In Australia, all State and Territory Education Departments and the representative bodies of the non-government school sectors’ agree to support SIF as their preferred method for data exchange in the Australian schools sector.
The Statement is made by the National Schools Interoperability Program (NSIP) Steering Group, on behalf of Australia’s State and Territory Education Departments and the non-government school sectors’ representative bodies. The NSIP Steering Group is authorised by the Australian Education Early Childhood and Youth Affairs Senior Officials Committee (AEEYSOC) to provide sector-wide advice on the technical and interoperability aspects of national education projects.
This Statement is also endorsed by the Access 4 Learning Community (formerly the SIF Association) AU Management Board (SIFAAMB), which operates SIF in Australia and includes elected representatives of vendor members of the Access 4 Learning (A4L) Community active in Australia.
> Press Release - SIF Association AU release Statement of Intent for SIF Adoption in Australia
> Statement of Intent brochure
Background to SIF in Australia
In November 2009, SIF was endorsed by Australia’s State, Territory and Commonwealth Education Ministers as the preferred method for exchanging information across the Australian school sector.
This decision was based on the acceptance of a business case that showed that the number of information and learning systems used in the education sector was growing rapidly and that the corresponding complexity of integration would continue to grow without collaborative efforts. This led to the establishment of the National Schools Interoperability Program (NSIP) in 2010 to develop and promote common national approaches, including hosting the A4L Community and its work in Australia.
In a scheduled review of NSIP during its third year of operation, independent reviewers found that the need for interoperability support continues, with added impetus due to the rapid expansion of online products and services and the national action on curriculum, assessment and reporting. In a review of the Australian Government’s Digital Education Revolution program the same reviewers noted that “there is justification for interoperability standards to be set at the national level” and that “SIF allows for the exchange of information between all Australian school sectors, reducing the need for schools and education authorities to design customised approaches to information sharing.”
The NSIP Steering Group and its members use this Statement to reiterate their support for the use of SIF as their preferred method for data exchange in the Australian schools sector.
Adoption and Market Penetration
SIF has been used in North America for more than a decade to enable interoperability between software products within schools districts and to facilitate data exchange between schools, school systems and education authorities. SIF is also in the early stages of adoption in the UK and under investigation in several other countries. Currently more than 15 million students benefit every day from interoperability delivered via SIF.
In Australia currently there are 38 member organisations including education authorities and software vendors. SIF has been used in projects involving government and non-government schools in all States and Territories. These include local, national and cross-jurisdictional initiatives spanning access to online learning resources, online assessment, enterprise wide data synchronisation, student data transfer and national reporting. The breadth of adoption by Australian school authorities and the depth of activities being improved by SIF interoperability is summarised in the Australian Adoption and Implementations of SIF document below.
In Australia, the A4L Community recognised the benefit in creating a targeted subset or profile of the full Australian Data Model to assist in more speedy and lightweight adoption of the interoperability standard. The Student Information System Baseline Profile (SBP) is a set of core data and business rules defining the relationship between students, parents, teachers, schools and classes. It has reduced the complexity and cost for schools and increased the ease for vendors in creating interoperability between applications and student (or school) information systems.
The SBP is now used across Tasmania, ACT, South Australia, and the Northern Territory with Student Information System (SIS) vendors providing core Identity data to external applications and services. Evidence of success is provided in the summary of the Australian Adoption and Implementations of SIF document below.
The level of SIS vendor engagement with SIF is evidence of the degree of general market adoption of SIF. Ten out of thirteen leading SIS vendors have an active interest in working with SIF and five have operating agents developed as a result of participation in NSIP supported pilot projects. Further details are provided in Student Information System (SIS) vendor engagement with SIF table download.
SIF enjoys wide support across the Australian education software community.
Interoperability standards add value by capturing agreements and models that can be referenced by many parties. Implementations of a standard vary according to the requirements of the applications and organisations involved. The A4L Community has recognised this need and ensures that its standard constantly evolves to meet current and future needs.
Three important areas of progress in SIF and its supported implementation models are:
Separation of the Data Model and the Transport Model allowing for different combinations of these two areas of the standard;
Creation of a specific Australian Data Model that meets our unique needs whilst leveraging global developments; and
SIF 3.0, which provides a REST transport mechanism to allow a SIF data model to be used over a REST infrastructure wire.
These developments mean that SIF can now closely support the integration of externally provided (cloud based) services with local student information and other information management systems, and it can provide a simple return path for data like assessment and attendance from an external application back to core school systems.