On December 1st, the Digital Learning Standards Forum held our first meeting. I confess to anxiety about attendance and participation. It was very gratifying to find a group joining the session with enthusiasm, curiosity and a clear view of the potential. The range of experience, backgrounds and perspectives gave us broad and deep insights into past experience and a great sense of future potential. This was a smart and purposeful conversation; exactly what was needed to get us underway. (You can join us using the sign-up form below).
As a quick summary, we covered the following ground.
The purpose of the Forum
The headline quote “Sometimes it seems like every implementation is approached as if nothing has been done before” is a good summary of the challenge we see. Time and effort is spent solving common problems in isolation and reinventing local fixes for shared challenges. Typical tools and measures of L&D are a struggle to use now and will not steer us into the future. The Forum aims to bring together industry voices to:
- Lead and coordinate the definition of standards for digital L&D
- Define and propose benchmarks for measuring the value of our use of the tools and resources in the industry
- Create an environment for cooperation and collaboration to define and develop these standards and benchmarks – working together, across the industry, will ultimately take us further faster
- Be purposeful about making an impact
- Focus on where progress can be made
- Generate momentum where progress is needed and may be lacking
- To be simple, clear and open in how we work and what we work on
- Focus on industry standards rather than professional standards of learning practitioners, whilst recognising that there are clear connections
- Connect with professional standards bodies as natural partners to this initiative and as organisations which represent many of the interests of our stakeholders
This is an ambitious canvas to cover. All attendees recognise the time and effort needed to make progress. This is not a sprint. There is, however, huge potential to develop our industry and shape its future. We need to organise for the long term, with a sharp focus, to make the most of it. Industry maturity was an often quoted phrase, and learning lessons from beyond our borders a key theme.
Areas of focus (an initial view)
Forum membership has grown since the meeting, and those who were unable to attend will be canvassed to ensure we have not missed important points (we have senior leaders from technology companies, service providers also from employer organisations, representatives of industry bodies and deeply experienced practitioners on board so far). We need to be comprehensive. So, these are current areas of focus and priority. There was discussion of professional standards – those of the work of industry practitioners – and how they fit. Whilst our focus on industry standards has clear connections, the LPI and CIPD are already in place to champion this development. A close relationship is sought as key stakeholders.
Our agenda covered these, interrelated, themes:
- Interoperability: making it easier to use our digital products and tools together. We have more in common than we have differences in terms of technology, products and services. There is plenty of value here.
- Metrics, measures and benchmarks: common measures that help to describe the value of what we do (how we use those tools and resources). We can be easier to understand and make it easier to compare our services against known benchmarks. Which benchmarks make most sense?
- Openness: software industries have succeeded with open APIs and public documentation. Many customers struggle without them, as do their vendors and service providers. The question here is how to encourage the will to be open.
- Skills and taxonomies: a pressing and complex challenge for everyone. There are many strands and a lot of moving parts, across and beyond L&D. The meeting focused on lessons from other sectors and applications – proprietary taxonomies are a barrier. Defining if and what can be done is our next step.
- Data ethics: hugely important yet lower awareness of this in L&D. Questions of ownership of learner data, trust in custodianship, principles for managing data and access are vital. We have a job to do in getting this on the agenda and preparing for what comes next – agreeing robust principles is a sound goal.
- Accessibility: here, conversation converged on guidance and good practice for applying existing guidelines in an L&D context. Interpreting guidance for learning practitioners and content creators fills a current gap. We need to be better at this.
Broadly, where standards already exist and are organised (such as accessibility), the Forum can act as a contributor for the industry as well as interpreter for their application.
How the Forum will work
The Forum intends to set direction for standards and benchmarks – developing and defining them where needed and encouraging adoption and application and raising awareness of their value where they already exist. This slide captures that intent.
We have made a great start. I am very thankful to those who have supported, guided and debated what we can achieve. Our next task is to canvas membership to identify themes we have missed and gather feedback on what has been covered so far. From there, we will decide on a manageable set of priorities, balancing value and impact against effort. We will meet again in January to take those steps.
Membership is open, sign up below to join us and shape what happens next.