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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Interactive Writer for Teen Audience

Most of my experience has been in adult learning and performance.  Recently I’ve been working with a startup that provides content and tools to teens and is sold through high schools.  The first course is fairly well defined and is based on a couple of books/workbooks that have been used offline.

What’s been interesting to me is that it’s been hard to find just the right person to help them with designing interactive exercises and writing content in order to bring this to life online. 

Actually, the first interesting question is:

What do you call this role?

When we’ve called it either an instructional designer or writer we often find ourselves talking to people who have a hard time envisioning the online interactions.  I’m currently calling it an interactive writer, but I’m sure there’s a common term for this in the industry.

The second challenge has been that we want to find someone who can write for today’s teen audience.  The style and voice of the course needs to balance being fresh and hip but not losing sight of the importance of the topic.  We’ve talked with writers who have incredible experience in publishing for teens (magazines, books) but they don’t get the instructional and interaction aspects.

So the second question is:

How do you find a really good instructional designer / interactive writer who has experience with teen audiences?

In the past, I’ve always been successful finding good interactive writers because I can use techniques as described in LinkedIn for Finding Expertise and the rest of my LinkedIn Guide for Knowledge Workers.  In most of those cases, I can search for instructional design + eLearning + <terms> where the terms are something about the specifics of the audience, industry, topic, etc.  It doesn’t always work, but generally is pretty good.

In this case, that has not been effective.  I’m sure it’s partly an issue of not knowing the right terms to use in a search.

Of course, all of this is made harder in that it’s a startup with a limited budget, so they are generally looking for people who can work efficiently (read inexpensively).  And then there’s the whole availability issue.  Still this is a common question, so I’m sure I can learn a lot about how to do this better.

I’m hoping you can help me on several fronts:

  1. What are the right terms to describe the role and would work for search?
  2. Where should I be searching?
  3. How would you attack this problem?
  4. If you know someone, certainly please connect me.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

One Week to Select an LMS – No Way

There has been fantastic comments around Learning Management System Easy of Use.  This post was based on an inquiry that I received from someone who manages their current LMS implementation that is based on Moodle with some customization.  They do customer training around products that the company sells.  They are doing a combination of virtual classroom training (via WebEx) and self-paced eLearning.  And the person who asked the question tells me:

My managers have asked me to find alternatives to Moodle that are more user friendly and that are easier to update and manage.

Well two days later I’m told:

You will get a kick out of this though.  My supervisors told me to research LMS possibilities and narrow it down it down to about 3-5 and report back in a week and present the pros and cons of the top ones I found.  And it’s not like I have all day each day to work this either, I have little pockets of time between now and then as normally I am on the phone all day training customers.  Sure, 15 hours of Internet research will be enough for me to narrow down all the many possibilities to 3-5 (sarcasm).

Now, I hate to say that this is all too common a situation.  Of course, this strikes me as completely unreasonable, especially given the complexity of what’s involve in LMS Selection

Research that I cited in LMS Selection Time suggested that the time for the steps on average was:

  1. Gather and Specify Requirements – 5 months
  2. Research Vendors Requirements – 4 months
  3. Meet with Vendors – 2 months

With several people involved.  Of course, these were enterprise implementations with many different business units and training organizations involved. 

But I still believe that trying to do an LMS selection in a week (actually in 15 hours) is bound to run you into some of the Learning Management Systems (LMS) Gotchas that I’ve talked about before.

The real question here is probably more about how you work with your management to get them to understand the challenge, how you might approach it, the risks of not doing a more thorough evaluation.

Still are there good ways that you can short-circuit the LMS Selection Process to reduce the length of time?  

Also, obviously, you can’t come back and say 11 months, when they were thinking 1 week.  And I’m not suggesting it’s actually 11 months, but it’s still more than one week.  So, how do you effectively negotiate to a level of depth that will make sense in this kind of situation?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What Makes an LMS Easy to Use?

I’ll have more coming on this topic, but today someone asked me how to approach is going through an LMS selection because the general feeling was that the existing LMS was too hard for users to use. 

In this case, it’s customer training around products that the company sells.  They are doing a combination of virtual classroom training (via WebEx) and self-paced eLearning.  They currently use Moodle as an LMS with some customizations.  However, the resource who did the customizations is no longer with the company.  And the person who asked the question tells me:

My managers have asked me to find alternatives to Moodle that are more user friendly and that are easier to update and manage.

I’ve discussed many times about dissatisfaction with LMS:

and even a bit about the disconnect between an LMS and what things most users want / need:

When I look at how I define the process for selecting an LMS, a lot of it comes down to the ability to support differentiating use cases.  That doesn’t necessarily help when it comes to selecting an LMS that will be easy for the user.  So, I’m left wondering:

  • What are examples of specific requirements that can be used during LMS selection to ensure that the result is easy to use?
  • Have you found that any LMS is particularly easier to use and been able to make a selection based on that?
  • What advice would you have for helping this individual find alternatives to Moodle?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

LMS Tracking of Podcasts and Video Casts

I received an interesting question from someone who is working on providing content to a remote sales force of about 40 people on topics such as selling process, products and selling skills.  They currently provide some podcasts and video casts, but would like to track the new content that is being developed now. 

It seems like this should be an obvious question.  You can put the audio or video inside a SCORM course and load it into an LMS.  Given the small audience and limited scope, likely a Rapid Learning Management System would make a lot of sense if that was the direction.  I’d have to think a bit more to have a specific suggestion on the course authoring tool for this, but should be easy enough to do this.

However, in this case the sales force is used to accessing this as MP3 and MP4 files available for download into their iPods, iPhones, etc.  They are not used to connecting via an LMS.  Likely the sales force is not going to be happy about:

This is a fairly common use case.  Certainly, I’m missing something.  So, asked my various networks about this and got back few responses. 

Peter Casebow via twitter:

@tonykarrer got to ask how does it help org to count or know who's had access unless for compliance reasons. What will you do with data?

They do want to track this for helping to make sure that the sales force gets through the content.  I.e., follow-up notifications.  However, they might be able to get away with putting the core content out the same way they do today and only put the assessments into the LMS.  The tracking would only be that they did a portion.  This is a change to  What Goes in the LMS?

Of course, that assumes that they don’t need to track going through the content and that there are assessments.  I’m pretty sure that neither is true.

Is there a better way to do this?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Selling Social Learning – Be a Jack

I was just reading a post - Top 5 tips to gain buy in for learning with social media.  The tips were many of the usual suspects (click on the link for details):

  1. Build a solid measurable plan
  2. Do your research and put it to the test
  3. Choose your words carefully
  4. Blitz the stigma
  5. Educate the decision makers

This is good stuff, but it also got me to thinking that this might be way more complicated than it really needs to be.  Instead, one of the things that I Learned about Learning in 2009 and was an important eLearning Predictions for 2010 was to “Be a Jack”.  What does this mean?

I detailed it in Selling Learning Communities – Not Everyone Will or Wants a Group Hug.  Go listen to Jack and how he describes what he does.  And the key in selling social learning / learning communities was the simple explanation of what they are in a value proposition.  Here’s what Be a Jack sounds like:

If I can bring together outside experts and/or people from across the organization with expertise and facilitate a conversation on the critical business issues you are facing and help you capture that so that it can get distributed in the organization – is that something you would want?

Absolutely!  In fact, we all want that all the time! 

As an example, the way that I should have described a SharePoint Social Learning Experience if my audience was a CLO or VP Learning would be:

If I can bring together people from across your learning organization in a facilitated discussion possibly with outside peers or experts so that they can explore the implications of social learning, informal learning and Using SharePoint in the organization as both a system for facilitating the work of L&D and as a tool to be used as part of learning solutions – is that something you would want?

Or the HP example out of that same post:

Help marketing professionals understand the implications of Web 2.0 for HP’s marketing efforts.

Am I wrong, or doesn’t it make a lot of sense to simply Be a Jack?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Filtering, Crowdsourcing and Information Overload

Great post by Tim Kastelle - Filtering, Crowdsourcing and Innovation.  He’s talking primarily about Innovation pipelines based on crowdsourcing.  His diagram:


Show a fairly common model for how things can be filtered.  This is similar to the model that we used on Project Greenlight – the scriptwriting and director contest by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.  Anyone (hopefully everyone) could submit their script / movie.  From there, we had smaller and smaller batches of people reviewing until it got down to the core team looking at the top few submissions. 

This caught my eye because it’s a bit different than the model we are using on Browse My Stuff that powers sites like eLearning Learning.  In Curator Editor Research Opportunities on eLearning Learning, I described the flow that it uses:


In this case, the input is curated content although it can come from virtually anywhere.  It then relies on social signals from everyone to filter it down.

I’m not claiming that one is preferred.  And I think that you can argue that Digg uses a slightly different model.

The other part of this thought process is that the feedback on my Top 10 eLearning Predictions for 2010 was that I should have Information Overload and Information Filtering as my user chosen prediction number 10.  I tend to agree with that.  But there’s a challenge to it.  And that challenge is somewhat hinted at in this month’s big question: Instruction in a Information Snacking Culture?

  • Are the training solutions being produced part of the problem of information overload?
  • How do we shift to a position where we are helping to filter information and reduce overload rather than possibly contribute?

Certainly, I’m paying attention to this and I’m going to go through Tim’s post – Personal Aggregate, Filter and Connect Strategies to see how it might impact my Tool Set 2009 tools and methods, especially Information Radar, Networks and Learning Communities).

Good stuff Tim!

Monday, February 01, 2010

SharePoint Social Learning Experience

I had a great conversation last week that sparked an early stage idea for what I think would be a wonderful way for learning and development organizations to leverage SharePoint better. 

HP Web 2.0 for Marketing – Social Learning Experience

The concept is probably easiest to understand by considering what HP did around their course on Web 2.0 for Marketing.  You can find more on this by going to the LearnTrendsSharePoint in Corporate Learning Recordings.

The basic concept was that HP’s learning organization wanted to help their marketing professionals get up to speed on the implications of Web 2.0 for HP’s marketing efforts.  Of course, that’s an interesting learning problem in that the answer around “implications” is not defined. 

The L&D organization created a social learning experience that brought together 60 marketing professionals from across the organization.  They established a goal of having the group produce a summary of what they found and what Web 2.0 could mean for the organization.  In many ways, this was a facilitated work task more than a learning experience.  The L&D organization provided some instruction on the basics for how the sessions would operate and some information around Web 2.0, but a lot of the effort was discovery by the marketing professionals themselves.

In the picture below, you can see some of the mechanisms they used:


  • Social Bookmarks to share resources they found
  • Discussion Boards to ask questions and have discussions.
  • A blog that helped spark conversations around key topics.
  • A wiki that served as a repository for the resources they collected.
  • Virtual class sessions to share what they were finding
  • Learners were encouraged to do quick screen capture movies to explain their thoughts around particular uses of Web 2.0 technologies and share with the group.

The results were pretty incredible for HP.  And it’s exactly this kind of facilitated social learning experience where the result is somewhat a work objective that makes a lot of sense.

SharePoint Social Learning Experience

Based on the above description, I’m sure you can see where I’m going with what I think would be a fantastic learning opportunity for L&D organizations who want to understand what it means to Use SharePoint in their organization as both a system for facilitating the work of L&D and as a tool to be used as part of learning solutions.

The idea would be to:

  • Set a goal to produce a presentation and set of recommendations to be presented to senior L&D management
  • Get a cross section of L&D professionals and possibly others within the business
  • Setup an environment that will be used both as a sandbox and as a support for the learning experience
  • Introduce SharePoint (and/or other technologies) to participants
  • Facilitate activities and discussions that ultimately lead towards the presentation and recommendations

Of course, there’s nothing preventing variants of this being done across multiple smaller organizations.  And certainly there are lots of external professionals that likely would make sense to either help make this happen or include as third party experts as part of the learning experience.  See Learning Community, Peers and Outside Experts for more description of possible design elements.

I also think this is a great way to help build understanding of social learning within an organization.

I’m hoping to get feedback on this?  Does it make sense as a model?  Are organizations already beyond this or should it actually be a facilitated discussion around learning technologies period, not just SharePoint?  Will it make the most sense as SharePoint 2010 begins to roll out into organizations?