Tony Karrer's eLearning Blog on e-Learning Trends eLearning 2.0 Personal Learning Informal Learning eLearning Design Authoring Tools Rapid e-Learning Tools Blended e-Learning e-Learning Tools Learning Management Systems (LMS) e-Learning ROI and Metrics

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Web 2.0 Numbskull Factor

Just saw an interesting article by Nick Carr - Web 2.0's numbskull factor ... he's the author of Does IT Matter. His basic claim is that Web 2.0 approaches will attract the "numbskulls" to use his term.

It definitely worries me that he may be right ...
Hi, my name is Tony. I'm a numbskull.

Keywords: eLearning 2.0, Enterprise 2.0

Network IT vs. Enterprise IT - Adoption

In another great post by Andrew McAfee - The Impact of Information Technology (IT) on Businesses and their Leaders he discusses the value proposition of IT as compared to other general purpose technologies (GPT) such as Steam power, electric power, the transistor and the laser. Along the way, he points to some really interesting distinctions between different kinds of IT. Very interesting stuff (slightly edited):

Enterprise IT (big systems like LMS, ERP, CRM with lots of workflow built in) and Network IT (free-form technologies like blogs, wikis, flickr, provide solutions in almost precisely opposite ways. Enterprise IT is used by authorities to define new workflows, interdependencies, and decision rights up front, then impose them. Network IT creates egalitarian and free-form environments in which workflows are not specified and decision rights not allocated up front; they instead emerge over time to the extent required. ... Perhaps the most important difference between the two technology categories is that most workers welcome Network IT, and are hostile to Enterprise IT. The former give them new freedoms; the latter impose new constraints. The former let them collectively figure out how work will be done; the latter define it for them.

Definitely interesting comparison and certainly food for thought around the adoption question surrounding Web 2.0.

Tags: Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, Adoption

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Eyetracking Study - F Pattern - Great Stuff!

Very interesting post by Jakob Nielsen on how people scan your pages. It's what they call an "F pattern."

As an example look at:

Some comments from the article in terms of writing for the web:

  • Users won't read your text thoroughly in a word-by-word manner. Exhaustive reading is rare, especially when prospective customers are conducting their initial research to compile a shortlist of vendors. Yes, some people will read more, but most won't.
  • The first two paragraphs must state the most important information. There's some hope that users will actually read this material, though they'll probably read more of the first paragraph than the second.
  • Start subheads, paragraphs, and bullet points with information-carrying words that users will notice when scanning down the left side of your content in the final stem of their F-behavior.
  • They'll read the third word on a line much less often than the first two words.

Is Web 2.0 Complicated?

I just saw a post on Dave Boggs blog entitled What's up with Web 2.0? pointing us to Dion Hincliffe's article The State of Web 2.0. As an aside, Dion's Web 2.0 Blog generally does a good job of explaining the technical side of what's going on. He writes publication level articles. Also, take a look at his posts:

You Know Your Web 2.0 when...
Useful Distinctions in Social Software
Thinking in Web 2.0 Sixteen Ways

But the real point of this post is that Dave's comment...
If you think Learning Management Systems & e-Learning Solutions is heady stuff, take a look at ... (web 2.0 stuff)

I think that pointing folks to Dion's articles that talk about the technical underpinnings will scare people away from Web 2.0. It seems to imply that the relatively simple tools that come under the eLearning 2.0 / Social Software umbrella are complex. As a user of these tools, services, etc. the first thing you notice is that they are QUITE EASY TO USE! And there is no comparison to the complexity of an LMS - which is almost always quite complex.

In fact, I generally think about an LMS and classic eLearning solutions in a completely different way as compared to thinking about Blogs, Wikis, etc.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

What is the Role of Training?

I saw a post by Brent Schlenker responding to a post ...

I am becoming more and more convinced that at our best we are KNOWLEDGE
BROKERS. Our job is to get just the right amount of information from just
the right person who has it to just the right person who needs it. We do
that by supporting platforms that enable the connectivity of people, and
collaboration between people. We can craft simulations that simulate the
REAL work learners need to accomplish. We compress time with these sims
and offer many more “experiences” (quests) in a shorter amount of time: more
hypothetical problems to solve. We can encourage, and support users in
creating their own “stories” delivered via media such as audio (podcasts) or

He's saying something that I tend to agree with. What we spend most of our time doing is understanding the knowledge that people need to be successful and how we can provide it to them quickly and effectively. The information exists somewhere before we ever show up. But it's our job to pull it out and transform it into something useful. And, we shouldn't underestimate the value proposition in that ...

At the same time, I think we are often too hung up on the form of delivery of knowledge. I really believe that we fall prey to this far too often and need to challenge any choice of delivery.

To help spark some thoughts around this, take a look at:

Keywords: eLearning Trends

Monday, April 24, 2006

Economist Article - Impact of Personal Publishing

Among the Audience

"The era of mass media is giving way to one of personal and participatory media,
says Andreas Kluth. That will profoundly change both the media industry and
society as a whole"

and remember this is the Economist ... not exactly a big leading edge, risk taking publication.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Enterprise 2.0 - What's the PU?

I've been reading with interest the recent writing on blogs around Andrew McAfee's article in the new issue of the MIT Sloan Management Review, "Enterprise 2.0: The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration." Some of the discussions can be found at:
The basic point of the article is that Blogs, Wikis, RSS, tags, etc. - basically Web 2.0 tools - is going to:
supplant other communication and knowledge management systems with their superior ability to capture tacit knowledge, best practices and relevant experiences from throughout a company and make them readily available to more users.
The discssion that has followed asks the really important question:
Will these tools really be adopted or is this going to be similar to other Knowledge Management efforts with lots of hype and poor results?

There is a fair amount of research on technology adoption and I think we can also draw upon personal experience and what it tells us is that there is a basic formula at work:
Adoption Rate = Perceived Usefulness (PU) * Perceive Ease of Use (PEOU)
PU is “the degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would enhance his or her job performance” – software that is perceived to be useful gets adopted at higher rates.

PEOU as “the degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would be free from effort” – software that appears easy to use gets adopted at higher rates.

One of the reasons that there is great excitement around these new technologies is they definitely are easy to use (have a high PEOU). In fact, once most people have experienced the tools, I would claim that their perception of ease of use quickly becomes higher. I would suggest that many KM tools in the past, the opposite is true.

So, yes, these tools are easy to use, which leaves us with the important question: "What's the PU?"

I personally find that most people will evaluate PU on compatibility and immediate personal value. Compatibility looks at how the software fits the user's values, beliefs, and ideas as well as the tasks that it will support. Immediate personal value is a question of whether you derive real value from the software early on.

Many past KM systems were predicated on "come put lots of your information in" ... "we'll get value later." That just is not going to get adopted.

McAfee points primarily at the lower PEOU:
"The good news is that the new technologies focus not on capturing knowledge itself, but rather on the practices and output of knowledge workers."

But I think the argument:
Things like bookmarks and Flickr picture uploading are driven by personal convenience and value (easily accessed bookmarks or a place to share pictures with friends and family).

In the Enterprise, will employees get value from these tools? I would suggest looking at my article: Personal Learning for Learning Professionals - Using Web 2.0 Tools to Make Reading & Research More Effective

In this article, I'm talking about using these tools not to help other people, but to do something better that will help me. In particular, Personal Research / Personal Learning. I get value whether or not others adopt the tools.

I don't see adoption as a slam dunk here, but I do see that the higher PEOU and higher PU multiplied makes significant adoption significantly more likely.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Best Jobs in America - Time to call your parents!

I just saw Money Magazine's article on the Best Jobs in America. It's actually quite interesting to look at it. Some things hit home for me.

Number one job was Software Engineer and number two was College Professor. It's interesting because I used to be both of these and I moved on. I'm not sure what to make of that. And, it completely contradicts what seems to be the trend around Computer Science: Computer Science Dying in the US?

Some rankings relative to the world of learning:

13 - Technical writer
18 - Curriculum developer - Wow, pretty cool that this is listed and that it ranks this high.

Consider some jobs that rank below this:

30 - Physician/Surgeon
37 - Lawyer
43 - Dentist
44 - Accountant

Time to call your parents to let them know. Of course, I won't be telling them what ranked number 1 & 2.

Next Revolution in Interactions - Suggests Major Shift in Training

In a post by John Hagel - The Next Revolution in Interactions he discusses a McKinsey article of the same title and it points to something that is REALLY SIGNIFICANT for training organizations.

The McKinsey article identifies three forms of work:

  • Transformational – “extracting raw materials or converting them into finished goods” – examples cited include “mining coal, running heavy machinery, or operating production lines”
  • Transactional – “interactions that unfold in a generally rule-based manner and can thus be scripted or automated” – examples of transactional jobs include cashiers, office clerks, truck drivers and accountants
  • Tacit – “more complex interactions requiring a higher level of judgment, involving ambiguity, and drawing on tacit, or experiential, knowledge” – examples of tacit-intensive jobs include retail sales people, customer service representatives, registered nurses and general managers

And, as we all have seen, the shift in corporations is towards more tacit work and that tacit work represents where the real value is (we optimize and automate away differences in transformational or transactional work). The McKinsey article points out:

This shift toward tacit interactions upends everything we know about
organizations . . . . the rise of the tacit workforce and the decline of the
transformational and transactional ones demand new thinking about the
organizations structures that could help companies make the best use of this
shifting blend of talent.

If this is where the real value can be built in organizations, then clearly training organizations should ensure that we are focusing our efforts on tacit work. But, I would claim that much of training aims at transactional work and some level of skill building towards tacit work. But relatively little of our dollars are spent on truly support and enabling tacit work.

Combine this with the fact that less training is going to be needed as we become better at Business Process Management Instead of Learning, and we see the fact that:

Training will be marginalized unless we become more focused on supporting and enabling tacit work.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Great Article - State of Web 2.0

Another great article by Don Hinchcliffe State of Web 2.0. His idea of composition is pretty good...

Computer Science Dying in the US?

Being a former professor of Computer Science, I read a couple of recent articles in the Guardian with great interest:

The (Possible) Death of a Computer-Science Department

Seattle Pacific University founded its computer-science department almost three decades ago, when the discipline was still going through growing pains. But this year might be the department's last. In its heyday during the 90s, the university -- a private Christian institution -- often had more than 125 computer-science majors. Now there are only 24, and none of this year's incoming freshmen indicated any interested in majoring in the field.

Computer Science Olympiad
Last year's contest took place in Shanghai, and the local favorites from Shanghai Jiaotong University parlayed their home-field advantage into a narrow victory. The highest-ranking American squad finished a distant 17th, a disappointing showing that prompted experts to wonder if American programming was in serious decline.
When I was speaking at an event recently, I commented on these trends. Someone asked a really interesting question...
Would I recommend to my own children to go into Computer Science when they
go to college in a few years?

I have real mixed emotions on this. My company depends on having good talent emerging from Computer Science programs. The CTO group that I'm part of has real trouble finding good talent, so I believe that even with substantial offshore development there is still need in the U.S. And, I believe that learning Computer Science is a good springboard to many different kinds of jobs.

But, the honest answer, is "No, I'm not suggesting to my children to pursue Computer Science." I think that the hard core technical skills that you learn in Computer Science put you in direct competition with off-shore talent that will suppress your opportunities and salary. Instead, you really should look for a hybrid kind of degree, possibly an combination Business/IT + Computer Science that aims you at more of an analyst. You can probably do this with a Computer Science degree and an MBA as well.

I'm really not happy that this is my opinion, but, I would suspect that Computer Science programs are going to face this head-on as student populations closely follow the industry. When I went undergrad, things were booming because of defense and the PC (mid-80s). It again boomed in the late 90-s with the Internet. In between there were lulls. But, right now we are having another explosion of interest because of (roughly) Web 2.0, yet we don't see the corresponding pick-up in enrollments. I think that tells us something.

eLearning Technology: Personal Learning for Learning Professionals - Using Web 2.0 Tools to Make Reading & Research More Effective

A recent article by Jon Udell:

Reinventing the intranet
Modern social software could be the key to building effective enterprise
knowledge systems

discusses the big need for better search solutions in the enterprise. Certainly, once you've started using desktop search tools such as Google Desktop, X1, Microsoft's Desktop search or others will make you realize the need for this. Why can I search my desktop and the web, but I can't search my network drives?

Interestingly, Jon also points to the need for the tools I discuss for personal learning...

eLearning Technology: Personal Learning for Learning Professionals - Using Web 2.0 Tools to Make Reading & Research More Effective

Article: Wikis, Blogs and Other Points of Failure - Is it Misinformation as Well?

I came across this recent column while catching up on my reading on my recent plane trip: Wikis, Blogs and Other Points of Failure. It points out some common concerns around the use of Wikis and Blogs inside corporations, but I feel like there's been too much discussion of this issue to the point where there is almost a negative stigma with these technologies.

In fairness to the article, he points out that these are tools much like email and the spreadsheet. The beauty of these tools is how simple they've made it to create content. And, just like email and spreadsheets, and even paper and pencil, you can create good or bad content. Let's not blame the tools. Let's not focus so much attention on these issues that we lose sight of the opportunity that we need to be evaluating. It's too easy to read this kind of article and think ... "oh, we shouldn't use those tools here in our corporation." And, that's my main issue with the article.

On a related note, I would be very curious how many of the problems that people talk about (such as leaking information) were done on blogs or wikis that were completely unsanctioned by the corporation. In other words, aren't a lot of these cases happening when an individual signs up with Blogger (or similar software) and begins publishing what they are doing to the world? Does that mean there is something bad about blog software in the enterprise?

Keywords: eLearning Trends

Business Process Management instead of Learning

As a follow-up to my recent post about the convergence of several interesting trends ... eLearning Technology: Blurry Vision of Future of Work (Workflow, eLearning 2.0, Web 2.0, Decision Systems)

I just saw a post from Jay Cross - Informal? Workflow? that talks about a couple of these trends and also points to Business Process Management solutions as a key.

Out of the workflow conference last week, one of the points that really got me to think was that as you begin to create your process flows, you start to find:

* Many process steps that are currently done by people turn can often be automated, e.g., who should get this information, document, etc. next.

* Much of what we train inside coporations are how to perform process steps that only need training because we haven't done a good job from a process standpoint (right information available, clear next steps). Once you do this, much of the training becomes trivial.

Lots of interesting stuff going on here.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Blurry Vision of Future of Work (Workflow, eLearning 2.0, Web 2.0, Decision Systems)

I've not been posting recently because I've been attending the HandySoft Bizflow user's conference. This is a workflow tool that allows you to easily specify workflows involving people and systems and provides a reasonably good capability for quickly creating human interfaces. We've done quite a bit of work on top of this application related to performance, scalability, reliability and new user interfaces.

What was interesting was hearing a keynote speech that could have been lifted right out of a presentation at a Training conference. The main theme was:

We need agility and execution to be able to respond to the ever increasing pace of change
What is interesting about this is that there is a natural intersection going on in corporate IT solutions where there is a natural synergy between:
  • Workflow, business rules modeling and execution - to be able to rapidly specify how work is done
  • Human workflow interfaces - to be able to present work to people in order for them to perform
  • Web 2.0, Lightweight components, Composition - easier composition to form applications
  • Decision systems - helping people to have the information available and put them in the context of the decision that they need to make

But because of this agile kind of environment where we will be able to more rapidly change processes, rules, applications, interfaces, decision support, the key barrier will remain our ability to support the understanding of the newly formed processes, what is needed, what will happen next, etc. That's right, the key lynchpin for all of this is:

Embedded Learning

This is already being done in these systems in some forms, but will rapidly grow so that the learning follows the process descriptions. This is what I believe Jay Cross and Tony O'Driscoll talk about with workflow learning, but a particular application of it.

It will be interesting to see how this moves forward.

I would very much invite your comments or pointers to related information.