To help SIF gain more traction, the Schools Interoperability Framework Association (SIFA) has developed classes designed to help individuals understand its basic–as well as its more technical–aspects. The courses not only aid interested individuals in understanding SIF principles, but they also might count toward participants’ professional development work.

SIF is a complex set of blueprints designed so educators can maximize use of their computer applications by facilitating data interchanges. At press time, SIFA was in the final stages of completing two classes that will be offered by the group’s SIFA University. Designed to enable vendors and educational institutions to develop the expertise needed to successfully deploy products that conform to the standard, the first two courses were expected to be available starting in mid-June.

The first class, dubbed Basic SIF Theory, is geared to a general audience and provides participants with an understanding of the specification. “Because SIF is so complex and touches upon so many different areas, we saw a need for a basic course that outlines what SIF entails for school administrators,” said Laurie A. Collins, SIFA project strategist. The class starts off with an overview of the standard and then explains what the specification is, its terminology, and the history of SIF and SIFA. Next, the class focuses on SIF’s architectural building blocks: agents, data objects, message types, security, zones, and Zone Integration Servers.

The class then shifts to topics that would help educators and vendors take advantage of SIF. SIFA has worked with the Open Group to craft a certification program to make it more likely that different vendors’ products will interoperate. The first step toward certification occurs when a vendor completes a Conformance Statement Questionnaire; its purpose and the certification process are outlined. The last topic centers on what users and vendors need to be aware of as they go through a Request for Proposal process and transition from talking about SIF to deploying compliant products.

The second class, Advanced SIF Theory, has a more technical bent and is designed for data administrators, data center technicians, integrators, and agent designers. This class concentrates on topics such as message types, message movement, and graphic user interface (GUI) design. Participants learn how to register and synchronize SIF data. Security is an area of emphasis, and access control, certificates, authentication, and message blocking functions are explained. Practical details such as best practices, object design, and the use of multiple agents and multiple zones also are discussed.

These classes are the first in a series. SIFA has three future courses planned for its SIFA University: Data Quality and/or Integrity , Implementation Project Planning, and SIF Network and Architecture Planning. All of the courses are available either online or in a classroom with an instructor. “The students will be able to work at their own pace and choose the modality that best suits them,” noted SIFA’s Collins. In several states, educators are required by law to spend a number of hours each year on professional development. SIFA is working with state education departments to recognize its courses for professional development credits in conjunction with their state requirements. “Our goal is to make the classes as beneficial as possible to attendees,” said Collins.

SIFA has partnered with Pennsylvania’s Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit to assist in the development and administration of its courses. “We have engaged the leading subject matter experts on SIF to assist in the development of comprehensive curriculum,” Collins said.

Registration for the courses is available from the home page of SIFA’s web site. SIFA members will have some seats to the courses included in their membership fee, but non-members will have access to the courses for a price of $200 per course. The courses are designed to take roughly 25 to 30 hours to complete.

Paul Korzeniowski is a freelance writer living in Sudbury, Mass., who writes frequently about education and technology.


Schools Interoperability Framework Association