News

The SIF Association publishes the SIF 3.0 Specification: The data standards ‘game changer’!

By Carletta
August 28th, 2013

The SIF Association is proud to announce the release of the SIF Implementation Specification 3.0 to the educational marketplace. This latest release, developed openly by the dedicated community volunteers, is a data standards ‘game changer’ – offering ground-breaking transport design advances leveraging REST technology, and providing a ground up redesigned data model which can support multiple data initiatives!

The SIF Implementation Specification is a vendor neutral standard that allows for the transfer of data – securely, seamlessly and in almost real-time – between applications, not only within an educational institution, but also vertically to regional/state agencies and even further to the government level. As an open standard, the SIF Specification allows educational institutions the freedom to choose ‘best of breed’ applications, with no vendor lock-ins and proprietary based APIs. Unlike other solutions, when you choose a SIF-enabled application you are taking the decision to future-proof your IT systems because it can support point-to-point data transfer as well as the entire education environment enterprise, saving time and money.

The SIF Implementation Specification (North America) 3.0 is made up of a globally utilized reference infrastructure and North America data model focusing on supporting the Common Education Data Standards initiative (CEDS). The new 3.0 infrastructure allows the transport of various data models including those from the other global SIF communities as well as data from the numerous “alphabet soup” data initiatives that are populating the education landscape. In essence – education now can utilize “one wire with one plug” – not the never-ending proprietary API’s and “one off” connections!

“The release of the SIF Infrastructure Specification (Global) 3.0 is a hallmark blueprint that confirms the SIF community and technology as truly global in nature” states Adam Todhunter, SIF Association Board Co-Chair. “The 3.0 release allows various international educational entities to address their locale-specific data model needs but use one universal “wire” to move data between applications and organizations.”

The SIF Infrastructure Specification 3.0 offers:
• Independence from Data Model – All current data model dependencies have been removed allowing transport of object data from any SIF locale (North American, United Kingdom, and Australia) or data in conformance with other major data standards without change.
• Alternatives to the monolithic Message Broker – The latest infrastructure component offers an alternative to the Message Broker (Zone Integration Server) required in all previous SIF solutions. Middleware can still be utilized if desired – but it no longer has to be.
• Simplified Utilization: Already tested “on the ground” in the Australian Community, the new SIF 3.0 infrastructure capabilities offers a simplified development methodology increasing swifter adoption.
• Support of industry standard transport platforms – The SIF 3.0 infrastructure offers a secure, robust and highly scalable REST service framework with associated core utilities providing a standardized way in which multiple clients can access an educational service securely, robustly, and in real time.
• Data Security: With standardized data encryption, and authentication, no application can access or update sensitive student data, such as discipline or health information, unless specifically enabled.
• Data Quality: A standardized error reporting facility as well as a complete set of document schema enables data quality checks.
• SIF REST Developer Sandbox (SIF-RS) which utilizes and illustrates the agreed on set of REST Developer-specific mapping specifications that will guarantee REST applications can smoothly interoperate in a SIF 3.0 Environment.

“The SIF 3.0 release is the perfect opportunity for developers and end users to enable small or large scale data exchanges – all under the control of the owners of that data” touts Dr. Larry Fruth II, SIF’s CEO/Executive Director. “The standardized connections it allows for, if demanded by the marketplace, could revolutionize and simplify how we get the right data to the right learners at the right time!”

The SIF Implementation Data Model (North America) 3.0 offers:
• The incorporation of the entire CEDS 3.0 data model as the core PLUS additional SIF-based objects not currently included in CEDS making this release the only data standard currently available to contain the full breadth of educational data from Early Childhood, to K12, to Higher Education, to the workforce. Furthermore, institutions can better support data initiatives such as EDFacts, State-wide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS), Race to the Top Assessment and others!
• True Data Management: Every element in the SLDS can be traced back to the issuing application.
• No Vendor Lock-Ins: Selecting SIF 3.0 as the framework for CEDS-compliant data transfers allows an education authority to select “best of breed” components when implementing CEDS solutions.
• Data Quality: The well-established SIF Certification Program will provide CEDS-conformance testing and validation capabilities between data source and SLDS.

“The SIF Association North America Board of Directors determined 18 months ago, that the new SIF Specification release will incorporate and enable the transport of all of the CEDS-compliant data”, explains Peter Tamayo, CIO Information Technology Services, Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. “With the release of the SIF Data Model Implementation Specification (North America) 3.0, the entire educational marketplace of developers and consumers can now utilize actual, and not mapped or aligned, CEDS data points for storage and transport across a universal ‘wire’.”

These major changes build on over 15 years of successful SIF adoption globally, and the continued growth to a global family of standards in North America, United Kingdom and Australia. In turn, this makes it easier for vendors to implement SIF solutions as REST-based technology is already familiar to the majority of today’s software developers – there are no excuses!

To find out more about the SIF Implementation Specification 3.0, please visit the SIF Association website: https://www.sifassociation.org/Resources/Developer-Resources/SIF-3-0/Pages/

To review the SIF Implementation Specification (North America) 3.0, which includes the global infrastructure release, please visit our (North America) Specification page: https://www.sifassociation.org/Specification/Pages/North-America.aspx

To get involved in the latest Specification developments, why not join us at our SIF 3.0 Developer Camp and Connect-a-thon, on 8-10 October 2013 in Portland, Oregon: https://www.sifassociation.org/Events/Pages/3.0-Developer-Camp.aspx

About the SIF Association
The SIF Association is a unique, non-profit collaboration composed of over 3,200 schools, districts, local authorities, states, US and International Ministries of Education, software vendors and consultants who collectively define the rules and regulations for educational software data interoperability. The SIF Implementation Specification enables diverse applications to interact and share data efficiently, reliably, and securely regardless of the platform hosting those applications. The SIF Association has united these education technology end users and providers in an unprecedented effort to give teachers more time to do what they do best: teach. For further information, visit http://www.sifassociation.org.

About the Author:

Carletta