Category Archives: Educational Positioning System

The Educational Positioning System Wins at the National Education Startup Challenge

by Hap Aziz

For those of you that have read this blog from its early entries, you’ll know that I have an interest in the Educational Positioning System (EPS). If you haven’t read the other entries, feel free to search back through the blog archives for them. The winners were just announced for the National Education Startup Challenge sponsored by the U. S. Department of Education. The state goal is, “Empowering students to tackle tough education challenges as innovators and entrepreneurs.” I’m pleased to share that Undergraduate Division Winner was the EPS. Click here for details.

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Navigating the Learning Landscape: How an Educational Positioning System Brings the Cloud Down to Earth

by Hap Aziz

The Educational Positioning System (EPS) continues to gather steam and garner interest. Recently I attended the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative 2012 Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas, where I co-presented the session, “The Educational Positioning System: Guiding Learners Along Their Academic Path.” At that session, we brainstormed ways in which a potential EPS infrastructure would be leveraged to provide learners with greater control over the academic journey while also providing ways to control and distribute their own complete learning portfolio. At the same meeting, the IMS Global Consortium made a major announcement regarding the EPS, and you can read more about it here.

On Friday, March 16th of this year, I will have the privilege of presenting at the Fashion Institute of Technology EduTech Day SUNY-Wide Conference “Teaching Learning and Sharing in the Cloud,” again on the topic of the EPS. My presentation is titled, ” Navigating the Learning Landscape: How an Educational Positioning System Brings the Cloud Down to Earth,” and the session description will no doubt grab the attendees:

After all my years of schooling, all I have to show is this diploma and some transcripts?” Unfortunately, this is a common sentiment among students that have graduated from college. Many students question themselves regarding what tangible artifacts they have to show for their years of time spent in the classroom, since as far back as preschool. The challenge in higher education is that institutions own any Learning Management Systems that may be in place. As a result, the institutions also own the “data” generated by students, and there is no easy way for students to take that data along their life journeys, let alone access that data for more robust reporting of what they have accomplished. With the development of cloud computing, that model of institutional ownership has become outdated, and data can belong to the students. This new paradigm of accessibility is the foundation for the concept of the Educational Positioning System (EPS) which will allow students to measure and track their own progress—not only through any particular institution, but ultimately from the moment they participate in any type of formal learning activity (as far back as preschool), across all educational environments they attend throughout their lifelong learning experiences. Join Hap Aziz in this session as he explains the concept of the EPS and discusses the implications and promise for future students.

For those of you that are able, I would love to see you in attendance in support of moving the EPS initiative forward. After the conference, I will post my presentation slides here on the blog. Until then, I will leave you with this diagram that gives a (very) high-level overview of the EPS ecosystem.

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Filed under announcement, colleges and universities, education, education technology, Educational Positioning System, EDUCAUSE, EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, future technology, Hap Aziz, higher education, technology

IMS Announces Educational Positioning System Pilot

by Hap Aziz

If you have been following this blog, you may be aware that I have been involved in the development of a concept known as the “Educational Positioning System,” or the EPS. You can read some of my past blog entries on the topic here, here, here, and here. The EPS has gotten quite a bit of attention as a framework that can potentially transform the the level of engagement and control that students have regarding their own education. This represents a very disruptive level of technology that could flip the entire ownership conversation of academic data. Aneesh Chopra, the current Chief Technology Officer for the United States recognized this in bringing the concept back to the Obama Administration. Further, the IMS Global Learning Consortium (an organization dedicated to the advancement of education through the implementation of standards and use of effective practices) has taken on the EPS concept. I facilitated a workshop on the EPS in November of last year at the IMS Global Quarterly Meeting, and today the Consortium has issued the following press release:

Dear Friend of IMS Global,

Today, at the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) meeting in Austin, TX, USA, there will be a presentation at 3 PM announcing a new IMS project. The presentation is entitled:  The Educational Positioning System: Guiding Learners Along Their Academic Path.

The EPS has emerged as a topic of interest in the U.S. in recent months, receiving some attention after it was brought up in a panel discussion as the EDUCAUSE annual conference in October:

On January 19th the White House announced several initiatives that are complementary to the EPS concept:

IMS applauds the effective use of data.  Our focus is the use of data and interoperability to help individual students succeed.

Today, IMS is announcing a new project to work with IMS member organizations to implement EPS pilots. See the Call for Participation here:

Currently we believe that the ideal initial focus for EPS pilots are systems of institutions. We are very pleased that the Lone Star College System has stepped up to lead the first pilot. In coming months IMS will be working with our members to pull this pilot together and hopefully initiate additional pilots.

We will also be covering this topic in depth at the annual IMS Learning Impact conference, May 14-17 in Toronto. Details for the conference are here:

Tune in to IMS for future announcements,

IMS Global

Right now I’m at the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative 2012 Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas, where I’ll be co-presenting “The Educational Positioning System: Guiding Learners Along Their Academic Path.” It will be during this presentation when we make the EPS announcement officially to the public. But if you are reading this blog entry before 3 pm Central time, remember, you heard the news here first!


Filed under announcement, education, education technology, Educational Positioning System, EDUCAUSE, effective practices, Hap Aziz, higher education, Open Government Platform, standards, technology, U.S. government

Connecting Game Avatars with the Real World

by Hap Aziz

While my thoughts are focused on avatars, I’ll take a slight detour before the end of 2011 to explore the topic a little deeper. I promise I’ll tie the topic back to the whole EPS theme before too long.

The concept of avatars and the possible technology ramifications have been a staple of Science Fiction for many years, and certainly avatars as devices of identity have been a part of the computer and video game experience since the late 1970s.

The picture below is a screenshot of the video game Space Wars from 1977. Space Wars was the first vector graphics video game, and the player-controlled spaceships were the first avatar representations produced on computers. (It is important to remember that an avatar is not simply a representation of a person or lifeform that a game player can self-identify as being. An avatar can also be any object or entity that a player can control.) The idea of the game was simple: control your spaceship and destroy the enemy ship while avoiding being sucked into the gravity well of the point singularity in the center of the screen.

Now consider this passage from the Hugo and Nebula award-winning Science Fiction novel Ender’s Game:

“… there was the simulator, the most perfect videogame he had ever played. Teachers and students trained him, step by step in its use. At first, not knowing the awesome power of the game, he had played only at the tactical level, controlling a single-fighter in continuous maneuvers to find and destroy an enemy. The computer-controlled enemy was devious and powerful, and whenever Ender tried a tactic he found the computer using it against him within minutes.”

– Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game, 1985

Ultimately, it is within the context of what the main character Ender believes to be the game, that he actually destroys the enemy in the real world. It is interesting to see how far technology has taken us… and how far we have to go in order to meet the scenarios created in our imaginations. In fact, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has been putting out RFPs asking for simulation systems that function very similarly to the way in which Ender’s training system functioned. Today, game manufacturers are driving hardware to create realistic simulations that create incredibly complex and immersive environments.

At this point in time it is difficult to foresee where all the simulation and avatar technology will lead, but it is obvious that there’s an important role for it to play in education. There are challenges in terms of costs, development resources, and curriculum integration, to be sure. One of the greatest hurdles will be in equipping faculty to implement these technology tools on a classroom-appropriate scale, and empowering faculty with the skills and resources to build useful simulations on their own. There is also a tremendous opportunity for the development of intelligent avatars that could be used as tutors or Personal Digital Teachers individualized for every student, residing on a smart device, and powered by the EPS. Perhaps not by the end of 2012, but that’s something which I am certain will come to pass.


Filed under avatars, education, Educational Positioning System, future technology, games, Personal Digital Teacher, technology

Avatars as a Connection between God and Self

by Hap Aziz

For those of you that have been keeping up regularly* with this blog, you should be somewhat familiar with the concept of the Educational Positioning System (EPS). I’ve discussed its potential as a data repository that will allow learners to have greater understanding and control over their academic pathways. Ultimately, this understanding and control will help inform learners on how to be better consumers in the educational marketplace. I’ve also discussed a little of my thinking regarding the technology supporting the EPS functionality; but I haven’t gotten into much detail as far as the interface between EPS and individual learner. I’m fairly convinced that the most effective interface will be one that allows and facilitates the development of a highly personalized avatar within the EPS, manifested at the smart device level–the connection point between system and end user. I’ll flesh out this interface concept in an upcoming blog entry, but right now I want to lay some groundwork in terms of understanding the role of the avatar between system and user.

The term “avatar” comes from the Sanskrit अवतार meaning roughly “vessel for God on Earth.” With the technological methods by which we have implemented avatars in software today, this meaning is multi-layered: our sense of self as the avatar is often framed in a game environment as we experience actions and events first hand, and simultaneously we play God, directing the our avatar’s every move as an outside agency, sometimes having omniscient awareness of the world in which our avatar exists. In many ways, we have more control in our avatar’s existence… as opposed to the things we cannot change in our own world.

One of the abilities we have in regards to our avatarial presentation is that we are often able to customize characteristics such as ethnicity or gender. Lahti (2003) states,

“For white men, there is a safe way to try on being different races or the female gender without the risk of giving up any of the social or cultural power associated with the white male identity in the real world.”

This is a significant capability; in the past we could live vicariously through characters within fictional constructs (movies or books, for example), but the narrative was driven by an author removed from us, and while we may have been given to empathize with the characters, we never became the characters in the way we do with our avatars in interactive games and environments. Because of this deeper identification with our avatars, we are better and more likely able to understand the life of the “other.” What this may ultimately mean is unclear at this point in time (better diversity awareness?), but it clearly opens avenues for the exploration of human-machine interactions in ways that were almost possible to imagine only a couple of decades earlier.

Bringing the idea of the avatar back to the EPS, we see the potential of humanizing a complex system that facilitates interaction with educational institutions while keeping our complete educational history stored in the cloud. This actually sets up an idea that will have tremendous impact on the very nature of the teaching and learning enterprise. Stay tuned.

*For those of you that haven’t been keeping regularly, you should be!


Lahti, M. (2003). As we become machines. In M. Wolf & B. Perron(Eds.), The Video Game Theory Reader (pp. 157-170). London: Routledge.

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Filed under avatars, education, Educational Positioning System, future technology, games, technology

“I’ve heard about the Educational Positioning System. But what is it, really?”

by Hap Aziz

I’ve discussed the Educational Positioning System (EPS) in several previous posts, in terms of the philosophy behind the concept, the efforts to standardize on system metadata standards, and even the U.S. federal government initiatives that will help create an appropriate collaborative environment to bring software developers and educators together around the world. However, I’ve been getting questions on the basics of the EPS, so I thought it would be helpful to lay out the key functional elements.

  • Much like a Global Positioning System, the Educational Positioning System will map a student’s education journey from the current point of origin to the desired destination. Additionally, the EPS will offer alternate routes and the ability to include “side trips” that enhance the student’s experience. This represents a significant transformation in the way that students will be able to take control of their progress.
  • From the earliest part of the education experience, a student will be able to chart her journey without limits, giving real meaning to the term “life-long learner.” Imagine a student in elementary school being able to map a path into her college and career future. The excitement of “owning” her education will be a powerful tool for student engagement.
  • The EPS gives students complete visibility into their academic progress. For example a student can enter her grade level, and she will immediately see what she will be learning and where she should be at that point in her education, in relation to her long-term academic goal. This capability provides the student with a true sense of place along her education path.
  • Students can select the subject areas they enjoy, and that will help them in determining their best-fit academic and future career path. They can even experiment with different subject combinations for a “what if” activity that lets them imagine multiple possibilities and opportunities.
  • Students can also select the subject areas in which they struggle, and they will be given guidance on the academic areas in which assistance will be the most effective. It’s important and very helpful to know where the rough roads are ahead of time.
  • At any stage of the journey, students can enter personal academic metrics to know what paths are open to them. For example, a high school junior could enter her ACT score and determine the colleges to which she could apply. Expectation management is a key feature.
  • By entering the particular career field of interest, a student can see what colleges offer programs in that field. She would find out exactly what classes she would be taking, and have the ability to decide in advance whether or not that path appeals to her.
  • A student can pick the college in which she is most interested, and she will get a comprehensive view of the college’s offerings. This will help her determine if the decision to attend is the decision that best fits her needs.
  • And of course, a student can select her anticipated college budget in order to make the best financial decision regarding the appropriate college to attend. The EPS will empower students to anticipate the future and plan accordingly, thereby avoiding “unpleasant surprises.”

These basic EPS features will have direct, positive impact on students’ abilities to chart the most appropriate and most fulfilling course to the future. At the same time, the EPS also provides the mechanism to make informed and sensible changes, providing flexibility and choices at any point along the path. Allowing students to have control of their journey will have the added benefit of greatly improving the chances that they will actually complete it.


Filed under education, Educational Positioning System, technology

Open Sourcing Will Facilitate Worldwide Educational Positioning System Adoption

by Hap Aziz

Yesterday on the White House website, Steven VanRoekel (U.S. CIO) and Aneesh Chopra (U.S. CTO) posted an announcement that the Obama administration has begun to release open source components of the platform so that other governments may also launch their own versions of the repository as part of the Open Government Partnership. The point of the Partnership is to improve government transparency, and currently there are 46 countries participating in the effort, and this first release is a result of the collaborative work of the United States and India on the platform.

This open source code release also presents an expanded opportunity for the Educational Positioning System (EPS) to become a truly global guide for academic decision-making. While the original EPS concept made no specific reference to scope of services, it has always been our desire to see its service area expand beyond national boundaries. As the travel realities of a global society become more widespread, the ability to share academic information across countries becomes as meaning as sharing that information across educational institutions and organizations with the United States.

The foundation for a successful EPS initiative involves data and metadata format standardization, certainly, as well as access to warehoused data in repositories such as and the National Student Clearinghouse. Individual Learning Management System vendors will need to look to the cloud as a both the source and ultimate destination of all student-related content from transcripts to e-portfolio artifacts. Through the work of such organizations as the IMS Global Learning Consortium, we continue to build interest and momentum in “EPS 1.0” for our most basic, initial system design.


Filed under, Educational Positioning System, Learning Management Systems, Open Government Platform