By: Mirjam Kühne
Date: November 6, 2015
In IETF Journal, Vol. 10, Issue 1, I wrote about the activities of the IETF Education Team (http://ietf.org/edu/). Since then, in addition to organizing the Sunday tutorials and Working Group (WG) chair sessions, we’ve reviewed our portfolio, our training methods, the audiences we’ve reached, and the topics we’ve covered. It brought up a number of questions: Should we keep the Sunday tutorials? Should we provide more online training in the form of short, topical videos? Are webinars the way to go? How do we reach other audiences, such as the open source community? Should we review our charter or does it already cover both current activities and possible changes and adjustments in the future? Finally, and most important, some Edu Team members will retire soon—how will we find new members?
In addition, we began collaborating more with the IETF mentoring program and looking at ways to more effectively collaborate and share resources. Would it make sense to merge the Edu Team and the mentoring program?
Our discussions culminated in both the organization of the EDUNEXT Birds-of-a-Feather (BoF) session at IETF 93 chaired by Dan Romascanu and myself, and an Internet Draft written by Nalini Elkins and myself in preparation for the BoF.
The main goal of the EDUNEXT BoF was to obtain input from the community on the aforementioned questions—for both the Edu Team and the mentoring program. The BoF was very well attended; it started with a description of the activities of the Edu Team and the (much younger) mentoring program. The remaining time was spent in active, sometimes heated, and chaotic discussion. It was great to see how passionate people are about the IETF, sharing knowledge, and integrating newcomers into the process. We also had a number of newcomers share their experiences; everyone was a newcomer once and can remember how it felt to attend their first IETF meeting—I certainly do!
Most of the session was dedicated to the mentoring program; it only recently started and is still defining its mission and goals. But, the Edu Team also got a lot of attention. For example, interesting ideas were raised about regional mentorships and remote training hubs. By the end of the session, we had answers to most of the questions we’d posted at the beginning of the BoF.
- Keep the Sunday tutorials, but consider providing shorter training sessions (shorter than two-hour slots).
- The Edu Team charter is good. It enables both process oriented and technical tutorials, and therefore needn’t be adjusted.
- Continue to provide technical tutorials (not only process-oriented).
- Don’t only target newcomers; also target existing participants, WG chairs, and area directors.
- Consider providing content that is more digestible over the Internet, such as videos and webinars.
- Gather more feedback after each tutorial.
- Follow up with newcomers after their first IETF meetings to find out what worked for them and what didn’t.
There was strong sentiment that the Edu Team should not merge with the mentoring program at this stage. First, the mentoring program needs to better define its goals, plus it needs both a charter and a mailing list. Also, participants felt that it is not clear what newcomers need. There is more than one type of newcomer—each individual comes to the IETF with a different background and different goals. Jari Arkko, IETF chair and the area director who oversees the activities of the Edu Team and the mentoring program, will work with the mentoring team to further define their activities.
Throughout the process, Arkko was extremely supportive and helpful. It is good to see that our activities are deemed valuable and useful, and that they are becoming more visible in the overall IETF structure.
I’m very happy that we found two new members: Karen O’Donoghue and Dan Romascanu. Nalini Elkins will stay on the Edu Team to ensure continued positive collaboration between the mentoring program and the Edu Team. And Greg Wood agreed to be on the Edu Team during the IETF website restructuring process (and hopefully longer). A list of Edu Team members can be found at http://ietf.org/edu/team-members.html.
Thanks to all who participated in the BoF preparations and in the BoF session. And thanks for all the good suggestions. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions, comments, concerns, criticism, or suggestions. There is also a public mailing list at email@example.com.