A warning upfront: I think this post may expose my ignorance, and there may be a 'duh, we've been working on that for ages', type reaction. But based on previous experience, I've found that my ignorance is often shared by others, I'll forge ahead.
I'll give you the background: On Friday I had a quick play with video in Googlemail. Naturally it works fine, so I put out a rather facetious tweet about why do we bother to design software specially for education when this stuff is just there. Niall responded saying:
"can it be linked to student registration systems for automated population of tutor groups etc? "
This is a good point, and one that people like Scott and co have kicked around a few times.
The IMS Tools Interoperability Spec seeks to do some of this, stating:
"The IMS Tools Interoperability (TI) approach addresses the growing demand for a reusable mechanism for integrating third-party tools with core LMS platforms."
And Chuck Severance pointed me at something he is playing with called Simple Learning Tools Interoperability.
I may be wrong, but these don't quite seem to be what I'm after. What I want is the tools equivalent of eduglu, which for the sake of not bothering to come up with an original name, we'll call Uniglu. Here's my user scenario, so you can tell me if these will do what I want:
So he speaks to his IT services dept. who tell him that Seesmic is one of the 2138 applications that are listed in the Uniglu directory. This means they are trusted and are capable of accepting university data. They pass the secure data to the Seesmic API which automatically creates accounts for all the students, using their OpenID and preferred user names. It adds in all the students in the cohort as Followers and Following.
Similarly, in the course wiki, Tom is using Wetpaint. This also adds in all the students, and also sets up Tom and the two course assistants as moderators. The access to the wiki is set to registered only (ie the course cohort only, not public) which is the default option when it is available.
It seems to me that we aren't far off doing this, and that a combination of existing data standards would get us some way there, for instance OpenID, OAuth and OpenSocial?
I accept there would be issues around data protection and privacy, but one could imagine universities being declared trusted data owners and that applications have to be vetted to be in the Uniglu directory. The difference here with the IMS spec is that we are sending data out to these apps, not requiring them to come into our systems. I'm not sure if that's significant or not. The standard is probably something that is in the domain of IT Services, not individual educators, but it would need to be easy enough to implement for application providers if want the rich tapestry of apps to choose from, and of course, from the user's perspective it must be seamless.
So my questions are:
- Does this make sense?
- Is it desirable?
- Does it exist already?
- If not, could we do it easily?
And here I am asking the question in Seesmic: