ICICLE: A Consortium for Learning Engineering

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Despite exponential growth in the development of learning technologies, there has been relatively little support in terms of professional development for engineers designing, building, and deploying new learning technologies.

ICICLE: A Consortium for Learning Engineering
Credit: whiteMocca / Shutterstock © 2018

What Is Learning Engineering?

It has been 50 years since Nobel laureate Herb Simon, a Carnegie Mellon University professor and expert in artificial intelligence, called for a new field of technical competence in the learning domain that he called learning engineering. Today, many disciplines within the learning domain need engineering and development expertise. At the same time, engineers working in the development of learning technologies increasingly benefit from a background in learning science and pedagogy. At the intersection of these needs and benefits sits the field of learning engineering.

Despite exponential growth in the development of learning technologies, there has been relatively little support specific to the professional development of the engineers designing, building, and deploying new learning technologies. These professionals require a unique skill set that merges engineering and systems thinking with learning science and theories of human development. The IEEE IC Industry Consortium on Learning Engineering (ICICLE) was formed to define and support this burgeoning field and to advocate for the development of both the professional and academic disciplines of learning engineering. In addition to principles of engineering design and learning science, the Learning Engineer will need to understand:

  • Current and historical product trends and the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of learning technology implementations
  • Data standards and regulations around learning data and privacy
  • Best practices in technical project management and in the design of learning technologies and learning ecosystems
  • The factors contributing to success and failure in the design, development, deployment, and outcomes of learning technologies


Recognizing a need to support the development of learning engineering as a profession and an academic discipline, in December 2017 the Standards Association of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) approved the creation of a new program. They called it the IEEE IC Industry Consortium on Learning Engineering — otherwise known as ICICLE.

Planned as a two-year activity as part of the IEEE's Industry Connections (IC) program, the consortium is an open forum and community-driven platform that currently comprises more than 50 organizations in industry, academia, and government with a common goal of supporting the development of learning engineering.

The consortium currently supports nine special interest groups (SIGs) and is working toward the launch of an ICICLE conference in 2019. The event will highlight the latest developments in the profession and academic discipline of learning engineering with topics including:

  • Artificial Intelligence and Adaptive Learning Technologies
  • xAPI and Learning Analytics
  • Competency Frameworks and Certification
  • Learning Technology Data Standards
  • Learning Engineering as a Profession
  • An Academic Curriculum for Learning Engineering
  • Data Governance and Privacy in Learning Contexts
  • Learning Experience Design
  • Augmented, Virtual, and Mixed Realities from the Learning Perspective

Who Should Attend the ICICLE Conference?

  • Learning engineers including software and product developers; educational publishers; systems integrators; and individuals who design, develop, and deploy learning technology in schools, colleges and universities, corporations, and government should all attend because a major goal of the conference is the exchange of ideas and best practices among working learning engineers.
  • Learning practitioners should attend because there will be much of interest to learning and development professionals, trainers, instructional and learning experience designers, and educators at all levels, especially those who are responsible for introducing new learning technologies and for initiating competency-based training, mastery-based education, automated certificate programs, and other innovations. This will be an opportunity to see the range of successful applications of learning engineering as well as the kinds of problems that need to be solved.
  • Learning researchers should attend, especially professional researchers in the field of learning science who are developing new learning paradigms and who are implementing new technologies within the context of learning. This includes faculty and administrators responsible for academic programs related to learning engineering. A major goal of the consortium is cross-fertilization between researchers and practitioners and the exchange of information among established and nascent academic programs and curricula related to learning engineering.

In addition to launching the conference, ICICLE will publish a white paper on learning engineering and will collect papers and conference presentations to publish as conference proceedings. Also, with the support of the IEEE Standards Association, the consortium is opening a series of open-source resources and code repositories as a place for working learning engineers to share learning technology prototypes and projects.

How Can You Get Involved?

Participation in ICICLE activities is free and open to all. The consortium's activities are directed by its participants, and a wide variety of opportunities are available, both for organizational members and for individual volunteers. ICICLE's SIG program is growing, with much room for meaningful involvement.

See ICICLE for information about joining, and be sure to participate in the monthly community calls. You may also contact the chair directly at [email protected] with questions and comments.

Shelly Blake-Plock is Co-Founder, President, and CEO of Yet Analytics; Chair of the IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee Technical Advisory Group on xAPI (TAGxAPI); and Chair and Managing Editor of the IEEE IC Industry Consortium on Learning Engineering.

© 2018 Shelly Blake-Plock. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY 4.0 International License.