I went to this joint LLN meeting in Sheffield (2008-07-03) because there were several people, and several topics, that I wanted to keep up or catch up with. The meeting fulfilled that and more.
Roger Clark talked about current GMSA work (Pathways and Advance), and about the need for well defined standards and interfaces. Mark Stubbs talked about XCRI, and how the recently started European initiative, Metadata for Learning Opportunities (MLO) has adopted a basic structure reflecting XCRI. If I understood correctly, he is to join the DCSF Information Standards Board. Selwyn Lloyd reviewed ioNetworks. They are all doing important work which I want to keep up with, and as they are very busy, this kind of meeting is useful to keep track of the general picture. Kirstie Coolin, another valued portfolio interoperability colleague, talked about e-portfolio pilot work in the LEAP AHEAD LLN, covering Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, which was new to me.
I took the opportunity also to catch up with Lisa Gray and Stuart Wood (recently appointed developer at Nottingham) about our current portfolio interoperability prototyping work.
After a very pleasant and unhurried lunch, we split into workshop discussions, and I went to probably the largest, related to e-portfolios. A very interesting idea bubbled up here: that none of the e-portfolio tools are ideal for all the different purposes of e-portfolios ranging from assessment management to PDP, and that perhaps the way forward would be to use more than one tool. Of course, this lifts portfolio interoperability into the limelight – people seemed to concur on this.Â Rather than being a nice-to-have optional extra, interoperability will become a vital enabler to reusing the same information across these different systems. Perhaps also now, interoperability with student record systems, other e-admin systems, and VLEs will become recognised as an equal part of this overall move toward allowing the learner-controlled sharing and reuse of all personal-related information. Sharing between e-portfolio systems and e-admin systems is not so different from sharing information between e-portfolio systems with different purposes. No one system will use the complete range of portfolio information, but in a Web 2.0 world where there are surprising new uses for old information, as much as reasonably possible should be made available for use by other systems.
The networking brought two new contacts with significant interests. Colin Wilkinson is the Employer Engagement Co-ordinator for the North East Higher Skills Network, and has a strongly overlapping interest in the represention of skills. He intends to work with GMSA, and also perhaps us in CETIS in this area, which could be very promising in several ways. Ann Hughes, Becta’s Head of Efficiency and Productivity, is interested in lowering the barriers for information between schools, HE and FE. She told me that in the UK the SIF is now thought of as the “Systems Interoperability Framework”. They need guidance towards positive and fruitful avenues of development, and I think we can help them.