Some of the best interoperability standards capture the “dah” situations where custom integrations just add cost and little to no value beyond what a standardized integration brings.
Every K-12 student system, learning platform and application (of which a large district is dealing with hundreds) all solve the same problem – synchronizing the information on the courses, the teachers, the students – in terms of who should have access to what (aka authorization to tech people). But, they all solve it differently.
This has turned out to be the cause of massive time, cost, headaches for school districts.
IMS Global has many years experience addressing forms of this problem in higher education. One of IMS’s oldest and most widely used specifications is something that is now called Learning Information Services (used to be called IMS Enterprise back in 1999 when it was first created). About three years ago IMS members doing some work in the state of Delaware began collaborating on a simplified and extended version of LIS for K-12.
Not long afterwards (about 2 years ago) Orange County Florida (George Perrault) came to IMS with the same issue – but a higher sense of urgency. People in districts who are responsible for the availability of curriculum material (usually a pretty small group or many times even one person) have been drowning in this problem for a long time. The thing is that George saw a solution to the problem and recruited a trusted supplier (Classlink) to help implement the solution while working with IMS. The net result is OneRosterTM. One set of file formats and RESTful web services to exchange roster information. The advantages of OneRoster are clear:
1. No longer needing to spend the time and money to support all the special rostering formats of all the different EdTech products, publisher content and apps.
2. The district has complete control over their roster information and decides which applications receive which portions of the data.
3. It’s an open standard from IMS Global – so ability to add/upgrade/switch among the very large IMS Global ecosystem is a given.
4. When used in conjunction with IMS LTITM (Learning Tools InteroperabilityTM) to launch and communicate with the rostered apps, a seamless foundation for providing insight to teachers, students and parents with respect to engagement and progress is established (an advanced topic that is the academic motivation for connecting these apps in real-time).
There are a few districts and suppliers that are implementing OneRoster now, with plans of at least 30 leading districts to go live in Fall 2016. Indeed, school districts, led by Brevard County Florida, have organized their own “pledge site.”
When you find the “dah” everyone agrees – institutions and suppliers. I was pleasantly surprised along this OneRoster journey that even the suppliers were tired of the myriad of formats. This is a good sign: Suppliers are realizing that it is better to expend resources on improving the digital apps, tools, content than on myriad custom integrations. This is exactly what standards are meantto do: Shift the investment from the connectivity so that it can go towards the quality of the products.
But, K-12 suppliers planning to be ready to implement OneRoster in time for Fall 2016 back to school need to get ready now. IMS is facilitating a special hands-on boot camp and plugfest for OneRoster at the IMS quarterly meeting the week of February 22 at University of Maryland, University College.
At the February quarterly meeting OneRoster session, leading OneRoster supporters, such as Classlink, HMH, McGraw-Hill, Pearson, SAFARI Montage and others will be there to help the IMS community members learn how to implement OneRoster and perform conformance certification.
At the May Learning Impact Leadership Institute in San Antonio, Texas a follow-up session will be held, including witnessing of the plugfest results by IMS district members.
Hope to see you in February and May!