Learning Impact Blog

1EdTech CEO Rob AbelRob Abel, Ed.D. | August 2020

"Together, we are going to a brand new home" —Cynthia Erivo

This month I am focusing on learner agency—the second of 1EdTech's repositioning to a new way of thinking about student success from now on by improving equity, agency, and mastery. Last month, I discussed equity, which isn't about giving every student the same experience, but rather about providing the diversity of experiences that meet learners' needs.

Similarly, agency is about meeting students where they are and helping toward where they would like to go—creating a pathway to success. It's where motivations and interests intersect with opportunities. It's about the empowerment that comes with an expectation that one can chart a course in life.

Isn't it a beautiful vision for our educational systems that the educational process helps every individual find their place in the world?

Every person deserves a place in this world and can have a unique impact on making this world a better place. But finding one's place in the world is a daunting process that lasts a lifetime.

Can educational systems be designed to help develop this sort of agency in a person? 

Our educational systems worldwide are already impacting hundreds of millions of lives every day. And the passion of faculty, teachers, staff, and administrators to shape lives positively is a beautiful thing already. Yet, we know that learner agency can benefit from more authentic educational experiences that help build a learner's sense of accomplishment, empowerment, and perhaps even address the challenges relevant to their everyday lives. This is not a new concept. Experiential learning has been endorsed by a wide range of educational innovators, from John Dewey to Paulo Freire, and repeatedly reiterated in studies that learning by doing creates greater retention, transfer, and metacognition. 

As we think about adding more experiential learning, we grapple with the historical design of predominant educational and employment systems worldwide. The current systems are largely designed to suit the industrial age, even though, according to economists and philosophers, we are already in a post-industrial society, where knowledge has a higher value than production. 

It is daunting to even think about how we transform the predominant educational models from being focused on sorting and stratifying students to focusing on developing each individual's talents and strengths. It's not only that developing useful skills is gaining importance in the return on investment from education, but also the fundamental substrate of what it means to be educated needs evolution. For example, shouldn't the liberal arts be evolving rapidly to meet the changing needs of society? 

It is also extremely challenging to help young people find their place in the world when the world is so complex, and they are just beginning to learn about it. For many, the degree of agency and motivation in learning is directly connected with the actual opportunities that are at hand. Thus, better educational experiences and better clarity of how that education connects to real opportunity are two sides of the same coin. 

No doubt, these are some daunting challenges that aren't as easy to solve as creating a set of academic learning standards and assessing a student's ability to perform on them. Or by simply adding more "career days" into the curriculum. 

The good news is that we are already seeing the beginnings of the changes across K-12, HED, and corporate learning that guide us as to how to evolve to a world where opportunity and empowerment lead to more effective student agency and achievement on a broader scale. We should not kid ourselves that this is going to happen overnight. But, as usual, the changes are occurring among the most motivated stakeholders. The motivation might be pure belief and conviction. Or, it might be very pragmatic—like filling gaps in employment or college application pipelines. Or it might be both together. If you are in K-12, HED, or corporate learning, you probably see examples. In 1EdTech, we are seeing many such as those discussed at our Digital Credentials Summit in February. This is very exciting! It's a time when innovation in new models is being appreciated that can directly connect learners to better opportunities—and the COVID-19 pandemic has made the need even more apparent as we more closely examine educational experiences, cost, and outcomes.

We have been working, along with our many partners, on enabling a connected infrastructure that encourages both sides of the agency/opportunity coin. While it is impossible to predict the many ways that innovative educational models will evolve, we in 1EdTech believe that there is a common foundation that is an obvious way to begin connecting educational models, opportunities, and lifelong learner agency.  Simply put, we are finding broad agreement among educational and corporate leaders that we must get better at representing the full depth and breadth of student achievement and skills across all sources in a way that can be curated by individuals and connected to the dynamic market of opportunities. Learners have a story to tell, their own, and need a better way to do it. Educational systems can aid this process by validating a greater breadth and depth of achievement.

There's been much exciting news in the last year or so about interest in a better record of learning by various names such as the interoperable learning record (ILR) or the learning and employment record (LER). And, of course, there has been a lot of excitement about how blockchain might be used as the immutable distributed ledger underlying such records. Thanks to the good work of 1EdTech members, our community anticipated these needs and is at the forefront of providing the foundation for the connected infrastructure with the combination of the 1EdTech Comprehensive Learner Record (CLR) and Open Badges (initially created by Mozilla Foundation and now improved by 1EdTech members including Mozilla). Open Badges can be incorporated as verifiable achievements from numerous sources into the CLR. AACRAO recently recommended adopting the 1EdTech CLR standard, and we are partnering to help higher education institutions across a broad range of needs through a series of public CLR roundtable discussions. Open Badges are being adopted in exciting ways in formal and informal education and corporations of all sizes. 1EdTech is also working with our K-12 state and district members (via the Partnership for Interoperable Versatile and Open Transcript or PIVOT Project) on some very innovative things.

Next month I will tie together the three focus areas for defining student success of the future while adding mastery into the mix. Till then, I hope the same determination, skill, and empathy that is getting us all through an unprecedented "back to school" can be leveraged in the future to get us to a brand new home—where our educational and employment systems work better together to help every individual better find their place in this world.


1EdTech CEO Rob AbelRob Abel, Ed.D. | July 2020


"I Hear My Train A Comin'" —Jimi Hendrix


Changing the status quo is hard. Changing the status quo in a sustainable way is even harder.

I'd like to think—and I believe there is good evidence to show—that the work of the 1EdTech members over the last 20+ years has changed some very foundational things in sustainable ways. This type of impact has occurred, I believe, because 1EdTech members have been able to look ahead in terms of how advances in technology and educational models will intersect. In recent years we have been refining the word "ecosystem" in edtech to mean something very specific in terms of products being able to work well and together reliably for the benefit of end-users. In future years we will be continuing this thread. Still, as I mentioned in my last post and the introduction to the recent 1EdTech annual report, we have begun driving toward more specificity in the terms "personalized learning" and "student success." Our starting point is the more specific goals of equity, agency, and mastery.

In this post, I would like to begin digging into some of the pragmatic progress we are seeing in laying the foundation for equity, agency, and mastery. It's a long road and discussion ahead, but I think we can all begin to see the future taking shape.

First, a caution. Yes, some specific strategies and fixes have helped "getting through" COVID-19. In general, the school districts and universities that have done the best in terms of ramping up thoughtful digital teaching and learning have already been working on their digital ecosystems for several years. Putting in place an extensive and sustainable ecosystem does not cost any more money. In fact, doing it the right way reduces many costs. But it does require a well-thought-out strategy with respect to the instructional goals, the approach to evolution, etc. And those strategies require leadership that cuts across IT, curriculum, and instruction. There is no short-cutting that redesign takes strategy, leadership, and time to implement. I would say that this is the most important learning from 1EdTech work over many years of experience.

So, with that caveat, what are we seeing during the period of COVID and beyond in terms of the tangible steps towards designing your ecosystem to enable equity, agency, and mastery?

Let's begin with equity. The generally accepted meaning of equity in education is that the educational experience meets each student where they are to help them achieve their aspirations rather than all educational experiences for all students being the same or equal. 1EdTech cannot solve all the issues around equity in education. But 1EdTech can ask,

"What does it mean for the digital education ecosystem to enable and support equity?"

We see in 1EdTech that the first foundation for equity appears to be an extensive and diverse digital curriculum and supporting resources (such as library resources) available to all students and faculty. The recent Learning Impact on-demand series has featured the ongoing work on setting up a foundation for digital equity at Chicago Public Schools. The key feature is guaranteed district-wide access to quality curriculum aligned to standards that can be customized at the local school level to meet the needs of the school and ideally each student. Thus, local teachers are not burdened with creating curriculum from scratch, but rather can apply local understanding to fit local needs. The program is based totally on 1EdTech standards enabling the support for a diverse curriculum and supporting products across many suppliers. The work in Chicago is just beginning to roll out, and the evolution of the interplay between central and local control will be critical to its success.

We are also seeing a somewhat similar trend in higher education via innovative offerings from publishers that ensure digital resource access. Cengage is a leader in this trend. Cengage supports not only course-level inclusive access for achieving digital on day one for all students in a course, but also provides "Cengage Unlimited" so all students can access a vast library of digital resources. The COVID experience of UC Davis in rapidly scaling access to digital textbooks from VitalSource (making extensive use of 1EdTech standards for integration and data) has not been unusual. It provides another model for scaling access to a highly distributed student population. 

Importantly, the idea of equity is that it can work in a way that allows the right fit educational experience to reach a student—regardless of the source or distance involved. COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to grapple with distance education as the primary mode. In my recent leadership interview with Cengage CTO George Moore, he details some challenges when the modality switches to entirely online. We often think of bandwidth as the only challenge to achieving digital equity. Still, there are others that George points out, such as the ability to support identity, privacy, and security. These and other issues that George elucidates are solvable as we continue to work together on the edtech ecosystem based on open standards. But it will take much longer and perhaps never reach scale if we don't work together.

As I mentioned in my last post, equity, agency, and mastery work in concert—they reinforce and enable each other. Equitable opportunities enable agency that, in turn, enables a focus on mastery, and better definitions of mastery enable equity. I will continue discussing the trends developing ecosystem foundations for agency and mastery in next month's installment.


Inside the Digital Transformation - Part 3

This is part three in a series of blog posts from the 1EdTech K-12 team focusing on interoperability and its advantages for educators and instruction in K-12 education, especially during the current pandemic. This post investigates the critical role of Student Information Systems in effectively and equitably responding to COVID and the continuity of learning.

By Monica Watts and Dr. Tim Clark


Sketch: remote attendance in K-12 (July 2020)

The Mothership of Our Data

A national snapshot shows that schools and districts with plug-and-play digital ecosystems using standards for interoperability are making the transition from brick and mortar to remote learning more seamlessly than their counterparts. Not surprisingly, these institutions were carefully designing, planning, and making these preparations for their digital learning landscape many years before COVID-19. They were strategically integrating their digital tools, resources, and curricula into a suite of various platforms to facilitate new learning opportunities. Of these platforms is the student information system (SIS). When it comes to student data, the strategic importance of the SIS has never been more essential.

In this blog, we examine five institutions that are continuing to pursue the above efforts, which helps mitigate some of the recent disruptions. Core to their design strategy is the dynamic use of student data that resides in their student information systems. As Greg Odell from Hall County (GA) states, “Infinite Campus, our student information system (SIS), is structured for managing data. In fact, it is the mothership for our data.”

Steve Buettner at Edina Public Schools (MN) echoes this sentiment. When asked about the tools that are key to their digital ecosystem, Steve mentions, “We are not unlike other school districts."

"We use the same types of tools other school districts use, but we have seen an evolution of which ones take priority and sit at the center of our ecosystem. Currently, our SIS sits at the center of our digital ecosystem. It is so important because it has information about our students, families, the courses, the historical transcript, and all other essential information.”

Much of this information is contained in the 1EdTech OneRoster® standard to solve a district’s need to securely and reliably exchange roster information, course materials, and grades between systems.

Market Expectations

Now, more than ever, student information systems play a critical role in shaping state and district response to the current crisis. Major industry players build "best in breed" digital learning ecosystems by leveraging 1EdTech interoperability standards to dominate the highly fractured, highly competitive K-12 educational technology space. Core to their strategies is the dynamic use of student data that resides in a district’s SIS. K-12 schools and districts implement various SIS providers, with some of the notable players being Infinite Campus, Follett Aspen, and PowerSchool. At the same time, some institutions even take on the task of designing their own SIS. School districts should expect to face new and complex schedule challenges to begin the new school year. The potential scenarios of hybrid online and in-person instruction will require a partner that is flexible and innovative to support the new scheduling scenarios.

One K-12 SIS, Infinite Campus, is addressing the challenges brought on by the pandemic by keeping learners connected, whether at school or home. Charlie Kratsch, Founder and CEO, is an advocate for providing connectivity to third-party learning applications. Charlie says, “Students enrolled in our SIS are scheduled into classes as in-person, remote or blended learners, and rosters are immediately updated. Learning Tools Interoperability® (LTI®) single sign-on allows learning applications to be launched with a click directly from our embedded LMS. Assignments and scores are returned via OneRoster to our SIS for review by teachers, students, parents, and administrators.” Additionally, our long-standing commitment to 1EdTech standards benefits K-12 districts as they address challenges brought on by the pandemic.

Uniformity Is Not the Same as Interoperability

There is no one-size-fits-all implementation of an SIS, as some states utilize an enterprise solution to address the needs of the districts throughout the state. In other states, the procurement of an SIS is left up to individual districts. Dan Raylea, Director of the Office of Research and Data Analysis at the South Carolina Department of Education, says, “The drive toward interoperability is enabling their adoption of a statewide rostering solution.” Dan notes some benefits in his statewide deployment of the PowerSchool SIS. By implementing the SIS at scale, South Carolina was able to deploy the platform more economically and rapidly for the individual districts. Then Dan can visualize consistent and comparative achievement data from districts throughout the state. One issue with such a uniform deployment is that the system may not be initially interoperable with the other platforms in use by the individual districts. Dan notes that typically the SIS is used to record and maintain student attendance. Still, he sees that with so many forms of distance and remote learning occurring to minimize exposure to COVID-19, that there may be a need to recognize student participation in digital lessons. 1EdTech Caliper Analytics®; may afford that data, and he hopes the SIS will continue to evolve for better understanding and visualization of student learning activities.

Another district example is Grapevine-Colleyville ISD (TX). The district has made significant strides in building its digital ecosystem. Its vision is to automate the rostering of users into courses and classes from their SIS to all of their platforms, tools, and apps. OneRoster makes this possible and paves the way for students to use their ecosystem right away. The leadership at GCISD is now focused on scaling their ecosystem with tools that provide insights into application utilization to visualize the impact the tools are having on a student’s educational journey. This is evidence of their digital transformation strategy. It is the marriage of their interoperability strategy and pedagogical strategy to get to the next level of their ecosystem.

Spurring Innovation

As a key component of a district’s digital learning ecosystem, the SIS has the potential to contribute to the implementation of innovative instructional strategies. Such is the case in Chicago Public Schools with the district’s goal to achieve instructional equity by improving access to high-quality academic and technology resources. According to Lily McDonagh, Director of Education Initiatives for the district, “Follett Aspen is working to implement interoperability standards from 1EdTech to assist CPS in achieving education equity in the district’s Curriculum Equity Initiative.” Having a positive partnership with vendor partners is essential for CPS. Lily notes, “in the future, there may be additional opportunities for Aspen to leverage interoperability for improving instruction in CPS.

An effective partnership that leads to innovation is essential for all stakeholders and the benefit of the SIS platform. To ensure that partnership, specify expectations for collaboration and interoperability in requests for proposals (RFPs) and contracts to address the educational vision, needs, and strategies. The list below includes some requirements when considering the adoption of an SIS.

Five Essential Requirements for an SIS

  • Secure management of student data while simultaneously meeting the reporting requirements for funding purposes

  • 1EdTech certified interoperability with existing technology tools and platforms

  • Ease of use for multiple stakeholders—teachers, students, and parents

  • Adaptability to collaborate as a partner to achieve the instructional vision and mission of the institution

  • Proven success of other implementations


Now is not the time to overwhelm teachers, staff, and families. Keeping to essential school services will enable stakeholders to absorb the new complexities with encountering the challenges of returning to school this fall. The best way to maintain stability is to work with products that are 1EdTech certified to ensure seamless integration and interoperability. You can view all current certifications in the 1EdTech Certified Product Directory.

In the next post, we will explore student assessment systems in remote instruction.


1EdTech CEO Rob AbelRob Abel, Ed.D. | June 2020


"A Change is Gonna Come" —Sam Cooke


Going into 2020—before the COVID-19 and the renewed urgent calls for equality in society—equity, agency, and mastery was 1EdTech's new call to action and the theme of the May 2020 Learning Impact conference.

In last month's post, I reviewed some of the key takeaways from a series of interviews and panels I conducted for the Learning Impact 2020 on-demand series. I feel strongly that what we are learning from the pandemic pivot to remote education and the united response against inequity are reaffirmations that equity, agency, and mastery are what we want to stand for as leaders across the 1EdTech community.

To me, one of the most used mantras for the last decade—student success—is a phrase that looks more at symptoms than root causes. It also sets the diploma/degree industrial model that seems to have taken us about as far as it can go after its 100+ year run as the primary goal. Personalized learning, another much-used phrase, while going beyond differentiated learning from the instructional perspective, has come to mean almost anything. In 2007, when 1EdTech began the Learning Impact Awards program, we adopted what some called the "iron triangle" of access, affordability, and quality as the key criteria of impact. The goal with the triangle has been to improve all three simultaneously, an elusive goal that today still eludes us because little has changed in terms of the predominant educational delivery models that tend to trade off these parameters. 

Why are equity, agency, and mastery a compelling focus across K-12, HED, and corporate education as we move into the future? Well, we know we must get better at evolving our educational models toward the needs of society. Thus, we need to think more explicitly about the areas that we want to improve, hopefully, areas that are pillars that lead to educational system transformation. 

  • Equity of educational opportunity is not only a call to social justice, but it is key to enabling growth across underserved areas. Many believe that the pandemic will spur improved technical infrastructure to enable economic opportunity in underserved areas as the percentage of the population that works from home grows.  

  • Increasing student agency is a byproduct of more authentic and relevant educational experiences. Over and over, we have learned that educational experiences that connect to real-life challenges, questions, and interests of students open the possibility of student success and societal success.

  • Mastery stresses a better focus on what students have learned and what they can do. Current transcripts and approaches to assessment have created a self-reinforcing cycle that does not lead to better education. Instead, it is trying to drive forward while looking at the rear-view mirror.  

Most importantly, equity, agency, and mastery can work in concert, which is very different from the iron triangle's opposing forces. Equitable opportunities enable agency that, in turn, enables a focus on mastery, and better definitions of mastery enable equity. 

Next month, I will cover some of the interoperability areas that have accelerated as a result of COVID-19 and how they relate to equity, agency, and mastery. In the meantime, I am reminded of some words from my good friend and mentor Bernie Luskin, "If you want to change something, you actually need to change something." Sometimes extraordinary events remind us that we must do better. Noting that Sam Cooke wrote the song I am quoting in the title of this blog in 1964. We can and must do better—in society and education. 


Inside the Digital Transformation - Part 2

This is part two in a series of blog posts from the 1EdTech K-12 team focusing on interoperability and its advantages for educators and instruction in K-12 education, especially during the current pandemic.

By Monica Watts and Dr. Tim Clark


Sketch: remote learning in K-12 (June 2020)

The Value of an Interoperable Learning Management System

Last week we explored how interoperability supports the transition to digital learning. In this week's post, we investigate the instructional value of a learning management system (LMS) specifically.  We recently caught up with four district leaders (virtually, of course) who are using an 1EdTech-certified LMS to help facilitate their pivot to emergency, remote learning. These districts already implement processes to adopt digital tools and align them into interoperable ecosystems with an LMS being a key component. 

Learn what it means when your edtech products are 1EdTech certified.

Think of the LMS as mission control where the teacher can communicate with students, provide assignments, and link to resources. As a home base for online learning, it supports and connects teachers, students, and parents as a “go-to” place to begin digital learning, whether in school or from home. Essentially, the LMS has the potential to be the digital equivalent of the face-to-face, physical classroom by seamlessly integrating and making available—with the help of 1EdTech standards like OneRoster and LTI—all of the district's various digital tools and resources. 

When asked about how the open 1EdTech standards have impacted their transition to remote distance learning, all responses confirmed a significant improvement to their working dynamic, especially with the use of an LMS. 

Gregory Odell, e-Learning Specialist at Hall County Board of Education in Georgia, notes that his district’s interoperable LMS, Canvas, allows teachers and students to continue school in a way that is “business as usual.” Fortunately, the district began integrating its interoperable edtech platforms before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, so its users had a bit of a head start in getting used to the technology. Michelle Eaton, Director of Virtual and Blended Learning of the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township in Indiana, makes it clear that, although the district’s LMS, itslearning, benefits teachers, the current remote working conditions are still less-than-ideal. “I think there are some really great things going on,” Eaton explains, “but emergency and remote teaching are very different from online learning. Online learning is not something that you can just ramp up in 48 hours. For us, we have been committed to interoperability for some certainly helps us as we move to remote teaching.”

Eaton’s words highlight an important point. While the interoperability of digital systems had value in pre-pandemic life, it is even more critical now. Without interoperability, teachers assume an increased tediousness in their workloads, as they must repeatedly enter login credentials, search for resources, and enter data (such as grades) in multiple platforms. This administrative burden severely impacts efficiency and profoundly affects both student and teacher productivity. Those who are new to an LMS are usually pleasantly surprised at its ease of use and variety of features. Educators who are used to having to manage multiple usernames and passwords for even the most basic of tasks involving edtech are relieved to find that the experience is much smoother. Interoperability streamlines these duties and gives teachers better control of their remote classrooms. A district is also better able to support teachers through the consistent use of the LMS from both technical, instructional, and professional learning perspectives, which helps to ensure greater instructional equity and access.

Steve Buettner, Director of Media and Technology for Edina Public Schools in Minnesota, notes that interoperability with his district’s LMS, Schoology, is helping teachers in a big way. They have much better control over course activities, monitoring student progress, and designing assessments. Also, it makes it much easier for students to access information without having to alternate between multiple systems. The simplification has improved access to grade reports and increased the ease with which actions can be determined based on based grade triggers.

Considerations When Introducing a Learning Management System

The district leaders have a few suggestions for transitioning to an interoperable LMS. Odell urges to avoid settling for what you have or cutting corners concerning the integration of the necessary technology. Instead, push the district vendors and other technology providers to ensure your students are receiving the best learning experience you can offer. Daryl Diamond of Broward County Public Schools in Florida, also utilizing Canvas LMS, suggests, “Districts need to procure a learning management system as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for teachers to house all of their curriculum with the capability to align to external tools.” Diamond recommends that an LMS should eliminate “the need for learners to log in separately on external systems.” She asserts that the districts’ responsibility is to correspond with stakeholders whose duty is “to ensure the interoperability of all digital hardware and software and address any issues that arise within the digital ecosystem. This interoperability is vital to teachers’ ability to effectively manage course progression and their students, especially concerning the use of essential data such as rosters and rich outcome analytics.”

Introducing the above technological advances during the pandemic compels a district to consider what schooling will look like in the future. “The work of teachers has been dramatically changed since their first use of the LMS,” according to Diamond, “as it eliminates many basic administrative duties. Teachers will continue acclimating to the new systems to fully experience the benefits of student engagement and enhanced instructional capabilities.” Eaton is not surprised at how thoroughly interoperable features are being integrated into the various LMS platforms throughout school districts in light of emergency remote learning during the pandemic. She is, however, quite excited about future applications of this dynamic technology. “We can build on this momentum since every teacher in our district now knows how to use a digital learning platform. The basic training is done. Now we can focus on what teaching and learning look like in the classroom."

As a result of the pandemic response, what we are hearing, and what district leaders are seeing, is that an interoperable digital learning ecosystem using an LMS is dramatically improving student and teacher experiences. Hopefully, this will continue long after the pandemic with even more widespread integration and interoperability of technology in K-12 education.

In the next post, we will explore the value of a student information system for pivoting to remote instruction.


Inside the Digital Transformation - Part 1

This is part one in a series of blog posts from the 1EdTech K-12 team focusing on interoperability and its advantages for educators and instruction in K-12 education, especially during the current pandemic.

How Interoperability Supports Your Transition to Digital Learning

A quick glance at any recent edtech news shows that the unexpected pivot to digital learning is a challenge for most K-12 schools and districts. In fact, it has been such a challenge that Steve Buettner, Director of Media and Technology at Edina Public Schools in Minnesota, suggests that we shouldn’t call it “digital learning.” Rather, it should be called “remote or emergency learning” to distinguish these reactionary practices from true digital learning. Yet some districts like Edina are making the transition from face-to-face to remote digital learning more easily than others. One key to their successful pivot? The interoperability of their digital tools and resources. 

In a nutshell, interoperability is the driving force that allows you to improve opportunities that enhance teaching and learning with your digital ecosystem. Technically speaking, it’s the ability of your learning apps and tools to connect and exchange useful and meaningful data. But for teachers in K-12, interoperability can be a game-changer, dramatically reducing time on tasks and increasing student and class engagement and management. Interoperability provides students, parents, and administrators with a consistently positive experience using technology resources. 

The Design of a Digital Learning Ecosystem

Edina Public Schools is one of the many school districts strategically designing ecosystems of digital platforms, content, and tools to support effective classroom instruction and enable a variety of modern learning experiences and models such as virtual learning, blended learning, and distance learning. All of these instructional models usually involve digital learning. Although districts select different educational technology resources, a core feature of an effective digital learning ecosystem is that it’s interoperable. 1EdTech open standards are the preferred way to achieve this interoperability.  We connected with several K-12 leaders engaged in the work of edtech interoperability to see how the changes from the emergency COVID-19 pandemic response are affecting their districts and revealing about the future of their digital ecosystems to better assist their teachers and students, parents and guardians.

Most of the digital ecosystems designed by these districts are comprised of some configuration of the following core platforms to assist teachers in facilitating digital learning: 

  • Single Sign-On (SSO) Platform or Portal
  • Learning Management System (LMS)
  • Student Assessment Tool or System
  • Student Information System (SIS)
  • Learning Object Repository (LOR) of Digital Resources
  • Productivity Suite(s) 

Modifiable 1EdTech Ecosystem image

Typically, the various core systems above, as well as other applications, are often accessed via a portal or platform that supports single sign-on (SSO). The learning management system (LMS) is usually the core of a district’s digital ecosystem with integration points to their student information system (SIS), a learning object repository (LOR) of digital resources, and a student assessment system. Similarly, the data, content, and assessments pass back and forth seamlessly through integration with the LMS as the usual delivery system. Interoperability among all of the above systems eliminates the need for learners to log in separately on external systems to complete learning activities, engage with digital resources, and complete assignments and assessments. This seamless interoperability also keeps teachers from having to enter grades or other information into multiple platforms and provides greater insight into useful data regarding student performance.

To understand in greater detail how districts provide such interoperable teaching and learning experiences, we had in-depth conversations with Hall County Schools in Georgia, the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township in Indiana, Edina Public Schools in Minnesota, and Broward County Schools in Florida. We asked them about specific components and implementation of their digital ecosystems. And we touched base with several other districts, to find out what they're doing at this time. Over the next few weeks, we will continue sharing their strategies, experiences, and future plans to inform and guide you in the design and implementation of ecosystems to effectively support digital learning. We hope you will find this information useful and actionable as you adapt your technology and instruction to today’s new normal!

In the next post, we will explore the value of a learning management system for pivoting to remote instruction.

1EdTech CEO Rob AbelRob Abel, Ed.D. | May 2020


"Getting in tune to the straight and narrow" —The Who

As May—the month when the 1EdTech Learning Impact Leadership Institute typically occurs—comes to a close, 1EdTech has been busy (especially yours truly) in capturing the learnings from what our members are experiencing. We have created a free series of recorded webinars, some 1-on-1 interviews, others expert panels that you can find on the Learning Impact On-Demand site.  

The primary findings so far have me feeling good about the impact of the collaborative work here in 1EdTech.

From a recent survey of 1EdTech institutional members across K-12 and HED, 95% indicated that their relationship with 1EdTech has helped them prepare for the transitions that are occurring due to COVID-19. More importantly, the Learning Impact On-Demand interviews indicate that a productive edtech ecosystem fostered by 1EdTech collaboration enables institutions to focus on serving their stakeholders better now and into whatever the future may bring. While educational institutions have generally struggled to move to remote/online learning over a period spanning anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, 1EdTech Contributing Member institutions and suppliers are not only prepared but see this as an opportunity to help accelerate progress in their support for digital teaching and learning.

In the near term, the emphasis has been on building off of strong foundational core capabilities in both the technical and instructional domains. A robust core of highly interoperable systems and a consistent set of instructional strategies has made scaling up to unprecedented user levels much easier. Hold tight to your existing instructional strategies while adapting them to online has been a key ingredient for success. The LMS has been of central importance in HED where it was a mainstream mission-critical system already and rapidly rising in importance in K-12. 1EdTech institutional members have also put a major emphasis on the human dimension, namely empathy for an unprecedented rate of change and meeting the faculty "where they are" across a wide range of comfort levels. 1EdTech supplier members have played a significant role in responding to the needs for scale-up in everything from working with their cloud hosting providers to helping set up thousands of courses to help faculty get online. In K-12, there has also been a major emphasis assisting parents in adjusting to their now more substantial role in the educational process, with knowledge-based resources and call-in support. 

Institutions that have had a more substantial set of online offerings or "practice" in terms of digital snow days could leverage those learnings. Understanding the need to balance screen time with other activities has turned out to be a big help in organizing remote education modalities. Finding the right balance between synchronous and asynchronous and generally moving away from live lectures—even though that has been the primary gap filler in the short term for many institutions—is another. However, equity in terms of meeting the needs of all students during this unimagined combination of scale and length of remote learning has been the biggest challenge. While this has been a bigger challenge in K-12 it has also been a challenge in HED.

The necessity for greater collaboration has led to some breakthroughs. Both HED and K-12 institutional members in 1EdTech are reporting unprecedented levels of collaboration across boundaries within their institutions, and with supplier partners, as well as with fellow 1EdTech members, where relationships have built up over the years. 

The 1EdTech community's most significant technical challenges have come in needing to address privacy, security, plagiarism, and identity, specifically related to those technologies that are required to fill the void associated with 100% remote education. These areas have been web video conferencing, assessment, and proctoring, but also having technology in place to communicate to all stakeholders, at an unprecedented scale and rate, to inform everyone what is going on and provide support. 

Right now, 1EdTech is working closely with our institutional members to close any gaps that might exist in their digital ecosystems. This also includes working with members to address key issues in time for fall, such as the importance of data from instructional systems and what are expected to be greater levels of innovation in the use of instructional resources and modalities—after so many are gaining experience and motivation in using the wide range of technologies at their disposal. For the more advanced institutions, there will be a greater emphasis on competency-based models.

All of which brings me back to getting in tune with the primary goal. The original theme of the 2020 Learning Impact event was Equity, Agency, and Mastery. We believe these imperatives capture the evolving definition of student success. We decided to focus the recast webinar series on the impact of the rapid scale-up of digital learning. Indeed, it is turning out that these remote education scenarios are requiring an acceleration in getting better at equity, agency, and mastery. If you've got the foundational digital ecosystem in place, then focusing in on a better way forward comes naturally—even during a pandemic it seems.

More learnings to come in future posts. Stay tuned.


1EdTech CEO Rob AbelRob Abel, Ed.D. | April 2020

Effective Digital Teaching and Learning in the COVID-19 Era and Beyond

"1EdTech will be capturing and synthesizing the learnings from our members as they deliver digital learning at unprecedented levels and prepare for more to come." —Dr. Rob Abel

We are learning so much right now as more and more are involved in the practice of using digital technology to support an unprecedented move to virtual learning in both K-12 and higher education. We are learning about the limitations and advantages of a wide array of technologies—some relatively new and some that have been with us for a couple of decades. We are learning what is needed to support at scale.  

Yes, it is true that the radical nature of the shift may not be giving us much time to be thoughtful. But as an old Chinese proverb said, loosely translated: "The best time to plant a tree would have been long ago, but the next best time is now." We are all making changes based on necessity, so the goals are to make improvements for the future and for today if we can.

It is in this spirit that 1EdTech launches our on-demand virtual series on "Solutions for Highly Effective Digital Teaching and Learning." 1EdTech will be capturing and synthesizing the learnings from our members as they deliver digital learning at unprecedented levels and prepare for more to come.

My expectations for this series are high. 1EdTech members are the leaders on the planet when it comes to digital learning, technology agility, and scale. I will be involved in facilitating these conversations along with others on the 1EdTech team. What we are most interested in is what we have learned so far, and how can we all be more effective going into the summer, fall and beyond?

I will be providing synthesis and analysis right here in the monthly newsletter and Learning Impact blog. All of the recordings from this series will be made available as a public service.

Let's keep the learning going!


1EdTech CEO Rob AbelRob Abel, Ed.D. | March 2020

"I need a miracle everyday." —The Grateful Dead

What will we learn from 100% online,  physical distancing, and the great education interruptus?

They call it a "black swan" event, one that is so unlikely it is supposedly unpredictable and, therefore, not possible to prepare for in advance. I think in this case, that could be questioned. I think in this case society will conclude that we can prepare for the next COVID-19. The question is, are we willing to invest in that preparation? And will we invest smartly based on what we have learned?

The world has a long way to go before all the lessons from the COVID-19 nightmare are understood. Right now, I see miracles every day. I see classes and labs moved online not just at a record pace but at an impossible pace. I see extra effort to get food to kids when schools close. I see supplier partners stepping up to provide more access at no additional cost.

In 1EdTech, we hear some nice tributes to how our community work has enabled our institutional partners to be more prepared than they might otherwise have been for this situation. 

"We're relying on 1EdTech work more than ever, having just moved nearly all university instruction online in a week….that certainly wouldn't have been conceivable 10 years ago."
—Mark McCallister, Director, Academic Technology, University of Florida Information Technology

"Without a single point of entry into our digital learning platform (eCLASS) for our staff and students—all enabled through interoperability standards—we couldn't use the wide variety of tools and instructional resources our teachers are currently employing during our Digital Learning Days to maintain instruction for 180,000 plus students effectively. We greatly value our ongoing partnership with 1EdTech and continue to adopt common standards as they become available."
—Kevin Tashlein, Ed.D., Chief Strategy Officer, Gwinnett County Public Schools

1EdTech wants to spread this wealth—made possible by the investment of the 1EdTech members—and wants to help all institutions better prepare. And there is no better time to start than right now!

Therefore, we are stepping up with free access to developer and certification resources, and related support to help the ecosystem ensure better options for virtual now and into the future. We don't have unlimited capacity to do this, so we are counting on referrals from institutional 1EdTech Contributing Members to help us prioritize. Our hope is that this offer will help in making decisions on what products to use to deliver a better virtual experience, by making it easier for products that might not be fully 1EdTech compliant to get there faster than otherwise possible. HED and K-12 district/state members will receive an email next week with more details on the 1EdTech Vanguard Certification Program and how to submit your supplier referrals.

Finally, stay tuned for more info on our plans for the Learning Impact Leadership Institute. As I mentioned in a prior email, we will have this information out at least 30 days before the event. And next month, I will hopefully write more on what I hope to be some lessons learned. But for now, stay safe, and let's keep the miracles coming!


1EdTech CEO Rob AbelRob Abel, Ed.D. | February 2020

Equity, Agency, and Mastery: Shaping the Future of Student Success

"Talk about a dream. Try to make it real." —Bruce Springsteen

Many of you, the leaders in the 1EdTech community, are making digital transformation happen in education every single day. Never mind that education as a sector is still trying to define digital transformation—there is no doubt that it is happening. The work of 1EdTech is playing a big role, and in many instances, at the forefront of those changes. My sincere hope is that we see the "big picture" in terms of leveraging transformation toward strategic goals, rather than transformation happening "to us" by the sheer magnitude of the acceleration of tech in all aspects of life. I'm sure it's a combination of both. But when I ask education leaders the goal of digital transformation, I almost always get the same answer: student success.

Data from many decades of experience tells us that indeed there is a strong correlation to the percent of the population that has completed post-secondary education to personal prosperity. In the U.S., the recently released report on Lumina Foundation's A Stronger Nation provides an impressively detailed accounting by state and metropolitan area. The U.S. increased from 37.9% post-secondary attainment in 2008 to 48.4% in 2018. 

Tuning up the current pathways and pipelines is always a good thing. But, when we apply yesterday's data and metrics to the future, they are often inadequate in terms of helping us create the future we seek. When students graduate, they get something called a transcript. This should provide useful information to all stakeholders in the education system, and most importantly, to the student in terms of their pathway in life. Does the transcript provide this? At the recent 1EdTech Summit on Digital Credentials, we heard directly from leading university registrars that the transcript is largely a "celebratory document"—rather than a useful purveyor of information. If student success is graduation, then it seems to make sense that the information provided on the transcript should be more helpful in capturing the uniqueness of both the student and the educational experience. 

This is a different kind of thinking about the goals of education. It is about education becoming the incubator of talents resulting in workforce diversity, rather than a competition and sorting mechanism. It's about uniqueness versus sameness.

Our goal in 1EdTech is to develop the leadership to make this purposeful transformation, from right down in the technology trenches, to C-level individuals. As a community, we see where this is going, and we address key leverage points in the connective tissue of the educational ecosystem. By defining and enabling what the ecosystem can support, we are laying the groundwork for purposeful transformation. 

Equity, agency, and mastery. Three simple words that, to me, define where the industrial age education needs to go. These are not my words.  These are your words. The members of 1EdTech, I believe, are the leaders in the transformation that is already beginning in some quarters and will continue to gain. Through countless meetings and conversations, you have convinced me that there is no other place to go. This is the dream that we in education are pointing toward.

Please join me as I facilitate the keynote discussion at Learning Impact 2020 in Denver, starting at 3:00 PM on Monday, May 18, 2020. We are featuring our friend Yong Zhao and an all-star panel to discuss: Defining the Next Generation of Student Success: Equity, Agency, and Mastery in a Complex World.