The Open Forum Conference session organised by LACE in Oslo in June hit a nerve with the community of standardisation experts attending the conference prior to their full week meeting in Oslo. In the meeting of the ISO committee working on standards for Learning, Education and Training, ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC36, there was a race among the national body representatives to position themselves to lead a new work item on learning analytics. The committee decided to establish an Ad Hoc group to prepare scope and rationale for a new Working Group on LA. The Ad Hoc is lead by the SC36 chair Erlend Øverby and Yong-Sang Cho, the principal researcher of Korean Education and Research Information Service. The Ad Hoc is expected to conclude its work within October this year (2014).
Oslo Open Forum
The Open Forum was an opportunity for standardisation experts to explore interoperability issues related to learning technologies, and local vendors and authorities to explore the deeper realities of the standardisation acronym soup. LACE project’s Tore Hoel and Wilbert Kraan gave an overview of the learning analytics interoperability space; professor Yasuhisa Tamura of Sophia University, Tokyo presented his research on semantics for LA on tablet based e-textbooks, and IMS Global’s CEO, Rob Abel gave an update on the IMS Caliper project. The panel discussion concluding this session confirmed the impression that the «softer» issues of LA Interoperability and Data Sharing need to be addressed to reach out to the wider stakeholder groups of LA. A conceptual understanding of the LA space is needed. Privacy issues are a major concern for many stakeholders, and could be defined out of scope for LA specific standards initiatives as privacy is part of more general ICT related questions. However, the recommendation coming out of the discussion was to address this field also within LA Interoperability standardisation.
LA as a new work item for international standardisation
Presentations by Korean and Chinese experts at the ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC36 Oslo meetings give hints of where standards development in this field could evolve. Experts at the e-Education System Engineering Research Center of East China Normal University have done a thorough research on current LA research and practice and presented models describing the Learning Analytics Universe of Discourse informing formal modelling of the Information Space of LA systems and some high level description of a LA systems architecture. Professor Yong-he Wu made the point that there is a need for a unified architecture and information model on data collection; core data set structures should be defined; and analysis methods specified resulting in a LA model, with security and privacy concerns addressed.
From a SC36 WG4 study group lead by dr. Yong-Sang Cho the idea of a multi-part standard was launched. The parts were proposed to define a reference model; system requirements; privacy protection guidelines; accessibility guidelines; quality measurements; data matrix framework; data crawling API; reference software; implementation guides; and linked data profile for (adaptive) learning analytics. In this proposal input from IMS Global was presupposed. In the meetings it was questioned if a multi-part standard would be the right answer to the standardisation needs in this quickly emerging field. Maybe smaller and more focussed specifications could be an option? However, the idea to develop reference software and make it available as open source in parallel to specification development was acknowledged as a new and valuable approach in ISO SC36 standardisation. How the ISO sub committee is going to organise the work is still up in the air; this should be more clear once the Ad Hoc group has scoped. This is a difficult task; if international consensus is to be achieved, the scope of work must not favour regional views of learning analytics and must allow for evidence-based products.