ECE and the Groningen Declaration - Part 3

On April 8th, 2014, ECE signed the Groningen Declaration.  Since then, members of our staff have been involved in various efforts to promote the vision of Digital Student Data Portability. We asked them to write about their involvement. This 3-part series will be published each week leading up to the Seventh Annual Groningen Declaration Meeting in Paris.

Part 3 - ECE, PESC & GDN – Moving Toward Global Educational Communication

The mission of the Groningen Declaration Network (GDN) is to aid the mobility of educated people by promoting the portability of educational data worldwide. This matches perfectly with ECE’s mission. ECE is pleased to be involved in moving the goals of the GDN forward and proud to be a GDN signatory.

For me to discuss my role with the GDN, I must talk about an organization with which I’ve been very involved. In truth, most of my work toward the goals of the GDN is in my work with the Postsecondary Educational Standards Council (PESC). PESC is a nonprofit membership organization focused on standards for the postsecondary educational community. PESC is very active within the GDN and, like ECE, is a GDN signatory. Both GDN and ECE are members of PESC, and I have the privilege of representing ECE on PESC’s Board of Directors.

In addition to building and maintaining standards, PESC is creating two key systems to enable educational data portability.

The first system, called EdExchange, is a peer-to-peer communications network. It is made up of a single Directory Server hosted by PESC and Network Servers hosted by organizations wishing to communicate electronically. This system was originally devised to support the movement of electronic transcripts in the U.S., but the possibilities for this system have been reimagined to serve a much larger audience. EdExchange has the potential to integrate educational organizations in the U.S. and Canada to educational networks, repositories, and organizations around the world. I serve on the EdExchange Steering Committee helping to chart the course for this system as it matures.

The second system, called the Global Educational Organization (GEO) Code, is an effort to build a comprehensive list of every educational institution in every country. From the outset this idea has received strong support from the GDN and those involved with the GDN. The list is starting with higher learning or postsecondary institutions, but there are plans to bring in secondary and possibly primary and trade institutions. The list has been created using a Google spreadsheet to start, but it will be built out as a public and freely available website.

ECE has taken on the task of building out the web interface and database of the GEO Code system for PESC, and I represent ECE on the GEO Code Steering Committee. The first production release of the website, already underway, will include full search and list download capability. Organizations that want to implement the list will be able to download a copy. Later, an Application Program Interface (API) will be built to allow other systems to interact directly.

Screenshot of the GEO Code web interface. Visit

The core of this system is a unique code, called a GEO Code, assigned to each educational institution. This GEO Code is an enabler for global communication of educational data. Organizations can exchange educational data with the certainty that they are referring to the same educational institution.

I believe the greatest promise of the GDN is to promote the building of a global network that joins national and regional networks and repositories through a standard communication protocol. In support of this, I have written a white paper making the case for a global network. I have pushed for GDN adoption of a task force to begin imagining how that global network could work. A global network will require communication technology. EdExchange can provide a vital link in that communication framework. A global network sharing educational data will require a consistent and shared institutional definition. GEO Code provides that definition and does so freely to enable and accelerate adoption.

ECE has invested time and energy to create components to help the GDN meet its goals. We will continue to work with the GDN and all its representatives to establish effective global communication of educational data.

James Kelly is the Senior Director of Technology. He is also on the GEO Code Steering Committee.

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