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Hap’s Got Apps! FAQ regarding the IMS Connected Learning Innovation Community and Challenge

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IMS announced today the winners of our first (of what we expect to be many) annual connected learning innovation challenge (aka app challenge – but this is a bit of a misnomer because the challenge is as much about platforms and tools as apps). And, our eternal hats off to Instructure Canvas for creating the idea for an App Challenge and conducting the first ever last year in conjunction with their annual conference.

We say “Hap’s got apps” because Hap Aziz is the IMS wrangler for this emerging education and learning app community.

Here’s an FAQ about the challenge, including plans going forward.

Q: How many entries and how many winners were there?

A: There were 22 entries and 5 top apps were selected as the winners.

Q: Where can I see the entries and the winners?

A: The winners are summarized in the press release and on the App Challenge Winner web page.  The winners and the other entries are also listed toward the bottom of the LTI certified product web page. You can also sign-up to get the (roughly) monthly CLIC (Connected Learning Innovation Community) newsletter here – which will have features on the winning and other notable apps as well as community news.

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Q: Who chose the winners and how were they chosen?

A: Many thanks to a panel of expert evaluators , primarily institutional leaders, but a few suppliers, who developed a rubric for the evaluation. My understanding is that there was excellent convergence on the winners.

Q: Are these “apps” like the kind of apps available on Google Play or iTunes?

A: No – these IMS app challenge apps are generally a lot better because they are powered with LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability). That’s because these are apps that can connect into over 25 different learning environments/platforms including all of the major learning management systems. Thus, these are “cross-platform” apps, unlike Apple or Google apps which generally only work on Apple. Or Google. In addition the IMS app challenge apps exchange highly useful information with the over 25 learning environments/platforms, such as user information, rosters, progress data, etc. So, the IMS app challenge apps are real enterprise learning apps and not the sort of limited individual user apps  people download to their mobile device from PlayStore or iTunes.

Q: “Could” mobile apps such as those downloaded from Google Play or iTunes become IMS LTI Apps?

A: That’s a bit of a complicated question because it involves software architecture and software architecture limitations of the operating systems involved, but the general answer is ‘yes’. The web-hosted “back-end” of mobile apps as well as the apps themselves could potentially leverage LTI (and/or other IMS standards) to connect to learning environments/platforms. To date we have not had any great examples of this but it is only a matter of time before it will happen.

Q: Was there money or other recognition involved in the Challenge?

A: Yes, each of the top five will receive a $1000 prize and also will be recognized at the IMS Learning Impact Leadership Institute May 5-8, 2014 in New Orleans.  There will also be a plenary panel and entire track on connected learning at the event, facilitated by Hap Aziz, with many of the entrants and evaluators as participants.

Q: Where did the money come from?

A:  A huge debt of gratitude is owed to the organizations that were financial supporters of the challenge and community. They made it possible.  Cengage Learning, Ellucian, Follett, Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne, Instructure Canvas, McGraw-Hill Education, Oracle, Pearson, University of Maryland Baltimore County, and Vital Source.  The initiative requires ongoing support and if your organization would like to sponsor in the future, please contact us at leadingchange@imsglobal.org.

Q: Were you pleased with the quality of the entrants and winners?

A: Very much so. The winners were a mix of small (including tiny) and larger organizations. The top vote getter, Hoot.me, was an extremely innovative combination of the educational enterprise with Facebook. This reflects a trend in which innovative faculty want to take advantage of existing non-educational applications, but couple them with their campus software platforms.  And, all five of the top winners were similarly highly innovative in terms of what they enable faculty, students and/or administrators to do – and that’s what this is all about – making innovation easier!

Q: Isn’t a non-connected app just as innovative?

A: Nice try, but not really. “Innovation” is not just about whether an application is novel.  It also has to be useful (in fact some definitions of the word take into account adoption/usage as a critical aspect of innovation). Apps that are easy to access and use are a lot more useful in the education space than those that aren’t. Having to enter student roster data or having separate logins or going to a different URL for an app is not at all cool. But, more importantly, these extra steps detract from the innovativeness. Faculty and students need to focus on learning and not on configuring software.

Q: Is the IMS Connected Learning Innovation Challenge going to become an annual thing?

A: Yes. We are on an annual schedule of app boot camp for developers at our August quarterly meeting, promotion at Fall EDUCAUSE, promotion at Winter EDUCAUSE ELI and announcement of annual winners during the run-up to the annual Learning Impact event in May.

Q: Is IMS going to do more to make it easier to find apps than the current LTI catalog web page?

A: Yes. The Connected Learning Innovation Community is also sponsoring the Community App Sharing/Store Architecture (CASA) project. Indeed, CASA is more than a whitepaper!  It is open source software that is being developed by a collaborating group of IMS HED institutions, led by UCLA and the University of California System.  CASA is a breakthrough. It’s a peer-to-peer app sharing architecture that will enable institutions or suppliers to partake in a network of  cross-platform educational app sharing. The very first public demonstrations of CASA will occur at the IMS Learning Impact Leadership Institute May 5-8, 2014 in New Orleans. For more background on CASA see this post.

Q: Is the Connected Learning Innovation Community (CLIC) meant to be an open source community?

A: Yes. IMS expects that for those institutions or suppliers that wish to share and collaborate on open source apps, tools or platforms that implement the IMS standards CLIC will evolve into a vibrant software collaboration. We like to say that this is like “an open source community on steroids” because the software developed will run cross-platform. So, whereas the current open source collaborations like Sakai and Moodle have been and will continue to be great, this is a different kind of community that adds a completely new dimension of cross-platform/cross-community.

Q: Where is the K-12 community in this? A: IMS expects that K-12 institutions and/or states will begin to participate – it’s only a matter of time and resources.  HED has taken the lead here because HED institutions are developing lots of LTI apps on their own. And, HED is more used to these sort of development collaborations. But K-12 is coming.