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Learning Impact Blog


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

Recently there were two very important blog posts discussing the evolution in the development of Mozilla Open Badges. 

First, Mark Surman, executive director of the Mozilla Foundation provided a great update on Mozilla’s continued commitment to Open Badges.   In Mark’s piece he outlines the history of the Open Badges work, the transition of badge development to a reinvigorated Badge Alliance, and what Mark sees ahead for Mozilla’s ongoing involvement, including this:

"Open Badges has continued to evolve. In mid-2015, the Badge Alliance spun out and became a part of Collective Shift, a nonprofit devoted to redesigning social systems for a connected world. The Badge Alliance will work in concert with another Collective Shift project, LRNG, which is creating a global ecosystem of in-school, out-of-school, employer-based and online learning that includes a technology platform for badges. With continuing support for the Badge Alliance and LRNG’s push to make badges part of connected learning experiences for youth, the Open Badges community remains active and growing. Nate Otto, Director of the Badge Alliance, leads standard development efforts, while a growing band of implementers cooperate to improve the options for using Open Badges to recognize learning across many environments."

The second important blog post is from Nate Otto, the director of the above-mentioned Badge Alliance.  In Nate’s post he stresses the importance of community collaboration to guide the work and create a shared investment in Open Badges. Our thanks go out to Collective Shift for making the investment to reinvigorate the Badge Alliance, including building out a Badge Alliance team with Nate’s leadership!

At IMS Global we have committed to a substantial investment on behalf of our members in Open Badges.  We believe that an evolution of the Open Badges specification can serve as a key component in creating a better future for educational credentials in higher, K-12 and lifelong education.  And getting to a better future for educational credentials is a challenge that IMS has taken on as one of our five major initiatives.  Putting it bluntly, current educational credentials (grades and test scores) are woefully inadequate as we move to the future.

IMS has begun working on a number of areas involving the application of Open Badges. We are working closely with the Badge Alliance, Collective Shift and Mozilla Foundation, and of course with our 350 member organizations.  Our focus is to ensure that Badges will provide a clear value across a full range of educational accomplishments and that they can be compiled into official e-transcripts and a highly effective and comprehensive student record.  Investment on improved conformance certification will be a major track of the IMS work.

Thus, IMS Global has made a major commitment to Open Badges.  And, via the collaboration with the Badge Alliance we are committed to bringing that work back to the broader Open Badges community as it proves its merits.

OneRoster video.

Today, IMS announced what we expect to be a very long and fruitful partnership with the Ed-Fi Alliance. The Ed-Fi Alliance, funded by the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, provides standards and software for the actionable use of data by K-12 states and school districts. 

IMS, of course, focuses on EdTech interoperability standards with our goal being to enable an open ecosystem of innovative learning platforms, apps, tools and content.

The essence of the announcement is that IMS Global and Ed-Fi will collaborate on K-12 standards – bringing together IMS’s “front-end” learning technology standards with Ed-Fi’s “back-end” data standards.

The partnership will begin with Ed-Fi adopting IMS’s OneRosterTM standards and actively contributing to the work.  From there Ed-Fi and IMS will be targeting several additional high need areas in order to accelerate connecting district level to state level systems. These additional areas include assessment, learning analytics and digital credentials (competency-based education and digital badges).

If your organization is interested in OneRoster, we have a full day of OneRoster activities coming up February 23 at our next quarterly meeting at UMUC.

IMS chooses our partnerships with other standards organizations and activities carefully.  Our view is that it is extremely important that your investment in standards goes toward a foundation of interoperability that the sector can trust for years to come.  We believe that the track record, growth and approach of working with the market merits that trust. 

At IMS we get the sense that Ed-Fi has the level of support that makes it a solid choice for districts and states.  The commitment of the Dell Foundation to Ed-Fi is impressive. And, Ed-Fi adoption now dwarfs other K-12 data standards alternatives.

IMS and Ed-Fi working together will bring together two very strong organizations to accelerate the connection between IMS’s huge base of edtech adoption with the data systems and dashboards that are using Ed-Fi now and in the future.

IMS feels very good about the potential for the Ed-Fi partnership and we are committed to its success. It is also becoming clear that OneRoster is one major step closer to fulfilling its promise.

 

Reinventing EdTech Standards to Accelerate Education Sector Innovation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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