Online collaboration – Program proposal and milestones


Maine Commissioner of Education Stephen Bowen has endorsed a vision for community engagement that facilitates online collaboration between and among Department staff, educators, and other constituents in order to enhance learning and teaching in Maine.
We have conducted a discovery project, defined goals and strategy, and configured a demonstration site to illustrate why and how group blogs, wikis, forums, file sharing, task lists, and activity streams can all be integrated into a powerful collaboration platform to assist in the exchange of learning insights, processes, and resources.
Now that we have received a green light to move forward from the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, we are envisioning the optimal platform, identifying policies and resources required for success, and clarifying the milestones needed to get there.


Our first milestone is to develop policies to cover the use of user-generated content in a state-owned collaboration platform. We will draft language and work with the Attorney General’s office to move this forward.
We will transfer ownership of the current platform from The Compass LLC to the Department of Education. We will ascertain whether that process can begin before new policies are finalized.
We will identify the resources required to increase capacity by developing an iterative development plan, applying staff and budget resources as they become available.
We will embrace a model for engagement that provides progressively deeper opportunities for member involvement.
We will clarify the professional team roles needed to increase community engagement and interaction between members in practice teams.

Develop policies

  1. We will distinguish between “information content provider” (for official content publishing) and “interactive computer service” (for user-generated content) in order to align Maine DOE online communications with federal legislation regarding liability from defamatory and false information posted by users.
  2. We will define the ownership, responsibilities, and liabilities for creators of user-generated content, including terms of engagement for participants.
  3. We will define which current OIT policies apply to user-generated content platforms, which policies need more clarification, and what new policies need to be drafted.
  4. We will define the responsibilities for the state regarding the DMCA safe harbor and immunity, including responsibility for responding to flagged content, removing reported content, and banning participants who are repeat offenders.

Transfer ownership

The initial strategy, branding, architecture, interface, production, and development was delivered by The Compass LLC under contract for the Maine Department of Education. The hosting, configuration, and software costs were donated to the project by The Compass LLC as the founding partner of
Now that full ownership for LearnMaine has been requested by the Maine DOE, hosting and software will be transferred to the Department. Details will be included in the phased budget.

Increase capacity

The demonstration site was intended to help participants envision possibilities. Now, as a supported program, subsequent phases of formal development will need to provide a sustainable platform and match resources with services.

Demonstration platform

  • Up to 10 members and up to 5 practice teams: customized learning, science educators, arts educators, MLTI, communications
  • 1 blog/site spaces
  • No uptime guarantees, documentation, security or accessibility verification, or sustainability plans.

Phase 1 platform

  • Up to 150 members in up to 15 teams, including DOE-moderated teams (support and professional development)
  • Up to 5 blog/site spaces
  • 99% uptime, documentation, security or accessibility verification, sustainability plan
  • .6 FTE staff, including these functions: direction, architecture, engagement, training
  • Consultants, including these functions: stewardship, design, production, development

Phase 2 platform

Phase 1 plus:

  • Up to 500 members in up to 45 teams, including educator-moderated teams
  • Up to 20 blog/site spaces
  • 2 FTE staff, including these functions: direction, architecture, stewardship, training
  • Consultants, including these functions: integration, design, production, development

Phase 3 platform

Phase 2 plus:

  • Up to 4,000 members in up to 90 teams, including professional-moderated teams
  • Up to 40 blog/site spaces
  • 3 FTE staff, including these functions: direction, architecture, stewardship, training
  • Consultants, including these functions: integration, design, production, development

Phase 4 platform

Phase 3 plus:

  • 10-30,000 members in up to 150 teams, including community-moderated teams
  • Up to 80 blog/site spaces
  • 4 FTE staff, including these functions: direction, architecture, stewardship, training
  • Consultants, including these functions: integration, design, production, development

Engagement modelEngagement model

Our phased approach to community engagement expands iteratively to include larger scopes of members and services. In addition, we want to increase the sophistication of our services to better match the progressively-deeper levels of participant engagement with the Department.
One way of modeling this progression is as a pyramid of engagement. – which provides online services to non-profits – has developed a model encouraging organizations to “meet people where they are at, and craft their calls to action appropriately so as to match the specific level of interest and commitment from each person they ask.” The goal is to steward people toward deeper levels of engagement.


We can use this service-oriented approach as we develop our collaboration platform, by allowing visitors to explore without commitment, and then providing opportunities for greater and greater engagement.

Professional team roles

Behind the scenes, online professionals, support partners, and community members should be able to work together to create, collaborate, and sustain online experiences that meet our constituents’ needs. Here is an overview of community engagement roles and responsibilities for staff, contractors, and vendors.

A. Governance and direction

Community engagement experiences are best developed, sustained, and improved within the context of clear governance and direction. Governance concerns the roles, authorities, and responsibilities that integrate the work of team members and the process of resource budgeting. Direction translates organizational vision into optimal experiences.

B. Collaboration and stewardship

Community stewardship transforms existing professional networks into online learning communities, helps sustain conversation until those communities thrive on their own, integrates online and in-person activities, and resolves escalated debates that cannot be resolved by communities themselves.

C. Information architecture and research

The clear organization of online experiences is crucial for helping constituents find what they need to know and also for reflecting the values of the organization, both by the groups and topics that are featured, as well as the way information is related. This work is cyclical, with a need to revisit functions periodically as expectations evolve over time.

D. Interface and interaction design

Interface design is the selection and arrangement of visual, aural, touch, and other elements that connect people via Internet devices. Good interface design can help simplify and improve the user experience, including navigation, browser consistency, and graphic design. A multi-tiered interface system can help each group project a distinctive culture while being integral to overall program identity.

E. Content development and production

Effective content development processes encourage partners at all skill levels to contribute. Contributors submit and update text, imagery, and multimedia through simple processes, with support provided when needed. Terms of use clarify what content and production is allowed in order to meet Department goals for copyright ownership, content accessibility and identity security.

F. Software integration and development

With goals for the online experience in place, software can be evaluated, selected, deployed, and sustained to accomplish those goals. Software integration concerns the administration, upgrading, interoperation, and maintenance of the systems that comprise an online media platform. Software development includes the creation of software code to implement prioritized functions not available in existing packages.

Structure of core and extended teams

Team - 1 FTETeam - 3 FTE Team - 5 FTE
Although a full spectrum of expertise is required to produce modern online experiences, the depth of that expertise is defined by available staff and budget.
(This is similar to building a house: someone must do the drafting, carpentry, electrical, and plumbing work, no matter whether it’s a cottage or a mansion. All of the skills are needed; it’s a question of which are D.I.Y. and which are completed by experienced contractors.)
In the early years of online communications, a single webmaster did it all … or at least tried to. Of course, doing so prevents sophisticated work in any area.
With a team of 3, the same responsibilities can be distributed to staff and contractors with deeper expertise. With a team of 5, an organization can take advantage of professional skill sets and compete for the attention of constituents accustomed to the sophisticated online services they use every day.

Discovery milestones complete

  • Project kickoff: July 12, 2011
  • Demonstration site released: July 18, 2011
  • Consultations completed: August 5, 2011
  • Discovery report draft released: August 15, 2011
  • Demonstrations completed: August 18, 2011
  • Discovery report draft released: August 19, 2011
  • Discovery report released: August 27, 2011
  • Presentation: Discovery phase report
  • Green light from Department of Administration & Finance: August 31, 2011
  • Program proposal draft released: September 13, 2011
  • Program proposal released: October 8, 2011
  • Inventory of demonstration and potential practice teams released: October 10, 2011
  • Inventory of state policies pertaining to online communications released: October 11, 2011
  • User-generated content policy draft released: October 12, 2011

Production milestones complete

  • contract begun – January 2012
  • Prototype site development complete – February 2012
  • Prototype site world-viewable with invited groups and members – March 2012
  • Resources Directory enhancements (phase 1) completed – May 2012
  • All prototype groups activated and coached – June 2012
  • Public communications campaign parked by DCM – June 2012
  • New groups applications parked by DCM – June 2012
  • RFP (round 1) development begun – July 2012
  • Platform development (back-end) parked by DCM – October 2012
  • RFP (round 2) development begun – November 2012
  • Additional groups approved by DCM, activated, and coached – December 2012
  • Final RFP draft (round 2) submitted to OIT – December 2012
  • First phase of in-depth documentation completed – December 2012
  • Anticipated date (from round 2 RFP) for completed platform vendor contract and online manager – Jan 2013
  • Anticipated date (from round 2 RFP) for platform transition and online manager training complete – Mar 2013
  • Second phase of in-depth documentation completed – March 2013
  • Anticipated date for completed phase 2 enhancements (see 2012 status report) – May 2013


Department of Education

  • Stephen Bowen
  • Anita Bernhardt
  • David Connerty-Marin
  • Diana Dioron
  • Jeff Mao
  • Argy Nestor
  • Matt Stone

External advisors

  • Christine Anderson-Morehouse, Midcoast Regional Professional Development Center
  • Mark Kostin and Steve Abbott , New England Secondary School Consortium

Document information

  • Project: Maine Department of Education – Online Collaboration Platform
  • Executive sponsor: Maine DOE Commissioner Stephen Bowen
  • Communications director: David Connerty-Marin
  • Digital strategy consultant: Jay Collier, The Compass LLC
  • Released: October 10, 2011
  • Platform phases revised: October 19, 2011