History of SALTIS
SALTIS was formed in late 2007 in response to Becta's flawed procurement of Learning Platforms in 2006/7.
Interoperability is fundamental to the purpose of learning platforms (aka VLEs or LMSs), which provide infrastructure services to other learning software. A number of criteria specifying support for interoperability were quietly dropped when Becta discovered that the standards in these areas were not fit for purpose. The result was the widespread procurement by public authorities of a series of VLEs which, through no fault of the suppliers, did not offer useful levels of interoperability with third-party software—a policy which might be compared with rewiring a house without installing any electrical sockets. It was no surprise that Ofsted, in a report published in January 2009, found that in spite of "a great deal of development work being carried out by individual institutions and local authorities...the use of VLEs to enhance learning was not widespread".
The founder and current Chairman of SALTIS, Crispin Weston, publicised the problem with the original procurement by making a formal complaint to the European Commission in January 2007. The grounds of the complaint were that mandatory criteria, specified as part of a large public sector procurement, had been secretly ignored. In the light of the widespread support for the complaint received by the UK industry, SALTIS was formed in the following summer.
Given Becta's continuing remit to manage public sector procurement in this area, SALTIS spent the first eighteen months of its existence lobbying Becta to address the fundamental problem with interoperability standards. Becta finally responded to the SALTIS argument by setting up a project to profile Content Packaging standards. SALTIS Chairman Crispin Weston produced the requirements for the project, based on consultation with SALTIS members. The project ran from January 2009 to September 2010, though its final outputs (currently available for circulation only to members of SALTIS) addressed only a small sub-section of the requirements that had been produced.
Following the planned closure of Becta, SALTIS enters into a third phase of its existence, in which it will have more freedom to carry this work forwards in a more purposeful way, responding more directly to industry requirements. In December 2010, SALTIS set up the Interoperable Content Implementation Group, which aims to launch a conformance mark for effective, interoperable VLEs/LMSs and corresponding learning content. SALTIS is also working with other standards bodies to address other areas where further work on standards is urgently required.