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Reinventing EdTech Standards to Accelerate Education Sector Innovation

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Reinventing EdTech Standards to Accelerate Education Sector Innovation

The member organizations of IMS Global are reinventing how edtech interoperability standards are created, disseminated and applied.  And it is changing the edtech landscape for the better every day.

Recently I was on a panel on Emerging Software Architecture: LTI and Integration at LearnLaunch. This is largely a 

K-12 regional conference (Boston/Massachusetts) of about 700 people, revolving around the state of EdTech and the opportunities for entrepreneurs.  We had about 70 people in the room – about 80% were familiar with LTI (which in itself speaks volumes for the penetration of LTI into U.S. K-12).

There were three other supporters of IMS standards on the panel: Claudia Reuter (HMH), Stephen Laster (McGraw-Hill) and Leo Brehm (Newton Public Schools, MA). Very good group – and Stephen’s moderation made for a lively discussion.

Of course there was lots of talk about why standards are important and why they make sense as an underpinning of the future of EdTech. I pointed out that the growth in IMS (as detailed here) certainly would seem to be indicating that momentum continues to build.

But, I also reiterated that IMS, while certainly about standards, is more about being an organization where the facilitated collaboration/cooperation necessary to remove integration issues as a key obstacle to EdTech progress and innovation occurs in a systematic and effective way.  As my friend and colleague Chuck Severance put it so beautifully in a video interview a few years back (best as I can recall his words): “IMS/LTI is about removing the barriers in getting innovative products into the hands of teachers and students.”

The emphasis on removing barriers is a somewhat subtle, but critically important point. It is profound in its implications for how a standards collaborative like IMS operates:

  1. IMS cares a lot more about ensuring the necessary collaboration to remove barriers than we do about owning a standard. Being an organization/movement that is credible enough and strong enough to collaborate with sector heavy weights (suppliers and institutions) – and find workable solutions that remove the integration barriers thwarting innovation.
  2. Conducting a very hands-on approach to making sure interoperability works for suppliers and institutions on reducing the actual barriers they are encountering. Another way to say this is: By interacting with suppliers and institutions while new capabilities are being deployed and by applying a critical mass of engineering talent (from members and staff), IMS is ensuring that we not only have an approach to interoperability but hopefully, the best approach.  It is IMS’s firm belief that we can only get to having the best approaches by working real integration challenges with real suppliers and customers. Standards developed solely in a backroom with so-called standards experts pretty much fail every time – even if there is some government agency pushing/requiring them.
  3. Ensuring the success of diverse products from diverse sources becoming part of a successful open EdTech ecosystem.  Ask any IMS staff member what is the most important priority in IMS and they will tell you: “Making sure each of the IMS members can implement the plug and play interoperability that IMS promises.” IMS will literally drop everything to work with our members to solve integration challenges, especially if the products have gone through IMS certification, in which case we virtually guarantee that we will make it work.

Is IMS really good at all the hard work of publishing great standards and getting them approved nationally and internationally? Absolutely.  IMS is great at standards. And, this is definitely not a minor consideration: IMS literally has two decades of experience making sure our standards can span the world and stand the test of time and thus maximize our member’s investment.

However, the primary reason why the IMS member organizations are changing the world of edtech is that they are providing the necessary leadership in solving the integration issues that need to be solved to enable greater innovation.  

If you want to help lead the revolution, come join us!