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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Horizontal Learning

Interesting post ... Horizontal technologies for learning ...
In the eLearning sector many vendors have created eLearning Solutions primarily for educational institutions. These technologies are supposedly designed for learning but that is not true. These technologies are institution-centric and vertical by nature. The concept of Learning Management System (LMS) was wrongly named. Better fit for a name would be Teaching Management System or Institution Control System.

Same is true in the corporate eLearning space (LMS Dissatisfaction on the Rise & Do You WANT an LMS? Does a Learner WANT an LMS?).

No student would use the current so-called learning environments during their worktime or freetime. In 2006 I was at EC-TEL where Scott Wilson asked the audience full of educational technology specialists, “how many of you use a LMS for your personal learning?”. Surprise. No hands.

Quite true.

Social technologies are different. Blogs and wikis are already being implemented by learners themselves. Call them Personal Learning Environments (PLE) if you want but the key issue here is that they are based on user-centric design.
I'm not sure what he means by "they are based on user-centric design" but the idea is right. If we are providing an LMS and thinking we are providing a good learning support mechanism, I think we are deluding ourselves. They are necessary and I certainly am involved with them (selection and implementation) a lot. However, knowledge workers and learners are adopting other work and learning techniques and tools because they support knowledge work and learning AND because they are incredibly easy to use, thus, the adoption hurdle is low (see Adoption of Web 2.0 and eLearning 2.0 Revisited).

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

DevLearn - Beer - Who's In? - And Where?

I just saw that BJ had posted about DevLearn and I feel somewhat remiss that he beat me to it. In case you hadn’t heard, The eLearning Guild is hosting DevLearn 2007 in San Jose, CA, November 5-8 2007.

I'll be there (and doing a few presentations and some special sessions for managers with Lance Dublin).

As always, I'll likely be getting together with folks who read this blog and other bloggers and other interesting folks to go have a few beers. It's become somewhat of a tradition for us at conferences (Beer Tasting at ASTD TechKnowledge, Boston, Beer - Bloggers -

Unfortunately, I don't believe that Jim Javenkoski from Unibroue is going to be there and he normally arranges the place for us. So, hopefully we can figure out a way to continue our tradition. Based on the list of speakers, I can tell there are quite a few of us who will likely be going.

Let me know if you are interested and better yet, if you know somewhere in Silicon Valley that might be a good place to drink some good beers and get good food (and would have a nice space for 30 people or so).

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mac Authoring Tools - Help Needed

I was just asked a question and was a bit at a loss for a response. This organization predominantly has Macs and would like to use something like Articulate or Captivate to:
"convert our existing Powerpoint trainings, include quizes, track responding, track time spent enaged, insert Quicktime movies and deploy via the web."
For so long, Adobe has had products on both Mac and PC, I assumed that Captivate had a Mac version - but I didn't find one.

Any suggestions?

How Long Should an eLearning Course Be?

Interesting question posed in eLearn Magazine article: How Long Should an E-learning Course Be?

Interestingly the author chooses to sidestep the question he poses and instead gives a direct answer to a different question (focusing on modules that are parts of a course):
What is a good length for a module? Through countless hours of instructional design, field testing, and client feedback, I have found that 30 minutes is about the maximum, and less than 15 is too short. The exact number of minutes between 15 and 30 should be dictated by the depth and number of objectives in the learning module. In a one-hour course, it's absolutely fine to have two 18-minute modules and one 24-minute module. Do what feels right. Test it with members of your target audience, and then fine-tune each module until it's just where you want it.
I have found a sweet spot for learning chunks around the 10-15 minute range. Of course, it's highly dependent.

However, I have a possibly different answer to the core question about how long should the course itself be ... my answer ...
As short as you can make it. Zero is optimal.
There's a natural tendency to try to teach too much. As teachers, we are passionate about our knowledge/information and its value. So we want to share. But instead we need to question every objective, every piece of content. If it's not absolutely essential, then it should be provided in some other way, i.e., reference.

When you take this approach, you often find yourself coming to a different kind of solution. For example, when we asked to design an eLearning Course that went along with the release of a new procurement software (e.g., order office supplies, business cards, etc.) for a large company, we originally were asked to do what amounted to an hour long introductory course.

However, since the software would be used sporadically (maybe once a month) and since it was fairly intuitive to use for most activities, all we really needed to tell people were a few basic pieces of information and to make sure they knew how to get more. So instead of teaching them a bunch of stuff up-front, we provided those few pieces of information inside a hybrid reference solution.
How long was the "course"? It was one page (a really good page).
Of course, you could drill down for lots more including guide tours of features and for a couple of really advanced, and possibly scary functions, some simulations.

Most people were very satisfied with just the most basic information and the ability to get more as needed. Some learners (many of the admins who would be using it more frequently) would go through most of the learning pieces based on the links in the Quick Start Guide.

The end result was considerably better (and lower cost) than the original solution that was requested.

Introduction to eLearning 2.0 - ASTD Presentation in Irvine, CA

I mentioned this before ( eLearning 2.0 Presentation - ASTD OC - September)but promised I'd post a reminder. I'm doing a presentation that's an Introduction to eLearning 2.0 in Irvine, CA on September 12.

Details here.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Feed Filters

I had previously discussed the Aide RSS Filtering Tool -
AideRSS looks at a variety of sources of information including comments, technorati, bloglines, icerocket and to determine what posts are generating the most interest.
I really like the concept of using different clues about what posts are generating interest to help sort through large numbers of posts. Certainly it's ability to find what are the posts generating the most interest on my own blog is helpful.

However, what I had hoped to find was a way for AideRSS to send me a feed of the top few posts across a large set of RSS feeds (like the 3,000 or so edublogs). Instead, AideRSS sends me a bunch of lower rated items along with the top items. It also does this on the site. So, I'm unsubscribing for now but will continue to use the widget.

At the same time, I would expect that Bloglines (the reader I use) and Google Reader will begin to incorporate this kind of capability soon. It would be fairly easy for them to provide a view of a set of RSS feeds sorted by "interestingness" based on a similar formula.

By the way, this post is also somewhat of an experiment. I subscribe to all links to my blog found through a couple of different sources. I was considering putting this information in a suggestion to Bloglines, but I thought a post would be better. However, I wonder how likely it is that someone from Bloglines will actually see this? Or someone from Google? Heck, I'm sure they both are already thinking about this functionality, but if this had actually been something that would have been useful, would they have seen it?

So, if you happen to be from Bloglines, make sure you comment. :)

Instant Session/Speaker Ratings at Conferences?

Great question posed by Mark Oehlert -
I will say that it is interesting that in addition to the slides you can also rate each session and leave comments about each. Total transparency. As we look for ways to improve conferences, this is a point we should ponder on.

How would you feel if the ratings for a session you presented say at ASTD or the eLearning Guild were instantly available for public consumption? I know how I feel about this but I'd like to hear from some people - instant, visible ratings...boon or bane?
I personally would love to see this happen. I often find myself in the speaker room at conferences trying to get a look at my session evaluations. I'm trying to find out what went right or wrong. It's often the case that conference organizers don't get evaluations back to you for 3-4 months. So, having real-time feedback is great.

I'm not sure logistically how you can get this to happen (as most attendees use a paper form at the end of the session). But if you could have someone putting these online immediately, it would be great.

I'll be curious to see what the arguments are against this?

Second Life as a Learning Tool

Found via Corporate eLearning Strategies and Development

A great introduction to using Second Life as a teaching / learning tool. Video embedded below - didn't show in my blog reader.

A few thoughts ...

1. I've said for a while that Second Life offers something interesting in terms of providing a natural "setting" for online sessions, presentations, etc. because they are based on understood physical settings, e.g., presentation rooms with break out spaces. Now that Second Life has audio, there is a really interesting capability to have natural break-outs during online sessions that just never seems to work well in the current batch of tools, e.g., WebEx, LiveMeeting, etc. I've been saying for a while that these mainstream tools will eventually start to provide a very simple SecondLife like thing. The hurdles for Second Life are still a little too high for them to become truly mainstream, but would be great for a controlled audience.

2. Over Spring Break 2007, my family including my kids (ages 12, 10 and 7) came with me to Boston (where I was speaking). They had a great time seeing places they had heard about. But probably the best experience was a visit to Plymoth Plantation - a recreation of Plymouth where actors playing the part of Native Americans and Colonists told stories and answered questions about life, religion, history, etc. It was a fantastic learning experience where you learned things in such a great way. And there were quite a few surprises, that I didn't remember ever hearing in all my different history classes. (We have a rather idealistic view of the colonists.)

I came home from the trip thinking that the California Missions should really do something similar. I've had to take my kids to a Mission several times as part of their school work and it's frankly boring to walk around reading as compared to the experience at the Plantation. Maybe one of the tribes that has casinos could sponsor putting this together?

But as I was watching the video, I realized how effectively this kind of experience could be done in Second Life with the physical space recreated and having avatars online answering questions. Somehow I'd not pictured using Second Life this way until I saw the video. Truly that would transform the learning experience just like the plantation transformed the learning experience for my family.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Posting Lull

Because of several projects, trips, a vacation, writing articles and presentations, and a few other life things, I've really not had time to post recently, nor will I over the next few weeks. I'm sure by the end of the month I'll be all fired up to get going on various topics.