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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Adoption Ideas

Great article from Harvard - (via Big Dog, Little Dog) ...

Overcome Objections

Why Doing Things Half Right Gives You the Best Results

One key idea is when rolling something out ... :
Halfway through each training, after describing the process, I always asked the same question:

Why won't this work for you?

Then he overcomes the objections one by one by allowing modification of what is planned. Clearly, we can't always do this in our role, but certainly asking the question is a great idea. In fact, when I do presentations, this is often the question that really gets audiences going. And I've said before that they are really good at defining the barriers. I need to get better at enlisting them to overcome those barriers.

Embrace Chaos

This reminds me a bit of the adoption trick of letting everyone know how chaotic things are going to be when the new system rolls out. The more you trumpet, almost celebrate, the chaos and the problems - the more people are willing to help to make it happen.


So maybe this gets me back to the same bottom line that the author has ...

Make it half a solution or a partial solution or a flexible solution so that it can be adopted in ways that work for the individuals who have to do it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Topic Hubs

The term topic hub was not something that I was familiar with until John Tropea used it to describe the content communities Social Media Informer, eLearning Learning, Mobile Learning, Informal Learning Flow, Communities and Networks Connection that we've been launching.

John really has helped me better understand and describe the value proposition of Topic Hubs.

Hard to Understand a Blog Network

In his post Communities and Networks Connection blog aggregator:
.... newbies to the blogosphere sometimes haven’t go time to immerse themselves and build a subscription of blogs they trust, this takes time, but it’s well worth it for personal experience. This also happens to me, I haven’t got time to find and build a list of sources for topics I’m slightly interested in, as I’m too busy on the topics I am interested in.

Anyway, for newbies and others, there has been a movement where this stage of finding and reading blogs on a topic has been made a whole lot easier. The blogosphere has matured and blogs on a topic have proved their worthiness (blogosphere self regulates reputation) and coalesced into one convenient space.
This is very true. It's hard to understand a single blog. I've been exploring exactly that in my recent post: Index Page. It's even harder when you try to understand a network of bloggers. I don't necessarily claim that content communities (or should I call them topic hubs) solve that problem, but they at least help to some degree.

Topic Hubs Bring Together a Network

In How relevant are communities of practice in a network age?, he defines one of the needs for a content community that I see as well:
one thing we do forgo is the neatness of a topic hub, compared to scattered content. What I mean is that if you network you know how to tie all the scattered content together as you blog about it and bookmark it. But for new comers, finding all content on a topic in one page is always easier.
Topic Hubs Require a Form of Community

John then describes a key requirement for topic hubs to work...
if you want to build a topic hub (a clearing house on a topic, as well as learning from each other whilst you’re building your practice via conversations), you need a community, people become members of a shared space, which is a commitment to contributing to the aim.
While Nancy White tells us that topic hubs are somewhere in between a network and a community, there are community like aspects required to create a hub. You need people who are focusing on similar topics. Most often these people are part of a network that has elements of community. Certainly in the eLearning world, bloggers have some kind of community.

The bottom line for these kinds of topic hubs is that they focus on the needs of the content consumer: creating a site that makes it easier to find and navigate a complex network of content. These sites also take advantage of a existing phenomenom, the loose community of blog networks.

I look forward to Nancy, John and others helping me to understand more about all of this.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

eLearning Learning Hot List Feb 1-14

Hot List - 2/1/2009 - 2/14/2009

  1. Mathemagenic " PhD conclusions in a thousand words: blogging practices of knowledge workers
  2. A Guide to Social Learning
  3. What Goes in the LMS?
  4. Sacred Training Cows
  5. Here’s How I Built That PowerPoint E-Learning Template
  6. Blogging in a Walled Garden
  7. Itiel provides more food for thought
  8. Get Out of the Training Business
  9. Multi-Tasking & Social Media - Mastering the Balance
  10. Advantages of 3D for Learning
  11. Pacing
  12. the mobile project update 1: html + mp4 + mobile moodle
  13. On Blogging – Report on Index Page
  14. Economic Impact
  15. Younger Generation NOT Good at Multitasking Either!
Notes on the list.
  • The posts come from the primary sources for this group. Other items come from other sources.
  • Keywords are based on occurrences this week in addition to other social signals.

Corporate Training

Jay Cross - father of the Informal Learning Flow has been doing some great writing recently that look at the future of corporate training. His recent posts make me really think (that's good) but also make me wonder ...

How many people really have the opportunity to pursue the
Future of Corporate Training?

More on this below ... But first some context.

Courseware and Broader eLearning

Jay's post eLearning is not the Answer:
Corporations are flocking to eLearning for all the wrong reasons. It’s cheaper: no travel, no facilities cost, no instructor salaries. This sort of fanciful thinking tripped up eLearning ten years ago.
Poorly implemented eLearning is a more expensive alternative to doing nothing at all, and often the results would be the same.

Great points Jay. It's a scary question to ask. If we did nothing at all, what would the result be as compared to what we do when we provide some bad eLearning? However, I'm not quite sure that bad classroom is not just as bad as bad eLearning. At least with eLearning you can skip right on by and get to your real learning.
If you want outcomes that are comparable or better than what you were getting from instructor-led workshops, you have to do more than just throw things online. You have to support electronic offerings with mentors, guides, help desks, FAQs, reinforcement, and organizational support.
I agree with Jay's sentiment here, but I'm not quite willing to go as far as Jay. You should be doing these other things whether the content is delivered instructor-led or via courseware. And I would argue that today all classroom or courseware should be questioned. Can you reduce it by 50%? Can you make it 5 minutes long and just teach them how to use the rest of the resources?

I would also caution that Jay appears to use the term eLearning to mean courseware. To me eLearning definitely includes all of these other electronic means of providing support. In fact, in eLearning Defined , Online Training vs eLearning - Jay and I somewhat agree that it's not all that important to have precise definitions of these terms. But we agreed that it should be a broader definition.

Push vs. Pull Learning

Now we get to the actual point of Jay's article ...
Well-executed eLearning makes learning more accessible but it’s rarely going to double or triple one’s return on investment. eLearning is an incremental improvement, not a game-changer.
Then Jay talks about Push learning vs. Pull Learning ...
Concepts at work in pull learning include:
  • Learning on demand, immediate reinforcement
  • Learning while working, not separate from working
  • Self-service, flexible delivery, convenience
  • Peer learning, communities of practice, collaboration
  • Small chunks, links for further discovery
  • Holistic, process orientation
I completely agree with Jay that we need to think about how to provide support that is more as-needed, on-demand, part of work, etc. A portion of this is still what I consider to be eLearning. I also certainly need to point out that

eLearning 2.0 is about Pull Learning

The Future Corporate Training Department

In Jay and Harold Jarche's Future of the Training Department - they talk in a bit more detail about how Pull Learning and complex environments move us towards a new kind of corporate training department:
The main objective of the new training department is to enable knowledge to flow in the organization. The primary function of learning professionals within this new work model is connecting and communicating, based on three core processes:

* Facilitating collaborative work and learning amongst workers, especially as peers.
* Sensing patterns and helping to develop emergent work and learning practices.
* Working with management to fund and develop appropriate tools and processes for workers.

Obviously, I'm a strong believer in getting involved in this way (see Work Literacy and Tool Set).

How do We Get There?

The challenge I've always put before Jay - and I'm never 100% confident that we have an answer is the question of how we get there.

In order for a corporate learning organization to get into the business of supporting pull learning and supporting work, we need to

1. Define the Patterns 2. Change the Focus of Corporate Training

I actually think this will be the harder part. So do Jay and Harold -

Will training departments survive to address these issues? The cards are still out. After all, we are in a global economic depression, and training is the perennial first sacrifice.

What would happen if you called for closing your training department in favor of a new function?
Imagine telling senior management that you were shuttering the classrooms in favor of peer-to-peer learning. You’re redeploying training staff as mentors, coaches, and facilitators who work on improving core business processes, strengthening relationships with customers, and cutting costs. You’re going to shift the focus to creativity, innovation, and helping people perform better, faster, cheaper.

You might want to give it a try.

 Perhaps the time has come.

I'm a fairly low-risk kind of guy, and as such, I guess I don't feel very comfortable sending you forth with the direction of "closing your training department ... redeploying staff" ... you may get only half of what you are asking for - especially right now. Oh, and I think you know which half they would take you up on (see Dilbert strip below).

But I do think that each and everyone one of us should be out understanding the ways in which you can support concept workers to be better at their work and learning. We should be looking to shift some resources within our corporate training department in that direction.

Will We Get to Do This?

I was just having a conversation about What Clients Really Want and the common lament among learning professionals that their clients come to get training. And by training they mean content collected, formed into something that resembles training and pushed to a specific audience. Training is seen as being in the business of push. The client then gets to check the box that they provided training.

Offering to try to help solve real business issues, get in and work with concept workers on their work practices, set up coaching/mentoring, etc. should be asked about by any learning professional in conversations with clients. But, often these questions are unwelcome and you must be prepared to quickly retreat and provide them what they say they want.

I personally am a little lucky because I'm most often being asked about solutions that are a little more innovative and sometimes focus on real results (see Data Driven).

But for the average learning professional, my guess is that 80%+ of what everyone experiences is a continuous stream of requests for push learning with little to no opportunity to do something else.

Am I wrong? Will you be able to shift your Corporate Training?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Twitter Forces us to Transmit the Big Idea

I was thinking about my upcoming presentation - Tapping the Social Grid that is coming up on Friday, Feb. 27 when I ran into a great post - All Things Workplace: Make People Listen: Know Your Big Idea:
How to Get to Your Big Idea

1. Wade through the facts, figures and themes of a topic until you can distill it to the point where it can be expressed in fewer than 10 words.

2. Shape your message around those 10 words.

3. When your audience hears your presentation, what is it you want them to remember above all else? Tell them the name of your Big Idea and that that is what you want them to remember.
The Big Idea for my presentation really comes down to:
  • Using tools and methods to
  • Reach other people
  • To help with my concept work problems.
This is longer than ten words - but it is less than 140 characters (I think). It's likely one of the big values of Twitter ... we are forced to use Twitter to Transmit the Big Idea.

Readers' Response

The readers' response to my post Subscribers - Who Are You? was far beyond anything that I had imagined. It really makes me wonder what happened? What should I learn from this? What should I do different going forward?

So here are some initial thoughts ... and a lot of questions ...

Blog Icebreakers

Obviously, I finally asked a question that got a lot of people to comment. I really can't say why this finally got a good response. I should point out that it's still a small percentage of the total audience according to Feedburner. But even still - this might be the most commented post ever.

To me this makes me wonder - Will any of the first timers comment again?

Why did this work? And what should I do the next time if I want to get lots of feedback?

There's also an interesting question of whether I should be doing other icebreakers to better engage with everyone?

Finding My Blog

Google seems to be helping a lot. Seems like this blog is being recommended by Google. I have no idea how this part of Google Reader works, but obviously it's great to have it happening.

Lots of referrals from other blogs (thanks Clive, Karyn, Harold, Jay, Stephen, Cathy, Christy, Cammy, etc.). This is part of the reason that I think sites like eLearning Learning are helpful. They point you to a good set of blogs.

A couple of mentions of Twitter. That's somewhat a surprise to me and I'm not quite sure I get how this really happens. Can someone weigh in on how this dynamic works?


There is far greater diversity among my readers than I think about. People who speak English as a second (or third) language. Many readers who are outside of corporate learning.

One important comment on this - the beauty of diversity is different perspectives. But for us to have those different perspectives, I need more active participation from people with different perspectives. I welcome discussion of how your world is different from what I describe. Or how you think I'm wrong or too narrow.

I hope that we've broken the ice here a little bit and that you will contribute more when you have thoughts.


Many people mentioned subscribing after hearing a presentation. I often think about the fact that any post will reach quite a large number of people and that a presentation only reaches a small number in comparison. However, it appears that many presentations reach a new audience. So, I may have to rethink the importance of speaking.

It also makes me realize how large the potential audience is and that realistically I'm reaching a very small number.

New Blogs

Several people mentioned relatively new blogs in their comment. I continue to believe in the value of blogging and I do what I can to help grow an audience for new bloggers. Your mention in a comment on my blog is likely very much buried. You might want to look at New Blog for some other ideas.

What Else?

I'm not even sure what I should make of the response. It's really great to make this much of a connection - again argues in favor of presentations.

What else should I have got out of this experience?

Isn't it amazing that I'm still learning how to blog after doing it for more than 3 years?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Subscribers - Who Are You?

For some reason, I've recently seen a whole lot of new subscribers. I would think that it was errors in Feedburner's counting, except that for many of the subscribers are doing it through email and there has definitely been an increase.

I'm thankful, but I really don't quite know the cause.

And, most of the comments come from folks who I've known for a while - but with a few new folks coming in recently. Still, it's a small number as compared to subscribers.

So, if you are a new subscriber (within the past six months) can you this ONE TIME come and leave a comment with:

a. Where you found out about this blog?
b. What you hope to get from subscribing?
c. Are you ever going to leave another comment?

If you've subscribed for a while, feel free to also leave a comment. I'd still like to hear b&c.

Of course, feel free to mention anything else.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Multimedia Storage

Another good question from a reader. This person works in a military environment with some very particular requirements for how multimedia assets are treated during development. Because of that he's in the position of having to determine how much disk space will be needed during development. He's seeking help to answer ...

Are there formulas you use to determine disk space needs during development of multimedia training?

My first reaction was - just buy more disk space. It's cheap. But the context here does quite allow for that. It's pretty interesting to hear about development in a military environment.
Military multimedia development is contracted to 3 or four different companies who put development teams here on the base to research and develop the courseware using government provided computers, software and networks. Under their contracts everything becomes the property of the government once they receive tasking and begin developing a course (and I do literally mean 'everything'). It's pretty much set up so that each contractor has a 'folder' on the development network - they subdivide within that folder as necessary depending on how many courses they're working on, etc.

The govt prefers that while it is ok to work on your local machine, end of work day or finished items should be kept on the development network. At the moment we use VSS to manage assets - it allows check in and check out and tracks file use. We are just about to move to Adobe's Version Cue.

Additionally, once a course is completed and delivered it's not removed from the network storage - the govt takes over the maintenance and any updating of the course - and on top of that we're required to maintain backward versions of the course. So three months from now if a course is revised in some way we're required to keep the old version as well as the new one. so even our backup storage becomes quite complicated! (requirements state we're to keep 3 back)

Unfortunately for us, the military isn't able to simply add X TB to its storage design. They are required to predict growth, show usage and justify that addition.

So, I have to supply them with storage figures and growth predictions.

I've used various approaches and have based things off of prior work. But in most cases, it is definitely pure guesswork.

I should also add that this is mostly a situation applicable to the development side of the house. Once you have a finished product and it's been cleaned up and put in a 'run time' condition for the LMS, size (while still important) does not become that much of a storage issue.
I know that a lot of this have gone through this kind of thing, especially in large development projects. I'm curious what formulas or general rules of thumb that people have for total development storage requirements. For example -
X minutes of finished video * A MB +
Y minutes of finished audio * B MB +
Z minutes total runtime * C MB
Any such formulas out there?

Blogging Jobs Careers

Fantastic post by Michele Martin - Blogging for Personal Branding. I would have titled it as Blogging and Your Career. After reading this, I think you will realize the value that Michele is bringing that I mentioned in Social Job Seeker Resource. While I focus on Tapping the Social Grid as a part of current work. Michele is focusing on using Social Media as part of your Career. They are not mutually exclusive, and in many ways, she's covering the more important topic.

At some point Michele and I will have to come up with how you can:
  • Always be Learning
  • Always be Networking
  • Always be Helping Your Career
Now go over to Michele's blog and subscribe.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Communities and Networks Connection

This is a great week for content communities. And there's a very interesting effect and a realization (aha moment) I've had about all of this that I describe near the bottom.

Yesterday, I was able to announce that I've been working with Judy Brown to launch the Mobile Learning Content Community.

Today I get to announcement that I've been working with Nancy White to launch the:

Communities and Networks Connection

For those of you who don't know Nancy ... She has been my go to person for all things Community for years. She helped me launch Work Literacy. And I'm very happy to have worked with her to get this site going. And have learned a few things along the way.

Nancy has posted a wonderful announcement of the launch. Some thoughts from her post:
This isn’t a community, and not as loose and open as a network. It is in that juicy place in between communities and networks that helps to collect and organize useful content from blogs and other web sites, from people who care about, and are passionate to understand these phenomenon we call “communities” and “networks.” The goal of this page is to create a place where it’s easy to find current and highly relevant content. And perhaps to stimulate a new connection between you and these brilliant people.
One of the wonderful things about the site is that Nancy is collecting content from sources outside of those that are Featured bloggers. I don't have time to go look at all the things that Nancy is finding. It's good to have a flow of them through the site. It's also good to know that I can easily get back and find interesting things.
If you go to my blog’s content page, Full Circle, the page shows on the left the keywords that I write about a fair amount. Keywords like Online Interaction, Technology Stewardship, Catalysts are all pretty good indicators. These same keywords are listed in the new widget in my sidebar provided by the site.

There’s also a page that shows the Best Content from Full Circle based on social signals.

The best part of this is this is not just about my content. In fact, I’m just a drop in the bucket. I’m not alone. There is quite a network that is participating in the launch - from people who are close friends and trusted colleagues, to interesting people I try and follow.

To me the inverse of this is true. It surfaces the best content from Nancy White and her network around these topics.

It’s fun to look at some of the differences in keywords for some of my fellow participants. For example:

Another interesting announcement post comes from John Tropea - Library Clips - Communities and Networks Connection Blog Aggregator.
.... newbies to the blogosphere sometimes haven’t go time to immerse themselves and build a subscription of blogs they trust, this takes time, but it’s well worth it for personal experience. This also happens to me, I haven’t got time to find and build a list of sources for topics I’m slightly interested in, as I’m too busy on the topics I am interested in.

Anyway, for newbies and others, there has been a movement where this stage of finding and reading blogs on a topic has been made a whole lot easier. The blogosphere has matured and blogs on a topic have proved their worthiness (blogosphere self regulates reputation) and coalesced into one convenient space.
This is very true. It's hard to understand a single blog. I've been exploring exactly that in my recent post: Index Page. It's even harder when you try to understand a network of bloggers. I don't necessarily claim that content communities solve that problem, but they at least help to some degree.
Basically, it’s a convenient one stop shop daily read on what a bunch of bloggers are saying about Communities and Networks.
That's a pretty good summary - with the addition that it does help to surface content on specific topics within the space that have high social signals indicating that it's good stuff.

John then provides one of the better explanations of how it all works that I've seen:
How does it work?

Visit the website and in the middle is a stream of the latest posts from all sources. If you like reading content from the comfort of your own home then you can grab the feed.

On the right sidebar is a list of sources, clicking a source will display content from just that source.

Clicking on Library clips will show my latest posts (click for more), and if you scroll down it will show my “best” posts (click for more) based on social signals (kind of like PostRank I guess)

On the left sidebar we have a way to filter posts from all blogs by concept, tools, type, and year (a bigger picture is available on a page)

For those who want to just see posts about a tool like Twitter, or a concept like Collaboration, can filter to just these pages, or grab the feed.

And then you can filter some more, this page here is filtering to see all posts on Twitter, then filter again to see posts on Twitter and Communities of Practice, and you can keep filtering.

Now I’m not sure how these keywords/categorising work, but it’s a handy way to filter the content.

A really cool thing is that I can see all these keywords based around one source, so here’s a keyword page for just my blog.

Great stuff John!

Evolution and Effect of Content Communities

This has been an interesting evolution for me. Originally, Browse My Stuff (which is the current name of the underlying technology) was created to help me organize my own blog's content. It was so effective that I found myself wanting to organize all the content that I read - so I created eLearning Learning. In the process, it created something of real value to the blogging community as well as to people who encounter it from outside.

Then I realized that there were people like me in other domains: Judy Brown - Mobile Learning, Jay Cross - Informal Learning, Nancy White - Communities and Networks - they could do a similar thing to help their network and help someone like me who is outside the network, but interested in it. I have these three resources that I can get a regular stream of and can easily navigate to find good stuff when I need it. Thanks, Jay, Nancy and Judy.

Who's next?

Tapping the Social Grid - Free Webinar

I'm going to be doing a free webinar with Mark Sylvester of IntroNetworks that's about Crowdsourcing in the Small and Social Brain. Hat tip to Virginia Yonkers for calling it the Social Grid. I'm still not sold on the term - but the concept is very important. This should be a very interesting discussion.

Tapping the Social Grid

Date: Friday, February 27th
Time: 9 - 10 am PACIFIC, Noon - 1 pm EASTERN

Register Here

Over the past 20 years, knowledge work has been transformed by the explosion of information sources and information flow. This has caused fairly radical changes in core work tools and methods. But the bigger and more profound change is the radically increased accessibility of experts and expertise around the world.

A social grid has formed that provides concept workers new work methods. It allows a worker to get help on particular concept work tasks by crowdsourcing in the small - tapping into the social grid for assistance. The challenge is that the social grid is new and changes all the time. The methods and norms for tapping into the social grid are often not well understood by concept workers.

In this talk, Dr. Tony Karrer will look at the places where the social grid is so important for concept workers. He will show an over the shoulder view of a modern knowledge worker tapping into the social grid. Tony will then discuss the implications and possible actions for individuals and organizations because of the social grid.

About Tony Karrer

Dr. Tony Karrer is CEO/CTO of TechEmpower, a software, web and eLearning development firm based in Los Angeles, and is considered one of the top technologists in eLearning. He has twenty years' experience as a CTO. Dr. Karrer taught Computer Science for eleven years. He has been the acting CTO for several start-ups, most notably eHarmony. His work in social media, e-Learning and Performance Support has won awards and has led him into engagements at many Fortune 500 companies including Credit Suisse, Royal Bank of Canada, Citibank, Lexus, Microsoft, Nissan, Universal, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, Fidelity Investments, Symbol Technologies and SHL Systemhouse. Dr. Karrer was valedictorian at Loyola Marymount University, attended the University of Southern California as a Tau Beta Pi fellow, one of the top 30 engineers in the nation, and received a M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science. He founded Work Literacy, created eLearning Learning; and is known for his blog eLearning Technology. He is a frequent speaker at industry and academic events.

This should be an exciting conversation - don't miss it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mobile Learning Content Community Launched

Mobile Learning

I'm happy to announce that Judy Brown today officially launched the Mobile Learning Content Community. This uses the same technology behind eLearning Learning.

Judy is THE person I have gone to for years for anything having to do with mobile learning. It's great to have her pull together content and bloggers into this community. In other words, Judy is marking good content she comes across as well as bringing in content from top bloggers in the space such as: Cell Phones in Learning, Golden Swamp, mLearning is Good, mLearning-World, mLearning: beyond the digital divide, mLearnopedia Blog, Mobile Commons, MobilED, MobileDot, moblearn, and uLearning Blog.

I've personally not subscribed to these individual blogs, but I've just subscribe to the feed from this site in order to have Judy continue to feed me good stuff. Thanks Judy!

By the way, if you ever have a chance to attend one of Judy's sessions where she shows examples of mobile learning - you should definitely go.

Video-Based eLearning Authoring Tools

I've been asked several times a similar question so I thought I would throw it out to see what readers here will recommend for doing basic video-based elearning authoring.

The situation is that they have five, two-hour training videos (10 hours total). It's currently used as a watch and then answer these questions experience. The topic almost doesn't matter, but assume it's Safety Training. They would like to convert this to self-paced eLearning.

The currently planned design is to chop the video up into relatively short segments, put in questions in between the segments as knowledge checks, and then have a graded exam at the end. Thus roughly:
Video Segment -> Questions -> Video Segment -> Questions -> Exam
They do not have an LMS, but they need some kind of reporting. Currently, they use Camtasia and have it email results at the end of quizzes. They are happy to continue to do that. They would also be happy with having some kind of system to collect all the results together into something similar to a spreadsheet. They do not want an LMS because of some false starts and perceived complexity.

Other factors -
  • Need an inexpensive solution, but does not need to be free.
  • Should be an easy to use and easy to maintain solution.
  • May outsource some of the production work, but the tool must be an off-the-shelf, known authoring tool - no proprietary tools (see eLearning Course Development for rationale on that)
  • Their only experience is with Camtasia. No real video editing experience.

What would you recommend?

Other posts related to this topic:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Content Quality

When I do sessions on eLearning 2.0, I often will ask for the audience to provide a list of barriers or risks. Often the audience is quite good at identifying all the things that may go wrong or that will prevent them from doing any of this. And quite often one of the first concerns listed is content quality.
If I allow people to edit a wiki, how will I know it's good quality?
To me this is one of the more overstated risks. Yes, someone could post something wrong on the wiki, but they likely are already putting that same information in emails and IMs. At least on the wiki you can get correction. If you are really concerned, you can moderate. The reality is that in most cases it's safer to make things fairly public than to allow them to be hidden until the subpoena. Plus you can rely on human nature ...

Consider what recently happened when Training Zone published a laughable article - The elearning diet: Not recommended for long term results. I understand why they did it. Controversy gets views and links. Look at the number of views as compared to other articles on the site. It worked. This article is getting lots of page views. Except that whatever belief we might have had in any kind of editorial quality just evaporated. Unsubscribe and subscribe instead to any quality blogger such as Clive (read his response: E-learning: the fad that's lasted 30 years). Where's the quality? The publication? Or the blogger? Sheesh.

But back to the response that the article got - lots of views and comments. Their most popular by far. Why?
People (especially employees) enjoy the opportunity to find things that are wrong, tell you why its are wrong, and maybe correct them.
This natural instinct is the best solution to poor quality content.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Good Writing

What is Good Writing?

Rubrics and Good Writing

One of my favorite conversation topics is always looking at how school has changed from when I went through.

When I was going through school, I often felt that my writing assignments were judged arbitrarily. Teachers would give you a B with little or no explanation. I still believe that content was relatively unimportant. Form was dominant. Lots of metaphors. Using a Thesaurus. Style over substance. And style was not well defined.

Then almost a miracle happened in college. I had an English professor - horrible of me that I've forgot his name - but he had the most wonderful approach. He had various writing style requirements that slowly added up over the course of the semester. Your first assignment only needed to meet the first requirement. Second assignment had to meet requirements 1 & 2. It was clear. And best of all, his biggest mantra was to stop using extra words that were not required. Shorter was better. Extra words were bad. To this day, I thank him.

The good news these days for my kids is that there is often a rubric (set of evaluation criteria) that are used to grade their writing. There are also some automated systems that students can submit their writing to that grades it based on various criteria. However, I've sometimes been pressed into service trying to up the automated grade only to find that my writing brings down the score. Still, there's a push to better define good writing. And much of the rubrics follow what that great English professor used.

Missing Element in Definition of Good Writing

While I applaud this move, I think that there's something vitally important missing in education. It's also a skill that most all of us who have gone through the education system need to work on.

What led me to talk about this was a recent conversation and a post that discusses the need that I've cited before that we need to write for skimming. In the case of that post the focus was on writing ad agency blog copy. It cites an old post by Jakob Nielsen:
How do users read on the web? They don't.

In research on how people read websites we found that 79 percent ... scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read word-by-word.
This is far lower than the numbers that my blog readers told me. But my claim is that this isn't only on the web. It's emails. It's memos. Heck it's all the writing that I do these days.

No one has time to read details. We all skim dive skim. As writers we have to adopt practices for writing for skimming. Jakob Nielsen provides the following advice for scannable text:

  • highlighted keywords (hypertext links serve as one form of highlighting; typeface variations and color are others)
  • meaningful sub-headings (not "clever" ones)
  • bulleted lists
  • one idea per paragraph (users will skip over any additional ideas if they are not caught by the first few words in the paragraph)
  • the inverted pyramid style, starting with the conclusion
  • half the word count (or less) than conventional writing
There are quite a few other suggestions in the post Write for Skimming.

Good Writing Redefined

My kids are still learning the old 5 paragraph paper with intro, 3 body paragraphs, and conclusion. They are not being taught the necessity of:
  • What This Is - What is needed from the reader having read this email. Oh, this needs to be in the title or the first sentence.
  • Brevity
  • Skimming support
  • Sign posts
  • Use the same word repeatedly if you mean the same thing
  • Capitalize when a word or phrase means something specific - like a lawyer - This is called Title Case - and I just used it on the phrase Title Case. It means that Title Case refers to something specific and is not just a couple random words thrown together.
I know that I often fail at this, but we need to at least be aware of these new elements of what makes something good writing.

Can you help out here? I bet there are some fantastic resources that define good writing much better than I can. What could I look to as my rubric? What should I hand to a new employee fresh from college? Or maybe even harder a 55 year old employee who wonders why people only read the first sentence of their email (me included)?

Side Notes

One ironic note is to take a look at the page for the inverted pyramid style by Nielsen. I know that I shouldn't cast stones given all of my failings on good writing. But I would claim that it violates quite a few of what Jakob is telling us is important.

I wonder what the impact of IM and txting will have on writing. The good news is that it emphasizes brevity.

Computer-Based Training Improves Neuropsychological Status Scores

Hat tip to Donald Clark for pointer to a Science Daily article - Improving Brain Processing Speed Helps Memory:
Mayo Clinic researchers found that healthy, older adults who participated in a computer-based training program to improve the speed and accuracy of brain processing showed twice the improvement in certain aspects of memory, compared to a control group.
For an hour a day, five days a week for eight weeks, study participants worked on computer-based activities in their homes.
six auditory exercises designed to help the brain improve the speed and accuracy of processing. For example, participants were asked to distinguish between high- and low-pitched sounds. To start, the sounds were slow and distinct. Gradually, the speed increased and separation disappeared.
experimental group's memory function increased about 4 percent over the baseline measured at the study's onset.
I've seen the studies of the impact of mental activities like crossword puzzles and Sudoku to keep brains healthy. But it is good to see it translate to computer-based solutions. In this case it was by Posit Science.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

SharePoint in Corporate Learning - Free Micro Virtual Conference

Here's a link to the videos from this session - SharePoint in Corporate Learning Videos.

Update Dec 2009 - We are in the process of getting learning professionals to discuss the use of SharePoint for Learning. Please see SharePoint for Learning Professionals and connect with me around it.

At the end of our Learn Trends conference last year, one of the comments was that we needed to do smaller versions in an on-going basis. Well we are going to start exactly that. (And this also helps me work on making my eLearning Prediction #11 - Micro Virtual Conferences come true.)

We will be starting with the topic:

SharePoint in Corporate Learning

Live Sessions:
  • Tuesday March 10, 8 - 10 AM Pacific
  • Thursday March 12 from 8 - 9 AM Pacific
Community discussion will occur in between.

If you are interested in attending, go to the Learn Trends Ning Site and sign-up. We will make announcements through that site.

The first day will be several presenters showing and telling what they've done with SharePoint. The second day is discussion and conclusions.

A lot of what will be shown is described at a high level in Using SharePoint and Examples of eLearning 2.0.

Presenters and Volunteers Needed

I have several presenters lined up, but I'm hoping that I will find a couple more people who are interested in showing what they are doing with SharePoint. If you are interested in presenting drop me an email:

I would also like to find volunteers who have experience organizing, moderating, recording online sessions. Experience with one of the following would be helpful:
  • Elluminate
  • Adobe Connect
  • Camtasia (or another recording tool)
If you can volunteer to help, please drop me an email:

Blogging - Not on Company Time?

I saw a post by Dan Roddy - Do you have a blogging policy?

As part of an interview for a new job, he got into a discussion with his potential new employer of their policy was around blogging.
Their response was; if it helps you and you don't give away any secrets, and don't do it in company time, then that would be okay.
The part I find interesting is "don't do it on company time" ... What if it helps the company? What if I'm using blogging as part of my Information Radar? What if I need help from my learning network on a particular work challenge that I can ask without revealing any secrets?

I've blogged before about Corporate Social Media Policies and Corporate Policies on Web 2.0 and my general sense has been that corporate policy would be that it would be okay to blog on company time if you are doing it to help you with your work activities. Am I wrong on this?

Likely there is some balance here and everyone should pay attention to that balance. But making a blanket statement - "Not on company time" seems a bit farther than the policy should be.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Low Cost LMS

I received an inquiry about the need for a low cost LMS solution and I've not had time to help this person with answers. I'm hoping folks can chime in with suggestions and resources. I'll try to aggregate them together.

Situation description:
I have talked to several vendors and have received quotes at the 6-8k (per year) range for the licensing. We have roughly 500 learners and would use the LMS for mainly tracking and registration of ILT courses, communication (possibly through message boards), and posting of class materials. The development of e-Learning is being done through Captivate, so I do not need a system with authoring capabilities.

I have not had much luck with open source LMS programs, mainly because of technical limitations on our part. Do you have any recommendations on which programs to consider? Also, are the price quotes mentioned above reasonable?
What would you suggest?

Also, my guess is that looking at License costs is probably a bad idea here since quite often there are services, hosting, etc. costs that can exceed license costs. So, help on effective all-in low cost LMS solutions would be good.

Tim Seager of Xerceo posted about this issue and suggested a some resources:
  • GSA Advantage - This is a very interesting site to visit and see pricing that's been established by contract with the government. Simply type the LMS vendor name or LMS name in the search bar and it should give you the per user/ per installation pricing. Smaller vendors may not be found. And it can be difficult to interpret some of the results. Still fantastic to have a resource with pricing.

Another way to tackle this kind of Search is to use the exact approach I tell folks about in my presentations like the recent ASTD Keynote.

~inexpensive ("learning management system" OR lms) 2007..2009 filetype:pdf
~inexpensive ("learning management system" OR lms) 2007..2009 filetype:ppt

This netted some interesting material including the following list that is the list in the Brandon Hall report.
  • Absorb LMS (Blatant Media e-Learning)
  • Acadia HCS (Acadia HCS)
  • Allen Communication Learning Portal
  • Avilar WebMentor
  • Course-Source (Course-Source Limited)
  • CourseMill LMS (Trivantis)
  • DOTS (WebRaven)
  • ED Training Platform (Strategia)
  • Generation 21 Enterprise
  • InforSource (InfoSource)
  • Inquisiq EX (ICS Learning Group Inc.)
  • IntraLearn XE (IntraLearn Software)
  • Isoph Blue (Learn Something)
  • Kallidus LMS (e2train)
  • LearnerWeb (MaxIT)
  • LearnShare LMS (Learnshare)
  • LMS Live (Wizdom Systems)
  • MindFlash E-Learning System
  • NetDimensions EKP Bronze
  • OnPoint Learning & Performance Suite
  • On-Tracker LMS (Interactive Solutions)
  • OutStart Evolution LMS (OutStart)
  • SSElearn Portal (SSE)
  • Syntrio Enterprise (Syntrio)
  • TeraLearn LMS (
  • The Learning Manager (Worldwide Interactive)
  • Tracker.Net (Platte Canyon)
  • TrainingPartner (Geometrix)
  • TrainingMine (Frontline Data Solutions)
  • Upside LMS (Upside Learning Solutions)
  • Virtual Training Assistant (RISC)
What systems are missing here? How would you potentially proceed through this list?

Maybe it's money well spent to buy the report?

I tried to find information from the eLearningGuild, but had a hard time finding anything. You can certainly go back and look at: LMS Satisfaction Features and Barriers. It's getting a bit old now, but you can at least see a little about some of these systems.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Notetaking Tools Help Needed

I recently engaged in a conversation with someone who suggested I was way behind the curve in adopting a better notetaking tool. They picked up on my comments in Better Memory about still using notepad for taking notes in lots of cases.

There are a lot of tools out there in this space. I've looked at EverNote and OneNote quite a bit, but I'm not convinced yet that they fit well enough for me to adopt.

Requirements -
  • Desktop Search Integration. I currently use Windows Desktop Search and would prefer that I can find notes via the same mechanism that searches my email and documents.
  • No Lock In. I need to believe that I could get my notes out of the system later if I decided I needed to switch tools.
  • Better Copy to Clipboard. Includes links along with web contents when you clip.
  • iPhone Notes. Nice to be able to take notes on the iPhone and have that come across into the system. I don't need all my notes available to me on the iPhone.
Curious any thoughts? Right now, I'm leaning towards trying OneNote, but I'm concerned about Lock In and that I don't believe there's any iPhone support? Should I just wait for another year until it matches these requirements better?

Index Page

I saw a post by Ken Allan discussing what he calls an Index Page. Part of the inspiration for his index page comes from my First Time Visitor Guide page. As I describe on this page, the challenge that it tries to address is:
It can be daunting to visit a blog for the first time. The author(s) have been writing individual articles for months or years. This is my attempt to help you get a sense of topics of my blog and find some of the more interesting past articles.
Ken's Index Page description seems to try to tackle a similar, but possibly different issue:
my intention is to provide an index to popular posts and those of general interest only.
In fact, Stephen's recent discussion about Serialized Feeds while focusing quite differently, got me thinking again. He points out that the flow of information via an RSS (and thus how a reader experiences is most recent first). However, it was produced and the story is really from oldest to newest. And isn't a blog is best experienced through on-going reading over the course of time? Which leaves us with a question:

How do we create resources on our blogs that will help a
new reader or a
search visitor
understand what's there and orient themselves?

I distinguish the two types. A new reader is going to pick things up from there. A search visitor is going to explore and may come back periodically, but will not subscribe. I definitely do not have the right answer here, so I want to raise some issues and then I definitely would like to get ideas and help.

Index Page as Jump Off Point

Ken has some interests statistics collected around his Index Page. He looks at time on page and numbers of views. My statistics suggest that the Index Page is used as a quick jump off point to other pages. It actually has a fairly low exit percentage, but a below average time on page. Most people spend a significantly longer time on pages with meatier content.

Thus, I see one of the primary goals of the index page or however, we define these resources as being a place where you can understand the various topics of the blog and find the best posts on those topics.

Large Index Pages - Daunting

Ken Allan and I have discussed this before (see the First Time post for some of the discussion). Ken told me that his experience with my page:
It all made more sense to me on second time through, some months on though. At first reading, I found it a daunting post to take in.
I completely agree. That the size of both my page and Ken's page are quite large and overwhelming. This is probably the classic "wanting to tell everyone about all the great stuff."

The thoughts that we came up with was that realistically an Index Page needs a couple of parts:
  1. First Time Visitor information that gives just a few seminal posts that will get someone into the flow.
  2. An Index Page with lots of the topics and the best stuff related to that topic.
Index Page Worth the Effort?

I find myself updating the index page about every six months based on posts like 2008 2009.

However, it is a lot of work to manually keep this page up to date, so unless I've already pulled the information together, it's doesn't seem like it's worth the effort.

Ken suggested that it would be better if I periodically post to remind people to visit the page. This certainly increases the value.

At the same time, Index Page needs to be easy to keep current.

Design of an Index Page?

I'm not quite sure I get what a good Index Page design would have on it.

I'm hoping folks will help me with design ideas. How would you structure your page? Or better yet, create your index page?

Automated Index Page?

And here's the rub. The technology that is currently running eLearning Learning has some capability to produce something pretty close to an Index Page. It can show me the "best" (based on social signals) of my blog:

Best All Time Posts on eLearning Technology

It has best based on particular keywords:

Best eLearning 2.0 Posts from eLearning Technology

Which then quickly springboards into

Best on Adoption and eLearning 2.0 from eLearning Technology

Or it can show recent and best for a topic:

Recent and Best for eLearning 2.0

I regularly find myself using it to find my own content because the search is better than Blogger's search. For example, as I was creating this post, I looked at eLearning Technology Blogging.

Right now, there is no view for a blog that is like an Index Page, but maybe we can create it. So, let's start with what an Index Page should look like, and then I will try to figure out if I can help create something similar automatically.

In fact, I wonder if this raises a bigger, more interesting questions:
  • Should the design of a blog be for regular readers or for first time and casual readers?
  • Should there be multiple views of a blog?
  • What should those views be?
Wow, this could be a very interesting conversation with potentially big impact. I hope you will join in and help.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

What Goes in the LMS?

Recently I posted on Learning Materials asking the question -

What Goes in the LMS?

The responses via comments were truly fantastic. In fact, they were too fantastic to have them "buried" as comments. And I wanted to add some of my thoughts, so I'm post again on this topic.

Oh, and, as always, the answer is "it depends" - but let's try to come up with a few suggestions...

Should go in the LMS -
  • Only finished content.
  • Anything with per-learner, strict tracking requirements.
  • Certification/Accreditation management: companies still need to know who went through which course and when, and what was his/her score at the end of it.
  • Learning paths: some competencies require that content is presented in a specific order, an order that could be hardly reproduced in informal learning by learners without direct guidance.
  • Content that's associated with the course content.
Should not go in the LMS -
  • Content that doesn't need strict tracking.
  • Content that needs fast access
Other thoughts -
  • Put things in both places
  • Build a rich web of connections to make sure they connect together

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

More on ASTD Keynote

I know that Jon didn't create his post - ASTD TechKnowledge Comments in order to get me to post and link to him. But it certainly made my day when he said -
It was Tony Karrer (number one eLearning Blogger) who was awarded my five stars for his engaging Thursday morning opening speech that put David Pogue’s message in a context that made sense for attendees.
Considering that David Pogue is always highly entertaining and engaging - and plays the piano and sings at his presentations - I was somewhat worried having to be the next day's keynote following such a dynamic presenter. But in many ways, Jon is exactly right that David set the stage discussing Twitter and other aspects of social media. I was able to come in and discuss what that means for Concept Workers and for learning professionals.

If you want get a sense of what I discussed in the keynote - go to ASTD Follow-Up.

Thanks for the nice words Jon.

Hot List - Second Half of January

As I was at ASTD last week, I missed doing my Hot List for the week. You can find out more about this in Hot List and Hot Last Week. So, I've compiled the list for roughly the second half of January.

Hot List - 1/17/2009 - 1/31/2009

  1. Twitter as Personal Learning and Work Tool
  2. How to Convert Your PowerPoint Presentation into an Elearning Course
  3. Building a Learning Portal
  4. YouTube videos inside Slideshare
  5. Learning 2.0
  6. Alternatives to Kirkpatrick
  7. Wiki as repository for a virtual community
  8. Wikipedia - tightening editing
  9. Remote Collaboration
  10. the Horizon report 2009 from Educause

Notes on the list.
  • The posts come from the primary sources for this group. Other items come from other sources.
  • Keywords are based on occurrences this week in addition to other social signals.

Corporate Social Media Policies

There's a very interesting set of questions in the post Happy New Year! AND do you have opinions about social media governance? This is by an IBM employee, Jen Okimoto, who works in the domain of Web 2.0 and is asking about a very important issue ...

Access to and Governance of Social Media Tools in Corporate America.

This is a big issue. I've posted before a list of Corporate Policies on Web 2.0 and you can see some of the patterns that have emerged, but these don't necessarily help answer the questions being raise. I have some numbers in Web 2.0 Corporate Access that shows that a significant number of corporate policies are to shut down access to the tools.

Her questions are right on the mark. These are problems that I heard during my sessions last week as I mentioned in ASTD Follow-Up. Here are the questions she posted (with significant additional commentary).

1. How detailed should social media guidelines be?
2. When introducing social media into the workplace, how do we address HR concerns about reduced employee productivity?
3. How do you guide employees or manage employees in navigating the gray with respect to posting content that is or is not appropriate in the work environment?
4. What about content that falls squarely in the HR domain? What if employees use social media to publicize HR issues, or to gain "supporters" to their cause?
5. Do we have IBM or client examples of stats, use cases or any other stories that address these concerns?

This is an important discussion to be conducted. I hope you will visit her blog for details and post your thoughts.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Social Job Seeker Resource

Yesterday, I was lamenting on the lack of resources available to people seeking jobs who don't know how to use social media. I had blogged about one technique in the past - Networking to a Job. But we realistically need a whole lot on this topic.

I just saw that Michele Martin has set up the Career Commons. Knowing Michele, this will be a fantastic discussion and resource. I don't have time right now to get directly involved, so I hope that people who participate will create resources that help provide practical advice for job seekers.

She has her first informal webinar for February 9, 2009 at 12 noon (EST). But she's limiting participation. I'd suggest you move quickly if you want to participate.

ASTD Follow-Up

Last week at ASTD TechKnowledge, I did a keynote on Work Literacy and eLearning 2.0, an online Q&A Session for the Virtual Conference and a session on using Web 2.0 Tools for eLearning. You can find the handouts for the last session via TK09 Handouts.

I thought I'd capture some links and thoughts around these sessions.

Learning from Our Kids

In my keynote, I mentioned a Fourth Grade Wikipedia Update. Part of the beauty of this example is that I believe that through watching what's different with my kids, I can learn a lot about what's different. But I also see things that I feel need to be addressed. For example, we still teach Cursive Writing instead of Touch Typing to kids.

Improve your Work Literacy

I would highly encourage going through the recent series of posts all about Tools and Methods for Work and Learning:

Keynote Links

I mentioned in Twitter Conference Ideas that I was sending messages and links during the keynote. Here is a larger set of links that go with the keynote. In fact, it almost tells the story of the keynote.

Take Action to Get Results

If you felt that you should be doing something after hearing this, I would highly recommend taking the following immediate steps:
  1. I'll be doing posts periodically as follow-up to this session, so I'd highly recommend taking this as an opportunity to subscribe to my blog via email or an RSS Reader.
  2. Review the post - Information Radar - and use the information there to set up your radar and start a new blog.
  3. After you've started your blog then make sure readers can find you.

Fantastic Questions Raised

In the Virtual Q&A Session, there were a lot of really great questions being raised. I will try to use these as inspiration for upcoming posts. If you find these compelling and you post about them, please let me know so I can point folks there.
  • How do you recommend we stay up-to-date with the changing technology?
  • What resources would u recommend for a baby boomer 2 become proficient in blogging, social networking, wikis, etc?
  • Or more do you find them? There are so many to keep up with.from
  • What are the top 5 things as a learning professional we need to learn immediately.
  • I’ve seen X and am not seeing much participation.
  • New Hire Blog - I love the idea of a new hire blog. Do you set it up so that only internal employees can view it?
  • Are there any companies have done a good job in implementing the tools you described?
  • Can you discuss the cultural implications of these changes? Can a highly regulated and slow to change Insurance Industry adapt these new methods of learning?
  • Could you please discuss methods for encouraging users to use collaborative methods? I spend a lot of time developing SharePoint options for a department, but colleagues are more likely to spend their 2.0 time on personal FaceBook pages and then still email documents back and forth...
  • Is there a simple way to convert info from a blog into an existing training program, such as a new employee orientation (so you can edit and update the orientation program as you discover things that need to be covered from your new employee's blogs)?
  • How does this apply to non-knowledge workers? For example, ditch diggers?from
  • Maybe the ditch digger is really a closet Social Networking expert.
  • We will shortly move to Outlook 2007, with the RSS capability. I thought of introducing this tool to management by creating a blog on leadership topics with an RSS (as a useful illustration of its ability). I have no idea how to create an RSS. Any tips/resources?
  • Can you share an emerging technology that you are excited about? Or do we have enough tools for now? Can you articulate what Web 3.0 or Learning 3.0 or Social Networking 3.0. would look like?
  • I develop training for a call center. These workers are required to answer calls. However, this type of collaboration can help them learn and personally grow. Supervisors, Baby Boomers and Traditionals, do not believe or understand social networking. How do you get them, including thier supervisors, to use these collaboaration tools.
  • even our millennials, who use these tools all day long--don't view them as work tools yet. Steep learning curve?

eLearning 2.0 Links

Wikis -

Social Bookmarking

Social Networking

RSS Readers

Blogging -

Choosing an eLearning Authoring Tool -

Training Method Trends -

eLearning 2.0 Examples -

Web 2.0 Applications in Learning

Corporate Policies

Wiki Patterns

Additional Follow-Up

If you have further questions, thoughts, etc. please let me know via comments.