On Sunday of the 2019 AACRAO Annual Meeting, AACRAO and the National Student Clearinghouse convened a forum to discuss the future of a national Learner Record Index (LRI.)
The panel* of this open workshop discussed how a national LRI is critical for supporting higher education today and in the future, potential approaches to development and adoption, and potential roles of all within the community could play in this important undertaking.
The case for a national LRI
As students and the workforce become increasingly mobile, the education landscape has been forced to evolve rapidly. More and more, the student record and associated academic credentials are transmitted and consumed electronically. In this digital environment for record exchange, we must maintain trust in the integrity of the record and the identity of the learner who earned them. The resulting ecosystem should allow students, employers, and others to easily use the system while preserving trust and privacy.
As learners, at the center of the ecosystem, earn credentials (e.g., transcripts, degrees, certificates) they need to share them with other academic institutions and potential employers. Currently, all of the many participants in the ecosystem of credential exchange must go through an identification process to search for a digital record for the person and, if not found, create a new one. Rinse and repeat.
What if a callable service could perform this function once and the results (identity) shared as needed by those consuming the record or credential?
The service would define/render a learner index that would be machine readable only and reachable through appropriate, vetted APIs. The benefits are many: reduced costs, a secured and trusted learner identity, future flexibility and extensibility.
Is this a new idea?
About 7 years ago the PESC, Internet2 and others suggested the CommIT-ID. The idea was similar, but included the desire to enable a single sign-on service (SSO) that feature Authentication, Authorization and Identity Proofing. For a variety of reasons, including a much broader set of objectives, CommIT failed to gain traction. With reduced scope, the panel believed it was the right time for the introduction of the LRI.
How would the service be constructed?
The panel discussed ideas for how the service could be constructed, potential data constructs, APIs, potential platforms for the service (e.g., traditional web services, Blockchain) and issues associated with sustainability and governance.
"A coalition of the willing"
The panel ended with a call to action and participation. The LRI is envisioned as a shared service for all within the higher educational community (Institutions, Corporate partners, non-profits, etc.) and the panel hoped all would answer the call. The areas of involvement listed were:
- Governance -- Governance Model, Operational Principles, Sustainability
- Technology -- Project Management, Development, School Participation
- Communication and Advocacy
The session concluded with questions and comments period and several attendees voiced general support for the concept and the need for an identification service. In addition, there were several questions regarding adoption, implementation and sustainability.
Working groups on this project are forming now, and AACRAO is seeking interested institutional members from a wide variety of institution types and sizes to participate in the project design and beta testing. If you are interested in participating, please visit the Learner Record Index page and sign up to follow the topic or volunteer today.
* The panel included the following representatives:
Melanie Gottlieb, AACRAO
Tom Black, Johns Hopkins University
Doug Falk, National Student Clearinghouse
Robert Huffman, Paradigm
Christopher Jackson, Paradigm
Mark McConahay, AACRAO
Roberta Hyland, National Student Clearinghouse
Shelby Stanfield, National Student Clearinghouse
Rick Torres National, Student Clearinghouse