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Glossary of Terms M-Z
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Glossary of Terms (M-Z)

This Glossary of Terms reflects common language in each locale.
The first three columns indicate whether the item/term is used in which locale, followed by the item/term name and its full description.
  • AU = Australia
  • NA = North America
  • UK = United Kingdom

A-L     M    N    O    P    Q    R    S    T    U    V    W    X    Y    Z


UK Item Description
NO NO  YES Managed Learning Environment Managed learning environments, or MLEs, are concerned with whole institutional systems, and involve the joining-up or interoperation of several separate systems - Student Record Systems, Library Systems, Management Information Systems, VLEs, timetabling systems and so on.
This is in contrast to a virtual learning environment, where the focus is on the tools used in the process of teaching in an online setting.
Essentially, a managed learning environment helps to set the perimeters of the learning experience, and makes it possible to standardize the resources used in learning in a manner that results in measured results. 
NO NO YES Management Information System (MIS) A computer based system designed specifically for schools to provide a depository for learner information. An MIS, dependant on provider, may provide, but not be limited to the following information: home address; school photo; telephone contact numbers for emergencies; d/o/b; dietary requirements (if applicable e.g. kosher meals, nut allergies); timetable details and number of absences.
It may also provideinformation on individual learners including behaviour and attendance and inform the school workforce with information to make decisions on pupil learning. 
YES YES YES Mandatory elements Elements of an object that must be provisioned with data for the object to be able to function - for example, the minimum set of data required for an object.
YES YES YES Message An transport container for SIF Objects (in XML format). Messages are sent from agents and routed by the ZIS. 
YES YES YES Message broker A standard middleware component which provides at a minimum automatic service discovery, context based routing and guaranteed message delivery. It is often used as the underlying implementation for the Brokered Environment Provider.
YES YES YES Message Queues Persistent storage areas, such as databases or files, where messages reside while waiting to be delivered. 
YES YES YES Middleware See Broker
NO NO YES MIS See Management Information System
NO NO YES MLE See Managed Learning Environment
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UK Item Description
NO YES NO National Center for Education Statistics The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), located within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences, is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education.
NO YES NO NCES See National Center for Education Statistics
NO YES NO NCLB See No Child Left Behind
NO NO YES NEET See Not in Education, Employment or Training
 NO YES NO No Child Left Behind Signed into law in 2002, No Child Left Behind sets performance guidelines for all schools and also stipulates what must be included in accountability reports to parents. It mandates annual student testing, includes guidelines for underperforming schools, and requires states to train all teachers and assistants to be "highly qualified".
 NO NO YES Not in Education, Employment or Training The young people who are not in education, employment or training, (NEET), are amongst the most disaffected young people aged 16 to 18 years. Other vulnerable groups (including children in public care, teenage parents, young carers, young people with medical needs, and young offenders) have been shown to be over-represented within this NEET group.
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 AU NA UK Item Description
 YES YES YES OAuth OAuth is an open standard for authorization. OAuth provides client applications a 'secure delegated access' to server resources on behalf of a resource owner. It specifies a process for resource owners to authorize third-party access to their server resources without sharing their credentials. Designed specifically to work with Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), OAuth essentially allows access tokens to be issued to third-party clients by an authorization server, with the approval of the resource owner. The client then uses the access token to access the protected resources hosted by the resource server.
YES YES YES Object See Data Object, Entity Object, Report Object, Composite Object
YES YES YES Object Provider An agent system that responds to requests for a given data object. There is only one designated provider (default responder) in a zone per object. Providers of an object must be able to supply all mandatory elements within that object.
SIF 3.x Equivalent:  Service Provider
YES YES YES Object Service See Service: Object.
YES YES YES Object Service Provider An application providing access to Objects of a selected type in accordance with the Service Interface, and publishing related Events.  Example:  The Student Object Service Provider.
YES YES YES OEM'd product A piece of application software that is similar to another except for it branding and provider.  An option provided as part of the SIF Certification Program.
YES YES YES OpenID An authentication system.
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 AU NA UK Item Description
YES YES YES PDM See Physical Data Model
YES YES YES Physical Data Model (PDM) Specifies implementation details which may be features of a particular software application or version.
YES YES YES Problem Report A question of clarification, intent or correctness of the specification(s), SIF Test Suites or SIF Certification system, which, if accepted by the A4L Community, will be resolved into an Interpretation, Test Suite Deficiency or Certification System Deficiency respectively.
 YES YES YES Product Standard The document in which conformance requirements are specified for a particular type of product, and against which products or services may be certified in the SIF Certification Program. There will be one Product Standard for each type of product which is to be certified.
YES YES YES Profile A collection of requirements taken from the SIF Standard that enables interoperability across an agreed set of functionality between applications.
A profile sets the expectations for a given implementation.
YES YES YES Provide To be able to respond to requests for a given data object. There is only one designated provider (default responder) in a zone per object. Providers of an object must be able to supply all mandatory elements within that object.
YES YES YES Publish To send event messages to the zone whenever an event occurs affecting a given data object.
YES YES YES Publisher An agent that publishes data and/or event messages to the zone.
YES YES YES Pull Mode The mode in which an agent functions. An agent in Pull mode polls the ZIS to get any messages waiting for it. Pull mode agents always initiate contact with the ZIS.
YES YES YES Push Mode The mode in which an agent functions. An agent in Push mode allows the ZIS to send messages to it in real time. Initiation of communication is bi-directional between the ZIS and the agent.
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 AU NA UK Item Description
 YES YES YES Query A structured request for information from a database, often issued by an agent, usually framed in SQL (Structured Query Language).
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 AU NA UK Item Description
 NO NO YES RBC See Regional Broadband Consortium
YES YES YES Re-Badged Product A piece of application software that is similar to another except for it branding.
YES YES YES Reference Test Environment Used in the SIF Certification Program.  The environment in which conformance was validated, which includes the identity of the version of the product or service that was tested and the release of the test suite used for conformance testing.
YES YES YES RefID Reference ID that uniquely identifies each instance of an object. See also GUID.
NO NO YES Regional Broadband Consortia Regional Broadband Consortia (RBCs) are consortia of local authorities established to procure cost-effective broadband connectivity for schools in England. There are 10 RBCs covering 139 of the 150 local authorities.
 YES YES YES Report Manifest A report definition describing the data to be contained in a report.
 YES YES YES Report Object A Report object is a subclass of Composite objects, designed to represent point-in-time information and can contain summary information, cross tabulations, or information associated with a range of entities. This is the same kind of information as would be contained in a typical report. Report objects are read-only.
 YES YES YES Reporting: Horizontal The transfer of data between multiple software applications within an organisation using a SIF Zone Integration Server (ZIS).
YES YES YES Reporting: Vertical Automated reporting using the special case of vertical interoperability identified in the SIF Specification.
YES YES YES Request A type of message containing a query for a specific data object.
YES YES YES Response A type of message containing data objects sent in reaction to a request message.
YES YES YES REST An abbreviation for "Representational State Transfer", this technology consists of a series of design patterns for interoperability, layered over HTTP.  It forms the basis of the SIF 3.0 Infrastructure.
NO YES NO Roster A collection of people and roles around a specific event, in the education world usually a section of a course.
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 AU NA UK Item Description
 YES YES YES Sandbox A application designed to help a programmer understand and explore an API.
 YES NO NO SBP See SIS Baseline Profile.
 YES NO NO SBP Framework A code framework built on the SIF Common Framework which implements or supports behaviours required by the SIS Baseline Profile. These include caching of dependent objects, and automated querying for their dependencies. 
 YES YES YES Schema An XML Schema is a language for expressing structures and constraints for data objects and elements. 
 NO NO YES School An educational institution providing primary and secondary education, prior to tertiary education (college or university).
 YES YES YES SCORM Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) is a collection of standards and specifications for web-basede-learning. It defines communications between client side content and a host system called the run-time environment (commonly a function of alearning management system). SCORM also defines how content may be packaged into a transferable ZIP file.
 NO YES NO SEA See State Education Agency
 YES YES YES Selective Message Blocking (SMB) Allows an agent to tell the ZIS to suspend delivery of event messages until further notice.
YES YES YES Service A set of defined functionality encapsulated behind a standardized CRUD interface, which is implemented by a Service “Provider” for clients (the “Service Consumers”) to utilize.
Referenced in SIF 3.0 Base Architecture documentation.
 YES YES YES Service Consumer A Service Consumer implementation makes requests of, and subscribes to and receives Events from, one or more Service Provider components.
Referenced in the SIF 3.0 Base Architecture documentation.
SIF 2.x Equivalent:  Client
 YES YES YES Service Interface An interface supporting one or more of the standardized CRUD (Create, Query (READ), Update and Delete) data requests on objects of a specific type.  Example: Student Data Object Service
 YES YES YES Service Provider A Service Provider implementation accepts, processes and responds to requests from Consumers for object type or function-specific services, and publishes related Events in accordance with the type of Service Provider Interface it is implementing.
Every independent Service Provider initially registers as a Service Consumer, and may be (and generally is) a Consumer of one or more other Services. SIF 2.x Equivalent:  Object Provider
 YES YES YES Service: Functional

A Functional Service encapsulates stateful process behavior as well as the data exchanged between applications implementing that process.
It does this by supporting all four methods of a Data Object Service Provider interface, but applies them to Object Services rather than Object data elements.

When a Consumer issues a “create” Request to a Functional Service, it results in the creation of a new executing instance of the Service (a “Job”) rather than a new instance of a data object.
From a conceptual point of view, each Job instance contains a set of named “phases”, identical to every other Job created by that Function Service. These discrete phases define and encapsulate the subactions which need to be done, but they do not explicitly determine the ordering (since the phases defining a Function may be executed in different order, depending upon the implementation and the needs of the site where the Functional Service is deployed).
Once created, the Job instance can be queried to find out where in the process it is (what is happening, what is the current status of each completed phase) and the Job may issue Events as its internal phases are completed.
Each Job Phase is represented by:A Phase nameA status (NotStarted, InProgress, Completed, Failed)A defined Object Service corresponding to that Phase (which supports some or all of the set of service operations)
The creator of the Job can therefore: Monitor the status of the Job (through querying the Job instance or by receiving Job level Events); Interact with the Job at any phase by issuing Query, Create, Modify and Delete requests (the meaning of which are determined by the Functional Service itself); Receive Events from the various Phases of the Job.  Example: StudentLocator, EndOfYearRollover

 YES YES YES Service: Object

While the SIF 3.0 infrastructure is independent of the Data Model defining the payloads it carries, the following general Object Service framework must be supported by all Service Providers.
An Object Service is the “authoritative source” for all data elements contained in all data objects of a specific type, and services some or all of the following requests: QueryCreateUpdateDelete

Depending upon the object type, the corresponding Data Object Service may: Publish an Event whenever an object is Created; Publish an Event whenever an object is Deleted; Publish an Event whenever certain (or any) elements in an Object are updated; Restrict the range of possible Queries. Whenever an Object Service receives a Request for an operation it does not support, it must return, “operationNotSupported”.

 YES YES YES Shibboleth An authentication system.
 YES YES YES SIF 3 Hub A place where SIF 3 Consumers can connect to in order to retrieve, and optionally alter, data for a school, district, state or even at a national level.  Often, but not necessarily, a SIF 3 Hub is fronted with a SIF 3 Broker to abstract the potentially complex data provider set-up and to enable SIF 3 Events.  The SIF 3 Hub allows for a centrally managed SIF Adapter configuration and access control.

The SIF-specific component which provides the RESTful interface between the application and its partners.  For Consumers, this is a very thin wrapper and can often be coded by the application developers rather than utilizing a 3rd party.

When used in the SIF Certification Program, this is the software component that ties a product to any SIF Environment.

There are two basic varieties of Adapter, each corresponding to an earlier SIF 2.x equivalent:Service Consumer Adapter - (SIF 2.x equivalent) Client AgentService Provider Adapter - (SIF 2.x equivalent) Object Provider Agent

Adapters never communicate with other adapters directly.  Instead, each adapter uses the Environments Provider interface as a trusted intermediary that brokers the exchange of data with other adapters.

Previously known as a 'SIF Agent' in all SIF Solutions prior to SIF 3.x.

 YES YES YES SIF Agent The liaison between an application and the ZIS. An agent is responsible for sending messages to and receiving messages from the ZIS. For incoming messages, an agent translates the XML message into the data recognized by its application, and applies any changes to the application’s data. An agent is also responsible for monitoring changes in the data associated with its application, assembling it into a SIF message, and submitting it to the ZIS.
 YES YES YES SIF Certification Agreement The agreement between the applicant and the Certification Authority, which contains the legal commitment by the applicant to the conditions of the SIF Certification Program.
 YES YES YES SIF Certification Authority The Certification Authority is the regulatory team who administer and ensure compliance of any product completing the SIF Certification Program.  The A4L Community is officially sanctioned as the Certification Authority.
 YES YES YES SIF Certification Authority Help Desk A4L Staff member(s) tasked with responding to certification needs and opportunities.
 YES YES YES SIF Certification logo The A4L Community’s certification logo or other marks as designated from time to time by the Community, formerly the SIF Association.
 YES YES YES SIF Certification Register A web-based record of all SIF Certified products, which is maintained by the Certification Authority.
 YES YES YES SIF Certified A product which conforms to the SIF standard and has passed the SIF certification process.  More information on the SIF Certification Program can be found here:
 YES YES YES SIF Certified product A product or service that has successfully completed the certification process and for which the Solution Provider has been notified in writing by the Certification Authority that certification has been achieved for such product or service.
 YES YES YES SIF compliant A product which claims to conform to the SIF standard.  The product has not been tested and certified, and cannot use the registered name 'SIF' in their product functionality or promotion.
 YES YES YES SIF enabled When used during the SIF Certification Program, it describes a product that is not yet certified.
Please refer to the A4L Marketing Guidelines and Trademark Usage for further information.
 YES YES YES SIF Implementation Specification A data standard that describes how education applications can share data.
 NO YES NO SIF xPress See xPress
 YES YES YES SIF Zone Services WSDL-defined service applications which will run over the extended SIF infrastructure.
 YES YES YES SIF_Ack The acknowledgement message used in every message exchange. The receiver of a message returns the Ack to let the sender know the message was received, or if there was an error.
 YES NO NO SIFCommon Framework Australian framework built on Pearsons (now open sourced) ADK/Java which simplifies construction of the most common agents.
 NO YES NO SIS See Student Information System
 YES NO NO SIS Baseline Profile (SBP) A profile, created by the A4L Community in Australia, covering extended behaviours for the most common objects and transactions in the Australian context. The SBP Framework implements these behaviours.
 YES YES YES SMB See Selective Message Blocking
 YES YES YES Solution Provider A product vendor who is interested in, applying for certification in, or has certified a product in the SIF Certification Program. During the period in which a Solution Provider is going through the certification process to get a product certified, the Solution Provider is referred to as an applicant.
 NO YES NO Sp Ed / SPED See Special Education
 N O YES NO Special Education Special instruction provided for students with educational or physical disabilities, tailored to each student's needs and learning style.
 YES YES YES Specification Authority The A4L Community, which is responsible for developing, maintaining and interpreting the specification(s).
 YES YES YES SQL Structured Query Language - see Query .
 NO YES NO State Education Agency (SEA) The agency primarily responsible for the State supervision of public elementary and secondary schools.
 NO YES NO Student Information System (SIS) Usually the primary student application in a zone.
 YES YES YES Subscribe To receive event messages (adds, changes, deletes) for a data object and its elements.
 YES YES YES Subscriber An agent that receives event messages (adds, changes, deletes) for a data object and its elements.
 YES YES YES Synchronize A process that agents perform that establishes a common GUID in a zone between applications for each person, school, or other entity. Agents typically synchronize with the SIS agent when they are first installed, and again at the beginning of each school year.
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UK Item Description
YES YES YES Test Result A term used during the SIF Certification Program.  The test harness output and associated analysis report. The output is a log of network events, which is parsed to determine if the claimed SIF Object support is present and conformant, to the extent that can be determined by means of network observation, thereby producing a “pass” or "non-pass” result for each claim.
YES YES YES Test Suite A test harness authorized by the A4L Community for use in testing within the SIF Certification Program. A test suite in this context is comprised of an interworking harness, network event logging, and associated analysis tools.  The full range of currently available SIF Test Suites can be found here:
YES YES YES Test Suite Deficiency An agreed error in a test suite, which is causing it to produce an incorrect result code that impacts certification.
YES YES YES Test Suite Maintenance Authority The organization(s) sanctioned by the A4L Community to maintain the test suites.
YES YES YES Trademark Licence Agreement The agreement between the Solution Provider and the A4L Community, which contains the legal commitment by the Solution Provider to the conditions for use of the SIF Certification Logo.
YES YES YES TMLA See Trademark Licence Agreement
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 AU NA UK Item Description
 NO NO YES UCI See Unique Candidate Identifier
NO NO YES ULN See Unique Learner Number
YES YES YES Unbounded query A query that returns all possible instances of the data set it addresses. Unbounded queries are often used in full synchs.
NO NO YES Unique Candidate Identifier (UCI) Each candidate sitting GCE A/AS, GCSE Modular and Key Skills examinations will be allocated a Unique Candidate Identifier (UCI) number, which will be used to identify individuals during their modular courses. The UCI is 13 characters long and usually consists of the centre number, a year reference number, the candidate number and an alphabetical check digit. The UCI enables the awarding bodies to match the current exam entries with previous entries in unitised qualifications.
NO NO YES Unique Learner Number A Unique Learner Number (ULN) is a 10-digit identifier, which is applied to the Learner Record of anyone over the age of 14 involved UK education or training.
Learners will retain the same number for accessing their Learner Record throughout their lives, whatever their level of learning and wherever they choose to participate.
Each ULN is issued and held by theLearner Registration Service (LRS). The LRS uses the number to index each learner’s identity details, education and training qualifications within theLearner Record.
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 AU NA UK Item Description
 YES YES YES Vertical Reporting See Reporting: Vertical
YES YES YES Vertical reporting choreography The specific steps followed by agents regarding the movement of data in a vertical implementation.
 NO NO YES Virtual Learning Environment

 A virtual learning environment (VLE) is asoftware system designed to support teaching and learning in an educational setting, as distinct from a Managed Learning Environment (MLE) where the focus is on management. A VLE will normally work over the Internet and provide a collection of tools such as those for assessment (particularly of types that can be marked automatically, such as multiple choice), communication, uploading of content, return of students' work, peer assessment, administration of student groups, collecting and organizing student grades, questionnaires, tracking tools, etc. New features in these systems includewikis,blogs,RSS and3D virtual learning spaces.

While originally created for distance education, VLEs are now most often used to supplement traditional face to face classroom activities, commonly known as Blended Learning.

 NO NO YES VLE See Virtual Learning Environment
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 AU NA UK Item Description
 NO NO YES WBL See Work Based Learning
 NO NO YES Work Based Learning (WBL) Work Based Learning is the component of a learning programme that focuses on the application of theory in an authentic, work-based context. It addresses specific competences identified for the acquisition of a qualification, which relate to the development of skills that will make the learner employable and will assist in developing his/her personal skills.  Employer and professional bodies are involved in the assessment of experiential learning, together with academic staff.
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 AU NA UK Item Description
 NO NO YES XCRI See Exchange of course related information
YES YES YES XML See Extensible Markup Language
NO YES NO xPress An xPress solution is comprised of a contemporary implementation model as an Application Programming Interface (API); an underlying, market-driven use case; and the use of the SIF 3 Infrastructure Specification combined with a use-case centric Data Model designed for ease of use.
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AU NA UK Item Description
YES YES YES ZIS See Zone Integration Server
YES YES YES Zone A logical collection of applications, agents, and a ZIS that exchange information with each other. Zones can be set up to exchange data at different levels. They are typically established at the district level, and are also frequently set up for each school.
YES YES YES Zone Integration Server Controls communication between agents. Its primary responsibility is to route messages from agent to agent, and to control which agents can request, provide, publish, and subscribe to which data objects. The ZIS is actually software, not hardware, and may or may not be installed on a dedicated server.
SIF 3.x Equivalent for a ZIS:  Broker / Middleware / Enterprise Service Bus (ESB)
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  • SIF Association (dba Access 4 Learning (A4L) Community)

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

  • Phone: +1.202.621.0547