This is a follow-up on PEOI's 2002 Annual Report.html. The salient development in the first part of 2003 is a continuation of the acceleration of the traffic on PEOI. The numbers speak for themselves
(Note, however, that the dismal numbers for June 2002 were affected by the move to the new host server in May 2002.) PEOI statistics on web traffic can be further analyzed in http://www.peoi.org/stats which is accessible by anyone. The acceleration is observable in all aspects of PEOI activity: students registration, faculty and authors registration, staff registration, as well as the volume of pages read.
The most impressive growth is in the number of volunteers interested in helping PEOI. As of June 1, 2003, 259 individuals have expressed interest. That is 172 in the last four months, compared to 87 in the four months prior. This 200% jump is attributable to greater productivity in NetAid as a source of applicants, while volunteermatch maintained its level. Among other sources, "jason" (join American senior citizen online service) is starting to produce a few contacts, Network-for-Good generates interest through volunteermatch or direct contacts, while Servenet and Idealist continue to fail to be as effective as advertised, .
An area of continued disappointment is fund raising. The spring mailing of over 300 solicitations was a total failure. Most disappointing were rejections by Paul G. Allen Foundation and Coca-Cola Foundation where proposals seemed to meet foundation criteria to a t, and were kept for a considerable length of time. The effort will continue with the assistance of an energetic volunteer from Chicago, Ann Feeney.
In the area of PEOI's procedures, registrations for employers, partner institutions, volunteer staff, board members and donors are now operational. These will help keep track of the composition and interests of different groups, give them an opportunity to interact, and allow other groups to be aware of them. To assist in this interaction, a forum and group discussion system is now operational, and will be embedded throughout PEOI's sections. Improving PEOI's learning platform is a pressing need as illustrated by a forum discussion topic and the strategy below.
In the area of course content, steady but modest progress continues in course development with 12 courses now being written (compared to 6 four months ago). The most dynamic start of Spanish translation has fizzled out and needs reenergizing with new leadership. The French translation, after a slow start, has been most successful under the devoted and stimulating leadership of Sandrine Cortet. Russian translation is crawling with just one active translator left. A new German structure is now set up with a promising team. A new Arabic translation structure is also installed, but no work is emerging yet. A Chinese version of PEOI is now being explored and seems feasible. Developing content in new directions is illustrated by a forum discussion topic and is covered in the strategy below.
In the area of promotion, some new materials such as a flyer and a poster have been developed under the guidance and with the inspired writing of Joanna Chalmers, and help from other volunteers. She is also active in interacting with a growing number of country representatives.
PEOI's original Strategy formulated prior to the stock market slump is no longer feasible. Today's plan must recognize the reality that funding is not and will not be forthcoming in the near future, and must capitalize on PEOI's major success which is in attracting volunteers.
Nevertheless, the priorities of PEOI's strategy remains the same. The first and dominant priority is the development of course content, with its corollary translation of existing courses. The next priority is the improvement of the web site, including upgrading its e-learning platform and better servicing of PEOI's different constituencies. Recruitment of students still deserves only little effort. This implies that general promotion in the media is not advisable at this time. It would be counterproductive to build up expectations that PEOI's current course offering cannot satisfy. Thus, once again, content is the dominant priority.
Promotional tools currently being developed must reflect this priority by emphasizing and seeking methods of recruiting course authors and translators. Volunteer services have worked well, but two additional directions need to be exploited. One is to work through partner institutions with the help of country representatives using flyers and posters. The second is a new organization of courses by discipline where a coordinator should seek out volunteers for course writing in that discipline. An example of such an effort is that of Linnea Johansson in the health care field. Similar coordinators must be recruited for other major disciplines.
The progress of PEOI with the help of altruistic volunteers demonstrates a grass roots interest, and this outpouring of free spirited goodwill should be used for PEOI's promotional image since that is PEOI's reality. For instance, it would be interesting to study whether building a connection between PEOI and an image of a Robin Hood in post secondary education can be effective, or, on the contrary, too anti-establishment. In any case, board members must be called upon to take a more active role in their responsibility as PEOI overseers (as some board applicants, such as Alan Main and Merryn Bryant, have already demonstrated an involvement that other board members should emulate). The role and functioning of board committees are outlined in PEOI Bylaws. Some committees may need to include non-board members.Three committees are proposed, and if approved should be staffed at or soon after the July board meeting.
To capitalize on volunteers' goodwill, it is necessary to build a system of deliberate and timely recognition and reward of volunteer's contribution. To that end, a committee of board members must be formed. The immediate tasks of the committee will be 1)- to determine what motivates volunteers (and consequently what they would value - other than money), 2)- to find all the methods of thanking volunteers (such as plaques, letters of recommendation, awards of outstanding volunteer of the month), 3)- to feature accomplishments of individuals or groups in special narrations and links to them from PEOI's introductory page, 4)- to identify objective methods for evaluating a volunteer's contribution, and in addition, 5)- make recommendations as to how to formulate volunteer opportunity announcements in order to attract more and more committed volunteers. Once the mechanism has been worked out and installed, the volunteer recognition committee will become a standing committee with the task of identifying meritorious individuals and recommending appropriate recognition.
In the field of web development, a board member committee should also be set up to look into the deficiencies of PEOI's e-learning environment and to make recommendations as to how to upgrade it (see forum discussion). Changes that will make PEOI more useful in a classroom or semester course context need to be identified and implemented before the start of the Fall 2003 semester. Other changes may take more time, and the committee may be transformed into a standing committee overseeing further web improvements.
A third board member committee should be formed to study the need to split PEOI's web site into separate web sites with different educational focus and target audience (following initial input from forum discussion). One, the original web site, would remain focused on university level courses. A second possible web site would contain vocational courses. A third possible web site would contain courses of more general interest, such as language courses. If the creation of separate web sites is found to be desirable, then new names should be found to reflect the focus of each separate site. A full and complete report of the committee is expected at PEOI's November 2003 online board meeting. The report should address the questions above and make recommendations as to whether to terminate the committee or assign new responsibilities such as supervising the restructuring of PEOI.