lively debate of monks in pink robes

Digital Learning Standards Forum: Meeting #2 update

This is a brief summary of what was a rich and constructive meeting. It was our second working session as a Forum, matching the first in energy, constructive debate and available expertise. There were many new faces with fresh contributions which complemented and built on our first session and the work in between. This bodes well for our ongoing activity.

Profound thanks to all who have contributed in whatever form. It increases our confidence that we are headed in a valuable direction (and mine that this was a worthy initiative to undertake). The world of workplace learning needs to come together to speed progress in achieving shared goals and accelerating our digital maturity.

More detailed materials and documents are available to those who have signed up to the Forum. You can do that here.

So, to the overview…

1. Setting objectives

There are two primary objectives for the Forum. The first addresses leading the development and application of standards for digital learning. The second, the need for common benchmarks in measuring the value of our use of digital tools and services. A first articulation of them (to be further refined before sharing more broadly) sparked debate thus:

  • The two goals are setting a valuable direction and are not well served at present
  • Adjustment is required to ensure they clearly include all the right interest groups and stakeholders
    • Customer education is excluded by an tight L&D focus, for example. 
  • An L&D technology focus is too narrow – ‘technologies used for learning’ (in an organisational context) is a fuller articulation, perhaps
    • We miss the opportunity to apply and agree standards across disciplines, tools and systems used by those with the same goals
  • We need to include the potential to encourage the application of existing standards that not well used or understood

A fresh expression of the goals will be drafted for feedback before our next meeting.

2. Developing and refining our focus

Summarising a brainstorm in text can be a challenge. This is my attempt. The meeting recording and documents are much better vehicles.

Interoperability is perhaps the greatest opportunity and barrier to overcome. So much time and resource is spent attempting to use our tools together. The idea of an ecosystem is ambition not fact. Standards will support interoperability

  • Between systems 
  • From content to systems and vice versa
  • From ‘technologies for learning’ to other tools and systems

Content sharing (arguably a sub set of interoperability but a popular and pressing theme from the discussion)

  • Metadata standards for learning content
  • Promote standards to enable simpler sharing of content between content providers and learning systems
  • Standards between authoring tools and learning systems/platforms

Openness as a prime principle for our activity 

  • For our tools and technologies 
  • For our definitions and documentation 
  • Openness is a hallmark of many digital industries, there is no reason, beyond will, for learning to be different
  • For the Forum itself: we plan to run the Forum as an open source project, sharing decision making, documents, conversation and organisation.

Benchmarks describing value for money: these are a cornerstone of investment decisions in content based industries. There is no reason why a content rich profession such as learning cannot adopt similar approaches. (I declare a particular interest here, and will need to step aside from my chairing responsibilities for this priority to be evaluated properly).

There are a great many further refinements and branches from these summary points. Many touch on existing standards which are poorly applied. Others point to adjacent disciplines and sources of support. Each reflect a deep expertise and insight regarding these themes, the potential and the pitfalls. It is an impressive group to be part of.

3. Aiming for output – summer of 2023

We placed a marker for an event in the summer of this year to share our output, research and work more broadly beyond Forum membership alone. More than a meeting – an opportunity to reflect on what progress we have made, in an open manner. More on this anon, as plans emerge, but it will be a chance to broaden the reach of our activity and to connect with interested parties beyond those who have signed up. This might be some definitions, standards recommendations, tested protocols or other research. Watch this space.

4. Some other learning points from reflection:

  • Defining things is hard. It takes deep thought, debate and plenty of time with the right people.
  • An hour and a half is too long for most people to set aside from the day job.
  • L&D is too narrow a definition for the value we hope to create – yet it is the shorthand for the industry. Yes. That old chestnut.
  • The willingness to improve outcomes for everyone outweighs parochial concerns (not to be taken for granted, however).
  • Working with people in this way is rewarding and educational

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