This website uses cookies to store information on your computer. Some of these cookies are used for visitor analysis, others are essential to making our site function properly and improve the user experience. By using this site, you consent to the placement of these cookies. Click Accept to consent and dismiss this message or Deny to leave this website. Read our Privacy Statement for more.
Print Page | Contact Us | Sign In | Join the A4L Community
Getting Started with Unity
Why Standards? Why Unity?  What is YOUR Use Case? 'How To' Steps Work Together (RFP)





Why Standards?



This is the reality when you travel and need electricity. So what do most of us do?  

 We buy an international power adaptor!


Now imagine each country is a school application.  Now you quickly know the need for a technical standard for all these apps to “interoperate” with each other letting them use their own language and functionality.  We need an “adaptor” that can let these apps talk to one another!

For over 20 years now the non-profit and membership supported Access 4 Learning Community (previously the SIF Association) has built these adaptors in an open, volunteer driven manner.  And the Community is proud to release “Unity”!




     back to top >>


Why Unity?


The A4L Community has taken the best of the best from 20 years of data adaptor development (i.e. interoperability specifications), addressing school and state agency needs in a new Specification – code named “Unity”.  

This volunteer developed blueprint has been created using open, non-proprietary and transparent processes. It contains the most comprehensive K12 data model and modern transport technologies to securely move data to the right person at the right time under local data privacy policies.

The Unity interoperability blueprint:

  • ...supports greater privacy and security controls including the work of the Student Data Privacy Consortium (SDPC).

  • designed to support API development and standardization.

  • an implementation blueprint that works with other technical standards, to NOT replicate them, but let you take advantage of 'best of breed' standards (i.e. CEDS, PESC, LTI, Caliper, Ed-Fi).

  • ...allows you to expect that what you build today will be used tomorrow.

  • ...allows for easy maturation to a more powerful infrastructure while keeping your data layer investments intact.


More information:



     back to top >>

Use Cases


The first step in “what do I want to hook together?” is just that - what is the use case or “pain point” you are trying to address?  It could be simple rostering applications to the more complicated interactions between dozens and dozens of applications.  Some example use cases using the SIF Specification like “Unity” include:


More information: 


Do you have a SIF Specification Use Case?  If so, please tell us about it....



     back to top >>


How To Steps


Application Inventory

Ideally you have a list of applications in your ecosystem or at least information on what applications you would like to interoperate.  


Find out what data then needs to be shared between them.  (BTW, if you are a member of the Student Data Privacy Consortium you can use the SDPC Resource Registry which allows you to streamline app contracting, management and communications!).  Also make sure you visit the SIF Certification Registry - your application may already be certified and presenting all of this information!



Option A: Choose Integrator

There are great partners out there who can help you - it is the business they are in!  Check out the “Integrators” on the A4L Vendor Marketplace and use this set of questions as part of your “interview” process!


Option B: Do It Yourself

So you are interested in “DIY Projects”? Great we have lots to help you with your task.  Here is what you can do to start exploring if this is the right decision for you!

  • Decision Steps
    • No matter if you are looking for an application to be a provider or consumer of educational data, the process is similar no matter what technology is used.  Here is a “decision tree” with helpful links to supporting documents to make your challenge even easier! 
  • SIF Standards: Technical Handbook
    •  If you are new to the SIF standard, this is a very good place to start. The SIF Standards: Technical Handbook lays out all the pieces you need to get started, and also talks through some practical examples where meaningful data exchanges happen without much effort addressing Authentication, Infrastructure and Data.



     back to top >>

Work Together



Need more empowering?  You and your peers should ALWAYS promote marketplace providers using standards - no matter where they come from!  It lets you leverage your current and future investments, give you true “choice” in products” and creates common expectations between you and your vendor partner.

  • SIF RFP Language
    • Providing ‘In Use’ examples of SIF RFP and Legislative Language, this document will help you craft the right questions for your prospective vendors.  This document highlights SIF 3x Specifications, but can easily be tailored for any SIF Specification.
  • IEP RFP Language
    • If the goal of your project is to identify new IEP Reporting tools that support the latest standardized IEP portion of the SIF Specification then this document will help you.  Usage of SIF Specifications allow for the integration of current data from multiple source systems into a single structure.


Certification Registry

The objective of the Access 4 Learning (A4L) Community is to enable disparate vendor applications to exchange data, without the end-user re-entering data multiple times, to provide secure and consistent information to all applications ensuring privacy with access.  The A4L Community established the SIF Certification Program to help ensure that data is successfully transferred between applications and that the transferred data successfully resides in all sharing applications, by using an open, community developed data standard – the SIF Specification. The SIF Certification Program is a voluntary program, and is open to any member of the A4L Community, benefiting both customers and vendors by:

  • Providing end users an assurance of a high level of conformance and interoperability between SIF-certified products.
  • Reducing the vendor’s costs and risks involved with getting a product certified.

More information:

Join the Community

The Access 4 Learning Community is unique as it offers all members an equal voice around the 'A4L Table'.  Emphasis is put upon listening to end-user demands and requirements, so that we can develop the SIF standard to meet all the current educational marketplace needs and expectations.  The Access 4 Learning Community is THE place to contribute and develop the SIF Specification, with a Community filled with experts and market leaders in their fields, there is no better place to connect with your peers and start your interoperability journey!

More information:


    back to top >>

  • SIF Association (dba Access 4 Learning (A4L) Community)

  • PO Box 1024, New Albany, Ohio 43054-1024

  • Phone: +1.202.621.0547