News Feature | December 17, 2014

Publishers Pressured To Adopt Interoperability Standards For Digital Educational Content

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Publishers Pressured To Adopt Interoperability Standards For Digital Educational Content

A handful of large school districts are threatening to boycott content vendors who do not adopt interoperability standards developed by the IMS Global Learning Consortium. According to Education Week, this would make a large impact on how schools purchase and consume digital content — they could buy only parts of a text or program (an individual chapter, lesson, or video, for example) and maximizing their budgets.

The movement is being led by the Houston school district, with an enrollment of 215,000 students, and the Orange County, FL, school district, with 187,000 students. They are likely to be joined by other districts as well, including Denver; Gwinnett County, GA; and Nashville, TN.

One of the difficulties of the existing digital content available for schools is that content-delivery systems are often not compatible, requiring districts to use an individual vendor or face problems with integration.

According to the IMS website, standards include “learning tools interoperability,” or LTI, and “common cartridge.” The key for education, IMS asserts, is for educational platforms, programs, and devices to be able to work together to provide the best educational opportunities possible for students. An IMS blog post urges, “The educational ecosystem must encompass integration INTO and ACROSS the world of consumer devices and apps,” with the creation of” bridging standards that enable any platform/any app to integrate with the platform agnostic educational ecosystem.”

“It is absolutely significant that [large school districts] are signaling that this issue is important and there is a solution that works,” Douglas A. Levin, the executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, based in Glen Burnie, MD, told Education Week. “This is a case where the buyer has the ability to determine what the market looks like.”