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XML Standards for Higher Education

XML Standards for Higher Education

By Lysbeth Bainbridge

Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council

Note: A version of this document was published in Syllabus (December 2000), page 20.

In the past few years, Extensible Markup Language (XML) has become one of the hottest topics in electronic commerce and the Internet. Like its cousin HTML (HyperText Markup Language) XML is derived from Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML), with specifications produced by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) since 1998. XML is suited for sending data over the Web for display, printing, importing into a spreadsheet or database, or processing, and many industries are buying into its power and flexibility. Education is no exception. There are numerous XML implementations within computer systems and between close trading partners and lots of interest to use it on a broad scale among the US Department of Education, schools, student loan sources and guarantors, and other providers of service to the education community. The problem is that so far there are no national or international XML standards, making data exchanges among new trading partners difficult or impossible.

This was the finding of a work group sponsored by the Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council (PESC). This 3-year-old organization is a partnership of schools, higher education associations, federal agencies, and software and service providers. Formed to support and promote the use of standards for sharing data within the higher education community, PESC provides a forum for identifying existing standards, encouraging the development of an infrastructure to exchange data successfully, and setting standards where none exist. Topics studied by the group include public key infrastructure (PKI) for encryption and digital signatures, single student and institutional identifiers, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) standards for prospect information and Hope Scholarship reporting, and electronic test score reporting. Details of PESC membership and activities may be found at

One PESC work group formed around the topic of XML in the Fall of 1999. After having studied the technical aspects of XML, its applications and future development trends, the work group published a white paper (see in May 2000 to inform the PESC membership about the XML methodology and how it relates to the needs of the education community. Among the recommendations included in the white paper was the suggestion that PESC should form a group of community stakeholders in XML development to focus on XML standards for education.

More than 50 attendees participated in August in the inaugural meeting of the XML Forum for Education sponsored by PESC. Issues of scope, governance, and operations were discussed by this group with recommendations going to the PESC Steering Committee for final approval. Three work groups were defined: core components, technology, and communications (see Membership was thrown open to PESC members and non-members alike.

In September John Evdemon, Chief Architect at XMLSolutions, was appointed Chair of the XML Forum, and the first official meeting is to be held November 1st. This meeting will produce deliverables and timelines from each of the work groups as well as firm plans for meetings and presentations through June 2001.

Membership remains open to others in the education community who wish to participate in this work. For further information, call (202) 293-7383.

Prepared by Robin Cover for The XML Cover Pages archive. See: "PostSecondary Electronic Standards Council XML Forum for Education." This document source from Lysbeth Bainbridge.

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