The Next Frontier for Digital Learning Ecosystems: A Framework for Machine-Readable Learning Standards

Education professionals agree that technology is uniquely positioned to inform effective and personalized learning environments. The need for seamless communication between multiple digital platforms requires a consistent and coherent alignment of K-12 learning standards with digital resources, assignments and assessments.  This is why a number of K12 district associates in IMS Global emphasized the need to develop a framework for machine-readable learning standards and outcomes. 
 
Like other districts in the USA, the learning standards in Texas (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills – TEKS) are published in a static, pdf document, not a machine-readable format.  Third party organizations have taken on the challenge of creating machine-readable versions of the TEKS, leading to a variety of interpretations. While the solutions are all generally good, each organization has a proprietary way of “naming” standards, and labeling inconsistencies cause challenges when districts’ learning platforms receive content from a variety of vendors, each aligning to the TEKS, but giving the standards different names.
 
One of the key ingredients to personalize learning is having a reliable way of measuring learners’ mastery levels against the states’ standards and the current variety of formats naming and mapping standards constitute a serious roadblock.  Finally, there are additional costs associated with realigning content adopted it into learning systems.  The solution? A standard framework for publishing K12 Learning Standards. This framework will not only simplify the landscape by providing a unique label and digital address for each learning standard published by the state as the sole source, it also will enable us with the ability to craft consistent and reliable digital crosswalks between states’ standards.
 
With the assistance of IMS Global and the Texas Education Agency, Houston ISD and partner districts in Texas are working to create a standard framework for the publishing of the TEKS.  This framework will enable standards to be published in a machine-readable format, with each standard linked to a unique identifier and extensible to supporting custom versions.  The outcome will be to provide a clear, consistent way for vendors and districts to understand and code each learning object related to each of the standards.  The framework includes:
 
  • The location of the open repository for the newly-published standards
  • Publishing format, including parent-child relationship of strands and how they align vertically and horizontally
  • How to digitally identify adoption years and revision changes
 
The project is currently on track and the expected publication date is May of 2017.
 
 

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