Wednesday, 15 November 2006

LTSC - 2

Yesterday, when I posted LTSC, I thought the discussion may be ended. However Jon Mason [our own leading learning standards expert in Australia] jumped in late last night and added:

Gee, it's been a while since I've witnessed such a discussion on the LTSC list. Lots to consider. Unfortunately, I couldn't make the call last week not even for a short while but all this discussion in its aftermath has been good reading. Thank you to everyone who has bothered to speak their mind.

I agree with Claude's comment below -- btw, welcome Paul.

A couple of observations...

When I read Paul Storfer's comments I immediately recalled my own very similar experience some years ago. I was totally mystified as to what to do & how to engage for at least 12 months __ & it was a case of really having to persevere to crack it. Some things have become clearer over time, some probably haven't changed much to "outsiders" looking in -- though the new website is much better at providing this information. That leads me to ask the question: How do I, as a member, know who else is a current member? How would I have known that Paul was just recruited if not for this email thread? How would Paul know who I was & who else is on the c'ttee? I think we need to make this kind of information more accessible to members.

My perception of the impact & relevance of the LTSC in the broader specs & standardisation space is that it has waxed & waned, & at times looked vulnerable due to what seemed like a diminishing membership. I've also encountered perceptions from many people along the way that it's a forum for a small group of stalwarts. So, in my mind, for the LTSC to go forward it really does need to put some attention to these issues. The Charter says all the "required" stuff -- but what does "learning technology" really mean these days?

On another issue -- maybe I'm stuck in the last century but I really don't think wikis are the answer to all our collaboration needs. Some work & some don't, & there seems to be a limit to the number anyone can effectively participate in. How many do we need?? Password control can be frustrating at times, & all they do is create yet another silo of activity.

This invited two more responses: From Goeffrey Frank:
I want to reinforce Jon Mason’s comments about it taking almost a year to get into the flow of LTSC. That was certainly my experience. Given that we are all volunteers, it is a constant judgement call as to the return on our investment of time and effort for participation. That long learning curve makes the ROI decisions more difficult. As Jon says, you have to perservere, and that is very difficult for a volunteer. It is easiest for those who join with a specific agenda to make those investments. This typically happens when the stakes are high and the stake-holders with deep pockets are involved in the standards process because they know what they want out of the standards. As Rolf’s diagram indicates, LTSC is not currently at that point.

I would like to suggest that we need to do a better job of expressing the value proposition of our standards in the early stages of the standards development process, and that we use the value proposition as a touch-stone for guiding the development of the standards to focus on what will make a difference. It has been my experience that understanding and communicating the value proposition associated with technology is essential for getting the investments needed to move the technology forward.

One way of expressing value propositions is through use cases, especially when the use cases include the ROI commentary. The joint LTSC/SISO discussions on SCORM and simulation interfaces are currently focused on use cases, (although not usually including the ROI commentary).

and Claude Ostyn:
Paul, Jon and Geoffrey have made excellent points regarding the difficulty to engage with LTSC. I think this difficulty, not age, is the main reason why the LTSC is not as dynamic as it could be, because without new participants attrition and fatigue are inevitable in any group. There is plenty of good work left to do, but without people to do it and champions for projects that does not really happen. I found it very encouraging that some new members did come forward to participate in the WG 20 (Competency) work, and in particular for the grueling work of the P1484.20.1 ballot comment resolution committee.

There has not been any deliberate policy or action to make engaging difficult for new and prospective members. Rather, the difficulty stems mostly from privacy issues and logistics. In the early days of LTSC, the main way to engage was to attend face to face meetings that lasted several days. New and prospective members knew who everyone else through introductions in the conference rooms and further bonding typically took place over meals and evening activities. Times have changed. As LTSC evolved with time to become more international, and as some of the funding sources for standards activities have shrunk, it has been more difficult for many participants to attend face to face meetings in various places around the world. So the work has moved primarily on line, with phone and web conferencing supplementing email lists as the primary meeting venues. So, the new reality is online meetings and internet work, both synchronous and asynchronous.

Here comes the privacy issue. Not a problem in face to face meetings, but a real problem in virtual meetings and communications. We are very protective of personally identifiable information. As Jon points out, there is no simple way to know who the other members and interested people are because their identities are protected by the listserv and the web site. Normally the Sponsor Executive Committee members (officers and WG chairs) have access to the list of paid members. However, the members at large, prospective members and less well intentioned data trollers don't have access to this information. On some of the LTSC mailing lists, because there is an option to subscribe in "stealth" mode, even if access when the list roster is allowed a number of the subscribers remain invisible. That's the situation today. Should it change, and how?

So here is are some practical questions:

1. Assuming that it would be good for people to know who the other LTSC members are, should we make this information available to: (a) only members of the same working group (b) all paid members of the LTSC (c) anyone who cares to find out

2. Which of the following information should be available (assuming that some precautions are taken to avoid data mining and screen scraping for email addresses, etc.)? Note that if you participate in a standard your name only is automatically inserted in the published version of the standard.
[ ] Name
[ ] Primary affiliation
[ ] Country
[ ] Email address
[ ] Web site, if any
[ ] Official LTSC role(s), if any
[ ] Working group(s)
[ ] Additional volunteered information

3. Should the available information be filtered depending on whether it is viewed by a paid LTSC member or someone who is not a paid LTSC member?

4. Would an easily accessible, self-service members profile browsing facility (a mini myspace) be useful in helping members to become or stay engaged with the LTSC? I have seen such a facility used by other groups, but it is often not of much use because many people don't bother to put up or maintain their profile. Would *you* put up and maintain your profile?

5. Would you subscribe to a RSS feed updated when a LTSC member profile is created (because a member joined) or updated (by the member)?

Finally, I agree with Jon that Wikis are not "the" solution. One big issue is also information overload. I am willing to bet that a large percentage of the subscribers to the LTSC list have stopped reading this post long before reaching this point, and many did not even open it. On the other hand, we really should take advantage of the available technology and best practices. We should also try not disperse the efforts among undocumented virtual sites. Anyone should be able to go to *one* site ( and there find easily all the current, up to date links to anything of interest. Transparency is critical, but it takes considerable effort to maintain it.

It is good to see that access and participation is being discussed.

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