Can a service-oriented architecture approach save our educational system?

Our educational system is similar to a siloed, rigid corporate IT system. Breaking it up into flexible, deliverable services under a governance umbrella may be just what is needed.

The principles that have been built and tested around service oriented architecture over the past decade may provide the tools needed to rescue our floundering educational system, particularly as knowledge transfer becomes more reliant on data mining and analytics.

Classroom-Earth Science Classroom-Photo from NASA MY NASA DATA site
Photo credit: NASA, from MyNASA Data site

That's the view of Paul S. Prueitt, a principal investigator with the National Science Foundation and formerly affiliated with Georgetown University. Writing in Service Technology, he urges that service-oriented governance principles be applied to data mining applications to deliver educational data. IBM, for one, is already studying the ways SOA can enable more effective development of models for data mining, he says.

Within educational settings, models can be developed around the best ways to deliver curriculum materials to students -- particularly the crucial STEM (science, technology, engineering math) disciplines. These models will support "services" that make up the learning modules, that can be configured as educators see fit. "Using governance principles basic to stratified service architecture, learning tasks may be supported and assessed within unified enterprise architecture," Prueitt says. "Governance, along with service definition and model definition, could create a national assessment strategy that moves K-12 and higher education towards specific goals."

SOA governance, service design principles, and uniformity in the development of models may help smooth the processes for enabling better targeted, more flexible and more responsive education programs. "The community of all students is like a corporation that has no sound underlying governance infrastructure," says Prueitt. "The use of well-known [artificial intelligence] algorithms within a real-time learning assessment system could provide students with coherent governance that is directed at opening their access to higher mathematics and science.... Service-oriented architecture will play a role in every aspect of the transformation of data into experienced human knowledge. The promise is that both data mining and knowledge discovery in database methods might be normalized as transparent computable services."

That's a pretty good tribute to all the hard work that's been done around SOA over the past decade.