OKI, IMS, ADL and SIF join up
The four main US-based educational technology specification bodies are to formalise their ties, set up coordinated activities and provide joint support for developers.
The value of an alliance between this particular set of acronyms is that it covers a very large amount of current e-learning specifications: IMS developed a large set of general specifications on anything from educational content to enterprise systems, Open Knowledge Initiative (OKI) is a more recent effort to develop a set of standardised infrastructure components and programming interfaces. Both are particularly strong in higher education. The Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF) developed a standardised way to exchange a wide variety of data across the US primary school system, and Advanced Distributed Learning developed the most widely used educational content reference model in training and other applications.
The new alliance is not so much an attempt to try and fit all these specs into one single model, as it is a way to build on informal ties that were already there. A fair few of the people who developed all these specs either were already involved in more than one of these iniatives, or else where one a first name basis with developers across the new alliance. Taking these links a step further clearly makes sense. The alliance itself will not be closed, there is room for more "if appropriate".
The plans for the activities of the new alliance are, for the foreseeable future, relatively modest. One aspect is a further continuation of the developer support tools that are hosted on the IMS website for all the others and itself. Another is to set up a series of joint activities; most specifically a conference and workshop in June 2003. As far as the make-up of the actual specs is concerned, the idea is really to try and identify any application sectors that are not yet served by the partners, and coordinate technical issues within specific specs as the need arises.
In all, the alliance looks like a good way to reduce duplication of effort and make sure that the different specifications themselves are interoperable. As to the future, one factor to watch is whether the alliance will internationalise, and another to see how far the specs themselves will get integrated: whether by design or accident.