CEN Learning Technologies Workshop Online Consultation Meeting

I’ve being working in the domain of learning technology and interoperability standards for over ten years now, and during that time I’ve worked with a number of standards bodies including IMS, BSI, DCMI, IEEE and ISO SC36.  However the first standards body I ever worked with was the CEN/ISSS Learning Technologies Workshop when I joined the Taxonomies and Vocabularies Project as an independent expert in 2001.

The European Committee for Standardisation’s Information Society Standardisation System (CEN/ISSS) was formed in 1997 to provide a focus for CEN’s ICT standards activities.  There are currently 12 formal Technical Committees and around 17 less formal Workshops in the domain of ICT.

CEN describe the purpose of the Workshops as follows:

“This open process aims at bridging the gap between industrial consortia that produce de facto standards with the limited participation of interested parties, and the formal European standardization process which produces standards through consensus under the authority of CEN member bodies. CEN WSs are flexible structure that benefits from the openness and consensus that are key values of CEN.”

The outputs of CEN Workshops are published as CEN Workshop Agreements (CWAs) which are disseminated freely and openly.    CWAs can be regarded as pre-standardisation documents, reports and specifications.  Within the Learning Technology Workshop, some of these CWAs are produced as a result of EU funded projects, but others have been produced on a voluntary basis by members of the workshop.

Although I haven’t personally been involved with the Workshop for a number of years, Cetis has remained an active participant and several of my Cetis colleagues regularly attend meetings and contribute to Workshop activities.  Simon Grant has been a notably active Workshop participant in recent years, during which time he was involved in the development of the Integrating Learning Outcomes and Competences (InLOC) specification which was published as CWA 16655 1-3 in July this year.  The InLOC CWA documents can be downloaded from CEN here.

Having been involved in a number of standards bodies over the years, I have always found the Learning Technology Workshop to be admirably open and inclusive.   The Workshop is open to all interested parties and any member can propose or contribute to an activity, provided they have the time and resources to participate.   Although there has been limited financial support for EU funded projects, a huge amount of valuable work has been carried forward on a voluntary basis by members of the Workshop.  And perhaps most importantly, the outputs of the Workshop, the CWAs, have been made available freely and openly.

The development of open learning technology standards is largely driven by the goodwill of technical experts and educational practitioners who contribute their time, energy and expertise on a voluntary basis, and I have always felt that it is important for standards bodies to promote open development processes and to disseminate open outputs.  Consequently it’s of considerable concern that a serious disagreement has arisen between CEN and the Learning Technology Workshop regarding the free and open dissemination of the Workshop’s CWAs.  In a nutshell it appears that CEN have suggested that only CWAs produced by EU funded projects can be made available free of charge.   This position suggests that CWAs produced by unfunded voluntary projects should no longer be published as free open documents and calls into question the viability of the Workshop in its current form.

As this issue remains unresolved, the latest meeting of the Learning Technology Workshop has been cancelled and the Workshop Chairs have called a public online consultation meeting on the 15th of October to discuss the future of the Workshop.  If you have any interest or involvement in the creation of open standards and specification within Europe, or a commitment to the development of open education technology, I would strongly encourage you to attend.

Minutes and documents relevant to this issue can be fond on the Workshop wiki here: http://wiki.teria.no/display/cenwslt/

See in particular:

Minutes of the 54th CEN WS/LT Meeting June 25th Brussels

Summary of  meeting between the CEN Management and the WS/LT Chairs 24th September