Reaction to IMS Learning Impact 2012 Conference

May 30, 2012 jkatzman

We may have all been drinking the same cool-aid, but at the IMS Global Learning Consortium Learning Impact Conference in Toronto, there was a meeting of the minds.

While it was a small gathering, the caliber of people and level of engagement of the participants was impressive.

( There was a high concentration of executives of major educational content publishers, the largest learning technology providers, and leaders in K12 and higher-ed all gathered to coalesce around a set of standards that can meet the challenges of transforming teaching and learning in higher-ed and K12.


The IMS is at the cutting edge of web 2.0 open and flexible architectures. LTI (Learning Tool Interoperability) in particular has cracked the LMS open. The learning tools that were previously only native to the LMS are now are externalized from the LMS, and enabled as cloud-based “tools.” It is still very new, but appears to have some momentum already.

LTI is a disruptor.

The number and quality of the early adopters serve as evidence. With the ability to easily create learning applications that seamlessly mash-up the best content, and with the tools available, it is no wonder that some innovative vendors have already seized on this new opportunity.  The market is already forming around this concept.

This is an exciting development and one that can truly make an impact on the quality and flexibility to create individualized learning experiences.

Individualized Learning

A major track at the conference was Individualized Learning in K12. The use case was often repeated. Give a student an assessment to measure their level of competency relative to an educational standard (like common core), then use this information to create an individualized learning plan matched to the learners needs and learning style preferences.  The core to this concept is having a repository of granular learning assets aligned to the standards from which a teacher can mash-up and select from, to individualize the instruction.

There are adoptions, and districts are standing up systems that enable individualized learning solutions. However, of the participants actually doing it I spoke with at the IMS conference, many believe the requirements are ahead of the market and they are being forced to make decisions from a limited set of options.  And even when the technology is capable of supporting individualized learning, the content that is available from commercial publishers isn’t designed for this purpose. What was designed for “one-size-fits-all” instruction isn’t easily disaggregated into small assignable units.

The whole business model of how schools use learning content needs to evolve.

In an individualized learning environment, the teacher needs choices; to pick the best learning resources for the student from across multiple content providers. Why pay for license to a full catalog of curriculum when you may not use all of it?

Ending on a positive note, I would have never expected innovation to be led by our public K12 system. They say necessity is the mother of all invention and in this case, I believe its true. The seriousness of the problem in our educational system is being matched with forward thinking leadership – and that was on full display at the IMS confence.

The conference was attended by and this article was authored by Jeffrey Katzman, Founder and CLO at Xyleme, Inc.

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