On the subject of using the NILS platform to document change ideas

I want to summarize where we are on using the Carnegie Foundation online platform called NILS to document  our change ideas and outcomes.  Could you to read this blog, complete some reflection and then vote yes or no on adopting this platform.  NB we took a vote already at our face-to-face SC meeting May 15- the yeas had it, but subsequent discussion made us feel like we should wait. We were given the opportunity to log in and poke around. You are encouraged to do this: http://first2network.carnegienetworks.org


According to their website, " NILS is an online platform designed to facilitate the initiation and development of NICs working on shared problems of practice in a disciplined manner. Its main goal is to promote social, organizational learning through curation and synthesis, as well as to disseminate tacit and explicit knowledge for improvement in education by moving much of what we currently do face-to-face in improvement practice into a virtual learninscreenshot of the First2Network Improvement Science Webpageg environment. "

We actually have a free instance of this platform available to the First2 Network for some, as yet, unspecified time.  You can log in or register : http://first2network.carnegienetworks.org

Here is a screenshot of what you see when you log in. As you can see I have not created a PDSA Change idea document yet.  But here is the important part. See the link called "Review driver diagram? See the link called "Ask for Help"?

This online platform could provide some needed support as we go about developing our first PDSAs

There are some pros and cons, as have been discussed at several recent meetings, including the SG meeting on May 15.  I'll recap as best I can here, and I'm hoping this blog format will allow you to comment, correct and add to this summary:


1. NILS is another online portal.   It's hard enough getting people to use one let alone 2 different online tools. Hub Zero has functionality for communicating, forming groups,  and sharing educational data, publications and resources- as well as the most important:  Good Google Drive integration!  NILS does not match our hubzero site in this regard. 

1b. There will be NO a single sign on option in the foreseeable future.  We would have to make a button on first2network.org to take us to NILS and NILS  would have to make a button to take us back to first2network.org

2.  Although there is online functionality for chartering activities like editing driver diagrams, as well as PDSAs. — NILS people are needed to switch us between chartering functions and Improvement Testing.(PDSA).

3. We really need to have 4 entire instances in NILS ( one for each major working group) that are connected back to  the OVERALL project and the BIG driver diagram,  but NILS people don't know how to do this, at this point. So, we would have to use the  one big driver diagram, and add as many secondary drivers as needed to capture our work, and then many PDSAs.

4. NILS is free now but one day it won't be free-  and could be costly– (10K/year?)–we do not have money budgeted for this per se– have to balance against the WVNET related hub zero costs that we will be paying.

Neutral: The NILS folks tell us that our PDSA (etc) data is private and would not be used without our permission, but that our site usage data will be mined. They tell us we can download it in some form if we leave the platform.


1.NILS is a custom made to build and update PDSAs, to build and update our Driver diagram, to go back and even document our empathy interviews– all of the steps we undertake in improvement science- it is all there.

2. There is an impending gap in our data collection/documentation as we get PDSAs started.  Form an evaluation standpoint, using NILS would mitigate this.

3. PDSAs are easily visible and always connect to the driver diagram.  Easy to see how much progress, you can drill down into the PDSAs.Would allow SG members  to  see, assist and approve PDSA cycles proposed by individuals in the working groups.

4. Great way to learn the NIC ways,  and have support from Carnegie, even if we don't continue past the free period, we will know what we are doing.

Final thought: As with all of our arrangements with outside partners, I personally think we'd need an MOU with Carnegie and here are some initial suggestions:

  • First2 Network agrees to adopt the NILS platform as its main platform for conducting the Improvement Science work for our NSF Alliance for a period of two years. We agree to provide input to the NILS development team.
  • In return for adopting this platform  for improvement science work as an NSF INCLUDES Alliance,  Carnegie Foundation agrees to offer a free instance of this platform  from June 2019- June 2021 (two years). We will commit to the platform for that period of time.
  • After that time we will re-enter into negotiations  with Carnegie to extend or amend the MOU.
  • Should we determine that we will discontinue our use of the platform, we will be able to retrieve all data from the site, in some machine readable form – such as pdf.



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  1. I would like to see something in an MOU about a mutual/joint commitment to explore points of integration with the HUBzero platform.  This should not be an either-or decision, but rather how we leverage one without sacrificing the other, with the long-term goal of a near seamless integration or an acceptable level of interoperability between the two.

  2. Sue Ann, where is the Google Form above stored on the Google Drive?  I assumed it (and the Google Sheet of responses) would be on the Steering Committee folder and accessible from the Steering Committee project associated with this group.

  3. The pros far outweigh the cons in my book.  Getting folks testing documented change ideas in a readily sharable way is *the* most important task of the next 6 months for real traction to move this project from cool conversations towards impactful action.

    We *will* have to have an edit of driver at regularly scheduled times (I think only twice a year at conferences).  Anyone can add change ideas, and I think all of you can edit the driver.  

    I have edited the driver to match Faculty-Student Engagement.  Hoping someone tries to upload a REAL PDSA soon!


    I'm 100% a yes.  It's super user-friendly and is, in itself, a guide and tutor for PDSAs.


  4. I tried to put a short answer but it wouldn't let me type. After I fooled around with the poll question, I apparently screwed up since the choices disappeared.

    I am a cautious "yes" but I do have concerns that faculty will use two platforms. I'm not sure they will use even one. 

  5. Just now getting caught up from the Denver travel.  I don't see a place to vote on the Form above.  It just has a big Submit button.  Also, what is the deadline for voting? 

    Is the expectation that if we vote yes, we will be asking all the people we just got signed up for HubZero to go make accounts on NILS and start using it also?  Or could there be a halfway situation where only a few people, like co-chairs, run the PDSA part for a while?  That would let people get used to HubZero before starting to get the two platforms confused.

    Can we actually have Carnegie TURN OFF some of the NILS capabilities to help people be less confused?

    Can we have the interoperability buttons added to both sites before we start to add users beyond Steering Committee members?

    Those are my quick initial thoughts and questions I would like to have answered before voting.


  6. Also, it appears that the blog posts and responses don't come to people's email in the same way that forum posts do.  Thus, this whole set of discussion responses is hard for people to know about.  I only saw the first Announcement in my email, nothing else.  Forum posts and discussion all come to the emails so that may be a reason to use those in the future. 

    I would recommend that Sue Ann send an email or another Announcement to explain to people that there is written discussion about the vote beginning to appear in the blog, but that you have to find the blog and scroll down to read the responses.

  7. I do think everyone running a PDSA needs to use NILS.  We actually want everyone checking there to see the status of one another's tests.

    I'm having a hard time starting a new discussion here in general.  I thought I did it once, but now can't seem to.  Are we meeting today?