By: Karen O’Donoghue
The IETF is a large, diverse organization with an extensive body of technical work, a unique culture, and an amazing collection of tools and information designed to support a globally distributed community that connects both in-person and, increasingly, remotely. Our broad base of membership and vast content areas present a variety of challenges, including disseminating the right information to the right people at the right time, and, specifically for newcomers, obtaining the information they need to comfortably and effectively enter and contribute to the community. To help address these challenges and create better coordination across the organization’s many ongoing activities, we formed the Education and Mentoring Directorate. This article shares an overview of current directorate activities and includes a call for volunteers to help with its projects.
Introduction to the Directorate
The Education and Mentoring Directorate was created with the following three primary goals:
- Enhance the productivity of IETF work.
- Expand diversity and inclusiveness of the IETF.
- Enable the IETF to facilitate technical development and innovation in the Internet.
In support of these goals, the directorate will structure and guide the development of educational activities and associated materials to be more accessible, relevant, reusable, and broadly understandable. The directorate will also help the mentoring activities establish relationships among participants that enable productive participation in the IETF. The directorate will help coordinate IETF-related outreach activities and ensure that related activities are sufficiently aligned and have the necessary education and mentoring programme support. Finally, the directorate will work on improved metrics and measurements for assessing the effectiveness of directorate activities.
The directorate serves the General (GEN) area in IETF. Participants include the IESG liaison to educational activities, the IETF chair, the IETF executive director, liaisons to the Tools team and ISOC outreach programmes, and the project leaders of education, mentoring, and outreach coordination projects. The plan is that the directorate itself will focus on coordination and lightweight project management, and the individual projects will have larger teams of volunteers for the execution of the projects.
Directorate projects cover the three areas of education, mentoring, and outreach and include two cross-cutting initiatives: metrics and analysis, and improvement of the newcomer experience.
Education projects provide training materials for both newcomers and long-time IETF participants, including Sunday tutorials, online materials, and the Working Group Chairs Forum. In addition, this area includes projects that explore ways to enhance the online accessibility of education materials.
There are also a number of projects related to mentoring and newcomer outreach, all targeted at helping IETF newcomers quickly integrate into the community. For example, the IETF runs a full mentor programme that matches mentors with mentees based on desired outcomes and interests, and includes activities such as speed mentoring and a newcomer’s dinner.
There also are activities that support the building of physical communities beyond IETF meetings. Examples include individuals gathering together to remotely participate in an IETF meeting and local IETF participants gathering outside an IETF meeting for further collaboration.
Cross-cutting the three project areas are two efforts designed to help monitor and evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of these projects. The first explores ways to improve the newcomer experience across the IETF, and includes the website, training, registration, interaction with Working Groups, and so forth. Primary questions that this project is addressing include: What do newcomers need to become effective contributors? and What can the IETF community do to meet these needs?
The second effort is tasked with identifying metrics and monitoring the effectiveness of all these programmes. Resources are valuable—we must focus first on those projects that offer the biggest benefit from the resources available.
For more information about the directorate projects, see the programme’s wiki1.
How You Can Help
There are many opportunities for IETF members to contribute to the directorate:
- Your expertise in technical training can be used to improve our online materials.
- Your expertise in metrics and survey design approaches can be used to help us evaluate the effectiveness of our programmes.
- If you are working on a new and exciting technology, you could share your work with a broader audience in a one-hour Sunday tutorial. Recent examples include DNS Privacy2 and QUIC3.
- If you are a relatively new participant to the IETF (in the last two years), you could provide feedback on how well the IETF programmes addressed your needs.
- If you are a remote participant—individually or via a remote hub, your feedback and collaboration could help us improve those experiences.
- If you are a seasoned IETF participant, you could offer guidance to newcomers via either the regular mentoring or speed mentoring programme.
- If you are frustrated by the difficulty of finding what you need on IETF platforms (e.g., website, datatracker, tools), you could help us review and reorganize these materials.
To offer comments or suggestions, or to volunteer, please send email to the directorate mailing list (firstname.lastname@example.org) or approach any of the directorate members in the hallway at IETF 99. More information on the directorate can be found on the IETF website4 and the directorate wiki.