K-12 and Rights Management take Centre Stage at IMS Forum
Norm Friesen, University of Alberta
March 11, 2002

The first IMS open technical forum meeting for 2002 was held on February 27 in Sydney, Australia. Among the issues brought to the fore included interoperability in schools or in the K-12 sector, and rights management for digital resources.

Interoperating in the K-12 Context

Under the rubric of "K-12 Interoperability," a series of presentations were provided by representatives from Microsoft, Australia's Department of Education, Skills and Training (DEST) and others. Among the presenters was Tim Magner, CEO of the American-based Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF; http://www.sifinfo.org/). SIF "is an industry initiative to develop an open specification for ensuring that K-12 instructional and administrative software applications work together more effectively." It has industry membership such as Microsoft, Oracle and IBM. As Magner explained, the framework is based on a hub and spokes model, with services such as purchasing, student records and human resources management being linked into a central "Zone Integration Server." Magner visualizes such a framework as allowing cascaded reporting and synchronized data sharing through district, state and other levels.

Presentations by representatives of the federal Australian DEST department underscored the fact that systems interoperability in K-12 and in Australian education generally is understood as a priority. The picture emerging from these presentations was one of provincially-administrated school systems challenged by the lack of a national Internet infrastructure, but hoping to benefit though federally funded projects in areas such as server infrastructure and content development. The federal-level affirmation of interoperability was clearly manifest in the form of an announcement of the "Le@rning Federation" project (http://www.thelearningfederation.edu.au). This project focuses on the development of modular, re-purposable content readily adaptable to provincial and individual curricula needs, and is jointly funded by DEST and its provincial counterparts.

Managing Digital Rights

In an informative presentation, Dr. Renato Ianella of IPR Systems underscored the need for a significant shift in attitude among the elearning community towards digital rights: "We should no longer just be talking about enforcement or avoidance, we should be talking about management." By management, Ianella referred to a comprehensive rights information model and dictionary that is a part of a newly developed ODRL (Open Digital Rights Language) specification undertaken by his group with the support of Noika, Real Networks and others. This specification is able to define rights in terms of users, permissions and content, and is specifically intended to be able to accommodate the complex and extended lifecycle and the aggregate nature of digital learning resources. Its emphasis on management mechanisms, rather than on encryption and enforcement, is also very well suited to the needs of educational users. For these users, according to Ianella, often present a trusted user base, and usually allow formal recognition for use or citation, rather than requiring explicit remuneration or control. For Dr. Ianella's presentation, see: http://www.iprsystems.com/assets/IMS-DRM-Slides-Feb2002.pdf. For more about ODRL in particular, see: http://odrl.net/.

Thanks to Norm Friesen of the University of Alberta for submitting this item