Critical Milestone Met: Conformance Certification by Leading e-Assessment Product Suppliers

Today’s IMS announcement of the first group of winning products and organizations to undergo conformance certifications for QTI and APIP is a very, very big step for e-assessment interoperability worldwide. IMS certification seal

For years, no decades, the majority of e-assessment suppliers worldwide have been riding for free on the back of the IMS Question & Test Interoperability TM (QTI TM) specification. QTI has been a labor of love and importance within IMS and led by organizations such as SURF, JISC, University of Cambridge, ETS, BPS Bildungsportal Sachsen (BPS) and University of Pierre & Marie Curie.

These organizations, other than ETS, are not household names in most of U.S. education sector. But they tirelessly carried the load of developing really the world’s only viable interoperability standard for digital interoperability of tests, test items and associated results.

About two years ago the U.S. decided to invest in the Common Core learning standards for K-12 and also launched the Race-to-the-Top Assessment program to encourage states to cooperate on designing and delivering new electronic assessments in conjunction with the Common Core. Shortly ahead of that IMS collaborated with a group of U.S. states to define an evolution of QTI called APIP TM (Accessible Portable Item Protocol TM)which consists of QTI plus some new features to address requirements for special needs students. And, the Netherlands also began partnering with IMS to develop a countrywide initiative to evolve to e-assessment starting with one particular test (similar to the U.S. SAT or college entrance).

These investments in e-assessment have led to a dramatic rise in participation in QTI and APIP in IMS. If you look at the IMS membership list today it is arguably the who’s who of leading assessment organizations, certainly in the U.S. but also perhaps worldwide. The IMS APIP/QTI work over the last 2 years has been co-chaired by Measured Progress, ETS and Pearson with heavy involvement from McGraw-Hill CTB, ACT, Pacific Metrics, NWEA, Data Recognition Corporation and a variety of other assessment industry heavy weights. And in the Netherlands CITO has been leading the charge.

Life has been good. But market development and adoption of standards is always a kind of “chicken and egg” sort of thing.  As mentioned at the very beginning of this post worldwide assessment suppliers of many stripes had been talking up QTI for a very long time. Problem was that every supplier had their own version of QTI and therefore very little interoperability ensued. As we have discussed in other posts, this type of standardization does not deliver on the actual cost and time reduction that standards need to deliver on in the digital world. If conformance to a standard still requires lots of custom programming to get interoperability, well, then it isn’t a very good standard.

Thus, realizing this issues of “loose standards” running rampant in the ed tech sector the IMS members decided to get serious – and also save themselves lots of time and money in redoing integrations – by implementing IMS conformance certification. As we have discussed elsewhere, IMS conformance certification is not a marketing program (although those that go through it obviously do have the right to market that fact) but more of a “UL certified” designation of getting through a testing program. The conformance certification is much more than a “final test to the specification.” The conformance certification program is actually critical to evolving to the best possible specification for the needs of the marketplace. Typically only by going through the testing can the specification be refined and improved.  IMS has seen this process work over and over again with all our specifications the last several years.

The problem is that many vendors often kind of “hope for a miracle” many times with specifications. They hope that even without going through implementation and testing that magically a specification will work.  I think anyone that has ever developed software and does a little projecting of that experience on to a specification – that essentially must bring together the development process/experience of numerous software products – will realize that a good specification requires development participation and feedback from multiple vendors. The IMS conformance certification process – and ongoing developer community and related specification evolution (we call it an APMG: Accredited Profile Management Group) – is that “hub” where the development experience of the multiple suppliers comes together into a great specification.

It’s really a very simple concept but it is greatly complicated by the realities of new markets and new product development where suppliers are challenged to respond to the needs of their project deliverables and the needs to cooperate on the standards testing and evolution.

All that background so that you know that what IMS announced today, that five leading organizations have now completed conformance certification for APIP/QTI across a range of product types, is a huge step forward for the e-assessment community. By “community” we mean the suppliers and the states and end-users of e-assessments.  In addition to the leadership shown by the suppliers listed in this post, this milestone has required exemplary leadership from the end-user organizations that have been key partners in this, namely Maryland, Minnesota, WIDA, Smarter Balanced and the College Voor Examens Netherlands.

http://www.imsglobal.org/apip/alliance.html

We are still relatively early in the adoption of high quality e-assessment worldwide. But what today’s announcement proves is that leading supplier and end-user organizations can come together to enable all the many benefits of interoperable assessments (for a more detailed discussion of these benefits see What You Need to Know About e-Assessment).

It is now time for those organizations that have either gathered around the IMS QTI/APIP table or been long claiming that they are “conforming” to these standards, to contribute to the community by participating in the conformance certification process.

Today’s announced winners were:

APIP:

Platinum:Educational Testing Service/Computerized Assessments and Learning TOMS v3.0.0.0 PNP system (APIP v1.0 PNP Core Compliant) and Sample Students’ Instances v1.0 (APIP v1.0 PNP Content Core Compliant)

Gold:Pacific Metrics Unity v1.9 (APIP v1.0 PNP Core Compliant, APIP v1.0 Item Test Bank Import Compliant)

Silver:Computerized Assessments and Learning Test Delivery system v2.3 (APIP v1.0 Delivery Entry Compliant)

QTI:

Platinum:BPS Bildungsportal Sachsen GmbH ONYX Testsuite v5.3.1 (QTIv2.1 Authoring Compliant, QTIv2.1 Delivery Compliant, QTIv2.1 Item Test Bank Compliant)

Gold:Northwest Evaluation Association Formative Assessment Item Bank v14.1 (QTI v2.1 Item Test Bank Compliant) and NWEA SCIP v14.1 (QTI v2.1 Content Compliant)

The winners will be honored and presented with their awards during the Learning Impact Awards ceremony at the 2014 Learning Impact Leadership Institute 5-8 May 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA www.imsglobal.org/learningimpact2014/.

Here are some links to addition press releases regarding this important milestone:

ETS Assessment Management System Provides Standardized Platform to Manage Statewide Assessments

Pacific Metrics’ Unity Platform Earns IMS Global Learning Consortium Assessment Conformance Certification

http://www.imsglobal.org/apip/alliance.html

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

    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.

    http://developers.imsglobal.org/catalog.html

    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.

     

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      Why Does IMS Global Learning Consortium Publish an Annual Report?

      Today IMS released our annual report for the calendar and fiscal year 2013.   See the press release.  See the annual report.

      IMS annual report 2013 cover

      Producing an annual report is a lot of work – and these days when it seems like very few people have time to read one might ask why do we take the time and effort to do this?

      We first published an annual report for the year 2009 – so 2013 is the fifth edition.

      IMS annual report 2009 cover

      I think there were really two catalysts that got us to publish the report.

      The first was that after I came into IMS as the CEO in 2006 it became obvious that not even the Board of Directors much less all stakeholders in IMS were getting accurate financial data and other metrics on the organization. First we corrected the situation for the Board but then the Board also vowed that we should be providing this information to the members and the stakeholders.

      The second catalyst was Jan Posten Day, who at the time was with Blackboard, and is now with Pearson. As a member of one of our leadership committees in IMS Jan was adamant that IMS should have an annual report. At the time Jan suggested this we were struggling to keep the organization afloat and I pushed back on the idea because it just seemed like we could not pull it off.  But Jan’s insistence made an impression on myself and the other staff – and I think it was within a year or so that we dug deep and got out the 2009 report.

      As you will see in this year’s report, IMS has been growing nicely now for eight consecutive years.

      ims growth through 2013

       

      In fact, even though there has been quite a bit of churn in the member base over that time, the consistency in the net growth has been a little scary. It’s scary because we have looked long and hard and have not found any other similar growth pattern in organizations similar to IMS. Indeed during this same period most other organizations classified as “standards consortia” have generally been flat to declining. And, if you look at the historical patterns for standards consortia they tend to grow very rapidly when first originated and then flatten or tail off.

      So, IMS is an organization in unchartered territory. In my mind it is all about leadership in terms of which way it will go. IMS has provided a viable organization for those organizations, institutions and suppliers, who wish to evolve an unprecedented collaboration to new heights. Or, those afraid of the disruption that IMS is enabling may slow it down. Everyday I see forces on both sides of that equation and think it’s going to be very interesting indeed as we go forward.

      However, I assure you that, means willing, IMS will be publishing the report whether or not the results are as rosy as they have been.  Indeed when we began publishing the report we had no idea that the chart data would keep going up for the next 5 years!

      But, here’s why I think the report is useful and why you should give it a look:

      1. In one relatively short document you get a full view of the work of IMS – which is not easy to see if you are focused on one or a few IMS initiatives.
      2. You can see how the organization is doing in terms of building momentum and in terms of financial strength.
      3. You can get a great a very summary of the major thrust of IMS and the key initiatives – and a concise commentary on why we are doing what we do.
      4. You can see the individuals and organizations that are leading IMS.
      5. It is a format that can be easily shared with someone else whom you might want to introduce the organization to or update on IMS progress.

      IMS architectiure

      Hopefully the experience of perusing the report should give you a sense that IMS is indeed a non-profit organization worthy of your support because IMS is changing the education and learning sectors for the better.  And, if you look at the range of initiatives that IMS is undertaking you can feel pride in that your support has made this progress possible. I assure you that without your support this work would not have happened – not only not have happened in IMS, but most likely would not have happened anywhere. IMS is that unique in the leadership and collaboration for progress to the education and learning sectors.

      As with most “things IMS” the annual report is a testament to leadership. Not the leadership of the IMS staff, but the leadership of the IMS members, both organizations and individuals (like Jan Day above) who are insistent that we must do better in enabling the next generation of education and learning!

      IMS community

       

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        LRMI – the Shine is Off the Apple – Way Off in Our Estimation

        Fool us once shame on you, fool us twice, shame on us. Not going to happen.

        A Gates Foundation foray into educational standards, called LRMI. is looking for sustenance and IMS believes that, while there may be some small merit, there is absolutely no reason to think that LRMI is the focal point for the worldwide education and learning sectors of today or the future.

        The Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI) was started by the Gates Foundation (co-funded by Hewlett Foundation) 2+ years ago. The project aimed to create a mapping of learning resource metadata into a larger schema that the web search organizations (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, a couple of others) are collaborating on called schema.org.

        The potential breakthrough idea of LRMI was to enable encoding of learning metadata directly into web pages using what are called microdata formats. Thus enabling a standardized way for search engines to crawl and index learning resources directly.

        The LRMI project has been linked to the much heralded and now embattled InBloom project also funded by Gates, which sought to provide a platform for U.S. states to collect data on K-12 students via educational resources.  LRMI is potentially an important component in describing/finding such resources.

        InBloom (initially called the Shared Learning Initiative, or SLI) was the “fool us once” referred to in the blog heading. SLI, started by the same people in Gates Foundation as LRMI, was much heralded by some. But the methodology, if it can be called that, was one of working with one specific vendor to create an approach that was in competition with the other suppliers in the sector.  As such, SLI/InBloom attempted to create and establish it’s own set of interoperability standards – largely ignoring and certainly not engaging any of the existing educational standards organizations worldwide. There as much discussion with the Gates Foundation about this, but they chose their own path, which in our estimation was about 10x more expensive and much less likely to achieve industry adoption vs. working with established industry organizations.

        Back to LRMI.  Of course IMS and several other standards organizations worldwide have been working on and publishing educational metadata for many, many years.  IMS has generally settled on using an IMS binding to something called IEEE LOM (Learning Object Metadata).

        While metadata for learning resources is a great concept with great promise (such as finding the perfect “learning object”) there have been some very substantial issues in metadata standards over the last 20 years, including the following:

        1. Learning resources, broadly speaking, are difficult to characterize and learning ontologies are evolving. Therefore, getting agreement on how to characterize learning resources via standards is challenging.
        2. The infamous granularity issue. What sorts of things should have learning metadata? A book? An image? A sentence? A paragraph? Something with a clear learning objective?  This debate has been going on for about 20 years now at least and has never come close to being resolved as there are many different valid points of view. Thus, where is metadata to be added? At what level? How much?
        3. Obvious international variations in educational vocabulary make the challenge of arriving at agreed standards for metadata even more difficult.
        4. Creators of educational resources, such as publishers, typically are trying to figure out the best metadata representations internally for their collections of content – and that is their primary focus. They are not focused on making metadata consistent with other publishers except to the extent that metadata can help sell through digital outlets (and there are existing standards for that – see for instance ONIX).  And this metadata is typically much higher level than is needed for what teachers, students, parents need in terms of finding the right learning object. Thus, metadata production by content producers at the learning object level has been inconsistent at best.
        5. When you bring various types of “learning platforms,” such as LMSs, LORs, IMSs, etc into the mix – and their need to ingest and make productive use of metadata – the standardization problem gets even messier.

        Fool us twice.  LRMI, similar to InBloom, had been heralded as the new bright and shining star to save the metadata world. After all, since the U.S. states are agreeing finally on some Common Core learning standards all we need is for learning objects to reference those via web pages and we are all set. Right?

        Well, not exactly . . . . .

        Those that are digging deep into LRMI, such as IMS, are finding that it really isn’t all that special and is quite a step back from existing metadata work in the education and learning space. Now, before I delineate the issues with LRMI I need to make two somewhat positive points so that this post is not a total downer.

        First, if search companies can agree on metadata vocabularies encoded in web pages that we in the educational and learning sectors can leverage – well, that is great – and we should leverage that.  IMS members want to take advantage of that. We want to clearly understand the mappings between what search engines can look for and what educational resources and systems use.  So, the schema.org effort could be useful to us. And, we should attempt to leverage it even if non-optimal. For the reasons listed below, however, it is a poor choice for our primary metadata vehicle.

        Second, IMS sees some very clear positive steps that can be taken with respect to improving the adoption of educational metadata to aid what school districts and universities want to achieve with digital resources. The reality of digital in education is that it has been slow in terms of adoption but things are really taking off now. This means that we have the “practice” we need to get better metadata adoption.  In fact, IMS has a draft document that captures a best practice that we think will evolve into a ubiquitous U.S. district standard (and perhaps wider – but we will make no claims at this juncture) and addresses the mapping to schema.org per the prior point. The draft is posted here.  Note: IMS is not creating new metadata – we are simply applying constructs that are already widely accepted.

        IMS members have been evaluating LRMI for its suitability. We have published prior evaluations (see for instance here).  The reason for the timing of this blog post is twofold: (a) the rubber is really hitting the road in IMS these days with the strong adoption of  IMS LTI and Common Cartridge driven by the adoption of digital in general, and (b) LRMI is undertaking an effort to find a sustainable home.

        Here are the issues with LRMI and thus the reasons why LRMI is not the road forward for the worldwide education sector:

        1. LRMI is being promoted as a standalone schema for learning resources. However, if you look at how it is implemented in schema.org, it is not.  Schema.org is one big schema hierarchy in which LRMI elements exist.  However, there is no branch for learning resources. There is a good reason for this. On the web, anything could be a learning resource – at any granularity. And, schema.org wants only one vocabulary that fits everything.  However, see issue  #2 above – the historic issues with metadata granularity. Will LRMI make it easier to find learning resources or will it actually overload teachers and learners who are already overloaded? The LRMI folks market LRMI by using recipes as a metaphor, using schema.org to find a recipe and click on the fields to refine the search. The problem is that while there is huge historic agreement on the form of recipes (it hasn’t change in probably 100 years), there is not for learning resource ontologies.  And it’s very unrealistic to think there will be any time soon – it’s a new and evolving field.
        2. While the LRMI project is looking for a steward the reality of #1 above is that by definition schema.org is the steward for the LRMI elements and will make the decisions about conflicts with other vocabulary fields for other uses. This will be true regardless of what other organization might be deemed to be the LRMI steward. So, by definition LRMI puts the education and learning sector vocabulary final decisions in the hands of a tiny number of very powerful search companies. Not acceptable to IMS and I think most others in the sector.
        3. LRMI has been driven entirely by the U.S. market and predominately the K-12 market in the U.S. per the interests of the Gates Foundation. It has not even begun to address the need to customize vocabularies for the needs of different sub-segments and regions. Because of the funneling into schema.org structure it is doubtful that it ever could.
        4. LRMI does not contain the level of specificity of metadata that will enable the most commonly desired K-12 capability: easing the ability to get right to a specific instructional resource.  This issue is covered extensively here. Thus, LRMI is at best a way to find resources using very high level search parameters – at best a “pre-search” at a very high level of granularity (even though what may be returned are things at all levels of granularity).
        5. LRMI does not address the needs of a myriad of enterprise learning platforms that are the more likely searching vehicle for teachers and students. The storing of metadata in microdata format on web pages is great potentially for search engines, but not what publishers and learning platforms like to deal with in the real world. Even most published content will not be searchable on the open web. Publishers may expose a catalog to be searched., not the actual pages of the book.  So, LRMI addresses a pretty small subset of the use cases related to educational and learning content.
        6. LRMI contains some obvious copyright violations and as such should not have ever been submitted to schema.org .  LRMI is a derivation of previous metadata work from at least three existing works, and perhaps more.  The specification is published with a Creative Commons license. How could a mix of derivative works from several sources be published without attribution or permission under a Creative Commons license? Something went very wrong here and needs to be revisited. Our understanding is that the specification was developed without any attempt to understand and alleviate any potential intellectual property issues (such as patents) that the users might encounter. This is a normal part of the development process of most reputable standards organizations around the world.  The lack of these two very basic IP process essentials during the development of LRMI makes it untenable as a basis for current implementation or future evolution.

        There are more issues, but the bottomline is that IMS will do it’s best to leverage whatever we can from schema.org without getting mired in LRMI. To right the LRMI ship would largely be a restart at this point.  IMS has some better ideas on how to achieve what the worldwide education and learning segments need to achieve greater adoption of metadata and we are pursuing those aggressively.

        What should you do about LRMI?  It’s very simple really. If you are a web developer you should look at the vocabulary fields in schema.org and just use the ones you wish. The fact that LRMI even exists is irrelevant to you.

        If you are an organization that feels you should have input into LRMI, you can – directly to schema.org. They are the decision making body. IMS will be very active on this front and we expect other organizations to do so as well.

        If you are a U.S. school district we suggest you leverage the work here for your metadata – which will leverage the schema.org fields – and, you can get involved in the evolution of this work through the normal IMS processes if you’re interested. If you are in U.S. higher education we recommend staying with whatever you are currently doing and if interested get involved in the IMS Community App Sharing Architecture (CASA) where we will be amending the K-12 metadata adoption work for the needs of HED.  If you are a supplier, see the previously mentioned work and also get in tune with the IMS/IDPF/W3C EDUPUB activity where we will be making recommendations for publishers/content developers.  Outside the U.S. we recommend staying with your preferred approach (for most that would be some variant of IEEE LOM or Dublin Core).

        Thus, LRMI, just like InBloom, despite all the marketing and bluster has turned out to be largely irrelevant in the real world of education. I think the moral to both stories is pretty obvious. Assuming the goal is to improve education and solve the real problems of technology adoption in education, these investments would have been much better spent in other ways.

         

         

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          Does IMS Have a Strategy?

          Please excuse the long time since the last blog folks.  IMS is adding a lot of new members and staff supporting an unprecedented array of exciting initiatives – which has kept yours truly very busy the last few months.

          We are now in the final push toward our annual Learning Impact event, May 5-8 in New Orleans, USA. While this is also a busy time we’ve got a great chance at the event and before to be talking about where we are and where we are going in IMS. We hope you will join the conversation! Consider this a first installment.

          The (perhaps) provocative title of this post is actually one that we are sometimes asked. After all, IMS is very much a “bottoms-up” meritocracy, like many other organizations that develop interoperability standards. Most of the ideas in IMS, and certainly the best ideas, come from the individuals that are participating on behalf of their member organizations.  And, IMS is a true membership organization (legally organized as such) that provides a level playing field for organizations of all sizes – a construct that we think provides a very good structure for what we do as previously described here. So, when the members speak – we listen – and usually act.

          IMS does have a strategy. IMS has an elected Board of Directors that helps formulate the strategy. But, the strategy is very organic, flowing and dynamic. New ideas brought forward by the members go through a certain “due diligence” that occurs by putting the idea in front of key stakeholders – those most motivated to act – and adjusting accordingly (including sometimes putting on the shelf until further interest). Having much experience in the venture capital world I will tell you that it is much like the funneling of ideas/business plans that every VC firm goes through in terms of the process of looking at the risks and opportunities involved.

          So, the resulting IMS strategy is a function of bubbling up, testing (against the critical concepts of adoption and learning impact) and organizing into something as coherent as we can make it given what is actually happening in the sector and various sub-segments.  And occasionally adding some key missing pieces that for whatever reason have not bubbled up – like for instance members not willing to share in an area that is actually good for them to share.

          For several years past this process unfolded into an IMS strategy centered on what we have called the “Digital Learning Services” standards, focused on (but not limited to) Common Cartridge, Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) and Learning Information Services (LIS).

          The strategic theory behind the DLS focus was that together these standards would solve a very large percentage of the integration challenges in/with the education enterprise.  And, in fact, while different pieces have evolved and been adopted at differing rates, we think this thesis has largely turned out to be on target.  See the accompanying charts on growth in IMS membership during this strategy and growth more recently in the conformance certifications that are the market adoption proof point.  Notice the 97 certifications in 2013 – almost 2 a week. So far in 2014 we are averaging close to 3 a week. In other words, this strategy is still taking hold, but clearly it is taking hold in a big way!

          IMSmembergrowth

           

          IMScertgrowth

           

          IMSpackagegrowth

           

          However, the IMS strategy has definitely shifted beyond DLS in the last year or so. First of all, e-assessment, an area IMS has had some activity in for a long while via QTI (and a subset of which is covered in Common Cartridge) became a hot area. The very simple idea that electronic assessments if done right are much more affordable and scalable than paper assessments coupled with the very obvious idea that there should be open formats to enable the e-assessment ecosystem of suppliers and states has come of age (both in the U.S. and other nations such as the Netherlands). Second, now that the IMS DLS standards are working – radically reducing cost, time, complexity of seamless integration – our attention is naturally now turning to what can be enabled with the standards.

          While there may not be complete agreement in the IMS community (given its size and diverse nature) over what we should be enabling with the standards, here are the current thoughts – and thus, the strategy going forward:

          1. The power of LTI (first v1 and now v2) to reduce cost and time of achieving seamless integration by 10-1000x will soon lead to 1-click integration.  IMS-enabled applications will be auto negotiating which IMS services are supported – thus revolutionizing the ease with which standards-based applications will be incorporated into the teaching and learning process.
          2. #1 enabling a very diverse open ecosystem of new types of learning platforms and applications and potentially rearranging the ordering of  integrations – very much an “app to app”  model of cooperation with or without a learning management “system” in the middle.
          3. Merging LTI with the IMS work on student information (LIS) and course planning and scheduling (CPS) exchange to continue to open up the educational enterprise via easy to use standards.
          4. Establishing and growing the “educational app community” – like an open source community on steroids that builds things that work across platforms (the “things” may be open source or not, but there should be tools to enable this that are open source). This is a remarkable new type of community indeed – suppliers and institutions working together across platform – kind of like the worldwide web but focused on the education vertical.
          5. Enabling what most refer to as e-books or e-texts as a highly interoperable format across a wide variety of e-readers/mobile devices for the needs of learning and education.  See EDUPUB.
          6. Making instrumentation / measurement of learning activities easy to enable collection of analytics – big and small data. See Caliper Analytics.
          7. Including everything we’ve learned and are learning about e-assessment across #4-6, meaning that we’ve got the standards to enable innovative assessment apps, enable assessment in e-text and the enable easy instrumentation of assessment in learning platforms and apps (via Caliper and the outcomes standards developed on QTI/APIP).
          8. Utilize the standards to create an open source reference implementation for a peer-to-peer app sharing framework that can be used to do, well, what it says – share apps with trusted partners and encourage using standards to do this – thus, the enabling of a standards-based “app store” or “app sharing” equivalent to iTunes, etc. See CASA.

          Perhaps though, most importantly, IMS is making great progress with our end-user/institutional led groups to ensure that all of these initiatives are in fact getting them where they want to go.  Our K-12 district advisory board (I3LC) continues to grow and our new HED connected learning advisory board is shepherding the app community, the app sharing architecture, analytics and competency-based learning initiatives.

          Hopefully you will see the evolution of the IMS strategy in the above. The IMS community is making change happen in some very substantial ways and I invite you to partake at the May 5-8 Learning Impact event – where the breakout tracks mirror the strategy areas above and the plenary sessions undertake the broader discussion  of “why” we are doing this in terms of the emergent models of education that we wish to enable.

          IMSLearningImpact

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            2013 LIA Report

            How is the IMS Learning Impact Report different than the Horizon Report?

            Today IMS Global announced the release of the Learning Impact Report. The Learning Impact report endeavors to provide an analysis of the winners of the IMS Learning Impact Awards (LIAs).   The LIAs have been an annual global competition since 2007. However, this is only the 2nd report – the first was a brief summary analysis released in 20102013 LIA Report.

            As opposed to awards for the latest and greatest products the LIAs are based on evaluation of use of technology “in context” at an institution, a state, or sometimes across an entire nation or continent. The context provides evidence across eight dimensions of impact that experts use to provide ratings that are used to select the winners.  The judges select the winners – IMS does not. The idea behind the analysis provided in the Learning Impact report is that by looking across the winners in the current year, as well as historically, can provide some insight into the types of projects, initiatives, and R&D that is having impact or impact potential.

            The other important factor to understand is that IMS as an organization has over 15 years of history of being on the leading edge on pretty much every type of educational technology, including learning management, e-portfolio, e-assessment,  learning design, etc.  Thus the entries are somewhat over representative of developments ahead of the general market.

            The net-net of these factors is that we thought that there might be some interesting information  obtained by looking across the medal winners and the finalists (those selected to come to the Learning Impact conference to be considered for a medal). It is certainly very interesting to simply attempt to ascertain the high impact “project categories” – which we had to develop ourselves by looking across the nominations (as the submitters did invent these project categories nor were they asked to submit in a project category).

            We are hoping now to be able to release the Learning Impact report annually, largely because of the institutional leadership behind it (please contact me if interested in becoming involved in the annual report).

            Even though I feel that the above explanation is fairly obvious with respect to the uniqueness of what the Learning Impact Awards focus on, I wanted to provide here a bit of an excerpt from the Learning Impact report that helps explain how it is different from probably the widest read report on new technologies in the education space, namely the Horizon Report.  Here is that excerpt:

            In terms of comparison to other reports there may be a temptation to compare the Learning Impact Report to the annual Horizon Report(s), of which there are K-12, HED and regional editions. However, because the Learning Impact Report takes the approach of focusing on project types rather than attempting to identify specific technologies and their adoption timeframes (as is the nature of the Horizon Report), the two reports are quite complementary.  The reader of this report and any version of the Horizon Report can draw their own conclusions by comparing and contrasting the information provided. To illustrate, the following bullets are a couple of examples of how this Learning Impact Report could potentially help clarify technologies placed in the “one year or less” time to adoption horizon from the 2013 Horizon Report.

            • Massively Open Online Courses: The Learning Impact analysis would see MOOCs as a type of “Blended Learning Optimization” project. As shown in Figure 3A, these types of projects have not yet achieved mainstream effectiveness in the opinion of IMS. That does not mean that there is not a particular instance of a MOOC that has been effective. What it does mean is that from IMS’s perspective, based on the cumulative evidence, the widespread, high impact adoption of projects in this category is not apparent in the near term. Thus, we would potentially modify the Horizon Report’s findings by pointing out that (a) there are many variations of the Blended Learning Optimization concept that institutions should be considering depending on their goals (some examples of which are given in this report), and (b) these are not easy projects to implement at this point in time.
            • Tablet Computing: Tablets have definitely exploded onto the education scene. From IMS’s perspective we ask if indeed they are being leveraged to improve Learning Impact? In the 2010 Learning Impact Report we identified the category of Mobile Learning Resources as being in its early stages. However, in the current report we have eliminated that category because literally all other project categories need to in some way encompass the requirements of mobile devices. IMS has also seen some very innovative and high scoring projects that have had tablets as a primary platform, some of which are now appearing in the Platform Innovation category, but may also appear in other categories depending on the project focus. However, improving Learning Impact specifically from the deployment of tablets typically requires an adjustment of teaching and learning models as well as technology being integrated in new ways. Therefore, we have primarily seen pilot projects that require substantial resources to put in place. Thus IMS would conclude that while tablets are a given, achieving substantial impact requires further development.

            Finally, it should also be noted that in the production of this report IMS takes advantage of a unique viewpoint of the educational technology landscape facilitated by a flourishing collaboration among many of the world’s leading educational technology providers and institutions occurring in IMS’s many face-to-face meetings worldwide.

            To enter the Learning Impact Awards competition look here.

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              IMS: Enabling innovative new products

              One of the great things about the annual EDUCAUSE conference is hearing the many stories about how IMS standards have enabled innovative new software applications to easily integrate into the educational enterprise. You might think that IMS knows everything about every application of IMS standards. I’d estimate that we typically know about 1/3 of what is actually occurring “out there” – just based on some off the cuff measurement by how often we are surprised or not surprised by something we hear about.  The very weird thing is that sometimes the things we don’t hear about are really big adoptions of IMS.

              Anyway, please let us know what you are doing so we can help get the word out!

              Ray Henderson has recently posted this blog: My Investment Thesis for IN THE TELLING about a start-up he has invested in called “In the Telling.” As you can “tell” by the name the product has something to do with “stories.”  The more mundane name for what is being offered here is “flipped classroom” – use the out of class time to watch the lectures, use the in the class time for more meaningful interaction.

              Problem is that getting students to do anything out of class is a challenge these days. So, In the Telling provides a unique approach that helps the instructor create a story with narration. In essence they are creating a documentary of sorts that is more compelling than a simple lecture.

              I have not seen any of the output of In the Telling yet – but the idea is very intriguing.  As someone who has bought more than my share of “great lectures” on various media in which I never made it past the first 30 minutes . . . well, I think better ways to teach is what we need to be investing in.

              But, the crowning achievement with respect to IMS comes in the following words from Ray’s blog:

              COMPATIBLE WITH ALL MODERN LEARNING MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS: The Company designed their solution assuming that the launch point for most learner experiences would begin within an LMS. This is, after all, the way most assignments are made. The platform is built using the IMS Global’s open standard for systems integration—Learning Tool Interoperability or “LTI”—which most modern LMS platforms now natively support. Students can initiate sessions with the platform just as they might with any other assignment, and the same basic usage statistics recorded by the LMS are preserved.

              IMS is very proud to be a part of enabling the rapid rise of innovation in the edtech community!

               

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                IMS: from 10-100x Revolution to Connected Learning Innovation Challenge!

                Today, in preparation for EDUCAUSE 2013 in Anaheim next week IMS has announced the Connected Learning Innovation Challenge!

                The Connected Learning Innovation Challenge will feature IMS’s first ever “app challenge” and the establishment of a community of institutional and industry leaders that want to be at the forefront of encouraging a much more diverse and innovative future for educational technology – in real practice at real institutions – not as hype, but as tools that support what teachers and students want to do within the academic enterprise. Note: Kudos and salutations to Instructure Canvas to organizing the first ever LTI app challenge last May-June!

                The motivation for the Connected Learning Innovation Challenge is described in a just released EDUCAUSE Review article, A New Architecture for Learning,  that I was fortunate enough to be able to collaborate on with Malcolm Brown, head of the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative and Jack Suess, VP of IT and CIO at University of Maryland Baltimore County. The article talks about what we as an educational community need to do to enable greater innovation in the connected age and introduces an unprecedented commitment of cooperation among some of education’s leading associations to help make it happen.

                1 of 3 IMS Revolution Banners at EDUCAUSE 12

                IMS Revolution Banner at EDUCAUSE 12

                Last year at EDUCAUSE 2012 we introduced the IMS 10-100x Open Digital Innovation Revolution.  Is the revolution over? Just the opposite my friends – the revolution is burning like wildfire across K-20 education.  As of EDUCAUSE 2012 there were a cumulative 126 IMS conformance certifications. Going into EDUCAUSE 2013 that number is 210! Holy Toledo!  All conformance certifications are listed on IMSCERT.org.  It took roughly 3 years to achieve 126, but in the last year 84 new conformance certifications were achieved! And, the LTI catalog keeps growing – there are about 20 certified platforms now and a myriad of tools/apps.

                So, how does the Connected Learning Innovation Challenge relate to the IMS Revolution? The “revolution” is like the paving of the road. As more platforms and applications are based on open standards and can work together with 10-100x less integration cost and time than before, well, then a lot more attention can be put into innovative vehicles to use the roads!  So, the Connected Learning Innovation Challenge – CLIC – is the logical evolution of the revolution –  focusing on what most people care about: great technology that can support or enhance teaching and learning.

                To help understand CLIC, or to explain it to your colleagues, I’d like to provide the following talking points from my perspective (you can also visit the CLIC web pages here):

                1. CLIC is about institutions working together to figure out how to enable and sustain support for a diverse set of teaching and learning applications (or non-educational apps favored by faculty and students) that can no longer take 6 months to happen. Thus, CLIC is a collaboration to make something happen that many are institutions currently trying to do on their own – but makes more sense to work on collectively.

                2. CLIC will accomplish #1 through a few very targeted outputs/activities:

                • Competitions to identify and financially reward innovative apps and platforms supporting connected learning
                • Open source sharing community for sharing things that submitters and/or institutions wish to share, such as tools, frameworks, apps, app gateways, etc. Open source “things” built on standards can be utilized cross platform – so, this is the first ever cross-platform open source initiative anywhere!
                • A facilitated leadership community via listservs and newsletters to keep all interested parties abreast of the happenings, organize the core advocacy/leadership and enable organic growth. There will be app evaluation activities and other community milestones. As an example of organic growth, whereas IMS will be conducting large-scale challenges we will encourage regional/institutional level challenges in conjunction with tech fairs institutions or others may already be conducting.

                3. CLIC is NOT an IMS membership program. To lead, support or follow CLIC your organization does not need to be an IMS member. I’m sure lots of IMS member organizations will be supporting CLIC, and, of course the IMS members made all this possible. But, think of CLIC more like the original IMS initiative organized by EDUCAUSE back in the mid-1990’s. CLIC is a collaboration to make something happen without having a whole lot of formality behind it at the start other than the activities themselves. IMS has the chops to facilitate this, but we want it to go in the direction that the institutional leaders who get involved want to take it in terms of something more formal (or not).

                Now, I’m going to say right now, from day one, that getting the most out of CLIC for the educational community will take leadership from institutions. Educators and their institutions are going to transform education with innovative technologies – and the CLIC community should be very productive for those wanting to help lead that charge. IMS can facilitate CLIC and put some legs underneath it – but we need institutional leadership, guidance, ideas and resources in terms of time and even financial contributions for those institutions that can. The other nice thing that IMS can bring is a way to sustain and continue the progress that CLIC makes.  IMS is a solid organization that has a track record of sustaining and evolving innovative technical work even as leadership is handed off and evolved among institutions and suppliers. If you represent an institutional interest in CLIC, I hope you will consider becoming an institutional advocate as some of your peers are – and we are very thankful indeed – we should really be able to get 100 institutional advocates for CLIC!

                Finally, if you have not had a chance yet to view the short 3-minute video compilation of comments from Dr. Charles Severance of University of Michigan describing some of the motivations behind CLIC I highly encourage you to go to the CLIC landing page and view the video in the top left corner!

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                  What You Need to Know About e-Assessment

                  With IMS’s recent announcement of the upcoming e-assessment interoperability challenge we thought it would be a good time to discuss electronic assessment. Here is a Q&A with Rob Abel of IMS Global. Feel free to post additional questions and Rob will answer them (if he can)!

                  Q1: Is it time for electronic assessment in education?

                  A1: Yes, paper tests are more difficult to administer, take longer to process, are more prone to error and are not able to provide timely data to help improve instruction. Compared to a situation where paper textbooks may still have some usability advantages over digital e-books, paper assessments have no advantage at all over e-assessment.

                  Q2: Can e-assessment be used for summative or formative testing?

                  A2: Both.  E-assessment can be used for pure “high stakes test taking” scenarios as well as intermingled throughout other learning activities for formative assessment.

                  Q3: Is interoperability of assessment items important?

                  A3: Yes – very. In general digital assessment enables new forms of collaboration. For instance, in various countries around the world there is a desire to enable school organizations to collaborate on item development – since many schools are testing on the same subjects. Standard formats for assessment items enables collaboration on/exchange of items without every organization needing to use the same software platform for item creation and/or delivery. It is becoming pretty clear with historic collaborations such as the U.S. states on the Race to the Top Assessment initiative that the era of the “single delivery platform that outputs pdf” is coming to an end. With interoperability of assessment items enabled by standards there is no reason to be locked into a single vendor solution. Across the assessment community replication of effort goes down, investment in proprietary solutions ends and more investment is focused on innovation.

                  Q4: Does IMS have standards and a community focused on assessment interoperability?

                  A4: Yes.  IMS has two related standards that the assessment community worldwide should be making use of. The first is QTI (Question and Test Interoperability) and the second is APIP (Accessible Portable Item Protocol). QTI enables interoperability of assessment items and tests. The latest version is v2.1 which is the one that the assessment community is rallying around. A subset (profile) of an older version of QTI, v1.2, is used in Common Cartridge, which is a format for importing and exporting content into/out of learning platforms. APIP adds accessibility constructs to QTI to enable electronic delivery of a variety of accessible assessments.

                  Q5: What about other types of interoperability that might enable more effective use of e-assessment?

                  A5: Yes. There is a very compelling need to use interoperability standards to enable assessment software platforms to “plug into” or connect with other software systems. So, this is the “assessment software product” as an LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) tool provider, enabling the assessment platform to be seamlessly “launched” from a host system (like a learning management system). This type of “plugging in” can be useful in both formative and summative scenarios (depending on how the later is administered). We see at least four types of assessment products beyond the state level large-scale assessment that will benefit from this type of interoperability:

                  • Standard quizzing/test authoring and delivery software that are typically used already with learning platforms
                  • The increasingly popular “homework applications” or “adaptive tutoring applications” can be also be viewed as formative assessment platforms.
                  • Classroom test creation and scoring systems – yes, including those using paper and pencil
                  • Assessment tools used for competency-based degree programs, such as those used by Western Governors University.

                  Q6: What about interoperability of assessment data?

                  A6: This of course is also very important. QTI describes formats for item data – which describes how test takers answer questions. The latest IMS work on analytics – the IMS Caliper Learning Analytics Framework (see blog Q&A) – will leverage the QTI data formats as well as other assessment-related formats (e.g. gradebook data). Thus, assessment data can be provided “back” to a learning platform, an assessment delivery platform or to an analytics store.

                  Q7: What about authentic assessment in the classroom or project-based learning?

                  A7: Any type of educational assessment, including e-assessment, is just a tool. It is one source of input. In our opinion assessment should be used to improve teaching and to improve learning. Thus, e-assessment plays an important role because it can provide real-time or near real-time feedback in a very transparent way – on a question by question basis (QTI enables such feedback), for computer adaptive testing or simply faster processing of an entire quiz or test. And that feedback can go to teachers, students, parents, etc – whatever makes the most sense. And, initiatives like Race to the Top Assessment are folding teacher evaluation of various “performance events” into the assessment mix. Mobile platforms and interoperable apps could obviously have an very important and innovative role to play in that regard as well as all types of assessment wrapped into apps or otherwise. We’ve already seen some fascinating use of QTI in the mobile setting via the Learning Impact Awards.

                  Q8: Why has IMS announced a Worldwide Assessment Interoperability Challenge?

                  A8: Use of interoperability standards such as QTI in the past has been rather flakey in that each supplier implemented different versions and different subsets of functionality. Very few assessment product providers provided feedback to IMS to enable the issues to be resolved.  As a result, interoperability was limited.  Things have turned around radically in the last few years in that IMS now has some 25 or so world-leading providers of assessment products actively involved in implementing QTI and/or APIP. As a result, IMS has been able to finalize these specifications and conformance certification tests that will result in high levels of interoperability. The “challenge” is our way of saying to the world that we have a very strong core set of suppliers who have agreed to achieve conformance certification together over the next few months. Please come and join in for the good of your product development efforts and the good of your customers who desire interoperability that really works.  The extra added “bonus” for participating is entry into the annual IMS Learning Impact Awards under special assessment product categories. Details on the “challenge” are here: http://apip.imsglobal.org/challenge.html

                  Q9: What if a region of the world wants to work with IMS on a regional profile of QTI or APIP?

                  A9: Yes, IMS is set up to facilitate that and is in fact in partnership in the Netherlands for the last two years on such an effort regarding national exams.  Feel free to send us an email at assessmentchallenge@imsglobal.org

                  Q10: What do you see for the future of e-assessment?

                  A10: We are at the very beginning of a long road ahead filled with many exciting product opportunities.  As with many of the other IMS standards, like Common Cartridge and LTI, we are going to see a very dynamic evolution based on market needs of QTI and APIP. For instance, one of the other application areas we are working on at the moment is QTI application to e-textbooks. E-assessment will permeate every aspect of digital learning materials and activities – with an emphasis on adaptive testing to help pinpoint where additional alternative materials and activities are needed. And, with the undeniable trend toward competency-based learning paths and credentialing the need for better assessment is increasing. As with all of the IMS focus areas the key will be for the technology of assessment to “get out of the way” and be simple and easy to use and benefit from.

                   

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                    Q&A w/ Rob Abel: IMS Analytics Interoperability Framework

                    This blog post is an interview with IMS’s Rob Abel to get to the bottom of IMS’s recent announcement of its Caliper Analytics Framework.

                    See related post on “small data”.

                    Feel free to post additional questions and Rob will answer them (we hope)!

                    Q1: Is this project/announcement a big deal?

                    A1: We’ve got a lot of very impactful stuff going on in IMS these days, but enabling widespread adoption of analytics is one of the top priorities of IMS – with a mandate coming right from the IMS Board of Directors. But, perhaps more importantly, if we want to gain the full potential benefit of analytics and dashboards in education we need to make sure it is relatively easy to enable the transmission of data from any applications that can provide useful data. Interoperability standards, if done correctly, can help enable this.

                    Q2: There is lots of work going on in analytics, dashboards, etc.  Why is this a credible entry into the analytics space by IMS?

                    A2: Several reasons. IMS has had a relatively unique focus on one of the potentially more fruitful but challenging data collection areas of learning applications and platforms. IMS knows this turf well and brings a large critical mass of members that cover a wide range of product categories and institutional needs. IMS also has a large installed base of applications already using its core standards, such as LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability), Common Cartridge, LIS (Learning Information Services)  and QTI (Question and Test Interoperability). In other words, data is already flowing via these specifications, which are providing conduits upon which more data can ride.

                    Q3: What is the focus of the analytics initiative versus other IMS specification work?

                    A3: IMS has a bunch of fast moving task forces and leadership groups that work on applications of standards. This analytics work is coming from such a group that has been in existence about a year, but leveraging off of years of work by IMS in specifications for outcomes data for a variety of purposes – ranging from scores to gradebooks to assessment item data.  The purpose of the analytics effort is to actualize many implementations of analytics feeds in as many products as rapidly as possible, adding a few new bits and pieces, but largely leveraging existing work. In fact, the first proof of concept demonstrations will come very soon – at the next IMS quarterly meeting the week of November 4.  There will be a Summit day there, Thursday, November 7, that will also focus on analytics – both the institutional and supplier perspectives.

                    Q4: What is the relationship with IMS LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability)?

                    A4: There’s a short answer and a longer answer.  The short answer is that we expect this analytics work to finalize some work on outcomes (namely a very robust gradebook) that has been proposed for LTI & LIS for awhile but not officially released yet and that we expect the proliferation of LTI-enabled apps and learning platforms to be a natural starting point for data exchange. The longer term has two components. The first is that we are leveraging the work of IMS members in specific LTI app/product categories to help develop the Learning Metric Profiles referenced in the Caliper whitepaper. The second is that we will be introducing a variety of LTI Services that will enable data to go to many different destinations from many sources whether or not LTI was used as the launch mechanism for an app. So, for instance, enabling apps to send data to an analytics storage, dashboard or personal data vault whether or not it was launched by an LMS/learning platform.

                    Q5: Why is this project developing and releasing the Sensor API?

                    A5: APIs can make implementation a little easier – especially if a large number of suppliers use the same APIs. IMS is now releasing APIs as best practices with many of its specifications now. Please note that an “API” is by definition programming language specific and a good standard is not.  The standard is the underlying guts – that’s the hard part.

                    Q6: What if a product company has already developed an API for some category of data transmission – can that still be used with Caliper?

                    A6: Maybe. One of the cool things about the IMS specs and the development process behind them is that we can work with leading suppliers who already have services/APIs to see if we can “map them” on top of the IMS specifications. You may have developed some APIs that are now experiencing good market adoption for a specific type of service. IMS can potentially work with your organization to harmonize that with Caliper and the LTI services. Please contact us at: CaliperFramework@imsglobal.org

                    Q7: What if IMS can’t get suppliers to agree on the Learning Metric Profiles?

                    A7: Well, we wouldn’t be doing this if we were not already seeing some excellent convergence. But, we also want to encourage and fully expect there to be extensions, both public and private, that IMS will capture in a registry.  Thus we can have the stuff that everyone agrees on and the stuff that is new, above and beyond that is either publically sharable or not. That’s how innovation in data and analytics is enabled by all of this.

                    Q8: What about applications that are kind of out of the learning domain, like CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems?

                    A8: We see absolutely no reason why Caliper cannot add Metric Profiles for classes of systems like this and add into the mix. The Caliper Framework should be applicable to almost any type of system.

                    Q9: What if my analytics product wants to suck in every possible data and user interaction possible?

                    A9: Yes, big data. If you want to do that across more than one system you still need an agreed upon analytics feed. Caliper will cover that, even if a private solution is needed at first (see A7 above).

                    Q10: Will U.S. K-12 initiatives such as InBloom or Ed-Fi benefit from this work?

                    A10:  Yes, they certainly could! Caliper data can go to/from anywhere.

                     

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