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

IMS partners with Mozilla Foundation to accelerate adoption and interoperability of badges in the education and workforce sectors.

“We are pleased that IMS has decided to partner with us to help with the evolution, adoption and promotion of Mozilla Open Badges,” remarked Mark Surman, Executive Director, Mozilla Foundation. “IMS has a unique focus on educational technology worldwide that we’re sure will enable substantial progress.”

The What?

We’re calling it the IMS Digital Credentialing Initiative (announced today here), IMS DC, but most people are probably just going to call it IMS Badges.

Many thanks to our friends at Mozilla Open Badges, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Badge Alliance for helping make today’s announcement possible.

Everyone knows that IMS is always leery of technology that is overhyped in the education sector (see Learning Impact keynote focused on “disruption” and the hype cycle). New technologies are just tools. It’s really all about how those technologies support where education needs to go.

Two hot topics that are receiving a lot of hype these days are Competency-Based Education (CBE) and Badges (meaning digital badges ala the Mozilla Open Badges specification).

Interoperability is the thing IMS tries to get right for our community/eco-system. Interoperability is all about enabling innovation at scale. Lot’s of great stuff can happen at small scale – but it is a foundation of interoperability that enablies leveraging of a community investment. Jumping in early in the cycle is not necessarily a bad thing – indeed, being somewhat ahead of the market is good for interoperability. But, our IMS members expect us to make good decisions with respect to what we focus our time and resources on. So, we are always using all our market engagement to determine if something receiving hype “has legs” and can “cross the chasm” into mainstream adoption.

However, IMS had already jumped into Competency-Based Education in a very big way and NOW will be making a substantial new investment (hiring 4 additional staff, the leaders from the group known as the Badge Alliance) partnering with Mozilla to advance educational badges.

The Why?

IMS thinks that CBE and Badges are probably going to become intertwined as both progress into the future. CBE, at its most broad interpretation, is about relaying information about what a person is capable of doing, ideally including evidence. The current Mozilla Open Badges specification is, in our opinion, the best work so far in enabling a digital representation of the accomplishment and the rubric. So, IMS believes we can do something good with the combination of these two ideas, something that can apply to all levels of education (K-12, HED and Corporate Education/Training).

IMS also believes that that Badges have an obvious role to play in terms of what they seem to be used for mostly now – capturing some sort of extra-curricular activity that can be vouched for in some way.

What IMS will bring to this in addition to our 300 member organizations, our partnerships with AACRAO and C-BEN (Competency-based Education Network) is that we know a thing or two about interoperability. We also happen to have some leading specifications that are all about enabling capture of educational progress and data (IMS ePortfolio, IMS Learning Tools Interoperability, IMS Caliper Analytics, IMS Question & Test Interoperability) – see architecture diagram below.

Thus, our goal is to see if we can help establish badges as a common currency in educational credentialing in at large scale by providing the necessary interoperable foundation. In short, we think this is going to be a very productive marriage!

See the initial public web page for this work here.

If you wish to join in, we will be talking a lot about our plans and ideas at the upcoming Learning Impact Leadership Institute, May 4-7 in Atlanta. Or, email imsbadges@imsglobal.org

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With the release of the IMS Global Annual Report for fiscal and calendar year 2014 I wanted to pass along a few heartfelt words of appreciation to the IMS members – a group of organizations that is reinventing the EdTech sector literally every day.

IMS Global is a very unique collaborative in which a collection of organizations that compete in the education sector agree to work together to advance the effective use of technology to serve education. Each IMS member organization, especially the Contributing Members (the voting members who are paying substantially greater annual dues and driving the IMS work agenda), understand that the goal is to help advance the entire sector.

Of course there are lots of other non-profit organizations where collaboration of various kinds occur. But in IMS the stakes are higher than most. IMS is constantly pushing the envelope on how to make educational technology more open and seamless across a myriad of suppliers and institutions. This goes against the grain and traditional wisdom of the platform dominance strategy that has been witnessed in much of the computing industry thus far in its relatively brief history (since the 1980’s or so). This sort of platform dominance is not going to happen in education as I have written about many times (see for instance here).
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But, most importantly, the IMS members don’t just understand, they act. Everyone knows that the IMS staff is the best in the world at what they do. But, it is the development and adoption led by the IMS members that has gotten IMS to over 450 conformance certifications, including over 40 learning platforms.

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Indeed, the growth curves for IMS Global are indicating that the IMS community is succeeding in deploying the shared architecture for educational innovation. In 2014 IMS Global added a net 56 new members against what had been a very consistent track record of adding a net of 20 a year for the prior 8 years. Twenty a year may not sound like much, but it is quite good for a standards consortium like IMS in an age that is dominated by “single-company standards” that are propagated for free under various tactics that support the originator’s platform dominance strategy. Even many “standards” activities and organizations are cleverly organized to give the appearance of distribution of control when closer examination shows a few primary beneficiaries. That is not the way IMS has ever worked or works today. IMS is truly a member-based consortium that seeks to provide benefit to all of our members (now approaching 300 as of this writing). And in IMS the voting members are equally weighted among institutional members (end-users) and suppliers.

So, my sincere “thank you” to each of the IMS members for paving the high road in developing the educational technology sector, and along the way enabling breakthroughs for how we all are thinking about “an architecture for educational innovation.” It has been a great honor for the IMS Board of Directors, the staff, and myself to play a small part in your momentous achievements so far – with many more to come!

See you at Learning Impact May 4-7, Atlanta! If you’re not going you are missing probably the BEST benefit of being an IMS Member . . . The Future of EdTech Starts Here!

Thanks for your leadership,

Rob