XML, why does it matter to PESB?

XML Basics

We tend to think of a table of information as a square (flat) file, but in reality information is usually more complicated than two dimensions can portray.  Although data systems have ways of dealing with complicated data (such as relational databases), there remains the challenge of how to transport complicated data between two systems. 

Currently we transport information using the comma separated file format (CSV), which looks something like this;

Name,AcademicYear,InstitutionAbbreviation,EndorsementName,
John Smith,2010-2011,UWS,Biology,
John Smith,2010-2011,UWS,Chemistry,
John Smith,2010-2011,UWS,Physics,
Don Smith,2010-2011,WWU,English Language Learner,
Don Smith,2010-2011,WWU,Elementary Education 

We chose CSV because of it's simplicity, but it is not the best solution for transporting complicated information (we end up having lots of duplicate information).  There are many formats that can better handle complicated information, but the system will likely end up with XML.  PESB and Programs will likely be in the role of brokering these agreements between OSPI and Institution IT departments.  This means that while we don't need to know exactly how to construct an XML file, we need to be informed enough to help usher this process.

An XML file of the CSV information above might look something like this;

<CompleterTable>

<completer>
  <Name>John Smith</Name>
  <AcademicYear>2010-2011</AcademicYear>
  <InstitutionAbbreviation>UWS</InstitutionAbbreviation>
  <endorsements>
    <EndorsementName>Biology</EndorsementName>
    <EndorsementName>Chemistry</EndorsementName>
    <EndorsementName>Physics</EndorsementName>
  </endorsements>
</completer>

<completer>
  <Name>Don Smith</Name>
  <AcademicYear>2010-2011</AcademicYear>
  <InstitutionAbbreviation>WWU</InstitutionAbbreviation>
  <endorsements>
    <EndorsementName>English Language Learner</EndorsementName>
    <EndorsementName>Elementary Education</EndorsementName>
  </endorsements>
</completer>

</CompleterTable>

The criticism of XML is probably pretty apparent, it is verbose and difficult to read by humans.  But on the other hand, it is a standardized format and can handle very complicated information.  With XML's shortcomings, it is clear that program secretaries and cert officers can not construct these files by hand.

What is PESB's role

XML's flexibility requires a schema (setting the rules).  When possible, we will advocate the use of established schema's (such as adopting industry standards for e-transcripts).  When established schemas are not available, they will need to be created.  The details are written and consumed by technical people, who are informed by people using the data, such as PESB and program staff.  PESB's job is to make sure that the technical people are informed of our data needs as well as making sure our regulated programs are following the schema.  

Scenario

OSPI will be working with a E-Cert vendor to adopt a schema for accepting e-transcripts.  PESB's role would be:
  • to make certain the schema meets our needs (correct data)
  • to make sure we have established regulations for approved programs to send a properly a formatted e-transcript as part of the upload for creating a new education credential.
  • technical assistance and the setting of reasonable timelines.