Speaking of both standards compliance and Blackboard, IMS CEO Rob Abel has posted an interesting comment on the Wired Campus’ blurb regarding a Blackboard/SAP integration deal:
It is important for the readers to understand that there are currently administrative system providers such as Oracle working within the nonprofit IMS Global Learning Consortium to create open standards for the type of integration mentioned between administrative (SAP) and course management (Blackboard) systems. SAP is not currently a member or participant in IMS and, as such, is not involved in this work. Buyers need to understand that proprietary integration schemes limit their choice and involve greater total cost of ownership. There has been quite a bit of “lip service” to standards and we are doing our best to change that. As such, IMS will be developing a certification and compliance program for the next generation of enterprise data exchange and I suggest that buyers look to the IMS web site (www.imsglobal.org) to see which vendors are participating members and which products are compliant.
This is all of a piece with the Common Cartridge issue. If customers don’t demand standards compliance, then they will remain at the mercy of vendor lock-in. The last thing you want to hear is that you can’t change to a better LMS because the non-standard integration with your Student Information System (SIS) will break.
Are these standards perfect solutions? Of course not. Standards specifications are rarely perfect and even more rarely perfect on the first try. For example, one LMS developer told me he had concerns that that the current Common Cartridge specification doesn’t give him very good tools for ensuring that his platform fully complies with it. So glitches will happen and the spec will need to be refined. But that won’t happen unless customers demand standards compliance first and then demand improvements to the standards as the needs are identified.
Despite what some bloggers may tell you, there is plenty of evidence in this industry as well as others that customer demand can drive standards adoption. (SCORM is one good example off the top of my head.) So go ahead and be demanding. Tell the vendors that that you simply will not adopt a platform that locks you in by neglecting standards compliance.