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[seul-edu] Re: Student Information Standard (EduML)

On Sun, Oct 22, 2000 at 10:15:08AM +0200, Odile Bénassy wrote:

> Well, Bruno is a Zope afficionado, Zope has its object database, and a
> very good permissions system...

Odile, Steve, David, and Thomas,

Thanks to you, "standards in educational data" is once again a hot topic 
on seul-edu once, just like when this mailing list started 2 years ago :-)

Here is what I have gleaned in 2 years of work and reflection on this topic:

1. There are only 2 meta-standards worth discussing for medium to large 
applications: SQL and XML.  Both of them are becoming extremely important 
in the world of web-based programming (I don't know much anymore about 
the non-web programming world... anyone know?)

2. Luckily, as Odile pointed out, it is easy and getting easier to convert a
datafile between SQL and XML.  (there are a few caveats, though, with some
of the more advanced features of both formats)

SQL advantage: fast, stable storage/retrieval with postgresql and MySQL 
XML advantage: richer model of reality, object-oriented, internet-aware

3. Steve and David are right on:  There are at least 2 ways to implement a 
standard data format:  The first and easiest is to add a IMPORT/EXPORT
command in all educational software which would make a conversion "snapshot"
into eduML or eduSQL  (names for whatever emerges as the standard)

   The second and even more useful is some kind of CLient/Server mechanism
that handles/centralizes all educational transactions in a given area (using
the old TCP/IP paradigm; hierarchical authoritative trees like DNS).  I have
not seen anyone on this list propose such a client/server, though I think
the Casbah open source project came close.

   Both SIF and IMS include the use of such a client/server mechanism which
makes them in a sense more advanced than the EDUml project which can
currently really only be used for creating Export/Import templates.  The big
disadvantages are:

1. This only creates "snapshots" and leaves humans to deal with the eternal 
synchronisation problem. (problem reported by David Moore and Steve Tonnesen)

2. EDUml is a proposed standard, being looked seriously at by half a dozen
open source programmers.  INS is also only a proposed standard being looked
at seriously by 30+ big educational software vendors (including most of the
ones I have to deal with at work).

As more and more of us become XML literate and understand the big picture
going on here, I think this discussion will become fruitful.


p.s. Thomas Tempe's website about Pangee (universal language education
software) mentions possibly using EDUml as a data-transfer format.

p.s.s. My current work involves using zope to handle this problem.  Zope
beautifully integrates SQL, HTML/CGI-bin, and XML in a very elegant way. 
I am working on integrating all the educational software I have to deal with
through zope with a high degree of success.  Later, with the experience
gained, if there is interest, I intend to help build an eduML/eduSQL
zope product which would act as that client/server I mentioned