Web portal beginning of education IT standards

Common data, metadata standards on the way

A web portal launched last week for the education sector and its participants and users is “the tip of a very valuable iceberg” of sectoral IT standardisation, says Martin Eadie of the NZ Qualifications Authority, chairman of the sector’s IT standing committee. A larger exercise is already working towards standard architecture and consistent data and metadata models across the sector, as well as common authentication and authorisation technology.

This has potential to ease communication among the many bodies involved in education and reduce duplication of effort.

The effort will be under the aegis of the standing committee, which includes representatives of the Ministry of Education, NZQA, Tertiary Education Commission, Careers Advisory Service, Education Review Office and NZ Teachers Council.

The complexity of the sector is reflected in the portal’s giving access to 28 sites bearing on education in one way or another. Known as EdCentre, it is at present a “pass-through” portal, says committee secretary Mark Horgan. It offers little content of its own, rather a reference straight through to the other sites, but EdCentre organises the pointers to the external content in a way that makes sense for an inquirer seeking information in a specific field, such as “How do I gain admission to a university?” or “How is my child’s progress at school measured?”

The first enhancement will be “federated search”, putting one search engine over all the content on the sites that EdCentre refers to. This is scheduled to be in pilot mode by September this year, Horgan says.

The EdCentre site is designed to meet the information needs of six groups, Benson-Pope says — parents, learners, educators, governance bodies, researchers and the broader community. This is reflected in the sectional organisation of the portal and the filtering of content for each audience as appropriate.

One of the most useful sections of the site for its originators is expected to be the online “feedback” facility. Horgan says. Users are encouraged to give their views on the organisation and content of the portal, and this will undoubtedly result in additions and changes to the content and organisation over time.

The move to common sectoral architectures is visible in other sectors of government responsibility. Health began the move some years ago with the Wave report, and the justice sector is developing its own “integrated information strategy.”

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