PEOI July 2004 progress report


prepared by John Petroff for July 2004 board meeting


PEOI is making good progress as illustrated by the statistics reported in the monthly
newsletters. The student population is exploding, new volunteers are registering in large
numbers, courses are being written and translated, even new languages are added. Yet that
progress is inadequate. Not a single course has all of its materials translated. No course
has been completed in the last 12 months. At this rate, an expectation for PEOI to be
able to offer a program of studies that deserves accreditation (i.e. having sufficient
number of courses and instructors) would not be realistic for the next twenty years.

There is clearly a need to rethink the strategy. This report primarily directed at the
board directors, invites them to explore and formulate a new strategic direction.
Other volunteers and all interested parties are also invited to offer guidance.

Naturally, if funding would allow PEOI to offer a fair remuneration to author (and possibly
translators), PEOI's prospects would change. With the improving stock market and economic
recovery in the US and elsewhere in the world, grants expectations are not as hopeless as
they were a year or two ago. A new approach to funding proposals is planned for the coming
year with greater focus on specific disciplines rather general support. But even if funding
can be secured, it may only help in a few aspects of PEOI's activities (e.g. developing
a specific course, or serving a particular student population). In fact, funding may have
a detrimental impact on some volunteer activities, and, since PEOI now relies exclusively
on volunteers, there is a danger in creating an atmosphere of unequal treatment.

PEOI has made some good progress with its volunteers, and that is right now its best
opportunity. But the opportunity must be more efficiently expanded and utilized. PEOI
must be able to recruit a much larger number of qualified authors, give them the
ability to do their writing with ease, and be able to deliver a rewarding experience
and author's achievement recognition. There are several specific steps that are proposed,
and more can be imagined.

Here is what I propose and started to develop:
1- change the entire concept of course material on PEOI:
This is necessary to offer a much wider group of potential contributors an opportunity to
be involved (and thus become familiar and possibly interested in writing a complete
course), and to expand the range of learning opportunities for students. Instead of
looking at a course as just what is in a textbook, the assignments and the testing that
is now present, a course will be one component of ten types of content for any subject.
The reasons for this change in perception is explained in July newsletter.

2- change the course content management:
Currently, the course content management consists of the three edit procedures in
"Authors" section (Edit text, Edit questions and Edit cases). Several additions must
be opened to the volunteers working on course: specifically
- enter (and modify) new course name and parameters
- enter (and modify) course author name(s)
- create (and modify) a list of content file
- create (and modify) a course file structure
- create a range of auxiliary files
- allow uploading of a range of resource files (pictures, audio, video)
- separate the functions and permissible activities of writers and editors
- maintain records of all the above activities
Naturally this content management must be working for the new course file architecture
of ten different content types.

3- institute a task sign up and control mechanism:
Currently, volunteers receive their work assignments from coordinators or from John
Petroff. There is a recording process for some of the work completed, but not all, especially
not that which is uploaded by other means than the three edit procedures. In general, it
is difficult to know exactly what needs to be done, who is doing what, and what has
already been completed. A set of new procedures are planned that will make the process
entirely transparent and capture much more of what is done. This will allow better
recognition for the work of volunteer. One danger of this new task management set up
is that it may alienate volunteers somewhat. Virtual volunteers are especially isolated.
They may be volunteers specifically to become active in a community. Making them interact
with one more procedure (rather than a person) may be unpleasant. On the other hand,
it is possible that if coordinators are relieved of their routine in dealing with
assignments, they may allow more time to socialize with the volunteers.

These are changes that are proposed for Summer 2004. Suggestions from board members and
other interested parties are, as already mentioned, warmly invited.

There may be a need for changes in PEOI outward exposure. The strategy attempted last
year of reaching teachers located in institutions of higher learning with the help of
country representatives has not been successful. It may still bear fruit in the future,
but only if teachers and institutions learn about PEOI through more general and
more disinterested channels, such as articles in the press and word of mouth. For instance,
PEOI board member Johannes Glas has offered to make his peer students aware of PEOI
and to give them the opportunity to become active in PEOI as an extra-curricular activity
that they can put of their resume. This sort of outreach activity is expected from
board directors in all organization, and would be very helpful. Some board members may
interact with faculty, others with government agencies, all have the ability to be
active in public relations with the media, public officials and organizations
in higher education. While PEOI must exploit all alternatives for self promotion such
as better listing on directories, there is much that volunteers can do as well.

The lesson from the award given to Kalyani Suresh by Online Volunteering and the subsequent
article in The Hindu must be learned and used. PEOI must become known to faculty,
not as a competitor, but as a resource and an opportunity for professional development.

For the next board meeting in November 2004, PEOI must have its changes full implemented.
Directors should be prepared to insert their views in this process.

This is a follow-up on
2003 Annual_Report
November 2003 progress report
July 2003 progress report
and PEOI's 2002 Annual Report.html.