SoLAR AGM

Notes from the Society of Learning Analytics Research Annual General Meeting, held after the LAK12 conference in Vancouver.

George Siemens welcomes everybody.

Looking for reviewers, conference. We are still a bit biased towards the male gender, looking to improve that balance.

For 2013, have set up a few goals, to knit together a wide, fragmented community. Informal discussions so far.

  • One to host monthly session to showcase learning analytics activities. Maybe bringing in Knewton, or interesting researcher in a related field. Build regular contact.
  • Formalising the legal structure, creating a transparent process that has a democratic model for who leads, and what, how decisions are made.
  • Regional events – SoLAR Storm. Contact through the Google Group, maybe a listserv instead.
  • Research lab, some students interested. Looking at about 5-6 students, maybe more. If you as researchers have interests in working with them, is an option.

Executive Committee is the people who are supposed to be doing things. Steering Committee is the people we connect with to get a sense of direction, advisory board; guidance around activities. Need to improve our relationship, clarify. Better quality information flows. Making it clearer – currently can’t trace decision-making process. Fine while small group; not scalable.

Funny Lass

Currently very much pure voluntary stuff; need to have some democratic procedures, not just people popping in.

Simon: An example about how we decided LAK13 – there was a call, public submissions, feedback, decision. That’s how we’ll do it for LAK14.

Erik: Illustrates why we need to make it clearer. One bid was sent to Erik first to ask him where to send it.

George: Was a bit awkward! Interest in creating a structure, so it’s not just the current people, but will continue when they move on to other things. Is the critical goal for the next year.

Dai: What’s the membership?

Shane: I thought long and hard about doing it.

George: Question about what is membership, what it entails. Have looked at other associations. Will tweet it out, have a Google doc with stuff about governance and decision-making. Want to make the process collaborative. As a rule, don’t want anyone to be excluded. Say a $49/y membership, may or may not be accessible. Not for revenue, but this gives you ability to vote – gets discounted the fee at least.

Jon: Would be nicer, more collegiate – there may be students – to ask for something in exchange. E.g. commit to a review – something that requires not just financial commitment, something that contributes to the community.

Sheila: Does have an overhead in managing it.

Phil: What will you do with the money?

George: Journal, some overhead in managing editorship. It’s not the money, but means of identifying a member. Right now, any decisions – right now, say anyone at the conference is a member. Conference activities, PD, doctoral workshop. Having a buffer. Really haven’t thought of the money.

Phil: As soon as you have money, need someone managing the bank account, audit, and so on. Formal declaration of membership, could sign up, without committing currency to it. Rational to think about expenses to decide what the membership fee. If you can get by without money, can still get formal commitment.

Dan: I was thinking the same thing. Do we have to have a fee?

Dragan: Running a conference, always hoping someone will take the risk. With a legal entity, a society, the arrangements can be carried forward.

Dan: One of the motivations for the Learning Sciences Society.

Dragan: For the conference itself, it’ll become much easier for hosting. We already have some founding members, we’re entering that arena.

George: We have a total of 5 or 6 universities that wanted to be listed – we asked them – to be founding universities. Commitment was for reserves for conferences. 5k upfront, 10k for 3y. UBC, U Queensland, Athabasca, Open University UK, Open Universities Australia. Not sure quite what it means. Likely this will not give great direct benefits, but recognising it’s consequential.

Dragan: This could be given to the conference.

Caroline: Who carries the debt if you go over? If nobody wants to go to Belgium, who’s going to cover that? Membership fees goes towards a float for that.

Shane: Biggest thing is the carryover over any budget surplus. We can start to build it up, help e.g. students – we had a discounted rate. There’s only so much organisation we can do. I was at the limit of what I could do. Could call on Society for financial aid for that. You hope to get x people to cover costs; is a leap of faith.

George: AU was hosting agent at LAK11, $35k risk. Partly eyes-open. UBC the same, sense in January of being in a bad spot.

Erik: We’re mixing up several things. For every founding university, the money in, would need 100 individuals, don’t think that’s so helpful in covering risks. Do take the point about having a clear way of deciding who is or is not a member. Worried about the $49 – for most of us, that’s a non-issue, but there are people for whom it is. Effort in replacement of money is difficult to manage. It might matter to some people. Obligations for book-keeping, but we’re having that problem with universities supporting.

Phil: Part of the point of having a fee, is having a sense of buy-in. Put a cost, more consequence. Real issue is a reciprocality. Want people to participate. Second category of membership – e.g. institutional membership. Precisely to get institution to think about committing. Think about their engagement. Could suggest institutional membership much more. Have huge interest in commercial sponsors, have been approached to sponsor thing. Many societies subsidise by having form of commercial membership, more than institutional membership.

Caroline: Issue of membership is separate from making SoLAR an organisation.

George: For the legal entity, SoLAR, to enter contracts, needs to be legally incorporated.

Caroline: Sponsorships should be handled through SoLAR, not individuals or institutions. Hard to thing of organisation as legitimate unless I have to sign up and join it. If anyone can sign up and have nothing to do with it. Don’t think $49 on top is so big – unless it’s 5 other memberships.

Jon: Could be fill in a profile, make a pledge.

Caroline: Work for one year.

Dave: Data as currency could work.

George: Take this to a subgroup?

Malcolm: Tiered structure – e.g. free for students, then extra for institutional membership. Is SoLAR and the LAK conference one? Always takes on that risk?

Phil: One professional organisation, conference was bankrolled by an individual’s credit card, would’ve been liable for anything, didn’t discover that for 35y. It’s the responsible thing to do.

George: Malcolm’s question is important, haven’t thought it through. Does host institution take some risk. Form a small group to talk about this, will take it on, interrogate concept and report back?

[general consensus]

Dan: Suggest contact with other society.

George: We may end up with multiple identities. Tricky with e.g. Gates Foundation who want a US entity. Want enough of a foundation so we have capacity for emergence tomorrow. Anyone particularly interested in helping define membership, and how it will be involved? Phil, Malcolm, Griff, Dragan. Alissa. Guy. Phil to coordinate.

Caroline: Can we get a better platform than Google Docs?

George: Somebody must have access to a mail server?

Caroline: We want a femail server!

George: No Google Groups.  Would like to have list of people to contact by email, to feed back to this group.

Working by ticking off names on the

George: SoLAR’s first decision! We have a Google Group for sharing. Know some don’t like that. Will set up multiple listservs. Have two committees – Steering, Executive. Concern about female representation. Reviews: the journal board. Simon and Dragan and Phil involved in developing that. Will want individuals to define the review structures. If you want to be involved, simple just to approach them, or email. If you think something’s important – a terrific opportunity to get involved. True for K-12 representation. Games and analytics, immersive environments – tremendous. If see a missing role, share it, connect with others, tackle it. Would like to recommend that current Executive Committee is tasked for another year to create the legal structure of SoLAR, with continual feedback from the community, available for open comment. Suggesting at 2013 we initiate nominations, then at conference the members can vote those members in. Reactions? We have self-nominated.

Sheila: Sounds very sensible. Having that deadline is a really feasible timeline to work to.

Rebecca: We have 9 people on exec, only 1 woman.

George: Added 2 today. Stephanie, Alyssa.

Rebecca: If want to coopt another woman or two, could mandate them to do that.

George: Some affirmation to have Exec as present, but empower to add female representation.

Erik: Another point of concern, have more geographical balance. Very Anglo-Saxon.

George: On committees: 1. Improve female representation. 2. Improve geographical representation. How many?

Jon: No representation from Asia broadly.

George: Missing many regions.

Griff: Those are secondary issues. Main goal is get organised.

George: As counterpoint, if building a framework, the voices not involved are subject to the framework when they join. Do a bit of this up front.

Erik: Did want to counter that a little bit. Agree with attitude of get it done. Let’s face it, it’s hard for someone from South America, Africa, Asia – I know people who do learning analytics – very hard to send an email saying hey, we’ve never met, I want to be on the steering committee.

Someone: Also about opportunities. Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, infrastructure there. Missed opportunities.

Andy (?): Don’t want committee too large. Form consultative group – a sounding board, leave construction to smaller working group.

George: Could allocate representation to involve these area, members.

Dan: Have issue with ISLS board, getting nominations from outside North America, but all the membership is mostly North American so they always win.

Naomi: Have to be careful of falling in to trap of thinking one person representing South America makes it Ok. Need to make community representative.

Dan: A society, minimum requirement, not a token representation.

Griff: Maybe a federated model? Easier to spawn those, run locally. Don’t have same language barriers.

Björn: Not just taking on members from all these constituencies. The executive board is a service that is responsible for gathering viewpoints from all stakeholders and passing them on to members for consensus.

George: Long term goal is exactly that. Steering Committee is the advisory group. Difficult now, we don’t have that structure. Asking for general views – current Exec is tasked with increasing representation to reflect the conversation, and does that itself, makes the decision.

Caroline: Vote on current exec in place for the current year, then task to expand.

George: Vote – current Exec continue to lead SoLAR until 2012 until democratic elections can be held.

[Passed nem con.]

George: Vote – task Exec with increasing to 15 members, to expand female and geographic representation.

[Passed nem con.]

George: We have a few decisions. No decisions will be made without extensive engagement with community. If particularly about voting on final selection of the governance, that will be driven by outcome of the membership model. The Exec will put forward recommendations, go to the membership, but don’t know what that means yet. Likely plan for overlapping structure, e.g. 3y term.

Dai (?): When will membership subgroup report?

Phil: We can arbitrarily say, in 3 months we’ll give you a status report.

George: Perhaps sooner, legal entities needed soon – cheques needed to be deposited. Now more open comment.

(Alyssa?): As we look to Programme Committee, location becomes an interesting challenge – in some organisations, move it, don’t get the people. Conference in two places at one time.

George: Good point. May end up with a rotating space – e.g. every 3rd year in North America, Europe, rest of the world.

Dan: Works for ISLS, tends to go Asia Asia Europe Europe.

Dragan: SoLAR Flares will connect to these communities.

George: Purdue, Madrid, Australia. Task for Exec, or subcommittee to be formed. Set general guidelines around regional meetings, some QA, bit of structure and help.

Naomi: I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s not a researcher. Talking about membership being open to anybody. This could be a good opportunity to widen the reading of learning analytics. Hard to make that jump in to the groups that are putting it in to practice. Try to raise profile – it isn’t just for researchers.

George: Talking about this with the journal, John leading, on articles not with the research structure. Quality articles, but not necessarily with that structure. Things about how you do CFP.

Naomi: Maybe two-tier structure of membership? Keep researcher community, part of it is what you’re contributing. Another tier for everybody, to track and keep up.

George: Listserv may be open, some events may be closed. Too many choices could leave you overwhelmed. Simplicity could be good.

Dave: We found with community work, that second tier – the ERP prep before learning analytics, how that’s different, you don’t need to be a researcher for that. People saying, this is my institution’s approach. Very valuable resource. It’s not only what we as non-formal researchers can receive, but contribute.

George: John and the journal will hash that out. Indexed journal with ACM cover, and others.

Dragan: If journal contribution, get free invitation to conference, for practitioner track.

Dave: Some knowledge translation too.

Caroline: How does that work with an open call to the conference?

Dragan: Already done by some journals – ACM Trans HCI, and CHI. You did excellent work, community wants to hear it. You talk is an invited talk, not in to the proceedings.

George: Not everyone. It’s invited papers, plus open call.

Dragan: Not even that. It’s an invited talk, free ticket to present. Not a keynote or paper.

Caroline: Exec should discuss this.

George: Membership will need to have a say.

Simon: Talking about practitioner – non-academic researcher engagement. Part of the architecting of the Exec is to consider a special role for practitioner liaison. Invent your solution.

Ido: Many comments about kinds of diversity – industry/academia, disciplines, students. Maybe part of mandate is to identify these dimensions. A way to increase diversity is to reach to other conferences. Want ability to connect people.

Simon: Echoes conversations – SoLAR playing a brokerage role. Connecting senior managers and researchers with corresponding needs.

George: That will naturally happen if we create the right spaces. Danger of mandating too much. Principles.

Jon: Talk with Tony Hirst’s figures. Education conferences where people lecture, online learning that’s face to face. We ought to use LA as a means of showcasing, walking the talk – I’m not volunteering, except to help.

George: Shane has great vision on how these things work, and great technical staff. Visualisation is there. Work as a group.

George: Going to pass that data to Erik, will be on SoLAR website to download.

Doug: Asks for permission to blog this, talk to me if would rather not.

George: Thanks to Shane and organisation team. Thanks to all of you.


This work by Doug Clow is copyright but licenced under a Creative Commons BY Licence.
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Author: dougclow

Academic in the Institute of Educational Technology, the Open University, UK. Interested in technology-enhanced learning and learning analytics.

3 thoughts on “SoLAR AGM”

  1. Johann = Bjorn … It’s understandable. Both from Iceland, Brandeis and Richard Alterman as advisor 🙂

    My point was: The executive board is a service that is responsible for gathering viewpoints from all stakeholders and passing them on to members for consensus.

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