Learning Impact Blog
Community leadership for more effective use of technology in service to education
Believe it or not we are now already 2 months in to 2016. I’m happy to report that these 2 months have already been very high velocity at IMS Global.
For those of you that missed the quarterly meetings last week at UMUC – or perhaps were there but couldn’t be in 4 tracks at the same time – here is a summary of some of the key takeaways IMHO.
If you’re an IMS member and would like some help getting involved in any of these activities, please contact one of the staff or make a web inquiry. If you’re not an IMS member yet, consider joining up.
OneRoster = Fastest Adopted IMS Standard Ever
We’re pretty proud of LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) at IMS – but OneRoster, after 2 years, is where LTI was after 5+ years. Adoption of OneRoster has strong support as evidenced by some 25 leading edtech suppliers gathered for the OneRoster bootcamp and demonstration showcase. Several leading districts were also in attendance and we have no doubt that Fall 2016 is going to meet or exceed expectations for OneRoster implementations. Make plans to attend LILI 2016 in May for another day of OneRoster preparation featuring version 1.1
Yes, it’s the latest craze and even has it's own bookmark! Using LTI services and/or LTI 2 to achieve dramatically more seamless and usable integrations. While the success of LTI as a simple “launcher” of apps/single-sign-on has been impressive, with over 70 learning platforms now certified, the leaders in the market are moving on. Time to use the advanced services and features of LTI for more seamless integrations: LTI outcomes, LTI memberships, LTI content item. This is the focus of IMS workshops on LTI at the meeting and going forward.
IMS Higher Education Executive Board Your Time Has Come
We’ve learned that a little bit of cooperation on open standards by some leading institutions can go a long way. That is now happening for real in terms of higher education institutions in IMS. With great leadership from Karen Vignare (UMUC) and Sean DeMonner (University of Michigan) IMS is forming what will evolve into the true leadership board of IMS in higher education. The IMS Board of Directors has to be limited in size and has to be focused on the “business” of IMS. The new HED Executive Board will become the group that prioritizes IMS HED work from the institutional perspective. Every IMS Contributing Member will have a seat on this board, There are already four strong HED communities of practice forming to put some legs into this: LTI, analytics, digital credentials/CBE, accessibility. The exec board will address long term and near term priorities.
The Next Hockey Stick Up – Already Beginning
Historically there have been some close connections between adoption of IMS standards and the next most successful company. We are seeing it happening again now in both HED and K-12. There is a handful of organizations that are adopting the latest IMS standards, very visible at the IMS meetings, that are likely to be the next hockey stick up phenoms. Of course IMS standards by themselves are not enough – they are just the enabler. So, in HED these are suppliers that are bringing new capabilities like analytics and advising, In K-12 they are bringing recommendation engines and assessment. All a lot more scalable with standards.
The Next Hockey Stick Down – Already Beginning
All I can say is woe to suppliers who are known to be capable of implementing the latest IMS standards buy are sitting on them and not releasing them to the market. All IMS members are friends of IMS but the institutions who bought your product thinking you would be a leader in IMS standards – and now it turns out you’re not – well, that is a self-fulfilling prophecy. There is tangible angst, regret and remorse out there that is coming for some of the more established vendors who were once enabled by standards and are now turning their back on them. Ouch!
Partnerships that Will Change Everything: EDUPUB, Ed-Fi, Soon To Be Named
A major focus of this quarterly was the EDUPUB Alliance work combining Epub3 and IMS standards, with a major focus on accessibility. Lots of great work by some great people is going to be felt big time in the education sector in the next 2-5 years. Stay tuned for some new high impact collaborations on accessi On another front the collaboration with the Ed-Fi Alliance is off to a great start. The combination of IMS and Ed-Fi represents a 10x over any past attempts at end-to-end standards development and adoption in K-12 education. And, another major partnership session occurred at these quarterlies with a to-be-announced IMS partner/new member organization that should substantially accelerate adoption of standards in at least one of the IMS key initiative areas. Stay tuned!
Caliper Analytics Transitions to Next Phase of Growth
Caliper v1.1 is in the “heads down” mode as this next release is highly anticipated after the strong set of Caliper v1.0 certifications. As often happens a couple years in to an intense project the leadership of the workgroup will now be revitalized by a new set of people and organizations. The need for real-time data processing has had a major impact on Caliper – and you will be hearing a lot more about developments there.
CBE OBEE Wan Kenobi
What? Three full days of meetings on digital credentials, competency-based education and open badge extensions for education (OBEE)? You bet. There is a lot of different work and investments going on to design a better transcript and to capture competencies, experiential learning, co-curricular activities, etc. IMS Global is in the middle of it all - developing the technical foundation upon which it can happen. IMS will be bringing to market in 2016 the conformance certification framework that will help to bring the so far different worlds of edtech, competencies, badges and transcripts together.
Turning Japanese I Really Think So
A distinguished delegation of six leading Japanese organizations attended the quarterlies. We held discussions to complete the draft MOU to form the IMS Japan Society, consisting of leading Japanese suppliers and institutions. IMS Global has been collaborating with representatives from Japan for some time, including workshops in Japan on Caliper and EDUPUB in recent times. While there are still some final approvals needed, we are hoping to launch the IMS Japan Society very soon.
aQTI: Next Phase of Venerable Spec Will Preserve Success of QTI v2 and APIP
When a specification gets used a lot and has strong participation/contribution from the marketplace the definition of a new revision is likely. Such is the case with the amazing ramp in adoption of QTI v2.1 (now v2.2) and its accessible cousin, APIP (Accessible Portable Item Protocol) to solve state/national level summative e-assessment challenges. The plan for the next version of QTI – the combination of APIP and QTI meant to address more reproducible rendering and additional accessibility features end-to-end – has been agreed upon by IMS’s Executive Board on Assessment (EBA). The best news is that aQTI will provide a forward compatible path from QTI v2.2/APIP – thus leveraging the large investment that has been made.
Setting Up a First Set of Community App Sharing Nodes
Based on the groundbreaking work of UCLA and several other IMS members, we have decided to explore setting up a first set of nodes, including connection to the IMS product directory, for the Community App Sharing Architecture. The idea is to get these ready in time for the Learning Impact Leadership Institute in May. The value proposition for CASA is still evolving . . . lots of great ideas are emerging.
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.
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).
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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!
Well, while there is no way to know for sure, I would put good money on IMS Global being the most rapidly going of any major tech standards consortium around the world. Indeed, most tech standards organizations we know of are at best flat to down – some way down. Unfortunately, many other education-related standards activities have perfected the art of treading the same old tired waters of highly restrictive standards created by a few "standards experts" rather than the marketplace.
Bucking the trend, 2015 was another year of record growth for IMS Global Learning Consortium. IMS added 65 net new members bringing the total member organizations to 339 at end of year. As many of you know, IMS had a total of 50 members in early 2006. So, in 10 years we are roughly at 7x and, of course, are adding more members a year now than we had total in 2006.
Why is IMS growing so rapidly? IMS is a key factor in sector advancement in several very important areas: scalable adoption of digital learning tool/app/platforms, learning analytics, digital educational credentials/competency-based education, e-assessment and integrated digital curriculum.
What is the effect of this growth? IMS is having a very positive impact on the educational technology sector. And the reach is growing. In 2015 IMS presented 50 times at major events! Not counting our own. Almost 1000 people attended IMS events in 2015. IMS continues to grow its collaboration with high quality partners such as EDUCAUSE, APLU, AACRAO, Internet2, CNI, C-BEN, ISTE, CoSN, The Council of Great City Schools, IDPF/ePub, W3C, Mozilla Foundation, MacArthur Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
At least as important is the amazing uptake of the IMS standards in the EdTech sector. Believe it or not, there are now over 70 learning platforms (of a wide variety) that are IMS certified as consumers of LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability). There were a total of 157 conformance certifications issued by IMS in 2016 – roughly 3 a week! Here are now more that 375 products that have been certified. You can take a look at the new Product Directory section of the new IMS web site, available at imscert.org.
Speaking of the new web site: Wow! Lot’s of work for all concerned – but well worth it. It is a lot easier to understand the IMS Initiatives and IMS Technical work, not to mention the different opportunities for membership, supplier leadership and institutional leadership.
All of this is possible because of the leadership and investment made by the IMS Member Organizations. IMS is primarily about one thing: The education sector leading and taking responsibility for the shape of the EdTech ecosystem of the future. Everyone invests a little and gets a lot in return by collaborating on the open EdTech ecosystem.
I am very pleased and proud of the breakthroughs the members are making every day! 2016 is going to be another great year as the open EdTech ecosystem continues to grow and revolutionize the ease with which innovation can make its way in education institutions around the world.
2015 was so busy that I found it difficult to find time to update the blog. Fortunately, IMS’s growth has allowed us to add some great staff, in addition to those you already know and love. I’m hoping to write more frequent, brief blog posts to let you know about the IMS Global priorities and accomplishments.
Educause Review Online - Progress Report on CBE Standards
IMS Global, in collaboration with C-BEN, the Competency-Based Education Network www.cbenetwork.org is leading the development of prototype technical standards for CBE. Working with the contributing members below and numerous institutional members, the CBE Standards team led by Dr. Jeff Grann of Capella University are developing prototype standards for common use cases to manages competencies and exchange data.
In addition to working through thorny data exchange issues with CBE, the working group has undertaken an ambitious proof of concept for a digital Extended Transcript, following guidance from AACRAO and an assembled group of registrars and subject matter experts led by Joellen Shendy, Registrar of University of Maryland University College. “eT”, as it is called, was developed by Learning Objects and Accreditrust for the project and implements a JSON-LD digital document designed by IMS chief product architect, John Tibbetts. Look for a demonstration of the Extended Transcript at Educause.
The collaboration with C-BEN is part of a Bill and Melinda Gates funded project called TIP – Technical Interoperability Pilot, an R&D project underway through 2015 with thirty-five C-BEN institutions that have, or are, implementing CBE programs. The project’s goal is to speed the delivery of high quality, interoperable software for CBE to the market. For an in-depth understanding of the C-BEN project, read this recent article in the Educause Review online: http://er.educause.edu/articles/2015/10/competency-based-education-technology-challenges-and-opportunities
It’s early days for the formation of interoperability standards for CBE but the group has made marked progress toward its goals and IMS is committed to continued leadership in standards for CBE and digital credentials.