Lois makes an excellent point about standards for interoperability (excerpted below). At the risk of over-simplifying the complex process by which standards might get set, perhaps two points are germane:
1. A necessary condition for establishing standards is vocal and concerted advocacy from interested parties. The interested parties can come in two varieties: End-users (college & university CIOs and their staffs, in this case) who require interoperability, or vendors who believe that standards will create a bigger market in which they will capture greater revenue. An example of the latter is IBM's current push for a standard industry-wide format for medical records, which IBM sees as critical for their ability to sell hardware-software-service solutions to their health-care clients. Does any LMS vendor have an incentive for standard LMS-formats comparable to IBM's incentive for standard medical formats?
2. Establishment of standards typically requires some sort of third-party (e.g., a government body or industry consortium). Who might be suitable third parties for LMS data standards? Educause is an obvious candidate! Another possiblity is a foundation. For example, see the URL below regarding Kauffman foundation's role in fostering a standards-like agreement on how commercial firms should collaborate on open-source software. In the LMS case, would the foundation money currently being pitched to Sakai be better spent on standards-creation? If so, who can convince the foundations to do so?
"Open Collaboration Principles" Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation & IBM, December 19, 2005. URL: http://www.kauffman.org/pdf/open_collaboration_principles_12_05.pdf
Professor of Practice
School of Information Studies
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The challenge for the IT organization,
then, is to make learning systems interoperate with each other and
with related systems (student information, library, content
management, etc.) Easier said than done, to be sure ...
... interoperability will not be achieved until
the entire portfolio of software we use on our campuses, whether
purchased or adopted from open source, uses application interface and
data standards. Even the simple notion of data import and export
seems to be unimportant to many vendors, and standards based
structures are hard to find. Making our student information system
export data to the learning management system was nontrivial, but it
should have been trivial.
Director, Stanford University Academic Computing
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