Words: Jasmijn Jacobs-Wijn (SURF), Nynke de Boer (IMS Global)
On 7 January, the Task Force on Education (TF-EDU) inaugurated the new year discussing the importance of open standards in the EdTech ecosystem.
In the last year the education sector has progressively relied on ICT due to the COVID pandemic. To add educational value, many universities have implemented new ICT tools leading to the creation of the so-called EdTech ecosystem. In order to make the EdTech ecosystem reliable, flexible, future-proof and more accessible to all, it is essential to focus also on the interoperability between tools, data sharing, data governance and accessibility. The easiest and most sustainable way to do this is by working with existing and well-adopted EdTech open standards (agreements).
The purpose of the workshop was twofold:
– Emphasise the importance of open standards and inform about open standards for education.
– Reflect and discuss the role of European universities and NRENs within the (further) development of open standards for education.
About open (educational) standards and IMS
Every day we use standards without realising it. For example, a metre is always a metre, an AAA battery has the same size everywhere in the world and we all stop at red traffic lights. We also use digital standards: think of the lock in the browser bar when you visit a safe website (HTTPS) and PDF documents.
In education there are standards that support the EdTech ecosystem. These standards provide flexibility, exchangeability, interoperability, accessibility and more. IMS Global Learning Consortium is responsible for the development of a number of widely used educational open standards, such as LTI, Caliper, OneRoster, Edu-API, QTI. Although IMS is a Global organisation, it is oriented towards the American education sector. Because of different laws and regulations (such as GDPR) and a different education system, it’s important that Europe’s voice is listened to in this area. The IMS Europe community comprises an IMS Europe Technical Task Force, an IMS Europe Leadership Board3 and a European Edu-API Task Force.
The role of European educational institutions and NRENs
What is the role of European educational institutions and NRENs in the field of open standards? This topic was discussed in sub-groups at the workshop. It emerged that European educational institutions and NRENs can contribute in the following ways, for example:
- Transforming key challenges, wishes and issues of institutions and vendors into needs for standards and cooperation.
- Providing insights to local markets.
- Understanding how standards can be used and inform institutions (as an NREN) or inform employees.
- Supporting institutions in tendering processes.
- Promoting standards to vendors, institutions, makers and funders at European level.
Recording and presentations from the workshop can be found here.
Would you like to contribute to the European community of IMS Global? Would you like to know more about open educational standards and/or IMS? Visit the IMS website www.imsglobal.org and/or contact Markus Gylling firstname.lastname@example.org.
- About standards
All over the world ICT is used more and more for collaboration and communication purposes. But not everybody uses the same software. Interoperability allows for improved compatibility between different systems, and makes it easier to share data. Doing so requires agreements on the content of the information to be exchanged, its significance and the applicable technologies. Such agreements are sometimes made between two organisations, but more often they apply to an entire sector or a certain generic type of application. In the latter case, they are called standards. Standards exist in the form of agreements, concepts and architectures. Open standards are not supplier-dependent (or ‘proprietary’) but foster integration and exchange between facilities. Using standards enables data to be exchanged simply, securely and reliably, which benefits the quality of the exchange. It is also more economical and efficient to create and maintain a single interface and to avoid supplier dependence.
- About IMS Global Learning Consortium
The IMS Global Learning Consortium is a non-profit, member-based collaborative with a mission to improve the learning experience for students, teachers and administrators: to advance technology that can affordably scale and improve educational participation and attainment. To ensure that the learning impact of technology-enabled innovation is achieved around the world, IMS’s influential community of educational institutions, suppliers, and government organisations develops open interoperability standards, supports adoption with technical services, and encourages adoption with technical services.
- IMS Europe Leadership Board
Because education is largely regional in nature, IMS works with its members to design a regional experience. Since 2018, the Europe Board has been the entity within IMS Global that drives efforts in Europe. The main focus areas of the IMS Europe Board are:
- To ensure that the needs and interests of European members are met in IMS specifications by documenting local (European) functional requirements and use cases and ensuring active representation on relevant working groups;
- To create and foster a community among institutions, focusing on experience sharing, use case gathering and the interoperability first principle.
- To increase awareness and adoption of IMS standards in Europe by holding an annual IMS Summit on European soil, producing information materials specifically targeting the European educational marketplace, participating and presenting on IMS at relevant European conferences, as well as establishing long-term partnerships with European institutions that are engaged in the development of ed-tech protocols and standards.
Members of the IMS Europe Leadership Board
IMS contributing members who are located in Europe and/or have a substantial part of their activity in Europe are eligible to become part of the IMS Europe Leadership Board. Visit the IMS website for an overview of the current members of the IMS Europe Leadership Board. Educational institutes, national research and/or educational cooperatives and councils and vendors are currently represented in IMS Europe Leadership Board.