It is now three years since I left Heriot-Watt to become an independent consultant, and an anniversary is as good as time as any to look back and reflect. I cannot do so without thinking how this year has been a much harder for many of my friends and former colleagues than for me. Many of them had to strike because of issues relating to simple matters of equity and justice concerning pensions, pay gaps, and precarity; immediately after which they were hit with the massive systemic shock brought by covid-19. It annoyed me so much to hear reports of “dons on strike” (elitist bullshit that erases the work of my friends in learning technology, library, information services and other professional services), and then to hear that “universities are closed” when I’ve seen my former colleagues working miracles. Don’t get me started on having that work described as “so called blended learning” and conclusions being drawn from emergency provision extrapolated to online learning as a whole.
In comparison to all that my own work has been plain sailing. The second half of 2019 was fairly quiet. My work on K12-OCX, a metadata specification to help reusers of curriculum and content material, was paused while the project looked for more implementors; but I think it looks good. I was focusing on the Talent Marketplace Signaling W3C community, which made great progress in improving how schema.org to can be used to describe job postings. I was also involved in some work with Cetis LLP colleagues looking at Curriculum Analytics for Jisc. The idea is that, rather than use data to analyse learners, use it to analyse which aspects of a course or program work well, and look for clues as to why. I also kept up my voluntary work with Dublin Core groups, mainly the LRMI Task Group, where we added some new terms to schema.org, and with the Application Profile Interest Group, which let me explore some of the issues in using schema.org, for example in the K12-OCX spec.
Then around Christmas work started picking up. I got a contract from the USCCF to work supporting their T3 innovation network, mostly mapping data standards (exciting results on that soon) and keeping the Talent Signal community group ticking over. I also got new work from the Credential Engine, people I have loved working with since they were just a project on credential transparency. We are hoping to be able to work with Google to supply data from the Credential Registry that supports their Job Training (beta) Search. I have written before that I find some aspects of the work in the “Talent Marketplace” uncomfortable. Nothing encapsulates that more than seeing Melania Trump announce that the US Government federal hiring process will value skills over degrees, and recognising how it links to the work I have been involved in linking job postings to skills and showing the competencies required to earn a credential. But, whoever takes the credit, it is work that has been building for five or more years; and whatever motives the people who announce it have, it benefits people who take non-traditional routes into jobs. I still think it is good work. My hope is that it shows the falsness of assuming Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences are inferior to STEM subjects in what they offer society, and that it helps people who aren’t able to follow the comparatively easy route of school to university to well-paid job.
Things are looking good for next year. There are some really interesting results coming. I am confident there will be interesting projects to work on, and I am looking forward to a couple of not-your-traditional-conferences I’m involved in. More on that soon.