​glossary of terms (m-Z)

This Glossary of Terms reflects common language in each locale.
The first three columns indicate whether the item/term is used in which locale, followed by the item/term name and its full description.
Please use drop-down arrows on the title bar header to filter the list by locale or item.
  • AU = Australia
  • NA = North America
  • UK = United Kingdom

A-L    M    N    O    P    Q    R    S    T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z

NoNoYesManaged Learning Environment

Managed learning environments, or MLEs, are concerned with whole institutional systems, and involve the joining-up or interoperation of several separate systems - Student Record Systems, Library Systems, Management Information Systems, VLEs, timetabling systems and so on.

This is in contrast to a virtual learning environment, where the focus is on the tools used in the process of teaching in an online setting.
Essentially, a managed learning environment helps to set the perimeters of the learning experience, and makes it possible to standardize the resources used in learning in a manner that results in measured results.
NoNoYesManagement Information System

(MIS) A computer based system designed specifically for schools to provide a depository for learner information.  An MIS, dependant on provider, may provide, but not be limited to the following information: home address; school photo; telephone contact numbers for emergencies; d/o/b; dietary requirements (if applicable e.g. kosher meals, nut allergies); timetable details and number of absences.

It may also provide information on individual learners including behaviour and attendance and inform the school workforce with information to make decisions on pupil learning.
YesYesYesMandatory elements

Elements of an object that must be provisioned with data for the object to be able to function - for example, the minimum set of data required for an object.


An transport container for SIF Objects (in XML format). Messages are sent from agents and routed by the ZIS.

YesYesYesMessage broker

​A standard middleware component which provides at a minimum automatic service discovery, context based routing and guaranteed message delivery. It is often used as the underlying implementation for the Brokered Environment Provider.

YesYesYesMessage Queues

Persistent storage areas, such as databases or files, where messages reside while waiting to be delivered.


See Broker.


​See Management Information System


​See Managed Learning Environment




NoYesNoNational Center for Education Statistics

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), located within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences, is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education.


​See National Center for Education Statistics


​See No Child Left Behind


​See Not in Education, Employment or Training

NoYesNoNo Child Left Behind

Signed into law in 2002, No Child Left Behind sets performance guidelines for all schools and also stipulates what must be included in accountability reports to parents. It mandates annual student testing, includes guidelines for underperforming schools, and requires states to train all teachers and assistants to be "highly qualified".

NoNoYesNot in Education, Employment or Training

The young people who are not in education, employment or training, (NEET), are amongst the most disaffected young people aged 16 to 18 years. Other vulnerable groups (including children in public care, teenage parents, young carers, young people with medical needs, and young offenders) have been shown to be over-represented within this NEET group.



​OAuth is an open standard for authorization. OAuth provides client applications a 'secure delegated access' to server resources on behalf of a resource owner. It specifies a process for resource owners to authorize third-party access to their server resources without sharing their credentials. Designed specifically to work with Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), OAuth essentially allows access tokens to be issued to third-party clients by an authorization server, with the approval of the resource owner. The client then uses the access token to access the protected resources hosted by the resource server.


See Data Object, Entity Object, Report Object, Composite Object

YesYesYesObject Provider

An agent system that responds to requests for a given data object. There is only one designated provider (default responder) in a zone per object. Providers of an object must be able to supply all mandatory elements within that object.

SIF 3.x Equivalent:  Service Provider
YesYesYesObject Service

See Service: Object.​

YesYesYesObject Service Provider

​An application providing access to Objects of a selected type in accordance with the Service Interface, and publishing related Events.  Ex:  The Student Object Service Provider.

YesYesYesObject: Composite

​See Composite Object

YesYesYesObject: Entity

​See Entity Object

YesYesYesObject: Report

​See Report Object

YesYesYesOEM'd product

A piece of application software that is similar to another except for it branding and provider.  An option provided as part of the SIF Certification Program.


An authentication system.​




​See Physical Data Model

YesYesYesPhysical Data Model

(PDM) Specifies implementation details which may be features of a particular software application or version.

YesYesYesProblem Report

A question of clarification, intent or correctness of the specification(s), SIF Test Suites or SIF Certification system, which, if accepted by the A4L Community, will be resolved into an Interpretation, Test Suite Deficiency or Certification System Deficiency respectively.

YesYesYesProduct Standard

The document in which conformance requirements are specified for a particular type of product, and against which products or services may be certified in the SIF Certification Program. There will be one Product Standard for each type of product which is to be certified.


A collection of requirements taken from the SIF Standard that enables interoperability across an agreed set of functionality between applications.

A profile sets the expectations for a given implementation.​


To be able to respond to requests for a given data object. There is only one designated provider (default responder) in a zone per object. Providers of an object must be able to supply all mandatory elements within that object.


To send event messages to the zone whenever an event occurs affecting a given data object.


An agent that publishes data and/or event messages to the zone.

YesYesYesPull Mode

The mode in which an agent functions. An agent in Pull mode polls the ZIS to get any messages waiting for it. Pull mode agents always initiate contact with the ZIS.

YesYesYesPush Mode

The mode in which an agent functions. An agent in Push mode allows the ZIS to send messages to it in real time. Initiation of communication is bi-directional between the ZIS and the agent.



A structured request for information from a database, often issued by an agent, usually framed in SQL (Structured Query Language).





​See Regional Broadband Consortium

YesYesYesRe-Badged Product

A piece of application software that is similar to another except for it branding.

YesYesYesReference Test Environment

Used in the SIF Certification Program.  ​The environment in which conformance was validated, which includes the identity of the version of the product or service that was tested and the release of the test suite used for conformance testing.


Reference ID that uniquely identifies each instance of an object. See also GUID.

NoNoYesRegional Broadband Consortia

Regional Broadband Consortia (RBCs) are consortia of local authorities established to procure cost-effective broadband connectivity for schools in England. There are 10 RBCs covering 139 of the 150 local authorities.

YesYesYesReport Manifest

A report definition describing the data to be contained in a report.

YesYesYesReport Object

A Report object is a subclass of Composite objects, designed to represent point-in-time information and can contain summary information, cross tabulations, or information associated with a range of entities. This is the same kind of information as would be contained in a typical report. Report objects are read-only.

YesYesYesReporting: Horizontal

The transfer of data between multiple software applications within an organisation using a SIF Zone Integration Server (ZIS).

YesYesYesReporting: Vertical

Automated reporting using the special case of vertical interoperability identified in the SIF Specification.


A type of message containing a query for a specific data object.


A type of message containing data objects sent in reaction to a request message.


​An abbreviation for "Representational State Transfer", this technology consists of a series of design patterns for interoperability, layered over HTTP.  It forms the basis of the SIF 3.0 Infrastructure.


A collection of people and roles around a specific event, in the education world usually a section of a course.


A application designed to help a programmer understand and explore an API. 


See SIS Baseline Profile.​

YesNoNoSBP Framework

A code framework built on the SIF Common Framework which iimpements or supports behaviours required by the SIS Baseline Profile. These include caching of dependent objects, and automated querying for their dependencies.


An XML Schema is a language for expressing structures and constraints for data objects and elements.


An educational institution providing primary and secondary education, prior to tertiary education (college or university).


Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) is a collection of standards and specifications for web-based e-learning. It defines communications between client side content and a host system called the run-time environment (commonly a function of a learning management system). SCORM also defines how content may be packaged into a transferable ZIP file.


​See State Education Agency

YesYesYesSelective Message Blocking

(SMB) Allows an agent to tell the ZIS to suspend delivery of event messages until further notice.


A set of defined functionality encapsulated behind a standardized CRUD interface, which is implemented by a Service “Provider” for clients (the “Service Consumers”) to utilize.

Referenced in SIF 3.0 Base Architecture documentation.

YesYesYesService Consumer

A Service Consumer implementation makes requests of, and subscribes to and receives Events from, one or more Service Provider components.

Referenced in the SIF 3.0 Base Architecture documentation.

SIF 2.x Equivalent:  Client

YesYesYesService Interface

​An interface supporting one or more of the standardized CRUD (Create, Query (READ), Update and Delete) data requests on objects of a specific type.  Ex: Student Data Object Service

YesYesYesService Provider

A Service Provider implementation accepts, processes and responds to requests from Consumers for object type or function-specific services, and publishes related Events in accordance with the type of Service Provider Interface it is implementing.

Every independent Service Provider initially registers as a Service Consumer, and may be (and generally is) a Consumer of one or more other Services.

SIF 2.x Equivalent:  Object Provider
YesYesYesService: Functional

A Functional Service encapsulates stateful process behavior as well as the data exchanged between applications implementing that process.

It does this by supporting all four methods of a Data Object Service Provider interface, but applies them to Object Services rather than Object data elements.

When a Consumer issues a “create” Request to a Functional Service, it results in the creation of a new executing instance of the Service (a “Job”) rather than a new instance of a data object.
From a conceptual point of view, each Job instance contains a set of named “phases”, identical to every other Job created by that Function Service.  These discrete phases define and encapsulate the subactions which need to be done, but they do not explicitly determine the ordering (since the phases defining a Function may be executed in different order, depending upon the implementation and the needs of the site where the Functional Service is deployed).
Once created, the Job instance can be queried to find out where in the process it is (what is happening, what is the current status of each completed phase) and the Job may issue Events as its internal phases are completed.
Each Job Phase is represented by:
  • A Phase name
  • A status (NotStarted, InProgress, Completed, Failed)
  • A defined Object Service corresponding to that Phase (which supports some or all of the set of service operations)
The creator of the Job can therefore:
  • Monitor the status of the Job (through querying the Job instance or by receiving Job level Events)
  • Interact with the Job at any phase by issuing Query, Create, Modify and Delete requests (the meaning of which are determined by the Functional Service itself).
  • Receive Events from the various Phases of the Job
Example:  StudentLocator, EndOfYearRollover
YesYesYesService: Object

While the SIF 3.0 infrastructure is independent of the Data Model defining the payloads it carries, the following general Object Service framework must be supported by all Service Providers.

An Object Service is the “authoritative source” for all data elements contained in all data objects of a specific type,  and services some or all of the following requests:
  • Query
  • Create
  • Update
  • Delete
Depending upon the object type, the corresponding Data Object Service may:
  • Publish an Event whenever an object is Created
  • Publish an Event whenever an object is Deleted
  • Publish an Event whenever certain (or any) elements in an Object are updated
  • Restrict the range of possible Queries
Whenever an Object Service receives a Request for an operation it does not support, it must return, “operationNotSupported”.

An authentication system.​

YesYesYesSIF Adapter

The SIF-specific component which provides the RESTful interface between the application and its partners.  For Consumers, this is a very thin wrapper and can often be coded by the application developers rather than utilizing a 3rd party.


When used in the SIF Certification program, this is the software component that ties a product to any SIF Environment. 


There are two basic varieties of Adapter, each corresponding to an earlier SIF 2.x equivalent:

  • Service Consumer Adapter - (SIF 2.x equivalent) Client Agent
  • Service Provider Adapter - (SIF 2.x equivalent) Object Provider Agent
Essentially each Service Consumer and Service Provider application may include a separate adapter component to communicate with other applications via the Environments Provider interface.  For example, a SIF 3.0 Brokered Environment may integrate a student information application, a learning management application, and a library automation application. An adapter component acts as a bridge between each application and the Environments Provider interface.


Adapters never communicate with other adapters directly.   Instead, each adapter uses the Environments Provider interface as a trusted intermediary that brokers the exchange of data with other adapters.


 Previously known as a 'SIF Agent' in all SIF Solutions prior to SIF 3.x.
YesYesYesSIF Agent

The liaison between an application and the ZIS. An agent is responsible for sending messages to and receiving messages from the ZIS. For incoming messages, an agent translates the XML message into the data recognized by its application, and applies any changes to the application’s data. An agent is also responsible for monitoring changes in the data associated with its application, assembling it into a SIF message, and submitting it to the ZIS.

YesYesYesSIF Certification Agreement

The agreement between the applicant and the SIF Certification Authority, which contains the legal commitment by the applicant to the conditions of the SIF Certification Program.

YesYesYesSIF Certification Authority

The Certification Authority is the regulatory team who administer and ensure compliance of any product completing the SIF Certification Program.  ​The Access 4 Learning Community, formerly the SIF Association, is officially sanctioned as the Certification Authority.

YesYesYesSIF Certification Authority Help Desk

A4L Staff member(s) tasked with responding to certification needs and opportunities.

YesYesYesSIF Certification logo

The A4L Community’s certification logo or other marks as designated from time to time by the Community.

YesYesYesSIF Certification Register

A web-based record of all SIF Certified products, which is maintained by the Certification Authority.

YesYesYesSIF Certified

A product which conforms to the SIF standard and has passed the SIF certification process.


More information on the SIF Certification Program can be found here: http://cert.sifassociation.org/SitePages/Home.aspx

YesYesYesSIF Certified product

A product or service that has successfully completed the certification process and for which the Solution Provider has been notified in writing by the Certification Authority that certification has been achieved for such product or service.

YesYesYesSIF compliant

A product which conforms to the SIF standard, but has not been certified.

YesYesYesSIF enabled

When used during the SIF Certification Program, it describes a product that is not yet certified.

Please refer to the SIF Marketing Guidelines and Trademark Usage for further information.

YesYesYesSIF Implementation Specification
A data standard that describes how education applications can share data.

YesYesYesSIF xPress

A SIF xPress solution is comprised of a contemporary implementation model as an Application Programming Interface (API); an underlying, market-driven use case; and the use of the SIF 3 Infrastructure Specification combined with a use-case centric Data Model designed for ease of use.

YesYesYesSIF Zone Services

WSDL-defined service applications which will run over the extended SIF infrastructure.


The acknowledgement message used in every message exchange. The receiver of a message returns the Ack to let the sender know the message was received, or if there was an error.

1 - 30Next




YesYesYesTest Result

A term used during the SIF Certification Program.  ​The test harness output and associated analysis report. The output is a log of network events, which is parsed to determine if the claimed SIF Object support is present and conformant, to the extent that can be determined by means of network observation, thereby producing a “pass” or “non-pass” result for each claim.

YesYesYesTest Suite

A test harness authorized by the A4L Community for use in testing within the SIF Certification Program. A test suite in this context is comprised of an interworking harness, network event logging, and associated analysis tools.  The full range of currently available SIF Test Suites can be found here:  http://compliance.sifinfo.org/sifcompliance/home.jsp

YesYesYesTest Suite Deficiency

An agreed error in a test suite, which is causing it to produce an incorrect result code that impacts certification.

YesYesYesTest Suite Maintenance Authority

The organization(s) sanctioned by SIF Association the A4L Community to maintain the test suites.


​See Trademark Licence Agreement

YesYesYesTrademark Licence Agreement

The agreement between the Solution Provider and the A4L Community, which contains the legal commitment by the Solution Provider to the conditions for use of the SIF Certification Logo.



See Unique Candidate Identifier


​See Unique Learner Number

YesYesYesUnbounded query

A query that returns all possible instances of the data set it addresses. Unbounded queries are often used in full synchs.

NoNoYesUnique Candidate Identifier

(UCI) ​​Each candidate sitting GCE A/AS, GCSE Modular and Key Skills examinations will be allocated a Unique Candidate Identifier (UCI) number, which will be used to identify individuals during their modular courses.  The UCI is 13 characters long and usually consists of the centre number, a year reference number, the candidate number and an alphabetical check digit. The UCI enables the awarding bodies to match the current exam entries with previous entries in unitised qualifications.

NoNoYesUnique Learner Number

A Unique Learner Number (ULN) is a 10-digit identifier, which is applied to the Learner Record of anyone over the age of 14 involved UK education or training.

Learners will retain the same number for accessing their Learner Record throughout their lives, whatever their level of learning and wherever they choose to participate.
Each ULN is issued and held by the Learner Registration Service (LRS). The LRS uses the number to index each learner’s identity details, education and training qualifications within the Learner Record.
  back to top -->




YesYesYesVertical Reporting

See Reporting: Vertical.​

YesYesYesVertical reporting choreography

The specific steps followed by agents regarding the movement of data in a vertical implementation.

NoNoYesVirtual Learning Environment

A virtual learning environment (VLE) is a software system designed to support teaching and learning in an educational setting, as distinct from a Managed Learning Environment (MLE) where the focus is on management. A VLE will normally work over the Internet and provide a collection of tools such as those for assessment (particularly of types that can be marked automatically, such as multiple choice), communication, uploading of content, return of students' work, peer assessment, administration of student groups, collecting and organizing student grades, questionnaires, tracking tools, etc. New features in these systems include wikis, blogs, RSS and 3D virtual learning spaces.

While originally created for distance education, VLEs are now most often used to supplement traditional face to face classroom activities, commonly known as Blended Learning.

​See Virtual Learning Environment


​See Work Based Learning

NoNoYesWork Based Learning

(WBL) Work Based Learning is the component of a learning programme that focuses on the application of theory in an authentic, work-based context.  It addresses specific competences identified for the acquisition of a qualification, which relate to the development of skills that will make the learner employable and will assist in developing his/her personal skills.   Employer and professional bodies are involved in the assessment of experiential learning, together with academic staff.




See Exchange of course related information


See Extensible Markup Language


​See SIF xPress



There are no items to show in this view of the "Glossary Of Terms" list.





See Zone Integration Server


A logical collection of applications, agents, and a ZIS that exchange information with each other. Zones can be set up to exchange data

at different levels. They are typically established at the district level, and are also frequently set up for each school.
YesYesYesZone Integration Server

Controls communication between agents. Its primary responsibility is to route messages from agent to agent, and to control which agents can request, provide, publish, and subscribe to which data objects. The ZIS is actually software, not hardware, and may or may not be installed on a dedicated server.

SIF 3.x Equivalent for a ZIS:  Broker / Middleware / Enterprise Service Bus