After reading SETDA’s Transforming Data report and the SCORM Users guide, as well as viewing the SIF 101 video, answer each of the following prompts: What are the purposes of data standards and interoperability initiatives?Why is it important to administer data and databases according to industry standards?What is the difference between SCORM and SIF? As an educational technology leader, how would you connect these data standards and interoperability initiatives with strategic planning?Provide a practical example of an ethical issue related to the use of data standards and/or interoperability initiatives. How would you provide leadership in this example?Briney Textbook, Chapter 11. Briney, K. (2015). Data management for researchers: Organize, maintain and share your data for research success. Exeter, UK: Pelagic Publishing., Chapter 1 pdf




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Working Together to Strategically
Connect the K–12 Enterprise:
Interoperability Standards for Education
A Resource for Non-Technical Leaders
SECTION 1: Why Interoperability Standards Matter in K–12 Education
page 3
SECTION 2: Eight Key Areas of Interoperability Standards
page 4
1. Digital Content
page 5
2. Data Connectivity
page 8
3. Data Integration
page 9
4. Authentication, Authorization, and Identity Management
page 11
5. Rostering
page 13
6. Portals and Portlets
page 13
7. File Sharing
page 14
8. Network Infrastructure
page 15
9. Digital Accessibility
page 18
SECTION 3: Interoperability Governance
page 20
SECTION 4: Looking Ahead
page 23
This CoSN resource is related to the IT Management and Data Management skill areas from
CoSN’s Framework of Essential Skills of the K–12 CTO.
©2017 Consortium for School Networking
CoSN primer • Interoperability Standards for Education for Non-Technical Leaders • May 15, 2017
Why Interoperability Standards Matter in K–12 Education
K–12 education institutions increasingly are looking to digital content and related e-learning
technologies to meet evolving education needs and goals. Technology-based products,
services and resources are making positive impacts on education and are improving efficiency
and outcomes in teaching, learning, and classroom and school management. And yet, as
educators grow more sophisticated in their use of technology, there are roadblocks that
prevent the full promise of education technology from being fulfilled.
Today, most digital resources and tools are not interoperable. That is, generally, data from one
system or software package cannot be shared with others – it is trapped in “data siloes”. As a
result, if a teacher wants to gain a comprehensive view of a student’s performance, she must
take data from a number of systems such as summative and formative assessment data plus
grade book plus data from various software programs, plus student information, export it to a
spreadsheet and then manipulate it manually. If a teacher wants to mix and match different
digital resources, her students will have to log in to each resource separately requiring multiple
ID’s and passwords. If a district wants to enroll students in a digital offering such as interactive
math or language arts software, they will have to export all the information about what class,
teacher, and students are to be signed up, manipulate it to be the correct format, then send it
to the vendor – this has to be done every time a student joins or leaves the class.
The promise of education technology is a learning environment where students have seamless
access to multiple resources covering the same content, targeted at that student’s current level
of understanding. Students have real-time dashboards that show what they have accomplished
and what they have yet to master. Student dashboards roll up into teacher dashboards which
roll up into grade level and building level dashboards for the principal. Student learning is
adaptive and based on real time performance data. Teaching is adaptive and data-informed.
Parents can see how their student is doing at a glance. The promise of education technology
relies on interoperability.
Interoperability also is a logical response to the growing demand for data warehousing,
sophisticated analytics, accountability reporting, and performance management tools. Districts
CoSN primer • Interoperability Standards for Education for Non-Technical Leaders • May 15, 2017
are seeking to leverage their content and data assets strategically across a number of systems
and assemble best-of-breed solutions that integrate content and applications from a variety of
sources and vendors. For cost efficiencies, as well as teaching and learning effectiveness,
interoperability standards are a necessary component of these emerging systems.
For cost efficiencies, as well as teaching and learning
effectiveness, interoperability standards are a necessary
component of emerging systems.
Over the past decade, K–12 stakeholders have been collaborating to define the underlying and
architectural standards necessary for plug-and-play interoperability. These initiatives are
producing useful and promising results. Although the process is far from complete, the
foundation for interoperability exists today.
There are many different, overlapping categories of interoperability, each with its own
challenges and evolving standards. File sharing, for example—involving common file formats
such as CSV, HTML, XML, PDF and Open Document Format—is a simple form of interoperability
that has matured to such a degree that many of us take for granted the ability to use our choice
of tools to read, and even edit, files created in a totally separate application. Digital
accessibility, on the other hand, is more complex, with laws, guidelines and standards that
could be the topic of an entirely separate publication.
Eight Key Areas of Interoperability Standards
This primer focuses on eight key areas of interoperability standards
1. Digital content
2. Data connectivity
3. Data integration
4. Authentication, authorization and identity management
5. Rostering
6. Portals and portlets
7. File sharing
8. Network infrastructure
9. Digital accessibility
This primer also covers interoperability governance at the district level, and looks ahead with
salient questions about using interoperability standards.
CoSN primer • Interoperability Standards for Education for Non-Technical Leaders • May 15, 2017
Eight Key Areas of Interoperability Standards
Digital Content
Digital content interoperability allows seamless access to digital content and software for
students and teachers, generally through a student learning platform or learning management
system (LMS.) The LMS provides access to content, whether developed by teachers, purchased
from vendors, or accessed as Open Educational Resources (OER) with mix-and-match
functionality. The teacher can assign differentiated material to groups of students, specific
material for a specific student, or shared content. Content can be pulled from a variety of
sources, using OER for one lesson and a vendor purchased software package for the next.
Further, students need only log in once to their LMS which handles authenticating to all the
other digital resources and services – a feature referred to as Single Sign-On (SSO).
Single Sign-On solutions are common among leading districts whether they are implemented
using an LMS, a portal, or a 3d party software solution.
With the development of the IMS Learning Consortium Standards, content interoperability is
now increasingly prevalent.
Efforts to standardize content formats and interfaces emerged to connect content most
efficiently to relevant users. Three main standards for content interoperability grew out of
specifications established by the IMS Global Learning Consortium, an international, nonprofit
community of educational institutions, suppliers and government organizations. IMS Global
originally started in 1997 as an initiative of EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit association of IT leaders and
professionals in higher education. Over time, the scope was broadened to include K–12, as well
as corporate and government e-learning initiatives. Now a separate entity from EDUCAUSE, IMS
Global developed these standards for content packaging and metadata:
1. Common Cartridge (CC)
2. Question and Test Interoperability (QTI™)
3. Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI)
In addition to these standards, IMS Global maintains a conformance certification process for
content providers and delivery systems, which includes Common File Format (CFF) and
Accessible Portable Item Protocol™ (APIP).
CoSN primer • Interoperability Standards for Education for Non-Technical Leaders • May 15, 2017
Digital Content Interoperability Standards
Common Cartridge (CC)
Common Cartridge, Common Cartridge Content Hierarchy and Learning Tools Interoperability.
Question and Test Interoperability (QTI)
Accessible Portable Item Protocol (APIP)
Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI)
SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model)
Content Aggregation Model (CAM)
Case Study
Content Integration in Katy ISD
Katy ISD is a flourishing suburban school district that encompasses 181 square miles in southeast
Texas. Student enrollment is around 73,000 students served by over 60 schools. It is located in one of
the fastest growing areas in the country, growing by about 3,000 students per year. Katy ISD strives to
create an environment where students have an equal opportunity to be connected inside and outside
the classroom. Early on, Katy ISD pioneered the adoption of Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) as a way
to promote technology integration into the classroom. The district has since continued on with a more
comprehensive strategy of integrating technology into the learning process by supporting more
devices in the classroom, bridging the digital divide, providing access via cloud technology, training for
leadership and teachers, supporting decision-making through effective data systems and building a
robust network infrastructure.
The most important work in support of this strategy is the seamless integration of content into the
district’s online learning platform. The platform allows teachers and students as well as parents to
access interactive and engaging online content and resources specific to each classroom in a standard
and consistent way. Teachers are able to identify instructional materials, personalize activities, assign
and prepare learning tasks inside and outside the school environment. In an effort to move away from
the costly customization of content integration, Katy ISD recently has embarked on a substantial effort
of streamlining the integration of digital resources into its online learning platform.
The Challenge: Katy ISD has adopted an online learning platform that is compliant with IMS Global
open standards, which are a key factor in supporting the seamless data and security integration
strategy that the district is seeking.
Continued on next page
CoSN primer • Interoperability Standards for Education for Non-Technical Leaders • May 15, 2017
Case Study
Content Integration in Katy ISD
Continued from the previous page
Previously, the district purchased content from high school publishers through the state of Texas
adoption process for instructional materials. Although the district’s platform supports open standard
integration, many providers, including textbook publishers, were not in compliance with these
standards. Additionally, some existing content and tools were not standards-compliant—and vendors
were not eager to jump on the bandwagon to quickly bring those products into compliance.
The Solution. Katy ISD started work on a district content integration strategy by engaging stakeholders
with a variety of expertise in technology, curriculum, textbook publishing and district administration.
Their first step was to build common consensus and understanding as well as to identify the overall
benefits, goals and objectives. The following are some of the main objectives identified early on in the
• Preserve the long-term investment in the learning platform.
• Lower the cost of acquisition and integration of content and digital resources.
• Improve the flexibility of integrating content and digital resources.
• Allow for seamless integration of content and digital resources.
Some long-term measures taken to address the challenge made it a requirement of the acquisition
process that all new content providers be in compliance with the IMS Global Learning Tools
Interoperability (LTI) and/or Common Cartridge (CC) standards (or commit to be in compliance within
a specified period of time). For the short-term—and to create more leverage with existing vendors—
Katy ISD has joined forces with neighboring Houston ISD to negotiate content integration.
Houston ISD was in the process of implementing its own online learning platform, a different platform
than Katy ISD’s, and was running into similar challenges. Because of its size, it was easier for Houston
ISD to build good partnerships with willing publishers, such as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and
negotiate for CC integrations for its science digital adoptions. Katy ISD knew of the publishers who
were working with Houston ISD, and was able to more effectively communicate with these publishers
to deliver its own district content, specifically in the chemistry course adoption as a Common
Cartridge. The effort to integrate content in Katy ISD will continue as more content and resources are
added through new state of Texas instructional materials adoptions.
Katy ISD believes that conformance to open standards will lower its cost of acquisition and improve its
ability to adapt to changing content and technology. By allowing school districts to “plug-and-play”
content and tools from other vendors, districts can adopt one platform only, while affording the
flexibility of access to multiple sources of content. It is less costly and much more efficient. Katy ISD is
committed to open interoperability standards and will continue to work with other school districts and
organizations such as IMS Global to promote this effort.
Katy ISD is currently a member of IMS Global and CoSN, which also supports open interoperability
standards in education. This collective effort is important to the future of interoperability in
CoSN primer • Interoperability Standards for Education for Non-Technical Leaders • May 15, 2017
Data Connectivity
Data connectivity is the ability to transfer data into and out of databases in an efficient and
cost-effective way.
Mission-critical applications, including enterprise resource planning (ERP), student information
systems (SIS), learning management systems (LMS) and data warehouse applications use
databases. These systems have zero tolerance for delays or errors in accessing, processing and
storing data. Unreliable data connectivity design can lead to poor performance, availability and
scalability, and to data integrity issues that have direct impact on cost and risk for districts.
Unreliable data connectivity design can lead to poor
performance, availability and scalability, and to data
integrity issues that have direct impact on cost and risk
for districts.
There are several data connectivity standards described below. These are implemented by
“drivers” that can translate from one standard database language to another. By using these
drivers, systems can access different databases. Sometimes database vendors will provide free
drivers, but it is important to evaluate whether these meet the performance requirements for
critical systems and whether they include proprietary extensions that make it very difficult to
switch to a different database vendor in the future.
Several connectivity standards are on the market today for accessing the most popular
database platforms. Making a proactive, conscious decision to use enterprise products that
support a single data connectivity standard can help greatly with production performance,
reliability and scalability. When this is not possible, it is necessary to find data solutions that
address the connectivity challenges offered by multiple standards.
Third-party database connectivity products offer an alternative for critical system deployments.
Such products serve a specialized purpose—facilitating data connectivity among all the
components of a data system—and typically support required features without forcing lock-in
to a specific database or version.
Open Standards vs. Interoperability
It is important to note that there is a difference between open standards and interoperability.
While open standards tend to be more inclusive and broad, interoperability is less broad and
can be limited to certain vendors or products. Interoperability can be between two products
or among a range of products, or driven by a dominant product. Open standard is more
inclusive and a result of an open protocol adopted by a community of vendors and
stakeholders. For example, Internet Protocol (IP) is an open specification that allows networks
CoSN primer • Interoperability Standards for Education for Non-Technical Leaders • May 15, 2017
to function. Any vendor can take advantage of IP by developing hardware and software
around it.
It is also important to note that open source has played a big role in IT world. Several open
source communities are developing and distributing data connectivity standards on an ad hoc
basis. Although these are still in progress, the open source community—given its
commitment to open standards and history of success at providing open solutions such as
Data Connectivity Standards
Open Database Connectivity (ODBC)
Java Database Connectivity (JDBC)
ActiveX Data Objects (ADO)
ActiveX Data Objects for .NET (ADO.NET)
Object Linking and Embedding Database (OLE DB)
Data Integration
Data integration involves combining data residing in different sources and providing users with
a unified view of these data. It begins with data connectivity (described above), but goes
beyond connecting a system to a database to make the data usable by each application.
In order for real-time dashboards to become a reality, for instance, data from numerous
sources need to be integrated automatically, rather than manually using a spreadsheet or other
tool. Since the data from different sources look different, data integration means putting them
in a standard format so each application can understand them.
Once all the data is in a standard format, it is possible to create applications like dashboards
that take disparate data and create useful user views.
One challenge of data integration is that data structures often reside on different platforms.
Integration specifications and standards have emerged to define how systems manage the
exchange of information.
CoSN primer • Interoperability Standards for Education for Non-Technical Leaders • May 15, 2017
Consider these examples:
• Data warehousing applications. The data warehouse system extracts, transforms and
loads data from several sources into a single schema. As a result of data integration,
disparate data silos can be combined logically into a single and uniform data source in
the data warehouse without having to migrate the physical data.
• Integrating information systems together. For example, most student information,
learning management and assessment systems use the same data elements. A complex
integration is required to streamline the sharing of student information, content and
assessment data and, therefore, reduce the classroom setup time on teachers and
students. Additionally, data integration is essential for ERP systems that combine
finance, human resources and student information from different sources to simplify
and automate business processes.
Data integration is not yet a mature field and numerous open problems remain unsolved. Much
work has been invested by organizations such as Ed-Fi Alliance and initiatives such as Common
Education Data Standards (CEDS), both described below, to develop integration standards.
Data Integration Standards and Tools
Common Education Data Standards (CEDS)
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