Data standards are useful—but only if there aren’t too many different ones competing for market share. Two nonprofits behind education data standards—Ed-Fi Alliance and IMS Global—announced a partnership to work towards creating a “unified approach to rostering,” or the management of student and teacher accounts for digital tools.
Automating rostering is critical to how students and teachers provision and manage accounts for services from different providers. In the past, schools and districts shared class roster details through spreadsheets. But today, application program interfaces (APIs) offered by the likes of Ed-Fi and IMS Global allow districts to sync their student information systems with vendors, ensuring that student data is always up to date. This service also makes it possible for schools to have “single sign-on” solutions that allow users to log in to different tools without using different credentials.
Both parties currently offer different standards for managing student data. “We were faced with a situation where we could launch another rostering solution in the market,” Troy Wheeler, President of the Ed-Fi Alliance, tells EdSurge. But “rather than compete for mindshare, we decided it’s time to for these standards bodies to come together and collaborate,”
Currently, IMS’ “One Roster” standard has been adopted by an estimated five districts and 10 vendors. By fall 2016, these numbers will more than double, expects Sandra DeCastro, IMS’ Vice President of Community Programs.
There are other class rostering standards and solutions, most notably from Clever, a San Francisco startup that more than 50,000 US schools and 200 app developer partners use. “I have a lot of respect for any effort to move interoperability forward in education,” said Tyler Bosmeny, CEO of Clever. “A single standard is appealing, but we’ve learned that when it comes to serving schools, there’s no silver bullet.”
Beyond rostering, IMS Global also has other data standards for how students’ activity on different learning tools can be captured and shared (and claims 380 edtech products have been “IMS certified”). Similarly, Ed-Fi has its own APIs that help schools and companies capture and share student performance data. More than 10,000 districts and 120 edtech vendors have licensed Ed-Fi’s technology and data standards.
Wheeler described the nuances between IMS Global and Ed-Fi in this way: “They [IMS Global] capture the human interaction with the tools; We capture and catalog the results of the human interactions with the tools.”
Beyond rostering, IMS Global and Ed-Fi Alliance eventually hope to unify standards for capturing other types of student data. Wheeler offers no promises for when the two parties will release a single rostering standard.
“Rostering is a proof point to make sure we can align,” says Wheeler. He recognizes that the task “won’t be easy.” Arriving at a common nomenclature and format for how student rostering data is stored and shared—and implementing these changes—will require compromise and negotiation between the two parties.