The Future of Digital
Student Data Portability

The Fifth Way: A Plea for Inter-connected Central Student Data Depositories

Key Note Speech by Thomas C. Black at the Founding Seminar “Digital Student Data Depositories Worldwide”, 16 April 2012 Groningen, The Netherlands

I want to thank DUO, and especially its Director General, Rob Kerstens, for inviting me to this lovely place.  And my appreciation to Regina Riemersma and Herman de Leeuw and the several European colleagues I have come to know as having mutual interests in digital student data portability.

It is surprising to see so many come to this location, in some instances, far from their homelands, to discuss a very esoteric topic such as student data portability.  I don’t know what that says about us, either we’re terribly ambitious or fanatical, maybe little of both.



Let me summarize what I intend to convey in this key note address. Over the past twenty years, in the United States, especially, there have been many attempts to automate records exchange and to create and adopt records standards.  Initially, these exchanges benefited institutions, making records transactions more economical and efficient.  Early work on standards was successful to a point, but many commercial interests offered proprietary or alternative methods for exchange, stunting adoption of standards.  Meanwhile, the needs of our students keep changing, as they are more cosmopolitan and mobile. Now we must rethink what we’re doing. We must think of worldwide exchanges. It’s time to collaborate and cooperate on the  international level.  We start our international conversation today, at Groningen University. 


Era of Globalization 3.0

To start off, let me say that I think Tom Friedman is right!  We are in a new era.  In his 2005 book, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, he proclaims we’re in the Era of Globalization 3.0, the era of the “individual”.  He argues that the world has shrunk from the prevailing emphasis on countries, on multi-national companies, to now one that celebrates the capacities of the individual.  The world is a flat playing field enabling individuals all over to collaborate and compete globally.  If this is true, and I believe there is merit in this thinking, we, the holders and keepers of the records for these our future leaders, must look at what we’re doing.  Are we aiding them to compete?


Let me further illustrate why I believe Friedman is correct and suggest what is going on.  Let’s start with the Internet.  It has taken away barriers and crosses traditional boundaries.  It has democratized information, and we now expect to be able to access information more broadly and deeply. Education that was once reserved to and limited by time and location can be delivered anywhere, at anytime.  Recently professors from elite institutions in the United States have begun to offer upper-division or advanced undergraduate courses for Free to a worldwide audience.  Tens of thousands of students around the globe are taking MITx and Stanford’s Open CourseWare courses.  I have no doubt that this approach will have a disruptive effect on education.  By disruptive, I don’t mean to suggest a negative outcome.


Online courses have been around for quite sometime, and one could argue we have the commercial entities to thank for that.  While millions take online courses they have receded in the landscape and are thought to be part of the mosaic that makes up Higher Education with some important differences.  They often pick up the slack where traditional education lacks, for example in serving older adults; for job training or retraining, or a means to add one or two missing courses to a traditional degree program.  Online education; it’s hybrid, the part online and part residential program, and courses on iTunes U, even, are glowing examples of what the era of Globalization 3.0 is all about.


Some statistical data on mobility

In addition to the ever available Internet, students are on the move, too!  The Chronicle of Higher Education, a well-known professional publication in the United States, in its Annual Almanac, projects that by 2019, there will be over 900,000 international students enrolled in the United States, a 25% increase from 2011.  Overtime, and not too far into the future, millions of worldwide visitors in a 1,000 or so US institutions will have an effect!  And with California being one of the top destinations in the US for international students, I dare say, I expect that one of the places affected by this trend will be my office! 


And on the flip side, according to IIE’s (International Institute of Education) 2009/10 survey, over 270,000 US students, a 4% increase over the previous year, studied abroad, mostly in European institutions.  The top four destinations were in Europe.  There has been an 88% increase in the number of US students studying abroad over the past 10 years.  According to OECD Education at a Glance, 2011, there were 3.7 million students in 2009 involved in education internationally from all countries, and it is projected to go to 5.8 million in 2020, and this doesn’t count scholars and visiting scholars.


Keeping the records – will the old way do?

The record keeper in me is both concerned, may I say a little frightened, and curious about this mobility phenomenon.  I am worried about the service demands that this will place on my office now, and in the future, to ensure that the record can reach as far and as quickly to meet the needs of our students and alumni.  And I am curious as to what should be recorded on the academic record for these mobile wanderers.  Courses and grades may not be enough.


As a matter of fact, we are NOT keeping the full transcript of the educational experience  that students are having on college campuses.  Students are involved in faculty supervised internships, research activities and community service.  Most of which is not hitting the transcript.  Moreover, study abroad courses and experiences are often relegated to a credit count without any expression as to what was studied.  The transcript today is a mere scorecard of courses and grades.  And, in the United States, I hate to say it, where there is rampant grade inflation, the grades are becoming less and less meaningful. 


While there is a movement of accountability in the US that is insisting on a greater articulation of learning outcomes and skill competencies, the record is a long way away from being the full record of what students have learned, or what they can do.  I am convinced the record has got to change!  In content, and how it is being presented!  Perhaps that is why, in part, we are gathered here today.


I see the issue facing us today is the issue of relevance.  While technology is changing education and making our students and graduates more mobile, is it now our duty to use the latest technology to both enhance the records we keep, and to make them more portable.  Allow me to add a little perspective to this discussion.


Phasing out paper as medium for storage

Today, by a large margin, most record exchanges are performed on the medium of paper.  It was not too long ago, within my professional career, we sealed envelopes containing official documents with wax.  Sealing in wax gave way to just signing official documents with a wet signature and embossing each page with a raised seal.  While I don’t see this too often in the United States any more, I occasionally see records with similar indicia from international institutions.  Now in the United States we use what is referred to as safety paper.  We borrowed the idea from the banks.  Safety paper was used to print checks.  Safety paper has special characteristics for detecting whether a document has been tampered with.  For example, the paper possesses embedded pixels that reveal a message when the paper is copied.  Sometimes the signature of the registrar is printed in “white” so it disappears when the document is xeroxed.  While these techniques may give the appearance that we’re protecting the record from fraudulent manipulation, I really don’t think they work.  Besides, best proof is that banks no longer invest in security paper but in digital data exchange technology.


Essentially, the medium, paper, and what passes as suitable credentials is at the heart of this problem.  There is of course one other very important issue, how does the person reading the credential really know that it is legitimate?  And related to this question, how easy is it to verify that a credential is valid.  This, again, might be, in part, why we’re gathered here.


In another vein, and related to the technology of today, is the ironic position it has placed us in.  It frustrates me knowing that my records are born digitally, yet, over half of them will have to be printed on paper for them to be sent and used by their intended audiences.  Think about it, if you were to start today, to design a system for the maintenance and transmission of academic records would you devise a system where the default accentuated the need for paper.  I dare say you would Not.


Thus, I would like to pause a moment to relay an important observation, which we’ll come back to later.   One of our economics faculty members, Carolyn Hoxby, declared in a recent Faculty Senate debate, which I thought was profound and certainly apropos, “when you change the defaults, you change the outcomes.”  This may seem tautological, but I think it is worth considering, as we envision future innovations in record keeping.


Making of the digital record in the US - EDI

In the United States, we have been trying to change the state of things.  And in fact, since the late eighties, many registrars and other interested parties went to work to change the way records were managed and transmitted between institutions.  They adopted the Electronic Data Interchange approach (E.D.I.), an ANSI standard (American National Standards Institute) for exchanging data between two parties.  The relationship model they replicated was one of manufacturer and supplier.  When the manufacturer, say, car factory needed more steel, the manufacturer would send to the supplier a coded message calling for the amount and quality of steel needed.  Since the relationship between the two was previously well established, the manufacturer could send its coded supply order over the telephone, later replaced by the internet, in real-time.  This reduced the advance time required to make such orders and lessened the storage costs of supplies.


This is how we made our academic records electronic.  The content of the record, our transcript, was reduced to standardized codes and format commands,  making it possible to send and receive data between institutions over leased telephone lines.  Twenty years ago, because of the expense of the exchange, a central store-and-forward server was installed to act as a dispatcher for the records. That way you could send your transmission to one place at your convenience, and at time of transmission, you didn’t have to worry about the receiving end.  Over 600 institutions of Higher Education adopted the technology: T.S. 130 is the name of ANSI’s official academic record transaction set.  Large state institutions and a few state networks, were the early adopters.  It made sense to use EDI transactions between junior or community colleges and 4-year public institutions.  Many of the major vendors of student information systems adopted the standard to help its customers exchange records via EDI.  With there being 4,600 institutions nationally, I leave it to you to determine whether this approach hit the mark.  EDI is still being used today, and millions of records are exchanged through the central server each year. 


Next step – Enter PESC and XML

Not much has happened with T.S. 130 and other variants since it was promulgated.  By the late nineteen nineties, a new organization was formed through the sponsorship of the 100-year old American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO).  It was called the Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council (PESC).  The organization took on a wide variety of standard setting tasks, and today is very active in developing standards for Higher Education. 


One of the notable actions of PESC took place early last decade.  It took the EDI T.S. 130 format and converted it into XML; the XML transcript was passed as a standard in 2004.  What is interesting about this standard, however, vendors did not add it to their student information systems.  Why?  I don’t know.   And until the University of Georgia system paid one vendor to write the standard into its system, it did not have a prayer of going forward.  Alas, the vendor and the University of Georgia got into an intellectual property dispute, and the standard was dropped from use. 


I’ve had my own bout with this standard when I was at the University of Chicago.  We adopted the XML transcript standard in 2005.  We thought we were really modern and forward thinking at the time.  We sent our first XML transcript to the central store-and-forward server, I mentioned a moment ago, and we broke it!  Needless to say, my XML transcript wasn’t welcome there.  Not to be dissuaded...because by God, we were going to use standards!!...we convinced the National Student Clearinghouse to be our new store-and-forward server.  Lovely, we thought, a new dispatching server for the new standard.  And for over a year, we sent XML transcripts from the University of Chicago to the Association of American Medical Colleges’ (AAMC) admission service, also known as,  AMCAS (American Medical Colleges Application Service).  Only to find out, and I’m not making this up, that upon receipt, AMCAS printed out the files we sent them and manually keyed each record into their computers. 


The lesson learned from this experience was: Standards don’t by themselves cause or hasten adoption of innovation.  But who knew?  I was riding the standards train, and I knew there was no turning back.  But the track just didn’t go anywhere.  Alas, XML is not a well used standard for exchange, at present.  But it could be.


Allow me to tell another story.  After the debacle with the XML transcript, I reset.  It’s known today as a pivot in Silicon Valley.  We set sights on a new path for the exchange and transmission of electronic documents.  Because, by God, we were going to exchange records electronically!!  Believe me, this stuff can make you a little crazy! 


Adopting standards - PDF

We adopted the ubiquitous, and arguably de facto standard for document exchange on the Internet,  the PDF.  We weren’t the first to set our eyes on the use of the PDF.  Nor was the University of Chicago the first to digitally sign the PDF.  A company called Docufide tested PDF technology with secondary schools.  The company contracted with high schools to send their transcripts to college and university admission offices.  It set up a point-to-point internet service with the schools.  After the parties registered as members of the Docufide service, one of the formats available was PDF.  The security of the exchange was the company’s system.


Docufide’s methods did not resonate with registrars in Higher Education early on, partly because admission officers didn’t tell them about it, and partly because registrars never really saw the mechanism at work.  Usually by the time the registrar got involved and received the high school transcript as a part of the official records, it was already put-to-bed in the institution’s imaging system.


Penn State University was the first to send digitally signed PDFs.  By adopting Adobe’s PDF Reader and Acrobat technologies and GeoTrust’s certificate it paved the way for this new approach.  It was a tough go at first, and even though I was intimately involved in what Penn State designed, and I’m not making this up, my own institution, University of Chicago, initially rejected Penn State’s transcript.  Sometimes the path of change can be bumpy.


We did make signed PDFs work, however.  At the University of Chicago, we didn’t have the money, personnel or wherewithal to sign PDFs ourselves, like Penn State did, instead, we helped establish the first digital signing service.  The idea was to have a company finance and capitalize the equipment needed to sign PDFs.  Institutions, in turn, would have them host their private signatures and when it wanted a document signed, the company would apply the private signature for a fee.   While the entry cost for institutions for this technology was nil, the operational cost was based on usage.  This method did not rely on a network, making it easier to deliver records to any recipient, be it a person, business or institution.   It was in 2005 that digitally signed transcripts started to take off.


As you can imagine, companies smelled profits in electronic records.  While we were advocating going electronic, companies were enticing registrars to sign up for their delivery services.  At one early count, there were a dozen companies trying to squeeze institutional budgets.  While a few have dropped out, there are eight that are still very active in providing electronic record exchanges.


My preferred solution for electronic record exchange is still the signed PDF.  Happily, there are a couple of developments that make this format a solid solution:  first, the PDF format became an ISO (International Organization for Standardization) standard in 2007, and second, PESC adopted a PDF standard for transcripts in 2010, if my memory serves.  I can now say, after 7 years of trying, I am finally using standards!! 


The digitally signed PDF has been adopted by 6 out of the 11 HEIs that are referred to as Ivy Plus institutions.  This is a reference to the 8 Ivy League schools, plus Chicago, MIT, and Stanford.  In addition, over 82 institutions, many of them quite large, use signed PDFs. 


As it turns out, in the United States, there are four basic models for records exchange: 


  1. EDI exchange


  1. Commercial point-to-point services


  1. Digitally-signed PDFs, as I have described


  1. The fourth model, what I call a value-add model, is one where the company creates the document it thinks should be presented and delivered.


There is a fifth model, active in Europe, which I would identify as the proxy-access model, where the recipient is given proxy credentials to grant direct access to records at the source. This is a marvelous way to do this, I think.


Paper records on the decline

As you can imagine, there is a lot of confusion among registrars and admission officers concerning electronic credential formats.  However, I can emphatically say, there is no longer any doubt that paper needs to go away.  At our regional and national meetings, presentations on the electronic record exchange are full, with standing room only.  Now we know, it is not if electronic documents will replace paper, but when.


At Stanford, nearly half of all records are being sent via signed PDFs.  Stanford adopted the new technology shortly after I got there, and we’ve been sending out digitally signed transcripts almost 4 years.  Still, however, too many HEIs refuse any electronic formats.  In contrast, businesses, small organizations, and individuals readily accept them.  Institutions have problems accepting signed PDFs because either they still rely on manual processes, or their technology stacks (that is hardware and software) are woefully out-of-date.  In most instances, they would not know what to do with a PDF even if they could receive it.  I suppose...when in doubt, print it out!


Ushering in new possibilities

When you have been working with electronic records as long as I have, you begin to see the world in a new way.  And I began to ask myself: What can I do now that I couldn’t do before, when the records were on paper.  By moving to digital signature technology, my fellow professionals and I liberated ourselves from the prevailing wisdom.  For all my years in the registrar profession, the diploma was thought to be only a display object.  It is not, according to our own literature, an official credential that can verify one’s academic achievement.  I know this sounds very odd to you.  Especially since non-US mindsets relegate the transcript to being merely a “supplement” to the diploma.


Soon we’ll be like you, after a fashion.  It is our plan to produce signed PDF diplomas, which will put them on a par, legally, with official transcripts. 


And we’re not stopping there, we’ve already brought back grade reports that are digitally-signed PDFs for one of our online programs.  And our School of Education is sending its tenure letters to faculty, using the signing service.  Lo’ and behold, we are in the electronic documents business.  Technology has allowed us to think differently.


What’s next, you say?  In a word:  integration!  At Stanford, we use a company to create and maintain our electronic application for admission to graduate school.  This company has about 600 or so clients in Higher Education.  We are working with them to create the functionality within the service that will enable applicants to order official transcripts within the application itself.  The order function, using PESC standards, will send requests for transcripts directly to our student information system.  Each order will be signed and returned to the application service immediately.  Thus, it will be possible for the transcript to reach the application before the applicant has finished completing it.  There will be no need to match up documents after the fact!


Also, we are very interested in mobile devices.  We’ve created applications for the iPhone, called iStanford, and now we’re creating a new application for the iPad.  Soon, this spring, we’ll have a native application for ordering transcripts, followed by diplomas, followed by grade reports.  The idea, of course, is to make it easy to order an electronic document,  all it will take is a few swipes of the finger. 


The question to ponder is, will students and alumni carry these artifacts around with them?  Back them up into iCloud or the like.  Imagine, having the power to beam (e-mail or text) a copy of the record on demand.  Since they are digitally signed, they can be verified.  I wonder, do you think this could be potentially disruptive?


Students are more creative than I am about these things. 


Broadening the scope of records – ePortfolios

As I mentioned earlier, I think that in the Era of Globalization 3.0, we will face greater demands for making it easier for our young people to compete.  That might affect decisions on what records we should keep.  I mentioned that internships, research activities, community service programs, although faculty-supervised, are not routinely kept on the record.  In many instances, these very important educational experiences don’t fit our conventions for recording courses and grades. And I don’t think there is much interest in forcing these into course structures for reporting purposes.  Since electronic formats free us from the restrictions that paper bind us to, we can add all kinds of information to the record, both in descriptive and in evaluative form.  At the low, low cost of a few mega-bytes, we can fatten a file with enriched content.  I have figuratively called this “page 2” of the transcript.  Some people call it a co-curricular transcript.  Alas, others shake their heads, and just can’t imagine the logistics involved in trying to capture all that information.


If that idea is not enough, imagine the same electronic record possessing links to information that provide greater understanding of the record itself.  Suppose there are links to course descriptions; to course syllabi; and to grading schemes.  At Stanford, we include the faculty names on our record, supposing that there are links to the profiles or CVs of the professors.  And there is another possibility. Think for a moment about linking the academic record to the student’s capstone work, such as his/her dissertation.  Due to technology, the record can be a much richer source of information about the person.  And if done correctly, with links, the reading burden on the recipient is no greater than before.  The reader has no obligation to go deeper into the record than required now. 


Another break-away technology gaining popularity is the electronic portfolio.  Electronic portfolios have been around for about a decade, and there are some very well developed models in a small number of institutions in the United States.  The American Association of Schools and Colleges (AAC & U) has been promoting portfolios to help document the learning of students, by having students reflect and show evidence of their learning.  Our accountability movement is causing institutions to consider these environments to help measure what is actually occurring on campuses.


I’ve begun working with two start-up electronic portfolio companies, because if this movement takes off, I want to be sure our students are fully prepared to embrace it.  One of the things we’re doing, not dissimilar to the integration work we’re doing with admission applications, is we’re enabling the direct delivery of electronic transcripts to the portfolios.  Since students and alumni may share their portfolios with others, the record can be exposed or delivered to recipients directly, without me ever being involved.  This is similar, I think, to the fifth model for data exchange, I mentioned before, presently available here in Europe.


Sometimes, I get dizzy thinking about what is before us.  I most assuredly don’t have all the answers.  It is too early to know what ideas will be winners.  In thinking about this, allow me to reference what I know about the roll out of the iPhone, for a moment.  In 2007, the iPhone was introduced, the new true smart phone.  At the time, it was unreasonable to expect that the cell phone market could absorb another phone.  Nokia, the market leader, had close to two-thirds of the cell phone market, and Blackberry was closing in on the other third.  There were many device makers all vying for a percentage.  Five years later, 40% of former cell phone users possess iPhones.  Nokia is scrambling for a smartphone product--which I believe they have just introduced--and the company selling Blackberries may not survive. 


Enter the fifth model …

Sometimes when it doesn’t seem like there is room for another new idea... a real whopper comes along.  And that goes for records, too!


Here it is!   And I’ll bet you see it too.  Despite all this digital noise or commercial opportunism, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is a better, more economical, secure, and collaborative way to exchange records.  And that is, create central data repositories and network them together, interconnecting student data all over the world. 


Rick Torres, president of the National Student Clearinghouse, who is present here today, and I, along with a few of my registrar colleagues, have begun discussing this very thing for institutions in the United States.  Now that institutions are ready, intellectually, to send and receive course and grade information electronically, they now see it could be enormously beneficial to all if we put these records in a trusted repository to ensure a basic level of service and security.   


Some may flippantly call this “putting records into the cloud”.  My colleagues in the Ivy Plus have insisted that this phrasing is a non-starter.  What does appeal to them, however, is our non profit, non governmental organization, the National Student Clearinghouse, the organization that registrars helped create nearly twenty years ago. This NSC can now help registrars solve a big problem.  This time, it is overcoming the emerging urgent challenge of Era of Globalization 3.0, record portability.  My colleagues realize that on their own, keeping up...will be expensive and time consuming.  With so much changing educationally, and in technology, they know they cannot master what they need to know now, much less anticipate what may yet come.  A central repository makes sense economically.  Collecting our resources together should enable us to securely protect these valuable institutional assets.


Moreover, the track record of the Clearinghouse, in the way it conducts its affairs, respecting the wishes of its clients, honoring federal/national laws makes it a proven fiduciary for our purposes.


There are better service outcomes possible with a central repository.  Nearly two-thirds of the students in the United States have more than one school record, and forty percent have more than two.  The effort required to assemble one’s educational record from many sources can be enormous, and as I’ve already mentioned, too many schools are not very sophisticated, and now commercial service providers are in the middle.  One source, that is coordinated, outputting records in standards-compliant form, will be enormously helpful.


There are 3 other notions that make this idea appealing to me: 


1) The repository will possess an enormous amount of data that will help my institution know more about itself and its students as compared to peer institutions;


2) The Clearinghouse also could help us proof the identity of our students inasmuch as it will have detailed information about our student population that could be verified.  This is especially important as the online course movement grows;


3) With the proper partners, repositories such as the Clearinghouse can be interconnected, securely bound to each other to prevent false entry, so output from the network can be relied upon, regardless of the sources. The Clearinghouse could be the US’s trusted node to an international network of records.


Okay, there you have it.  That’s my case.  We’re in the Era of Globalization 3.0.  Students are mobile and expect to compete globally.  There exist data standards and the technology to make it possible to move records easily, safely around the world.  There are active electronic models, although varied and uncoordinated, of data exchange in production.  Now is the time to take stock of our knowledge and experience and take the next step. 


If we agree to do this...actually accomplish this, it would have a “leap over effect” for many institutions worldwide.  It could enable burgeoning, less sophisticated national education data systems.  I’m convinced there are so many good possibilities that could come from this initiative.



Adoption of innovations …

I’ve learned a thing or two about innovation and its adoption over the years.  And, not to take the bloom off the rose or to dampen spirits, adoption of innovation is not strictly a rational phenomenon.  It is a social one.   Allow me to borrow from my previous example about the introduction of the iPhone. 


As I mentioned, smartphones are extremely popular, according to the 2011 Pew Internet & American Life survey, reported by the San Francisco Examiner, one third of all adults in the United States have a smartphone.  (This figure differs from the previous one, because it was referencing cell phone conversions.)  On the one hand, this adoption rate is amazing, on the other hand, I don’t know of any single form of technology that has had the kind of exposure and media attention that this one has.  The marketing muscle of the several telephone and technology companies has been overpowering.  Especially among young people, their personal networks were abuzz about the new phone.  Nothing compares with this kind of blitz, and it is not over.  And yet, after 5 years, there are more non-adopters than adopters.


According to Everett M. Rogers, a well known sociologist, in his fifth edition of the Diffusion of Innovations, the diffusion of innovative ideas is predictably a slow process.  Adopters come in several forms, each viewing innovation through a different lens, tapping certain channels of communication belonging to their like counterparts within their social systems.  Rogers, along with other diffusion researchers, have found that adoption occurs in observable stages, five stages to be exact.  In stage 1, for example, people acquire knowledge about innovations that are in accordance with their interests, needs and existing attitudes, and seldom expose themselves to information if they don’t perceive the need.  The need to adopt must be consistent with their beliefs. 


Rogers points out that early knowers of innovation usually


  • have more education
  • have higher social status
  • have greater exposure to mass media channels of communication
  • enjoy more exposure to inter-personal channels
  • have more contact with change agents
  • and are more cosmopolitan than later knowers. 


Thus, gaining popular acceptance to the idea of central repositories will require a huge commitment to educating our colleagues.  Many may not agree that we’re in the Era of Globalization 3.0, that we have mobile learners competing internationally, or that the current way of doing business is either obsolete or that technology can help us do any better than what we’re doing now.


As Rogers puts it, “ all innovations carry some degree of uncertainty for an individual, who is typically unsure of the new idea’s functioning and thus seeks social reinforcement from others of his or her attitude toward the innovation.”  In other words, “the individual wants to know whether his or her thinking is on the right track in the opinion of peers.” 


Also, regarding implementation, Rogers warns that most people won’t adopt without trying the idea out on some probationary basis, thus it is important to allow for trials.  We’ll need to demonstrate and allow for test-drives, as it were.


It should be noted, however, that when a person decides to adopt this innovation, it doesn’t mean that they will follow through with it, either. Of course, if there are national laws or few available alternatives, the likelihood that end users will stick with their decision to adopt is increased.  And, it should be noted, increasing an individual’s staying power, may require flexibility, plus the ability to reinvent the solution upon implementation.


2020 strategy – start your pilots now

You may have to think about the idea of the inter-connected central repositories as a 2020 strategy.  It will take quite a bit of communicating and persuasion to foster adoption.  We’ll need to enlist key stakeholders and other like-minded individuals to ask them to commit to explaining and promoting the new strategy.  We’ll also need to go to the meetings and conventions of our colleagues to patiently describe and articulate the advantages, mechanics and principles of the solutions being offered. 


Besides mounting a broad communication strategy, I recommend many pilots.  By that I mean developing small, controlled tests.  Pilots that perhaps show different things in their detail, but observe the core ideas or principles overall.  We have many people to convince regarding the efficacy of this idea, and they are going to have to picture it working for them.  Testimonials from those gaining the benefit, from all different stripes, will help people find the persons most like themselves to match up with. 


I believe it is necessary to create an atmosphere of experimentation, to try things out with technology, standards, new procedures and practices that may be untested and unproven.  We cannot be afraid to fail.  And I assure you there will be failures, if not in technology choices, with the adoption, etc.  We must not be afraid to keep reinventing and refining this, our idea. 


And finally, a word about commercial entities. And specifically, I mean those organizations that have a profit requirement.   In the United States, the commercial interests outnumber the educational institutions on standards-making boards, or so it seems.  It is obvious to me that they are there to ensure their interests are preserved, as well as promoting the common good.  I hope we’ll make judicious use of companies, as I find them to be very helpful and creative at times.  However, in my judgment, their numbers should be limited on governing or organizing boards.  I know too many registrars who are wary of commercial interests.


Again, I am delighted to be invited here to share with you my thoughts about student data portability. I am honored to be in a position to articulate a new vision.  As you can see, I strive to remain relevant to the needs of my students and alumni in terms of services.  I consider it my duty to try to anticipate their future needs.  This is not an easy thing to do, so I make many small bets. I pilot many different concepts, to ensure that Stanford students and alumni will not be caught short in global competition.  This includes partnering with likeminded people, wishing to do the same.


Technology continues to evolve and now is ahead of our ability to use it.  We are at a point where we need a few courageous people to commit to realizing a new way of operating. There will be detractors, by the scores: 


- Colleagues who are antithetical to changing the current state of affairs, feeling threatened about what they do not know. 


- Some businesses may use their resources to confuse, confound and deny the value of this approach. 


This is a quest, and it will require all our powers of persuasion and perseverance to accomplish.  It will take time.  But, I don’t know any better purpose than to commit to the service of others, now and in the time to come.  It is time to innovate, it’s time to change the’s time to change the outcomes!! 


Thank you for your time today.