Why are we doing this?
Presently it is hard to access data across higher education. Data interchange standards are not widely implemented by vendors, academic institutions, and government agencies. Where standards are implemented they are not registered or documented in an infrastructure that allows them to be readily used by people building integrations and looking for data. EdUnify infrastructure will allow vendors, academic institutions, and government agencies to register their data interchange specifications and implementations and map them to standard termininology for interoperability. Users of EdUnify will be able to use this registry and vocabulary services to build integrations, inventory services, and access data across higher education. PESC is the right organization to undertake this effort, because it is a neutral party with a track record of success in developing and implementing standards.
For a list of Task Force members and contact information, see the PESC EdUnify Task Force Participants page. To enroll other participants contact Michael Sessa, PESC Executive Director, at email@example.com.
How to Help
- Presently, we most need folks to review this "high-level epic stories" and make comments, changes, and corrections (see below).
- We also need people to suggest new concrete use case names and topics which we can start working on together at the meeting December 17/18. We will complete a few examples in the meeting.PESC EdUnify Use Cases
- Example of the applications such infrastructure can enable,
- Questions, Questions, Questions FAQ Frequently Asked Questions
- Planning the agenda for the inaugural meeting - December 4, 2009
- Use case template and use case background posted - December 3, 2009
- Initial functional goals posted (see this page below) - November 17, 2009
- Wiki, distribution list, and Subversion repository available - November 10, 2009
- Glossary and Acronyms
We often view external challenges outside the boundaries of our organizations as out of scope, out of reach and not something we can or should focus on. Assumptions are drawn and acceptance of the current state of affairs continues.
Innovation and progress is the push to do better, improve things over the status quo. Innovation does not happen in a vacum. It takes effort. First, we need people to step up and challenge the status quo, question the methods and look to see if there are ways to overcome the challenges and assumptions. Second, we need to explore how our community can work together through our differences, to comprimise and set the stage for progress. Third, we need to realize progress is incremental. Not everything has to be addressed all at once. And finally, we need to apply our efforts to a vision that we can share, that will address our individual circumstances and how the potential effort can help us achieve great things together.
Before going to deep into EdUnify, think about your use of email today and how easy it is for you to send and receive email. It does not matter which email program you utilize, the interchange works the same. Who, how and when did we establish the convention of firstname.lastname@example.org? How do we register domain names like academyone.com or emory.edu? How does the computer program I use, reference and send my email and how does my email get to my destinations without someone lifting a hand? And, how did the @ sign become the separator? These 'standards' reflect solutions and decisions made just few short years ago that has made email computing services simplier to use and transparent. Adoption and comprimise are voluntary decisions. There was no law passed. There was no decree from government.
We can learn alot understanding the evolutionary path of email. What came first, the demand? Or, the innovation? How did a community come together to face the challenges of exchanging electronic messages? There were plenty of vendor products routing messages. How can we learn from the path taken by early ventures to bridge email systems? As they came together to address their differencies, with similar set of challenges, how did they comprimise? How did they adapt? Moving or accessing electronic data, in what ever form it is in, from program to program, place to place, across computers is complex. How did they reduce the complexity, obstacles and legacy of doing it my way?
Then, ponder how easy it is to travel by car north and south or east and west across state lines and towns across America. We have a system of roads we mostly take for granted today. Imagine what it would be like getting in your car and driving to the store five miles down a dirt path? Or, that we had roads, but their were no standards on how to travel on them, like which side do you drive on, or what do the signs mean along the way? On many toll roads, we now have Ezpass, a device put on your windshield that can be read from toll booths while traveling 35 MPH. It eliminates stopping, wasting gas and time. It consolidates monthly billing for tolls. It works on many highways and even parking garages. It is simple to establish one account that works across many States. And, it does not add costs to the trip.
In our recent memories, events often collapse and we forget about how difficult it was prior to let's say Google or the Cell Phone. How did we search for information in the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's? What happened to card catalog files and the augmentation of libraries sharing their repositories that began in the 70's indexing holdings? Or, what was life like before Amazon or Facebook for many younger today. Do you recall Gopher, Compuserve or BackRub? Collaborative efforts can realize great results. Read more about three major technology innovations and collabortions born by a few people who came together to change our world for the better. They decided to overcome the challenges and invest in developing ideas that could bridge frontiers thought overwelming. Not only did they change the face of America, they improved how we live and work reducing the distances and times we spend moving from place to place, either physically or virtually. Revolutionary Ideas
We are glad you have come to this wiki site. We have come together to face one of our toughest challenges haunting higher education and education efforts in general. That is, how can we overcome the inhibitors and obstacles of data access and movement, the huge costs layered within the movement and exchange of data across computer applications to foster new tools and methods to address the challenges of research, teaching and learning in the 21st century, which is not bound by border, physical or otherwise.
Statement of the Problem
Across education, the utilization and effectiveness of data and information technologies is severely inhibited by access methods, differing protocols, non-standard payloads, varying data definitions, and inability to trust disparate applications stove piped by proprietary design. Billions of dollars are spent annually trying to move data across components employed by stakeholder computer systems. The current state of automation, with all its redundancy, unnecessary aggregation and inaccuracy render a tremendous burden on the educational investment society as a whole is making.
Policy, governance, research, teaching, administration, funding, and learning are all impacted. The unintended consequence of metered design without considering the external interchanges which contribute to additional obstacles and costs is avoidable. The accurate, authoritative and secure transmission of data spanning components and stakeholders would respect and reinforce autonomy and roles, by connection, rather than push the work around mentality that has been fostered by the industry fearful of data access, use and security.
The education industry spends approximately 4% of operating expenses on IT which approximates $50 Billion annually. Of that, approximately 50% or $25 Billion is spent supporting connections and movement of data across disparate applications inside and outside the institution poorly. Even with that much money spent to keep things band-aided together where funding has been applied, the ineffective use of technology is wasting away the capacity of tools and the investment in automation. Without addressing the challenge to bridge systems and components, we will be continually haunted by what could be, rather than what is. Automation can empower and serve the industry with innovation and unity in purpose. Thus, the call for EdUnify, to create a registry, lookup, and supporting services to enable applications and computer systems to seek and connect through a common abstract pipe following community developed methods, protocols, payloads and services promoted on a voluntary basis.
What is EdUnify?
EdUnify is a set of core services enabling the universal registration, lookup, and invocation of web services and other forms of data exchange allowing clients to find, access, and secure data exchange calls. EdUnify will address deployed, implemented, and abstract services. Deployed services are those that are operational and can be accessed on the web. Implemented services have been defined and implemented, but are not deployed and operational. Abstract services are typically either specifications or designs. Abstract services may or may not have implementations at any point in time. The high-level goals of EdUnify are:
- positively impact the business of teaching, research and learning.
- open access to a directory of registered services distributed across stakeholders.
- protect access to secure services and data thru a trusted network of registrars servicing registrants.
- leveraging existing standards technologies, tools and applications.
- enable development of new technologies, tools and applications.
- enable data to be used in new ways and increase the value of data.
- economic sustainability of EdUnify
- enable the connection of disparate systems, applications and technologies.
- abstraction of services to buffer physical properties underlying data sources.
- utilize a common framework, protocols and semantics accepted by industry stakeholders.
- advertising the stakeholder services reinforcing reuse.
- save us money, save us time, improve customer service.
- provide the opportunity for new business models, revenue generation.
The specific technical goals of the task force are:
- document use cases that articulate our goals.
- develop a plan to design a registry with metadata about web services.
- enable integration, ontology, data exchange services.
- develop a registration and maintenance processes that make sense for education.
- prove the concept with reference implementations among participating organizations.
- stimulating the publication and use of existing access methods
- stimulating new access method specifications through PESC, SIFA, IMS or other standard bodies.
- drive adoption within our organizations.
Functional Goals and Epic Stories
The motivation to control's one destiny is emboddied in how every organization priorities, invests and leverages the investment in information technologies. Every organization has their own proprietary interests reflected in their desire to sustain and grow their business, either for profit or driven by mission to serve their community of interests. Which, on the surface sounds selfish, but is realistic.
Integration and interface technologies has been haunted by the fact we are all noncomformists and don't like to be told how to do something, when to do it and what to do. The difficult challenge to address the benefits of sharing data and methods across applications requires us to think out side the box of natural and human proprietary leanings.
In school, we would penalize a student for cheating if they copied off a peer. It is bad and we would penalize them severely for any infraction. In business, in general, it is reflected everyday in how we look to each other to see insights and to validate our thinking. We often realize it is a compliment that someone copies one's work on one level, but also how our competitive spirit would naturally hide our proprietary interests, ideas and property to avoid the public and the risk of copy. Governments attempt to help address these issues through patent and copyright registration. Which, as an example of a registry and lookup, shows that even having the ability to register one's intellectual property, the resistance, extra effort and costs to do so, reduces the effectiveness of patent and copyright protection because the information becomes public allowing others to copy or mimic.
Yet, the business reasons why organizations and people in general hide and protect the investments in information technologies is reinforced by the fears and anxieties of our competitive spirit and misstrust. Why should we? Proprietary data and application services are often strategic and tactical competitive advantages. And, thus attempting to persuage an organization, managed by people, is doomed to fail if we attempt to force compliance or rule.
This is why we need to develop a market driven approach, which will leverage why people and organizations will allow for reuse, copy and sharing of practices, automated services and common data defintions. Doing so has to be in their proprietary interests. Trying to force it or expect it will never happen. Yet, similar to movements of open source and shareware, one has to think about the potential outside the interface points. The interface points are connections, and like connecting cities with roads or websites with links, the connections offer value. Connections between governments or between communities are hard to do, because they must deal with the natural byproduct to differentiate and be the best. No one wants to be the worst. So, we must leverage the competitive spirit in all of us.
In banking, the ATM network allows consumers to connect to their bank. On the web, Amazon allows a consumer to connect to many sellers of the same product competing on price, service and delivery. In transportation, air, car, train, boats, bikes, and walking offers the means to get from point A to point B with different benefits. The point is, connections bring value and expose new ways to bring value to consumers. EdUnify is not the connection or the service or the data delivered by a service. It is only the means to register and find connections. Which then says, if you have a connection that brings value, which one would assume, why not advertise it and promote it? If one would build a website and had no one visit it, I would guess you would think that would be silly and a waste of effort. But, if one advertised it and drove traffic to it, one would expect the reasons behind it are self motivated to expose information about one's beliefs, mission, products, services, etc. EdUnify is a channel like the website domain does for holder enabling the publication of information that will drive business. Business is what this is all about.
The following are examples of potential high-level functional goals.
- Respect the federation and automony of information service providers who have their own interests to design, develop, deploy and maintain data and analytic systems with different data stores across education enterprises.
- Provide fast, reliable and secure access to a federated Registry and Lookup Services to improve people's productivity through applications designed to channel request for services and response to service requests abstracting the differences in data and methods behind them.
- Enable the PESC and SIFA community to foster sharing of data and method (functions) reuse across stakeholder applications, utilzing direct and indirect automated bridges.
- Enable the development of alerts and feedback loops across the P20 landscape without imposing or forcing how, by letting the open marketplace and motives to drive improvement in services through collabortive technologies.
- Respect organization controls, business policies and practices over their data and services.
- Enable people and organizations to align initiatives, improve outcomes and reduce duplication dispersed across information technology investments reducing the tax imposed by integration and interface complexity.
- Allow everyone to gain access to data definitions, semantics and enumeration which will improve how services are developed and delivered to people thru online applications.
- Create an extendable platform to explore, interrogate and request advertised services by stakeholder honoring the protocols, business rules and requirements managed by providers of the advertised data services.
- Build, deploy and extend a commericially profitable online marketplace to foster competition, innovation and the abstraction of proprietary interests amoung stakeholders reducing their risks, fears and anxieties inhibiting their efforts to leverage common specifications for data and methods.
The following are examples of enumerated types of services:
- Student and Faculty Data Services
- Institutional and Academic Data Services
- Course and Program Transferability Disclosure Services
- 21st Century Learners Spanning Multiple Institution Services
- Student Access to their Data through Electronic Services
- Enabling New and Innovative Technologies to Support Teaching and Learning Services
The Task Force is preparing very specific, structured use cases that the EdUnify frameworks will support to help identify specifications and technology it will develop or apply. The Task Force is preparing use cases in a common format to help identify the constituents served and processes addressed in each use case. There is a template which can be used to start each new use case. For more details visit the Use Case page.
- EdUnify Use Cases
- EdUnify Subversion Repository
- EdUnify Organization Efforts
- Technical Design Documentation
- Glossary and Acronyms