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Learning Impact Blog


Community leadership for more effective use of technology in service to education

 

 

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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).

Integrated Assessment

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!

 

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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:

Higher Education:

  • 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?

K-12

  • 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.

Net-Net

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.