During Wednesday this week it became apparent that things were not great with eTech - one of the (relatively) newer players in the UK Learning Platforms market, which provides its StudyWiz platform to about 13 Local Authorities (LAs) and other schools (29,000, according to its own site). An increasing number of tweets indicated that Becta were going to contact schools (and presumably, LAs) who had opted into StudyWiz as part of the Learning Platforms Framework (which itself has been the subject of much blogging here and elsewhere).
- first of all, Becta, under whose guidance the Framework was put together. The "moving to another supplier" idea is, course, an assumption predicated on interoperability - another core principle of the LP Framework but one which, when discussed with anyone involved at an LA or RBC level, is normally met with either a chuckle or a shrug. Essentially, everyone is aware that it appears that most vendors appear to pay lip-service to true interoperability. Becta's role in this will be to deal with many of the issues which arise from this for those LAs and schools who opted for StudyWiz through the provisions of the LP Framework. It's always been my understanding that if a school purchased direct from StudyWiz/eTech (or any supplier) and didn't go through the Framework then they wouldn't benefit from its provisions, even though eTech were an approved provider. It appears that Becta, eTech/StudyWiz (in whatever form they are now) and the affected LAs are meeting next week to sort things out and plan ahead.
- secondly - and obviously - eTech/StudyWiz. If the worst happened and those schools or LAs who chose StudyWiz under the LP Framework route are forced (or choose) to move to another supplier, then it will very quickly become apparent how easy or otherwise it is to get data and content out of StudyWiz and into another system. However, I hear that StudyWiz might export into Common Cartridge format, which offers some options if your tool of choice can work with that.
- finally, the other providers under the Learning Platform Framework will be immediately affected by how interoperable their systems are. Of course, I'd imagine that any school or LA approaching another vendor with questions about bringing the content and operation of a learning platform in from StudyWiz would be met with the answer "Yes" to almost any questions they might have. However, listen more carefully and I wouldn't be surprised to hear the trill of discussion in UK offices, or Skype calls to developers in India asking if it's possible to hoover up information once held in StudyWiz courses into the one you're trying to sell to schools. It's also interesting to see employees of other LP providers retweeting messages from their users expressing relief that they didn't choose StudyWiz.
I've always thought that interoperability was (understandably) near the bottom of a list of priorities for LP vendors - after all, if it's difficult for a school or LA to leave once they've seriously committed to your product, then you've got them for life, right? I'm willing to bet that, with a shadow seeming to have passed over StudyWiz, interoperability has bumped up most vendors' to-do lists now...