There was a theme developing at the XCRI Assembly in June. An extended period of beta testing and specification development is now drawing to an end: what comes next is adoption, use, and adaptation.
Part of this is HEFCE's investment of around £4m in course management across the sector which should see large numbers of courses being advertised in XCRI-CAP format. But this is only part of it - we also need to see XCRI-CAP taken up in earnest by all the major course aggregation and brokerage services, and used to deliver services that are of interest to citizens and to employers. For example, XCRI-CAP should play an important role in providing high quality information to students in conjunction with the key information set.
Neil Pearson from Hotcourses presented at the Assembly and accepted that "aggregators need to do more"; in other words that aggregators will have to meet providers half way on standardised course information. There may also be a role for aggregators in helping improve course data quality by feeding back enhanced XCRI-CAP feeds with better categorisation and SEO keywords. He also wanted XCRI-CAP to be relevant to "mashup guy" as well as large companies and institutions.
A key requirement for transitioning from testing into real use is to establish more coherent use of the specification - Neil noted that XCRI-CAP 1.2 is just "a vessel" for moving course information: the work ahead is to get consistency and coherence in that information to make it more useful for potential applicants.
There was some good news too - Hotcourses' internal data model matches XCRI-CAP and it has championed the specification with government agencies. All courses in the system can be exposed as XCRI-compliant feeds - for example to guide institutions on formatting their own.
I think Richard Staniforth was onto something by calling for a high-profile ownership and promotion of XCRI - so not just a support project or a standardisation activity, but something focussed on driving adoption as its core activity. I guess this is similar to the distinction between IEEE 802.11[abcdefg…] and Wi-Fi: the former are the enabling technical standards, the latter is the industry alliance that drove adoption and labelling.
So what would an "alliance" for adoption of XCRI-CAP and related standards look like?
I think it would have to have the major aggregators on board (UCAS, Hotcourses), plus curriculum management solution providers (Unit4, Akari) and larger learning providers (e.g. the Open University, University of Manchester, MMU, Nottingham) as well as some of the smaller tools and services companies that are already working with XCRI (APS, IGSL, Smartways). It would develop the brand identity under which XCRI-CAP adoption would be recognised (not necessarily retaining anything of the original brand) and promote it beyond the reach of funded programmes into large-scale use.
Is this the future for XCRI?