Data Interoperability in education
Following the health crisis of 2020, the need to improve e-learning has been highlighted. Many projects have been initiated, with different actors, systems and models working to achieve this goal. Each one has its own data structure, adapted to its own context, so we find it impossible to make the systems communicate with each other in order to exchange data. A solution to this problem is to set up standards to guarantee the interoperability of data in the education sector.
What is interoperability?
Interoperability consists in the operation of multiple systems sharing a common language or framework designed to help them work together to improve the end-user experience. It is based on technical standards that act together to share data between ICT systems, enabling accurate, efficient and cost-effective information exchange.
Thanks to these predefined norms and standards, the time required to set up and manage IT systems is reduced. An example of an interoperable system that is used in our everyday lives is the health insurance system, which in some countries allows all actors in the health system to communicate data about an individual quickly and efficiently. Thanks to the interoperability of these IT systems, an insurance company can have access to the patient’s medical file to guarantee a payment or any other service.
The field of online education also has these norms and standards to ensure a good communication between the different actors. These include:
SCORM: an interoperable learning structure
SCORM, the acronym for “Sharable Content Object Reference Model”, is the most widely used e-learning standard. It is a set of technical standards that provides a method of communication and data models that allow e-learning content and LMSs to work together. SCORM defines how to create “shareable content objects” that can be reused in different systems and contexts.
SCORM allows the transmission of information on learning content between different platforms (LMSs), this information is transmitted in the form of a package which contains a monitoring of the learner’s activities on the learning content. The SCORM package contains a lot of data such as the learner’s progress on the course, time spent, score on different quizzes as well as the minimum score to validate the course.
The advantage of a SCORM-compliant learning module is its interoperability. If you create content, your client will have to upload this content to their LMS. If you are an LMS or learning platform provider, a client will want to import content from other sources. SCORM makes sure that the content is compatible with an LMS and that an LMS can import, launch and track the content.
QTI: interoperable assessment content
The Question & Test Interoperability (QTI) standard, developed by MSI , enables the exchange and sharing of questions between assessment or e-learning platforms.
It is the standard format in which assessments/quizzes are saved when exported from a learning management system such as Moodle. The questions can usually be downloaded as a zip file which contains details of the quiz settings, the questions, any images embedded in a question, etc. It allows you to export a quiz from one course to another in the same LMS, or even to import to the LMS a quiz that has been created in another learning and assessment system such as Domoscio.
By adhering to the QTI standard, you can ensure that content created by instructional designers can be integrated into the vast majority of e-learning systems. A future migration from one system to another will therefore not be a problem.
xAPI: interoperable learning data
xAPI is an e-learning specification that allows data to be collected in the wide range of experiences of an individual in online and offline learning activities. The use by xAPI of a shared format for receiving and sending data makes the specification ideal for sharing learning experiences across multiple systems.
The innovative aspect of xAPI is that it includes both online learning data (answering a quiz, watching a video, reading an article), but also face-to-face activities (participating in a classroom training or an offline serious game). At the simplest level, the structure of an xAPI interaction can be expressed as an “actor-verb-object”, where the actor is the individual performing the interaction, and the verb describes the action taken by the individual. This is a crucial element of the statement, as it describes exactly what happened between the actor and the object of the statement. xAPI has a predefined list of verbs to be used which includes actions such as “experienced”, “participated”, “attempted”, “completed”, “succeeded”, “failed”, “imported”, “created”, “shared”…). As for the object, this is the content with which the individual has interacted, here the format can be defined by the system designers, but it is preferable to specify the type of object in the interaction statement.
These “sentences” are then recorded, the application sends secure statements in the form of “actor-verb-object” (“I answered the last question”) to a Learning Record Store (LRS), which is a kind of database for storing xAPI interactions. An LRS can share these statements with other LRSs. An LRS can exist on its own or within an LMS.
The advantage of using xAPI, as with the standards mentioned above, is that it allows for sovereignty over the learning data in the event of a change of platform, but it also allows for the enhancement of the learner experience by integrating different tools.
The field of learning is constantly evolving and adopting good practice and interoperability standards will ensure the sustainability and quality of e-learning experiences. Domoscio continually strives to ensure that these standards are respected in the implementation of its products.
XAPI : https://xapi.com/
SCORM : https://scorm.com/