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Topic Title: Key Takeaways from Learning Impact 2011
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Created On: 05/23/2011 08:44 AM
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05/23/2011 08:44 AM
Takeaways from Learning Impact 2011
May 16-19, 2011 Long Beach, CA, USA
Got back home late Saturday after a week of Learning Impact 2011 festivities and meetings. A heart-felt thanks to everyone who attended - making this year's Learning Impact the best ever! I wanted to get out some of my key takeaways from the week:
The Big Mo'
LI11 registrations were up 50 from 2010 and 100 from 2009. Since the first Learning Impact in 2007 in Vancouver IMS has been talking about the need to focus on technology investments with a strong return on "Learning Impact." In those five years we have seen numerous other organizations "jump on the bandwagon" - from the Gates Foundation to the U.S. Department of Education to higher education systems to K-12 districts & states worldwide. We continue to be just a few years ahead of everyone else in terms of where things are going. LI is the only conference I'm aware of where most of the attendees are actively working as a community to realize change. Save the data for LI12 in Toronto - May 14-17, 2012.
Standards at the Core
My most significant takeaway is that the education segment is now ready to move from "the potential of standards " to "standards at the core" of our community/industry. Let's face it, so far education has not had the ubiquitous use of standards/interoperability that is required to allow it to pay off for all those concerned.
Why? There are many reasons, but, in a nutshell we have not had standards that have actually made the lives of the various stakeholders better. "Better" in this context means a combination of easier, more innovative, and more responsive. The standards we have experienced in the past (IMS, SIFA, PESC, SCORM, IEEE, add your favorite stds org here), for the most part, have not been particularly compelling. Most have not been as powerful or prevalent as alternate approaches to accomplish the same thing - such as established de facto web services or de facto platform services touted by dominate commercial suppliers. Some have set the bar too high - requiring implementation of obscure functionality that most providers can't agree on in terms of what should be standardized. Some are infinitely customizable, making the probability very small that any two suppliers will implement the same, and thus provide interoperability. Some have required purchase of additional hardware & software because they are really gateways, not standards. Some have provided data standards where the data has not been very actionable.
Look, this does not mean that those who have been working on standards all these years should not be proud of their accomplishments. In fact, they should be very proud that they have been able to persevere to this point. Also, in the case of IMS, the work has been very high quality, visionary, and a great basis to move forward. It is a long separate discussion, but for standards to become ubiquitous requires quite a few things - stakeholder action and market opportunity - to come together for a sustained period of time. A lot of good timing and a bit of luck are required.
Look at the standards (de facto or otherwise) in most other market segments and they first and foremost deliver on "out of the box" interoperability. That's step one. Most of the standards in the education segment fall down right there. But, in addition, good standards typically also bring efficiency to the end-users - they make it easier to connect things together - not more difficult. Then, a well-constructed standard needs to be something that suppliers & developers "can innovate on top of." The standard needs to be the best way (or at least as good as any other competing way) to accomplish a certain core of interoperability. But, the standard also needs to allow new innovation to be built around it. Some of that innovation eventually gets assimilated into the core. Finally, good standards in education need to provide actionable data. Therefore, IMS has been focusing on standards that deliver on efficiency, innovation, and insight - with of course - dependable interoperability as the foundation. This is the new bar for quality standards in education.
IMS is now delivering on this value proposition - thanks to the great work of our members around the world. It took us five years of hard work to re-engineer and revitalize almost every aspect of what we do. In fact, we still have a long way to go - but we are showing tangible progress - progress that is making a difference in the market today. And, as a result, the education segment can begin to envision a community/industry that can depend on standards "at the core." It was very clear from LI11 that the number of suppliers that believe in this end goal - standards at the core - across K-20 is growing rapidly. And certainly within U.S. higher education we have achieved critical mass. Thanks to leaders such as the New York City Department of Education, Florida Virtual School, and other districts, we should reach critical mass in U.S. K-12 soon. See those in our conformance community - over 50 certifications - here: http://www.imsglobal.org/cc/statuschart.cfm
When you consider that while the Common Cartridge and Basic LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) certifications continue to blossom we have several new certifications in the works - including Accessible Portable Item Profile (APIP), Learning Information Services (LIS), Full LTI, and the IWB/CFF (Interactive Whiteboard Common File Format) - well, the future is looking interesting.
At the conference we had several special tracks, workshops, and meetings that focused on the needs of "end-users." Some focused on the new community of "IMS Campus" institutions that we are facilitating & growing - see http://www.imsglobal.org/imscampus/index.html
In education we have several categories of end-users. The executive administrators that are trying to deliver better education per their institutional mission. The IT/ICT leaders who are charged with making decisions about what technologies should be supported in the academic enterprise (to support the mission) and charged with keeping systems running flawlessly. The curriculum developers and faculty, who we all count on to plan and deliver a superior educational experience. Students and parents are also key stakeholders. IMS is focused primarily on the first three: institutional leadership, IT/ICT leadership, and curriculum/faculty leaders. We primarily reach them as representatives of their organizations. In fact, a key goal of IMS is to help each end-user organization "cut across" these different functions to achieve Learning Impact through the wise use of technology.
Most of the stakeholders have not had to care much about standards to this point - because they have not been ubiquitous - as explained in the previous section. However, it was very clear from LI11 that today the interest is very strong. One presenter after another got up and said the same thing. In education we must improve and we must innovate. We must leverage technology. However, resources are short. We must make wise investment decisions and demand a strong return on Learning Impact.
A core of seasoned leaders, along with some up and coming innovators, are gathering around the IMS end-user tables and realizing the tremendous opportunity that exists to establish a more agile, efficient, innovative, and insightful academic enterprise with standards at the core. Cooperation among institutions - via systems, districts, states, consortia of states, etc - is no longer "a nice to have." There are so many factors all driving toward the same direction of greater cooperation and resource sharing. The good news to all those suppliers out there is that willingness is high to spend on technology that can reduce wasted resources while enabling better teaching and learning. Standards at the core are no longer a "nice to have."
Education segment leaders are getting it and willing to take action to establish the interoperable foundation they need. Perhaps amazingly, we held several "cross-functional" sessions that, while there may be some differences, administrative leaders, IT/ICT leaders, and curriculum/faculty leaders all see the need and agree that the timing is now. Leaders across higher education and K-12 education, while under differing constraints and challenges, are rapidly converging on the IMS standards as essential to "the new normal" of better innovation with limited resources. One of the most interesting conclusions of these leaders is that while the wave of open source software and now open content are critical to the progress of education, it is the new wave of IMS open standards that provides the foundation across open & proprietary approaches. Absolutely critical to making the most progress out of the open source/open content revolution.
Over the next year, IMS will be growing this core set of leaders via our end-user councils. These include our Executive Strategic Council, CIO Advisory Council, Learning Technology Advisory Council, and new K-12 District Leadership Council. You can get more information about these by looking under the "About IMS" tab on our web site - see http://www.imsglobal.org/
The LIAs Just Keep Getting Better
It's all about personalized learning enabled by more insightful teaching, isn't it? If you want to see the real deal - those really doing it - you need to look no further than the LIA winners. The 2011 competition completes the fifth year of Learning Impact Award competitions. Several of the judges who have a few years under their belt came to me independently and noted how each year they just keep getting more and more impactful.
For those not familiar, the reason they say "impactful" is because the LIA nominations are evaluated on their real impact on improving the access, affordability, and quality of education. This year, of the 16 medal winners there were five from the USA, two from Australia, four from the European Union, three from the UK, and two from South Korea. I'm hoping we will have time to update the summary matrix of "Learning Impact versus Implementation Difficulty" based on the last two years (last time I updated it was early 2010 before the 2010 winners were determined - see http://www.imsglobal.org/artic...2010LearningImpact.cfm
The Next Five Years
Now is a great time to get more involved in IMS. For IMS and our members around the world there is a lot of excitement right now! There is also some apprehension that we can keep up with the demand! Growing is always challenging. Even the conference itself is getting "large for us."
But, I think we will be good. Why? Because of all the great people at all the great organizations that are IMS members around the world. Almost every year I like to remind the members at the annual meeting (had it last Monday before the conference started) that we love what we do. We love it because we are helping our members - who are wonderful and inspired people - work together to create very positive change for education. Because we love it, we work hard - but it is also great fun!
Perhaps the best thing about the last five years is that we have grown a very productive, amicable, and supportive community - that wants to move forward and is moving forward. They work productively together - even though there are many competitive forces at work.
I'm reminded of the many obstacles that we have encountered over the last five years by the recent release of "Sakai: Free As in Freedom" - a new book by Dr. Chuck (Charles Severance) chronicling the formative years of the open source Sakai project. Through his journey he details the numerous personal and cooperative acts of a wide variety of individuals that enabled Sakai to take shape. Also included were the various obstacles and lots of politics to overcome to make technical progress. It certainly seems that we have a somewhat similar situation in the IMS community evolution. The personal efforts by determined individuals are what has transformed IMS - and what will continue to make it grow. Individuals who believe in the role that standards can and will play in education.
In my first job out of college as a young software engineer I became quite dismayed by some of the political fighting among the managers in suits that seemed to have no basis in the reality of the technology that we had implemented. Seeing my disappointment, one of my managers took me aside and said, "Rob, where there's people, there's politics - get used to it." As we all know from watching how governments work, politics are the best way to slow progress.
When you are working to make change happen there are entrenched forces that want to either slow change down or hijack the change in a direction that favors their interests. In IMS, we have made it a point to err on the side of "getting the job done" versus the "making sure all the politics are taken care of." In IMS we are moving rapidly (relatively speaking) to change some of the past habits of an entire industry - an industry that does not have standards at its core.
To do this requires first and foremost that we "do good work" - high quality work that can break through to a new way of doing things. We depend on this work to cut through the politics that are inevitable in large-scale collaborations, such as were detailed in Sakai: Free As in Freedom. It also requires that we are forthright and resilient when we encounter some of those entrenched behaviors and politics. There have been quite a few bumps in the road the last five years where we have had to remind - sometimes publically, sometimes privately - that the "definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result." What effective standards have going for them, is that even when though they typically affect some entrenched interests, they also create a more efficient market. The more efficient market enables greater innovation, a better user experience, and typically more robust expenditures.
We are very fortunate in IMS to have leaders that realize this and know that some shifts in business models will be required as we move into the future. IMS doesn't allow adoption of standards to be a competitive advantage for any of our members - because standards only achieve their value if they are ubiquitous. However, we do enable a competitive advantage from the market leadership and enhanced value that standards bring to the marketplace. Better value is returned to all market participants, but disproportionately so to the market leaders. But we have to take the high road to get there.
All that business stuff aside, it is the connection of standards to better teaching and learning that gets us up in the morning here at IMS. For IMS, it is the annual Learning Impact conference that focuses us all on the greater purpose behind what we do. Purposeful technology innovation to improve Learning Impact! I hope to see you in Toronto and Learning Impact 2012 - May 14-17, 2012. It will be one of the best conferences you've ever attended.
Thanks to all who have contributed to IMS!
Edited: 05/24/2011 at 07:52 AM by rabel
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