The global pandemic is clearly illuminating the value and even necessity of online education and remote learning for students around the world. It also is revealing key hurdles and limitations yet to be addressed in the technology space.
Standardization is one of the crucial collaborative platforms through which innovation in online education and remote learning is taking place, to the benefit of learners, teachers, their institutions and companies and the industry serving them alike. Technological capabilities are being rolled out across more applications, and key advances in cost efficiency and usability are being achieved through multi-vendor interoperability.
With online education and remote learning expanding rapidly to more learners of every age, standardization activities through globally open organizations such as the IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee (LTSC) provide a crucial venue for helping ensure requirements across diverse applications spaces are addressed, lessons learned are exchanged and benefits of innovation are shared.
In the last two to three years, global education has undergone an explosion of new learning systems. One example is intensified deployment of online learning management systems in K12 and higher education.
These systems had been used primarily in human-relations functions or very personalized learning environments. Broad-scale adoption across other areas of education, however, had been hindered by lack of affordability. There has been encouraging change of late, however. We see more and more attention to getting those systems in place in K12 and higher education—first to support professional development for teachers and now virtual education services in some districts.
As the technology under the hood of the disparate educational systems for early learning, K12, postsecondary and workforce applications grows more consistent through standardization, a valuable synergy gathers steam. Cost efficiencies can be realized through interoperability and techniques such as content reuse, and the learning itself becomes the core driver in solving questions in the development of solutions across historically isolated educational silos:
- How might knowledge transfer, assessment, etc. be structured so that the given individual learner learns most efficiently?
- What are the key competencies to be validated in terms of a learner’s performance?
- What data is needed and what data should not be collected to serve and protect learners?
- How do we make sure separate systems talk to each other in a seamless way so that they work together for the learner?
- How might new technologies such as AI, machine learning, mobile computing, virtual reality/augmented reality, blockchain and big data play a more important role for learners globally?
The benefits of industry consolidation around such questions are clear and transformative. A textbook from one publisher could be more easily put into another institution’s massive open online course (MOOC). A learning management system from one provider could more efficiently harvest data from an assessment system provided by another. Student homework, surveys and responses could be more seamlessly leveraged across different remote-learning and video-conferencing platforms. The playing field among large companies and even individual teachers could be leveled.
Engaging New Voices
The need for more collaboration across the spectrum of applications is clear, as well. Solutions must cross organizational boundaries, and, so, business relationships among stakeholders must evolve. Globally open standardization activities collapse the different silos of individual publishers and application spaces.
The IEEE LTSC, for example, develops internationally accredited technical standards and other guidance in the space. It follows a globally open and consensus-driven standards development process and actively cooperates with other organizations to promote development and effective use of learning technologies.
IEEE LTSC’s ongoing standards projects address extensive application programming interface (xAPI), adaptive instructional systems, mobile learning, augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR), student data governance, competency frameworks and federated machine learning. Initiatives are upcoming in areas such as interoperable learning records and secure and trusted learning systems.
Toward the goal of advancing learning technologies for the benefit of humanity, IEEE LTSC is focused on engaging with additional industry, government and academic partners across and beyond IEEE. The new IEEE LTSC leadership for the 2020-2021 term reflects this commitment to integrating more voices from across the diverse education ecosystem:
- I am chief architect and general manager of U.S. operations for Squirrel AI Learning, an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered adaptive education provider in China.
- IEEE LTSC vice chair Jim Goodell is senior education analyst at QI Partners, a woman-owned small business in communications and content, data management and standards, and cloud applications.
- Secretary Brandt Redd is chief technology officer of MatchMaker Education Labs, a startup in competency definitions and facilitating directories of learning resources.
- Treasurer Shelly Blake-Plock is chief executive officer of Yet Analytics, developers of the data analytics and visualization environment for xAPI and the total learning architecture for the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative at the U.S. Department of Defense.
What unique perspective on learning technologies could you offer from your organization? Your input is needed to help ensure innovation is unleashed for the benefit of learners everywhere.