Improving Learning through Data Standards for Educational Technologies
Authors: John Whitmer, Aaron E. Silvers, and Megan Bowe
The surge in education technology use in response to COVID-19 represents a massive natural experiment: an opportunity to learn what works at scale, for which students, and under which conditions. However, without the right data standards in place we risk incomplete or inaccurate inferences from this experiment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased use of educational technologies. There is evidence that this “emergency onlining” will lead to learning loss, especially among underserved communities. To understand and address the extent of learning loss—as well as to explore and support potential future uses of educational technologies—the U.S. Department of Education (ED) must systematically implement established open-data standards that allow us to understand how students engage with learning technologies. Wide-scale implementation of these standards will make it possible to combine and analyze validated data sets generated by multiple technologies. This in turn will provide unprecedented, on-demand reporting and research capabilities that can be used to precisely identify gaps and create targeted interventions. Specifically, we recommend that ED mandate the use of the open Experience API (xAPI) standard for educational technology purchased with federal funds. We further recommend that ED invest time, talent, and resources to further develop this standard and pilot efforts to leverage educational-technology data for insights through the Institute for Education Sciences (IES) and other agencies.
About the Authors
Aaron E. Silvers is a Manager with Elsevier Inc., responsible for data strategies to support clinical learning and patient engagement. In previous roles leading applied research & development for MakingBetter, Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) and Grainger, Aaron facilitated the evolution of the xAPI community into several related working groups: produced exemplars, functional models, and reference software. He currently chairs the IEEE xAPI Profiles Standard Working Group, 9274.2.1. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org | https://www.linkedin.com/in/aaronsilvers/
Megan Bowe is the managing director of MakingBetter, where she consults for government and corporate clients on data strategies for learning analytics, technology interoperability, and advancement of online education. Previously Megan led product-development teams at Knewton to build adaptive educational technology, and at Rustici Software to advise educational technology companies on implementing data interoperability standards. Contact: email@example.com | https://www.linkedin.com/in/meganbowe/
John Whitmer is a Senior Fellow for Data Science with the Federation of American Scientists. He previously led data-science teams for ACTNext and Blackboard where he conducted applied research using educational process data to develop student feedback notifications, teacher grading assistance, and automated scoring systems. He served on the IMS Caliper Steering Committee from 2019–2020. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org | https://www.linkedin.com/in/johncwhitmer/