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Learning Impact Blog


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

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

"Won't you give me a reason why?"—Dave Mason

Do you ever think about how special the leadership of IMS members is in terms of what your work achieves for the large majority of sector participants who are not IMS members? Rarely in the world of technology has the work and investment of so few benefitted so many.
 
It is accurate to say that there are thousands of education sector organizations that are benefitting from IMS work every single day. IMS work has become so pervasive in the educational technology sector it is increasingly hard to find an educational institution that is not benefiting from the IMS work in some way. While 500+ members is a large number for an organization working on technical standards, it is a very small number relative to the ubiquitous impact we are creating.
 
IMS has had this impact because we focus on transformational leadership for the education sector. Our shorthand name for this over the last 13+ years has been Learning Impact. Transformational leadership—whether at the institutional level or the sector level—requires achieving clarity of the "why."  Yes, there is also the "how" but the "how" is much more effective when guided by the "why." Too much of edtech is "how" and "what" without a sufficient "why." A "how" or "what" without a clear "why" typically leads to low adoption, low impact, and lack of sustainability.
 
For those of us gathered around the IMS table—a table that has grown over 10x (see recently released IMS Annual Report)—it's essential to understand and stay focused on the "why." The end goal includes interoperability and standards but as an enabler of a higher purpose "why" of much needed educational transformation for a new generation of challenges. It is crystal clear that educational systems need to support a greater diversity of inputs and outputs via programs and pathways that need to be invented and scaled, based on new models and metrics.
 
The "how" is large scale digital transformation initiatives that contribute to a shared investment that lifts the entire education sector. Interoperability standards—if they can achieve plug and play—are an essential foundation for scaling at low cost. The shared investment and return for all participants in a single connected ecosystem is the foundation for transformation across the sector. Absent a shared investment with a shared ROI it is very questionable whether we can rise to the challenges of the future.
 
The "what" in IMS is you – the IMS member community. IMS is leadership from the education sector for the education sector. You (institutions and suppliers as equal partners in IMS) evolve the "why" and the "how"—because IMS is your organization—funded, resourced and led by you. In the IMS model, the members share the expense and the decision making equitably and sustainably. Thus, IMS is primarily an investment and development partnership, if not the largest in the edtech space, among the largest. We are, surprisingly to many, not solely a standards organization (even though we are better at standards than any other organization in the sector). IMS is very happy to leverage standards created elsewhere if they help achieve the "why."
 
My sincere hope is that you and your organization will take advantage of the unique opportunity IMS has to offer in terms of leadership in educational transformation, as well as the very critical foundation of interoperability standards required to enable it. IMS Global's community model is effective, sustainable, and getting better every day as we bring on extraordinary staff and leadership from across the sector. Please contact any IMS staff member if you'd like to get more involved!
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IMS Global CEO Rob AbelRob Abel, Ed.D. | March 2019

"Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby"Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

Some things you don’t want to miss—and this year’s Learning Impact Leadership Institute in San Diego, May 20-23, should be at the top of your list. Learning Impact (#LILI2019 if you tweet) is IMS Global’s main event for the year, and it is different from any other event.  
 
Perhaps Learning Impact is closest to the ASU GSV Summit in terms of uncovering where educational technology is trending across K-12, higher education, and corporate learning.  However, Learning Impact is smaller, more intimate, and features honest exchanges among lighthouse institutions and leading suppliers about how technology can and will make a difference in the future of education and learning that don’t typically occur at other conferences. Only at Learning Impact, leaders share and debate how to collaborate to make personalized learning and educational pathways a reality and how to leverage the growing ecosystem of innovative products made possible by IMS members
 
After 13 years of growth, IMS is off to its best start ever in 2019—and event sponsorship from the world’s leading educational organizations has reached record levels. Learning Impact is simply the best way to accelerate your knowledge of where edtech is going in a way that will help your organization succeed—whether you are an institution or a supplier. You'll build close partnerships, gain unique insights, and learn all about the groundbreaking work of the IMS community. Hope to see you there!
 
 
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IMS Global CEO Rob AbelRob Abel, Ed.D. | March 2019

"There's no easy way to be free"—The Who

To me, the best thing about an organization like IMS Global Learning Consortium is that it is made up of leaders who are willing to do the hard work of creating the connection fabric that will enable the next generation of education. Wow—that was a mouthful—so let me break it down.
 
Whether we’re talking the USA or other parts of the world, the educational systems of today were codified roughly 100-150 years ago in a quest to create an efficient, effective, and trustworthy solution to the requirements generated by the challenge of the transition to the industrial age. Only future history will bear this out, but I believe that we (society) are on the precipice of (some would say finally!) enabling the foundation for a significantly more personalized, but yet still efficient, effective, and trustworthy, educational system.
 
In IMS I think we not only share this vision but are rolling up our sleeves and working together on some of the key enabling components. As Thomas Edison said, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” While of course it is very important to hold ourselves to a much higher bar than has historically been the case around “standards” in the educational sector—namely zero-cost, zero-time integrations enabling substantially better faculty and student experiences—it is just as important to be enabling the key dimensions of the next generation educational fabric.
 
Through the organic leadership of the IMS members we continue to focus on these five evolving areas that need to be different in order to create the next generation:
  1. Adaptive curriculum: More effective, more efficient, more connected to life purpose.
  2. Integrated assessment: Assessment that aids talent development and student success rather than as a summative sorting mechanism.
  3. Advancement in educational delivery: Learning platforms and environments that provide the foundation for better faculty and student experiences.
  4. Effective educational credentials: This needs a better “name”—but the bottom line is that educational credentials based on the Carnegie Unit—as successful as they have been as a trust mechanism—are far too limited.
  5. Analytics for improvement: A scalable foundation for and use of data that helps students succeed and institutions improve.
I’m not sure if I/we have these categories completely right or what else is missing. But I wanted to thank you—the IMS members—for shaping them and doing the hard work of making them become a reality!
 
I am hoping to share my views on this evolution—views that have come primarily from the IMS member work – in my opening talk at this year’s Learning Impact event in San Diego, May 20-23. Hope to see you there!

 

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IMS Global CEO Rob AbelRob Abel, Ed.D. | February/March 2019

I recently had 24 hours of intense IMS activity appearing at both the EDUCAUSE Learning Institute (ELI) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) conferences on the same day in different parts of the Los Angeles area.  During the trip, I spent a few hours in taxis observing LA’s famous stop and go traffic.
 
At both of these conferences, we had packed rooms of education sector leaders—higher education at the first and K-12 at the later—with a high level of interest and engagement in IMS work. I couldn’t help but think that 10 years ago we would have been fortunate to have a few interested people operating on the fringes of the mainstream in similar sessions. Or more likely not even have had sessions at these gatherings at all. We’ve come a long way!
 
The ELI panel was especially interesting because it was focused on “Collective Action for Digital Transformation.” And really the theme of both meetings was that we are at a point in education that without collective action—institutions and states working in a collaborative way with each other and with multiple supplier partners to solve some key infrastructure issues, i.e. interoperability—we just can’t get to where we need to go. The 1-on-1 interaction between a buyer and a seller, which is so important and essential, just will not move us to a better future very fast.
 
People gotta move. Yet thousands still sit in stalled LA traffic every minute of every day. Why do they/we accept this state of things? Well, they/we need to be shown a better way and how to get there. 
 
This is why it is so important for IMS members to be leaders in taking collective action and teaching the world of education how this can be done. Not just talking to one another or sharing good ideas in papers, but working together collectively to accelerate key process and infrastructure needs while creating the incentives to the market that will get us to a better place faster.
 
Thank you all for your leadership in creating how we can collectively work together for a better future of education! And won’t it be great to see where we are 10 years from today?
 
Join us for this year’s Learning Impact Leadership Institute at one of the most beautiful locations right on the harbor in San Diego! You’ll want to be there to see all of the wonderful progress in the IMS community and to be at the center of creating the next steps.
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IMS Global CEO Rob AbelRob Abel, Ed.D. | February 2019

In a recent annual review of 2018, from a leading technology industry analyst group specializing in education, there was a summary chart of the “Technology Platform Arms Race” focused on the consumer technology sector.

One of the topics that's always on my mind is, “Does IMS have the best possible model for accelerating and sustaining innovation in educational technology?”

It’s a question whose answer needs to evolve in concert with all the larger goals of the education sector, which are far from resolved despite decades of discussion regarding “education reform.” But we also need to evolve a stable foundation for the future regardless of the current mantra.

IMS is an organization of leaders that are willing to work together to create and shape the future. We’ve become really good at “standards” because this is such a fundamentally missing piece to effective collaboration and return on investment for all stakeholders. The challenge to us as education sector stakeholders is whether we can get beyond the normal reactionary focus on the many shiny objects that are the trees.

The “forest” to me is the goal of enabling institutional leaders to enable what I think of as “Achievement with Distinction.” My own personal opinion is that we are clearly at the beginning of a macro trend that will evolve educational systems from emphasizing “sorting/ranking” to emphasizing “talent development.” I don’t know how long this transition will take—probably at least a couple of decades. But I really don’t see any other direction for education to go to address the inequity, personalization and societal needs that are very clear as we sit here today.

From a technological perspective, the IMS Global view is that it is the full range of education sector stakeholders that “owns” the evolution of the forest, i.e. the educational technology ecosystem. However, much of the tech world is instead caught up in a platform arms race in which each platform, with their own ecosystem of partners, are the combatants. In this world, the customer gets to make stark choices about which ecosystem to go with and get locked in to. “Standards” in this world are more about enabling a marketplace with walled gardens and “winner takes all” dynamics.

This is not the kind of arms/ecosystem race that we need in the education sector. Best put by one of IMS’s institutional leaders: “It’s the vendor’s job to fit into our ecosystem and not the other way around.” The obvious corollary from this is that a critical mass of cooperating organizations can set the tone for the forest, shaping both it and the trees.

This is what IMS Global Learning Consortium is all about—creating an effective collaboration and investment vehicle that focuses on enabling and accelerating innovation across a very diverse educational sector. It is “our ecosystem” and we are the ones stepping up to shape it for the educational needs of today and the future. In this ecosystem, we are enabling a marketplace where opportunity is created for products that work well with many other products in order to enable the innovative teaching and learning that educational leaders seek. As we enter 2019 let us all recommit our leadership to this very simple but powerful idea.

To help us achieve this focus, IMS is re-orienting the evaluation criteria for the annual Learning Impact Awards competition to a simpler set lf "forest" shaping criteria, namely impact on personalization, impact on institutional performance and impact on ecosystem development. 

Nominations are now open. Finalists will be featured at our annual Learning Impact Leadership Institute May 20-23 in San Diego.

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