The Passing of a Good Friend

Folks, I generally try to keep this blog free of my more personal opinions, but a friend to the E-Learning community has passed, and it’s truly important that we take a pause to remember him.

Claude Ostyn was a pioneer with Phillip Dodds and a few others on developing the original specification for SCORM. His involvement as a consultant on SCORM since its inception was (and frankly, is) important and influential. For many years, Claude has been the strongest voice of implementors — sometimes his was the sole voice speaking out on behalf of developers and programmers of both content and learning systems on making SCORM easier and more accessible.

I have my own memories of Claude, having gotten to know him personally over the last four years. We first met pouring over the JavaScript and ActionScript of a Norweigan’s content at the tail-end of the first International Plugfest in Zurich. We spent hours and hours going line by line over the logic of the standard SCORM 1.2 code that published out of Flash MX 2004. It was only then that I realized that it was Claude who actually helped write that code with Tom King and Andrew Chemney. I was in awe, helping debug such widely distributed code with its author. Claude had a singular wit and a drive to be correct in all things. When we in fact discovered the flaw in the code logic (it kept recording interactions to an ID of “0” if memory serves), it was after three hours of testing every imaginable assertion. Claude was relentless in helping this total stranger with his code, while almost everyone else was packing up and heading out of town, and that developer certainly got his money’s worth. Claude created a workaround, sharing it only after he tested it enough himself that he was convinced it really addressed the issue.

I was blown away from his dedication.

There are some people who only saw Claude in conferences, and without context they saw him as stubborn, maybe confrontational. Claude always made sense to me.

I admired his dedication to the many of us who have to just make things work and implement, as well as his tenacity in making sure his message was received — not just getting his voice heard. Claude often articulated concerns that I had but could not find the words to express clearly. I was often corrected by Claude, publicly, but I appreciated the wall of absolute candor that I could steady myself against.

Claude was the real deal. He’s written more articles and tutorials, patrolled the message boards and worked with so many communities in this trade than I could ever read up on, and he was doing it from the get-go.

His passing is our collective loss, and if there is any good to come from it, it will be that all of us involved in making E-Learning accessible for others to develop to step up, take the lead and share what we learn in his stead.

I was reminded once by a luminary in this field that we’re all new at this. We have a lot less to learn because of Claude, and I will miss that uniquely Belgian wit.

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