Emerging Technologies: The Houston ISD IMS Interoperability Processes

Beatriz Arnillas is the Director of IT - Education Technology at Houston ISD, a CoSN member district, and a member of CoSN's Emerging Technologies Committee. Lately we've been talking a lot about interoperability standards -- what are they? How do we shore them up in our school districts? Beatriz shared her top tips for optimizing interoperability. How do your district's processes compare?

In the last year, Houston ISD has been working with content partners to integrate digital materials into the Houston ISD Digital Teaching and Learning Platform (DTLP). Here are some basic thoughts and tips for success:

Principles of good practice:

  1. Communication: The district sends a formal communication about HISD’s IMS Global requirements to all potential providers before digital resources are identified for purchase.
  2. Commitment: All vendors are required to be IMS Global members, so stakeholders can get technical assistance as needed, and all vendors must have their product(s) conformance certified by IMS Global before testing and integrating into the DTLP.
  3. Transparency: Districts and partners (DTLP and publishers) must agree to have concurrent conversations. Unilateral conversations create misalignment and misunderstandings.


The district’s team initiates the process by having an “enrollment” conversation with digital resources providers. In this initial conversation, we welcome vendors to our district, remind them of the interoperability standards requirements, inquire how much they know about the standards, and specify next steps. 

Processes and communication

When HISD first introduced Interoperability, our academic departments expressed frustration at not being able to understand what we were talking about. Why should we use these standards? What are the benefits and differences between one standard and the other? We wrote several documents to support understanding and obtain commitment for this work from academic departments and vendors.

Smart List: There are multiple purchasing points of entry in HISD. The district developed a comprehensive list of all adopted and supplemental digital tools purchased. The list is accessible both to internal and external stakeholders, and provides all the information and notes needed.

Prioritization:  Academic departments prioritize product integrations. A prioritized list is necessary to plan for, and commit resources. Houston ISD is currently managing the integration of products in “badges” of 10 – 15 at a time.