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interoperability standards

Everything you ever need to know about interoperability standards

Want to greatly reduce the time spent manually uploading rosters? Here's how

Digital systems need to work together to meet your district’s needs, but today’s digital learning environment is disjointed. The ever-growing number of tools do not seamlessly integrate into the learning environment, thus making it time consuming for teachers to innovate and personalize instruction. Luckily, there is a way to greatly reduce the time spent manually uploading rosters so that teachers can access digital learning tools and content, search multiple platforms to find the right resources, link them in the learning platform, and automate the pass back of grades from various digital tools into their gradebook system.

How does a school district make these things possible? One way is by using IMS Global interoperability standards to achieve a successfully integrated digital ecosystem.

A quick guide to interoperability

1. What is interoperability?
Interoperability refers to the notion of different digital software systems, like a student information system, a learning management system, and digital content from a publisher, all working together automatically without any need for custom coding or complicated manual processes to get data from one system into another system.

IMS Global Learning Consortium is a non-profit member collaborative that includes more than 60 K-12 districts and state departments of education, 115 higher education institutions, and 300 edtech companies who work together to develop agreed-upon ways (aka interoperability standards) of transmitting information from one system to the next. IMS members are leading the effort to rapidly advance an edtech ecosystem in which students and teachers have better options for digital tools that work together and result in more effective teaching and learning.

(Next page: More insight and how to get started on the interoperability path)

2. Does my district have to stop using the software we already have to achieve this digital ecosystem?
IMS Global understands that K-12 districts and states have already made a significant investment in tools and applications and that any change must match the overall strategic plan. The roadmap your district adopts for developing an interoperable digital ecosystem must include strategies, plans, and processes for building a plug-and-play ecosystem with your strategic plan and for having the conversations with all stakeholders to develop a shared vision.

3. How does a district figure all this out?
The K-12 Digital Learning rEvolution Program is the work of more than 60 IMS Global Learning Consortium member districts and state departments of education, including 40 percent of the largest 25 districts and 23 percent of the top 100 districts in the US. These members have substantive experience and knowledge about what it takes to implement and scale integrated learning technologies.

It’s called the rEvolution Program because it enables both a straightforward evolution to digital and provides the foundation for making significant—revolutionary—advancements in teaching and learning. “Collaborating with fellow IMS Global members has been an important part of the journey,” says Darlene Rankin, director of instructional technology for Katy Independent School District in Texas. “I’ve been able to gain insight into strategies for evolving our digital ecosystem based on those who have already ‘been there and done that.’”

Your district does not need to be an IMS member to be a part of the digital learning revolution, but you will need to make the commitment to purchasing IMS-certified products to establish a plug-and-play ecosystem. For example, the School District of Lee County in Florida had to change its procurement practices to achieve a seamless plug-and-play ecosystem. Over the years, the district has been able to get almost all of its vendors to use IMS Global standards.

6 steps to evolve your digital-learning ecosystem

1. Determine a shared vision with your IT and curriculum and instructional leaders.
2. Develop an implementation road map that’s aligned with your district’s strategic plan.
3. Understand which standards to ask for.
4. Check out the IMS Global Certified Product Directory to make sure your products have achieved IMS Conformance Certification.
5. Use the IMS K-12 Digital rEvolution Program to develop a strategy, plans, and processes to phase in the adoption of products that meet your district needs.
6. Consider joining the IMS member community to learn from other districts and continue the revolution.

By adopting IMS Global Learning Consortium interoperability standards, school districts can simplify workflows for educators and students, reduce costs and implementation times, minimize risk when designing systems architecture for digital learning, and streamline the gathering of analytics to improve learning outcomes.

Barbara Nesbitt, executive director of technology for the School District of Pickens County in South Carolina, says, “Districts who want to improve the usability of their educational technology should consider the program. Each tier is customized to the needs of a district and the program continues to evolve as a district becomes more advanced in its use of open standards. The opportunity to network with other districts is also highly beneficial.” Thus, this program is helping districts of all sizes transition to digital by connecting disparate systems, provider content, and digital curriculum resources through interoperability standards to create an open educational technology ecosystem that will enable teachers and learners to engage in ways never before imagined.

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