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Supersonic Rocket Ship

IMS Global CEO Rob AbelRob Abel, Ed.D. | October 2019

"Let me take you on a little trip, my supersonic ship's at your disposal, if you feel so inclined—The Kinks

"I am struck by how similar the secular and strategic trends are in both HED and K-12 moving forward." —Rob Abel, Ed.D.

It's been a lot of miles and a lot of smiles the last 30 days or so—IMS Japan Society Conference, IMS Europe Summit, EDUCAUSE, OESIS/PIVOT announcement—but I'm pleased to report that IMS is on the right track and doing the right thing.

Since the last newsletter, I've been in more meetings than I can count with both higher education and school leaders. I am struck by how similar the secular and strategic trends are in both HED and K-12 moving forward:
  • In the coming years, enrollment will be going down along with government financial support. 
  • The already increasing watchful eye on cost and student debt will grow.  
  • These trends will increase competition, requiring greater distinction/differentiation in conjunction with increasing pressure on the costs of doing business.

In IMS, I see the leaders who are ready to embrace these challenges as the impetus to evolve education to a more authentic, passionate, equitable, and productive future. Low cost, high-value interoperability that works out of the box is essential to provide a foundation for meeting these challenges. I don't see the hype in the IMS community. I see steady progress in tackling the tough issues with thoughtful, sustainable solutions backed by unparalleled support coming from over 540 sector organizations.

  • LTI 1.3 and LTI Advantage (Innovation at the Speed of Now) has become the foundational interoperability specification for higher education. Its world-class security model and ability to configure app integration and exchange data in real-time—all easy to implement given the reference implementations available from IMS—means that LTI Advantage will rapidly take the place of existing LTI implementations and expand adoption even further.

  • OneRoster has become the foundational interoperability specification for K-12 education. OneRoster 1.2 features the LTI Advantage security model and a host of improvements. Via the 1EdTech testing system, districts and suppliers are now able to characterize their OneRoster integrations fully and check for compatibility in a low cost, scalable fashion that has never been available in the past for any interoperability standard.

  • Edu-API and Integrated Analytics. At EDUCAUSE, IMS showed outstanding progress to put in place a set of APIs that solve the provisioning needs of HED—a HED broader version of OneRoster—while also providing a critical foundation for real-time analytics. At this point in the market evolution, it is essential to support Caliper and other data formats. The formats are not the issue. The issue is scalability, openness, and privacy protections of the architecture.

  • Caliper Analytics continues to grow in usage, including in K-12. On this trip, a supplier showed a real-time global map showing Caliper events— over 15 million a day! But...the situation with the use of data for teaching and learning purposes is going to be a long road (as we have been saying for some time now). The dangers of biased exploitation by teachers or administrators or lock-in from your favorite vendor are too great right now, IMHO. LTI Advantage and Caliper will seek to provide the insurance that individuals and institutions need concerning these dangers.  

  • The IMS App Vetting and Privacy Program is the right thing in the right place at the right time. IMS has not only vetted over 2,500 edtech products based on a HED/K-12 community-developed rubric, but we are also proceeding to turn the rubric itself into a community-managed process. Indeed, it is the community process—suppliers and institutions working cooperatively—that differentiates the IMS work from all other privacy work to date. The other difference maker is that it is simply better at understanding the privacy ramifications.  Unfortunately, despite the numerous state laws and model contracts based upon them, they seem to fall short in some pretty basic areas that apply to an educational ecosystem. Not to worry, though, as the IMS rubric complements and makes this other work better and has the added benefit of being something everyone—teachers, students, and parents included—can understand. 

  • IMS CASE (Competencies and Academic Standards Exchange) Network is real, is working, and is already being used to reduce the lock-in and lack of innovation perpetuated by current proprietary approaches to align content to state learning standards. While many pieces need to come together to unlock this puzzle fully, it is clear that state and district leaders get it and are going to make it happen.

  • 1EdTech is rapidly moving forward to support the OneRoster APIs, LTI Advantage, Thin Common Cartridge, and CASE Network. No more guessing whether the integrations will work out of the box, what features are supported, and what metadata is included. 2020 is going to be an exciting year for standards-based interoperability thanks to the investment by IMS and key supporters in 1EdTech.

  • IMS continues to lead the world of assessment forward with a full set of developments. IMS QTI 3.0 is nearing public release—and has been widely hailed as yet another breakthrough in terms of accessibility, rendering, and support for technology-advanced and custom interactions. IMS is also in the process of releasing a Computer Adaptive Testing specification and a Proctoring specification. Add to this an extension to OneRoster to support Assessment reporting. IMS is working closely with CCSSO and other states/national agencies to help with the transition to this new version.

  • The IMS digital credentials work—namely Open Badges 2.0, Comprehensive Learner Record (CLR), and CASE, as a way to capture the frameworks—is opening up what I believe is needed most for the future of education, i.e., better ways to capture student achievement and for learners to tell their story to enable a lifetime of opportunity. 

  • IMS is cutting across K-12, HED, and corporate and informal learning. There was a time 20 years ago when it was clear that each of the sub-sectors in the learning space had to be treated independently without going insane trying to figure out the nuances. I would have been the first one to tell you that. But today, it is no longer true. In fact, overcoming the largely artificial barriers between sectors is key to getting to the new models we need in the future.

To summarize: We'll take this planet, shake it round. And turn it upside down. My supersonic rocket ship.

Okay, so that was really just more lyrics from the song. Stay safe, and Happy Halloween!