Back from Learning Impact 2013

IMS Learning Impact at Marriott, San Diego

Don’t let the greyish photo fool you, Learning Impact 2013 was sunny outside and inside. I usually have a great time attending the IMS Quarterlies (where the working group I am part of meets) but that was actually my first Learning Impact (IMS annual conference) and it was a blast.

First and foremost, it was so much fun meeting old friends, and making new ones (didn’t think I’d spend an evening chatting around beers about philosophy – en français -, thanks Jeff!). After so many face to face meetings, I really grew a sense of belonging to that community. But it was not all fun, friends and great people, we were there for a purpose: technology and learning. And how we can make an impact in education. Rob Abel, CEO of IMS, mentioned that we were living a revolution. Revolution, I know, what a  washed out world, bastardized by years of marketing. But there is no way to deny it: as many industries, Internet is a tsunami that is shattering the very core assumption of education, the old 200+ years paradigm of the one size fits all teacher/expert and the classroom model, and it is unclear what will be the new reality when the water recesses. It is a tale of opportunity (wanna be google of e-learning) and survival, and quite exciting to be a part of actually!

So a few highlights of the conference:

LTI is the buzzword: it is funny how the smallest spec, the less ‘architected’, the Basic LTI Launch, is the buzzword and the standards spec everybody is aware of. A simple answer to a common problem, here is a recipe for success. LTI 2.0 builds on the success and is much more architected. Will it give it the legs to build a rich plug and play interoperable ecosystem of learning resources and tools? Or would its apparent complexity mean LTI 1.x (rebranded Basic LTI) will be the actual standards that is widely adopted, because it is mostly ‘enough’? I sure do hope for the former.

Role of the teacher: we hear things like teachers do not scale; building a student centric experience; the broken lecture model; can technology be used to scale up education to an internet scale audience? Or to improve the learner experience in more blended mentor/learner hierarchy. The answer is probably not in either but in both of them at the same time.

Learning Analytics: Big (and small!) Data carries to be a significant potential disruptor. Everybody knows it, but I feel it is unclear yet how it will finally be used. We like to think of predictive analytics, and think of the success of Netflix as a guidance. However, Learning is not Buying, the final outcome is not easy to evaluate: What constitutes good learning? Even good grades is probably not enough (even if it is the most obvious) way to measure. I see how learning maps coupled with Learning Analytics can help a user understand her path in the learning scape she is working on.

QTI Works: I like the assertive tone! Yes, QTI works :) I still wear the scars of implementing QTI 1.2 years ago, but I feel the time is ripe to take a dive in the APIP and QTI 2.1 world again: QTIWorks (delivery engine) and Uniqurate (the authoring platform) might be the only thing I need to reboot.

LMS CEOs Panel: Leave all Political Correctness at the door, thanks! I was amazed. It all started smoothly but it did not take long for Instructure’s CEO Josh Coates to give a kick in the anthill. I could not believe my ears :) Not always constructive but surely entertaining! But at the end, consensus grew around the fact that LMSes should inter-operate (what a surprised at an IMS conference). I loved they were challenged by Zach from Measured Progress to support QTI 2.1 by next year conference. Blank Stares, then ‘We are big fan of QTI’, ‘Oh yes we already export QTI something’… They sure agreed they would support it, at the same time having probably not a glimpse of what it entails (and it means a lot, you don’t write a QTI 2.1 APIP assessment engine that easily). Here is a pledge that I bet will quickly be forgotten!

And I could go on and on, it was a rich 3 days, I took a bunch of notes and will try to reflect a bit more in depth in later posts, for example on the excellent keynotes by Dr. Zhao on Education Paradigms, and Steve Kingler, on the remarkable work done at Western Governors University.

A last word to thanks my employer, Cengage Learning, for allowing to carrying on participating in the standardization works under way at IMS.

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