not helping your customer build the future they require.
I hope to see you at our upcoming face-to-face meetings!
23-27 February 2015
IMS Quarterly Meetings, IMS Boot Camps, EDUPUB Summit and Showcase and EDUPUB Summit Day 2 - IDPF & Readium Implementation Plans University of Phoenix - Tempe, Arizona
1 March 2015
Special IMS Global e-Assessment Workshop Rancho Mirage, CA
4-7 May 2015
Learning Impact Leadership Institute Atlanta, GA