Industry News

Desire2Learn Acquires Achievement Standards Network

A service maintained by a not-for-profit that catalogs learning and professional standards has just been transfered to a for-profit education technology company. Desire2Learn, best known for its learning management system, has acquired the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), which was created as a repository for standards promoted by governments and other organizations around the world to define educational expectations.

The company said it will continue making the service available for free as a "public good" and expects to continually refresh the contents of the repository to keep up with changes to existing standards and add additional ones.

Jeremy Auger, chief strategy officer for Desire2Learn, noted that JES & Co., which developed the service in about 2002, was seeking a new home for it, where it would continue to be maintained. "We found it to be a good fit with the direction we wanted to head," he said.

ASN is a resource description framework that provides users with a kind of digital catalog of standards that can be viewed, searched, downloaded and applied to curriculum. Each standard within the system is identified by an ID number. Users, such as a textbook or digital curriculum publisher, could use ASN to map pieces of their content to Common Core standards, as an example. The same curriculum could be aligned with other related learning activities through that ID number to address the same standard.

"We allow users to effectively pick and choose the standards from the pre-populated set of data, which is sourced from the ASN," Auger said.

He added that ASN eliminates much of the manual effort required to manage, update, and convert multiple standards, "freeing educators to spend more time working with learners on achieving greater outcomes."

The ASN has five aspects:

  • A repository of academic standards, each with a unique, Web-addressable Uniform Resource Identifier (URI);
  • A data input tool for users to enter standards documents into the repository;
  • Viewers and Web services to access the standards;
  • A resolution service that resolves each URI into machine-readable text; and
  • A network of organizations that share, use and develop tools for using ASN.

Desire2Learn has been a part of the "ASN Community" for a long time, along with a number of other organizations, including Moodle, the IMS Global Learning Consortium and the International Society for Technology in Education. The data is free for use and licensed under a Creative Commons attribution license. Currently, the service claims 400,000 learning outcomes.

Auger said that Desire2Learn "definitely" wants to maintain the existing system, which will require the company to do "on-going maintenance" to keep the outcomes updated as definitions change. As standards definitions evolve, he added, "we can push that out to our users" so that they're made aware of the changes.

Another use is with the company's recently acquired adaptive learning technology, Knowillage LeaP, which has been integrated into the Desire2Learn Learning Suite. "One of the things it does there is automatic alignment of content with outcomes. The availability of a large database of outcomes makes it really nice for us to use as a resource."

Desire2Learn also anticipates expanding on the standards maintained in the ASN. "Right now, I believe there are about 70 different 'jurisdictions,' which could be state standards or Common Core standards or others. There's a lot of opportunity to expand on those," Auger said.

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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