Tuesday, 14 November 2006


For those who may not be following in the LTSC discussion closely, here is a quick and dirty cut-and-paste of emails that have been circulating between Nov 10 to Nov 12. (Now that the discussion has died down and hence a good time to post.) (LTSC is the "Learning Technology Standard Committee chartered by the IEEE Computer Society Standards Activity Board to develop accredited technical standards, recommended practices, and guides for learning technology.)

Scott Lewis wrote on Nov 10:

Although I did not attend the Orlando meeting, I did call in and listen. As I'm sure you all know, the intent of this meeting was to determine the future of LTSC. What I heard at the end of the meeting was that LTSC would go into a maintenance mode and would not initiate new standards. Basically, the LTSC plans to go to a mode that says, "Our job is done, and we will cease to exist except to renew the standards we have published."

Robby Robson (Chair, IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee) quickly responded with this:
That said, I heard something quite different. My impression was this:

1. There is a lot of work to be done – no question about that. BUT….
2. This work divides roughly into two types: (1) work that is clearly covered by the original scope of the LTSC and involves interoperability of learning technology and (2) work that increasingly involves other communities and new approaches. This is an exciting time during which ICT is changing rapidly and during which learning technology is converging with other domains, and we recognize that a whole new wave of standards may be needed and that we do not know where, how, or in what form they will (or should) take place.
3. The consensus at the meeting was to focus the LTSC on the first type of work while engaging in conversations to determine how best to pursue the second, without making a whole lot of assumptions about the best way to proceed.
4. As a consequence, when projects come along that fit into the learning technology interoperability category the LTSC will be there to work on them. Adoption of IMS Content Packaging and adoption of PENS are examples of potential projects that were mentioned, and SIM-SCORM interoperability is an example of an existing Study Group in that realm.
5. Also, the LTSC will complete and maintain its existing standards, and that will be a non-trivial effort that stretches on into the future.
6. With regard to metadata, the plan is to release a maintenance update of LOM as part of the required re-affirmation process. That is NOT a statement that metadata has no future or that people in the area are not looking to what’s next. Quite to the contrary, it is an acknowledgement of the success of LOM and the value of having a stable standard that being increasingly adopted worldwide as well as an acknowledgement of the work that is being done by the broader metadata community on things like the Dublin Core Abstract Model. We discussed several possible paths for that work becoming an IEEE standard, but they are independent of the maintenance of the stable LOM standard.
7. With regard to new work involving other communities, “Web 2.0” and the like, I believe the consensus was to engage in conversations and not to commit the LTSC to taking on that work since we don’t know what it will look like or whether the LTSC is necessarily the best or only venue for it. That is not to say it isn’t – we just don’t know.

My personal opinion is that the LTSC has a growing installed user base that needs stability while the bigger picture in which we fit is undergoing some rapid changes. This leads appropriately to a conservative approach to what we have and an open approach towards what we will do next.

Of course, this is all open for discussion – and that is exactly why we held a meeting to openly address these issues. Please chime in with corrections, updates, suggestions, etc.

Luk Vervenne expressed interests in the new generation of cross domain standards. and Andy Heath in accessibility technologies which Rolf (Lindner) pointed to ISO/IEC JTC1 SC36 WG2 "Collaborative technologies".

Wayne Hodgins (Chair, IEEE LTSC Learning Object Metadata (LOM) Working Group) came in with:
Good summary Robby, thanks for getting to this so promptly.

Scott et al, I suspect that the misunderstanding was due to this being what amounted to a day long discussion and the fact that you were only able to catch the end of it. In hindsight we should have probably concluded the meeting with a summary such as what Robby has now done here on Email.

In the hopes of adding some additional clarity, my sense is that we had an extremely comprehensive and far reaching discussion on the future of not only LTSC but also on standards in general, adjacent domains to learning, education and training and anything else which would be appropriate means to our common end goal of improved learning and performance. As I recall we did note several times in the meeting that we had done this bifurcation in our exploration of the future, however as your comments appropriately point out we should have repeated this at the end of our discussions.

As per Robby’s notes below, we saw a very strong and ongoing role for standards within the scope and charter of the LTSC and the “learning” domain. These would be very much in line with your comments on the future needs for standards. For example, in the LOM meetings (which were in the morning that day) for the immediate future we did indeed agree to complete an update to LOM in the form of a corrigenda to the current version. We also noted that an outcome of this specific action would be to create a specific list of anything reported through LOMnext that was outside the scope of the corrigenda. In the longer range, we did an update on the work of the joint DCMI/LOM Task Force which is working on the abstract data model (DCAM). We have already created a PAR to cover the standardization of this work so we are ready to proceed whenever the Joint Task Force has sufficiently completed its work to know the timing and type of standardization.

In the afternoon sessions, which you were able to attend the end of, we went on to consider the future of LTSC and in doing so we also noted that there was a need to take a much more holistic and comprehensive view of the needs and the market. As noted above there was no question as to the viability and need for the continuing role of LTSC and that the original charter, scope and purpose of LTSC would continue to serve this well. We then went on to have a very enlightening discussion on the needs to also look beyond the scope of LTSC and beyond the domain of learning, education and training. For example we discussed and explored the growing interests and needs for standards in the areas of competencies and talent management, as well as the inclusion of domains such as Human Resources, human performance improvement and others. This is of course an ongoing and still rather open ended discussion so we agreed that our discussions and our work with other groups and domains was all the more important to continue and pursue with even greater priority.

It should also be noted that we (LTSC) have been very pro-active and responsible in taking this long view approach. For example as per previous announcements on this listserv last month, and as also discussed earlier in the meeting last week, LTSC has initiated the new Study Groups for Competencies and this has already led to our collaboration with groups such as HR-XML which Luk Vervenne noted in his Email. It was within this context and in the part of this discussion you heard, that we noted the importance of looking beyond the charter of LTSC and beyond the domain and perspective of learning, education and training so as to be able to do a better job of advancing the progress within these domains and our overarching and shared visions for improved learning and performance.

Thanks very much for starting this thread Scott and pointing out the potential confusion and misunderstanding that the discussion at the end of the day could have when taken outside of the context of the larger all day dialogue. Hope this has helped to clarify the multiple dimensions of our discussions and the way forward for both LTSC and standards in general.

Claude Ostyn (Chair, LTSC WG20) wrote:
In short, there are a few open issues.

- Who will drive the LTSC? As noted at the meeting in a reminder of earlier postings to this mailing list, the terms of the LTSC Officers are expiring (see message from Debbie Brown "RE: CALL FOR VOLUNTEERS: All IEEE LTSC Officer Positions" of 1 November 2006). There are currently no nominations or volunteers for the positions of Chair (Robby Robson) and Secretary (Debbie Brown). My understanding is that Robby indicated that he would prefer to see someone else as a chair, and Debbie indicated that she would not be available. Chad Kainz and Brandon Muramatsu indicated that they would accept a nomination to continue in their position of Vice Chair and Treasurer, respectively. I have not heard about the Information Officer position now held by Wilbert Kraan.

Action item: For the LTSC to continue to function effectively, it is important to get nominations (or self-nominations) for the LTSC Officer positions. Dear reader, this may mean YOU. See Debbie Brown's email for details.

- Which is the best organization to pursue the study, development and/or vetting of some of the standards that are currently being considered? While some potential future standards are clearly in the area of Learning, Training and Education (LTE), others, especially competency technology standards, have major stakeholders outside the LTE area. Some of those stakeholders have expressed interest in developing IEEE standards because of the credibility and quality afforded by an open, accredited process, but don't think that the LTSC is the appropriate sponsor because of the "Learning" in "LTSC" is not their niche. Other stakeholders seem to think that the IEEE Standards Association is the wrong standards organization altogether, notwhistanding the activities and commitments of IEEE in computer technology, because of its focus on engineering. I find this difficult to understand; we're talking about technical standards here, something the IEEE does very well.

Action item(s): Investigate, reflect and decide (sooner rather than later) whether this is an issue of perception that is correctable, or whether there is a better home for the work on those far-reaching standards.
* Practically speaking, reflect on whether it would be harmful to simply change the name of the LTSC to something like "Learning and Performance Technology Standards Committee" (LPTSC) or "Performance and Learning Technology Standards Committee" (PLTSC), and find out whether those stakeholders who are turned off the the LTSC names would find that this name change addresses their concern. Of course, the Committee's charter would be amended by adding something like "human performance technology" to the mission of the committee.
* Considering that a new slate of Committee officers is due to be elected, working to effect such a change might be part of their platform. This may bring new life to the Committee by attracting nominees from a broader group, to complement those from the LET area who are willing to continue in their position.

- Which standards are we talking about? In addition to the strawman slate of candidate standards cited by Wayne, there is strong interest from various people in the creation of a standard for the representation of simple competency models, a.k.a. "competency maps", leveraging the Reusable Competency Definitions standard (P1484.20.1) that is nearing completion as a LTSC activity in Workging Group 20. At the March 2006 meeting of the LTSC WG20, it was decided to pursue this as a study item and WG20 notified the SEC of its intention to form a study group for this topic. The HR-XML consortium decided at its recent Barcelona meeting to pursue such a standard, both as an HR-XML specification and as participants in an IEEE working group, should one be formed, and several other people have indicated interest in joining a study group to define a PAR for such a standard. In many ways, this study initiated in WG20 is more advanced than other proposals.

Action item(s):
- Avoid announcements and dissemination of documents that may lead to the perception that separate study groups are being formed for specific competency standards, or that the "slate" of projects is already defined. There should be one study group whose role should be to considers the candidates for standards projects and to develop PARs for those that are considered promising. This must include the PAR for the simple competency models, a.k.a. "competency maps".
- The work of the recently announced "competency technology standards" study group should be represented to interested parties and in external communication as a "roadmap" for upcoming and potential projects, to avoid the perception that a whole slate of projects must be defined before work can begin on any project.
- Since WG20 has been involved with competency issues for quite a while, while focused on completing the RCD standard, and has a distinguished membership that includes many people whose scope of interest is not limited to the LET area, this should be done in coordination with WG20.
- Again, some decision is needed sooner than later on whether LTSC (under a changed name) or some other new organization is the best home for this work. The work toward the simple competency models standard should not be held hostage to delays in making such a decision.

In conclusion: A strength of the LTSC has been the breadth of interests and expertise among its members. There is no question that the world is not the same as it was 10 years ago when the LTSC started its work. This requires some adjustments, and in some cases those are radical, evenpainful adjustments. Other standards groups with broader scope have emerged since then, who don't use the IEEE accredited process. Ultimately, though, what makes a standards organization successful is how committed its members are to doing useful work, and how relevant its standards are. So, let us make sure we don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. To the extent that LTSC (maybe renamed LPTSC or PLTSC) works on relevant standards, it does remain relevant. To the extent that we encourage willing participants, the commitment of its members can sustain it.

The LTSC is you and me. This message will only seen by LTSC members -- many other interested people are not on the LTSC listserv distribution list. Effective, positively tuned communication with those other interested people is another action item for all of us recipients of the messages in this thread.

IMHO, action item No. 1 right now is to get nominations for the LTSC Officer positions, since the election is in December. Even if the nominated individuals come from outside the current LTSC membership, that's fine as long as they are willing to join and serve in accordance with the LTSC charter and IEEE Standards Association rules.

Still IMHO, action item No. 2 is to get the PAR for simple competency models (a.k.a. competency maps) completed and approved.

Stephen Downes weighted in commenting the process of LSTC:
I attended very briefly, you may not have even seen me, sound wasn't working and all I could see is some stationary slide. Now I regret not being more persistent, but this comment leads me to this thought: it's too bad that no recording of the meeting was made.

I have long disliked the format of these standards meetings, which is why I am such an infrequent attendee. I dislike scheduled and closed discussions. They feel to me like some kind of unsavory backroom lobbying session, and I get the sense that participants are interested in manipulating the process for their company's advantage. I am uncomfortable being complicit in this, in sanctioning the results of such a process.

I wonder whether bodies like LTSC could fine relevance again by opening up the process. Having the meeting on Breeze was an excellent idea. Recording it and posting it in topic-based chunks would allow a wider audience to listen. In an ideal world, a transcription would be posted. Distribute meeting notices, news and other items via RSS. On http://ieeeltsc.org/november2006meeting post items more frequently (eg., it would have helped to have a series of items and discussions rather than an after-the-fact notice that 'competencies has passed'). Open a discussion area (with email and RSS options) to follow up the meeting.

I have my views on the role of LTSC and the nature of standards, too, but these in my mind really take a back seat to process.

This is echoed by

Paul D. Storfer:
I have read the recent threads with interest. As a recent member (Claude recruited me to join), and someone deeply involved with competencies (I co-chair, with Luk, the HR-XML workgroup and am on their Board), I wanted to offer a couple of observations....

1. LTSC is, for an outsider, a very difficult organization with which to get involved. Perhaps I have missed mailings, but since I registered and paid my fee I haven't been able to find out how/when to participate or even how to get my password to vote on the standard. I'm not sure who to go to, and so I merely sit on the sideline and attend a meeting if I can (and, I admit, I got notice too late for last week's meeting). However, as more of a business person than a technologist, and as an active participant in MANY of these types of organizations, unless you make it easy for new people to get involved it is difficult to find new leadership and the work always falls on the same people -- a death knell for most organizations.

2. The competencies workgroup has been anxiously waiting for an RCD standard to emerge around which we can put an XML binding. I have had discussions with Claude around this topic for over a year. There is clearly a good technical role for this organization. But if it does not clarify its goals and role then other organizations will, inevitably, step in to fill the void. I think it is important to clarify a position if you want others to work with you.

Hope these points add to the discussion.

Tom King:
There is good constructive feedback here. The bulk of the structured IEEE processes seem to work quite well for LTSC and many others. Adding technology and process (RSS, topic-based structure, transcription, more frequent updates) may facilitate discussions, particularly on more abstract items.

However, some of the characterizations and comparisons in the earlier note may seem belligerent to the uncompensated volunteers who regularly participate, and would not perceive themselves as manipulative nor unsavory back room lobbyists. I suspect that persistent and regular involvement with any group changes perception. Process or format changes that facilitate and encourage involvement are good things. Being more involved helps anyone who truly wants to participate and enables one to engage in the process to change the process.

This is just the opinion of someone who watched IEEE from a distance in the 90's, and then help draft a specification and saw that go through ballot and approval in 2002-2004. Others have surely had different experiences, but I found wisdom in the crowds. The diversity of the group and recurring active participants ensured that no single individual could manipulate the specification to favor them or a single organization.

But disputed by Schawn Tropp:
Some of the points Stephen brought up about opening up the process. I don't believe that it is a closed process by any means, but is there other ways to "open" up the understanding, communication and other organizational procedures (e.g., recording sessions and posting them on the site, transcriptions of recorded sessions, distribution of meeting notices, especially if we evolve across domains and organizational bodies, discussion areas, RSS feeds and the like). I believe these items need to be address as we evolve IEEE LTSC.

and Robby Robson:
I agree with Stephen’s underlying observations: Despite all attempts and good intentions, it has never felt to me that any of the organizations involved in learning technology standards has been as inviting, easy to join, or easy to use as is desirable. However, as Tom King pointed out, it works, based on the efforts of uncompensated volunteers.

It is also instructive to contrast our approach to that used by mainstream standards efforts in the ICT industry, e.g. wireless technology, e-business, Web standards etc. There, participation requires attending many international meetings in person. Typically, “participation credit” is given only for face-to-face meetings and voting rights are only given on the basis of participating credit or on the basis of hefty membership fees. Other costs are involved as well. For example, some companies in other ICT areas maintain full time staffs of standards professionals who participate in standards activities and, when appropriate, send teams that include product managers and high level engineers. Most standards bodies charge meeting fees, and the bigger ones pay for administrators and technical staff, or buy services from an organization like the IEEE Standards Association.

Despite this, when you move away from the high profile activities, my impression is that not everyone is in great shape. I am sure that Stephen’s observations would apply to far more areas than learning, education and training. In fact, our volunteers have done a remarkably good job measured by standards produced and by participation levels considering the way we are funded, and the paucity of resources that companies and organizations in the learning, education and training arena devote to standards! There is enormous room for improvement and I fully support Stephen’s requests for more openness and access to the process, but let’s not forget that we have also accomplished a lot as well.

Personally, I think IEEE process is very much USA oriented and learning technology being international, participants in countries other than USA sometimes find it very hard to be continously contributing.

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