Learning Application Interoperability Standards Get Vendor Boost

Two standards efforts from the IMS Global Learning Consortium gained steam last week during Educause with support announcements coming from a number of high profile vendors, including SunGard Higher Education, Oracle, Jenzabar, Pearson, and Desire2Learn. IMS is a non-profit organization that develops interoperability standards for education technology.

SunGard HE, Pearson, Jenzabar, and Oracle all said they would support the IMS Learning Information Services (LIS) open standards in their product lines. LIS specifically addresses interactions and data exchange between learning systems and administrative, student, or human resource systems. Currently, enterprise integrations occur through numerous point-to-point links that are difficult to maintain and hinder upgrading to or inclusion of new applications. Use of the LIS standards should allow for more flexibility in how applications can be configured across the enterprise from a single master database.

"Our goal is to reduce the cost and complexity of supporting user provisioning to numerous applications across the enterprise," said Curtiss Barnes, Oracle vice president for industry product strategy in education and research. "When an institution puts LIS in place, it can focus information technology resources on providing better information and service to institutional leaders instead of development and maintenance of an increasing proliferation of point-to-point integrations."

"SunGard Higher Education is a strong supporter of open source and open standards," said David Murray, a SunGard HE vice president. "Interoperability is essential in our newly announced Open Digital Campus strategy, providing higher education institutions with more flexibility to shape how technology meets their evolving needs. Collaborating with IMS, we aim to enable greater choice on behalf of instructors in the tools they use to enhance the learning process for their students."

Pearson announced plans to integrate Oracle's PeopleSoft Enterprise Student Administration Integration Pack (SAIP) with a number of Pearson products, including the Pearson LearningStudio online learning environment and Pearson's MyLabs and Mastering products. The integration will automate the creation and management of users, enrollments, and courses from the PeopleSoft student information system into Pearson's products--independent of the learning management system used on campus.

"Our new relationship with Oracle is another game-changing event in education, offering users easy, one-click access between their student information system and the MyLabs," said Jim Behnke, chief learning officer of Pearson. "By not having to manage various unique systems integrations, administrators and educators will save valuable time so that they can focus on what they do best--educating students."

Desire2Learn announced support for IMS' Basic Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) within its course management system. This set of standards supports interactions such as application launch and data exchange between learning systems or other applications, enabling IT to provide learning tools, applications, mashups, and software as a service within a learning portal or other environment. Basic LTI is a new subset of the full LTI v2.0 specification designed to give developers experience using basic concepts and to preview the more advanced feature set of LTI v2.0.

"Integration of learning technology needs to be seamless if it is to achieve wide adoption, and for years we have been hearing about first generation open APIs that vendors provide for tool integration," said Rob Abel, chief executive of IMS. "Basic LTI and LTI not only provide a standard open interface that all suppliers can use, thus increasing flexibility and choice, but they also make it possible for the learning management platform to collect results from a wide variety of systems for use by the faculty and administration. This enables the next generation of e-learning for education: lower cost, more effective, [and] integration of a wide variety of learning applications."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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