The IMS Global Learning Consortium (IMS Global) is an international non-profit organization that develops and supports interoperability standards to promote collaboration between education technology organizations and applications. Since its founding in 1995, the IMS Global Learning Consortium has approved and released more than 20 open standards for the community.
Given the countless options surrounding learning technologies (LMS platforms, applications, etc.), teachers, trainers and instructors are understandably baffled when faced with the infinite possibilities of programs and content. IMS Global’s goal is to standardize the interoperability of educational applications and platforms.
Interoperability renders education technology more affordable and multiplies participation and educational achievements. The standards set by the IMS Global are underpinned by the idea that open education technology standards grant institutions greater access to tools and products with which they can innovate. Because of this, we will take an in-depth look at how the IMS Global uses certain parameters—such as usability, scope and educational impact—to encourage innovation.
How does IMS Global function?
We can refer to three aspects that allow IMS Global to enabler better digital teaching and learning experiences.
Adaptations of integrations and plugins:
IMS Global’s interoperability standards save time, cut costs and improve integration between systems, because all applications certified by IMS use the open standards to connect and exchange data. The low cost and the swift integration mean that institutions have the flexibility and facility to securely add learning tools, digital content and applications to meet the different needs of their learning programs.
A large ecosystem and an open architecture:
IMS provides an open architecture that is contributed to by world leaders in education technology. In this environment, learning and teaching platforms—as well as tools, resources and applications—can evolve based on the necessities of institutions, teachers and students.
Moreover, IMS conformance certifications guarantee that products have implemented the standard correctly for which they have passed testing. If an organization experiences an integration issue with a product that is IMS certified, it will work with the supplier to resolve the problem.
Effective collaboration based on members:
IMS Global has demonstrated that major educational institutions and education technology providers can make high-impact progress when they collaborate. To achieve this, IMS creates a flexible, innovative and sustainable learning technology ecosystem among its members. Because of this powerful collaboration, IMS member organizations also have the individual opportunity to help shape the future of these technologies.
Who is involved?
Leaders in learning technologies from all sectors belong to IMS GlobalL. Some experts represent organizations that contribute to educational communities and promote the positive transformation of education. Some organizations that support interoperable standards between platforms and applications include Blackboard, Educause, eLumen, IBM, Harvard Business for Educators, Intel, Microsoft, McGraw Hill Education, Moodle, Oracle, the University of Michigan and the University of Toronto, among many others.
Organizations that participate in IMS Global also promote the use of standards internally.
E-Learn Magazine had the opportunity to talk to Rob Abel, the CEO of the IMS Global Learning Consortium, and Sandra DeCastro, Vice-President of Community Programs at IMS Global Learning Consortium.
E-Learn Magazine: What is the importance of IMS’s practices and initiatives?
IMS Global Team: IMS Global is focused on the future of education technology and learning. IMS provides an architecture and an ecosystem of plug and play technology, where a base is created on which innovative products can be rapidly deployed and work together.
With the adoption of IMS standards, organizations save a substantial amount of time, cut costs and improve system integration by a factor of 10 to 1000, as compared to connection customized Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), because all applications certified by IMS use the same open standards to connect. These savings are evident for providers and for the staff of the institution responsible for EdTech integrations.
Low costs and swift integration mean that institutions have the flexibility and facility to add learning tools, digital contents and applications to meet different needs in a quick and secure manner. These digital resources can be organized as the institution desires, either through a single repository or by means of multiple access points (for instance, a learning management system, a content portal or a repository of learning objects).
When applications use IMS-certified standards, a productive and innovative experience is created: teachers and students can seamlessly access digital resources in their learning environment through a single sign, and relevant data, such as lists and analysis results, can be exchanged automatically. This means that teachers, students and parents can follow the progress and skills of a student, derived from multiple tools and digital resources at a single and the same place. A directory of IMS-certified products is available at www.imscert.org.
ELM: How can education be improved with IMS’s initiatives? What are the pedagogic and educational benefits for higher education and businesses?
IMS: The global challenge of having a better education and learning for all citizens worldwide is a great task we will face in the future. More effective educational models, better access to digital resources, opportune information on students’ progress, and the ability to customize learning according to each student’s needs; all of this contributes to the improvement of teaching and learning. To firmly move forward in teaching and learning, it is necessary to allow innovative technologies to be integrated easily and collaborate smoothly.
IMS is leading a collaboration initiative to implement an interoperable technology platform based on open standards to bolster educational innovation aimed at improved teaching, the adoption of new pedagogic models, access to the most opportune information and personalized learning.
ELM: What are some challenges IMS will face in 2016?
IMS: The educational community is concerned because providers are not worried about adopting the most recent IMS standards, such as Learning Tools Interoperability® v2 (LTI® v2)and Caliper Analytics. Only a few organizations have adopted these standards to date, which leaves many benefits unrealized. Of course, these standards alone aren’t critical, but they do make things easier. Thus, in higher education, providers are contributing new capabilities such as analytics and consultancy. In K-12, they are bringing recommendation and evaluation engines, all of which are scalable and function with interoperability standards.
Institutions can help speed up the adoption of IMS standards by requiring their providers to adopt and achieve certification for IMS standards. You can see who has been certified by searching the IMS Conformance Product Directory at www.imscert.org. By doing this, institutions are not only helping to speed up standardization, but also providing themselves with a better learning experience, thanks to better learning technology, and avoiding over-dependence on providers.
ELM: What are the main problems on which IMS should focus its efforts?
IMS: IMS’s priorities are defined by our members, based on pressing interoperability challenges for the adoption and evolution of a fully integrated digital learning environment. Our current set of institutional initiatives are focused on:
- Helping institutions in the transition toward a fully digital and effective curriculum
- Implementing the plug and play ecosystem across platforms, applications and tools
- Transitioning to a truly integrated and interactive E-Assessment tool to facilitate personalized learning
- Improving real-time access, data and analysis applications to improve transverse educational results
- Leading the future in digital accreditation and competence-based education
ELM: What characteristics should an institution possess to become a member of IMS?
IMS: IMS Global membership is open to schools, universities, school districts, academic technology providers, educational associations and government institutions interested in developing and launching onto the market a set of open standards to make applications, content and data to “plug and play.”
After 10 years of spectacular growth, IMS Global has become one of the largest and most influential standards consortium worldwide, with about 360+ member organizations. In short, there is no bigger collaboration of EdTech organizations—all of them engaged in creating an open platform to facilitate more efficient teaching and learning innovations—anywhere in the world.
ELM: What role do organizations play in supporting IMS?
IMS: The role of organizations consists of actively contributing to collaboration to advance the interoperability revolution in the educational sector. IMS has three types of membership: voting members, known as Contributing Members (CM), Affiliates and Alliances.
Contributing Members provide 90% of financing and leadership to advance IMS initiatives. The Affiliate membership level is ideal for organizations that wish to get involved with IMS, but have just started to implement IMS standards. Alliances provide organizations implementation support and certification for one standard.
ELM: How can the e-learning community be informed about IMS’ work?
IMS: Fortunately, we are experiencing an increased interest in the work of the IMS community as a result of the base efforts of our members to help raise awareness through presentations at conferences, publications and webinars.
We also rely on close collaboration with organizations in the industry to generate greater awareness about how IMS standards may facilitate next-generation digital learning. In the sector of higher education, this includes organizations like EDUCAUSE, Online Learning Consortium, WCET, Collective Shift, C-BEN and APLU. K-12 collaborations include ISTE, CoSN, Ed-Fi and The Learning Counsel, among others. We also host the annual Learning Impact Leadership Institute, which is a global program recognizing the impact of innovative technology on access to, affordability and quality of education.
IMS envisions and works toward a future where education innovations are not driven by profit but by necessity. In a world of non-traditional students and increasingly global access to education materials, their standards are of the utmost value, as they allow institutions everywhere to share knowledge, ideas, and innovation.
Photo by: Bill Wechter