Some thoughts on the IMS Quarterly meeting

I’ve spent most this week at the IMS Quarterly meeting in Birmingham and thought I’d share a few initial reflections. In contrast to most quarterly meetings this was an open event which had its benefits but some drawbacks (imho) too.

On the up side it was great to see so many people at an IMS meeting. I hadn’t attended a quarterly meeting for over a year so it was great to see old faces, but heartening to see so many new ones too. There did seem to be a real sense of momentum – particularly with regards to the Common Cartridge specification. The real drive for this seems to be coming from the K-12 CC working group who are making demands to extend the profile of the spec from its very limited initial version. They are pushing for major extensions to the QTI profile (it is limited to six question types at the moment) to be included, and are also looking to Learning Design as way to provide curriculum mapping and lesson planning to cartridges.

The schools sector on the whole do seem to be more pragmatic and more focused than our rather more (dare I say self-indulgent) HE mainly research focused community. There also seems to be concurrent rapid development (in context of spec development timescales) in the Tools Interoperability spec with Dr Chuck and his team’s developments in “simple TI” (you can watch the video here)

On the down side, the advertised plugfest was in reality more of a “presentationfest”, which although interesting in parts wasn’t really what I had expected. I was hoping to see more live demos and interoperability testing.

Thursday was billed as a “Summit on Interoperability: Now and Next”. Maybe it was just because I was presentation weary by that point, but I think we missed a bit of an opportunity to have more discussion – particularly in the first half of the day.

It’s nigh on impossible to explain the complexity of the Learning Design specification in half hour slots -as Dai Griffiths pointed out in his elevator pitch “Learning Design is a complex artefact”. Although the Dai and Paul Sharpels from the ReCourse team did a valiant job, as did Fabrizio Giongine from Guinti Labs with his Prolix LD demo; I can’t help thinking that what the community, and in turn perhaps what IMS should be concentrating on is developing a new, robust set of use cases for the specification. Having some really tangible designs rooted in really practice would (imho) make the demoing of tools much more accessible as would starting demos from the point of view of the actual “runnable” view of the design instead of the (complex) editor view. Hopefully some of the resources from the JISC D4L programme can provide some starting points for that.

The strap line for Common Cartridge is “freeing the content” and in the afternoon the demos from David Davies (University of Warwick ) on the use of repositories and RSS in teaching followed by Scott Wilson and Sarah Currier demoing some applications of the SWORD specification for publishing resources in Intralibrary through the Feedforward tool illustrated exactly that. David gave a similar presentation at a SIG meeting last year, and I continue to be impressed by the work David and his colleagues are doing using RSS. SWORD also continues to impresses with every implementation I see.

I hope that IMS are able to build on the new contacts and offers of contributions and collaborations that arose over the week, and that they organise some more open meetings in the future. Of course the real highlight of the week was learning to uʍop ǝpısdn ǝʇıɹʍ🙂