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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Simulations Games Social and Trends

I received some interesting questions (and you know I love questions) from someone doing eLearning industry market research around trends in simulations, games, social learning.  They said they would be fine with me posting my thoughts.  I’m sure they’d love to get thoughts from others as there’s likely not enough data around this stuff to be super comfortable making business decisions.

Question 1 - As the notion of “learning as an event” begins to be replaced with true “just-in-time” learning, (in the form of learning communities and availability to portals of knowledge and information) do you think off-the-shelf eLearning programs in professional skill development will continue to be one component of a learning solution? Will they grow in need, become obsolete, or remain the same?

This is a case where I look back at what I’ve written:

and now I find that I probably should back step a little.  I generally talk about what’s on the leading edge, but here, the questions are a bit different. 

Yes, we will continue to see lots of professional skill development via off-the-shelf eLearning solutions.  I do think these will need to morph to fit better with new kinds of consumption and as part of an overall blended solution.  But people continue to need core development opportunities and eLearning courseware continues to be an important part of the mix.

That said – if I’m defining my business direction (which is what’s behind these questions), I would start by looking at my post on the Business of Learning.  There’s a lot to question about content based business models in a time when there’s easy access to lots of content.  There’s always a place for truly differentiated and valuable learning experiences.  But most content is me-too – and the value proposition for that will go down.

This is further complicated by the fact that there’s expectation that learning is going to be more and more part of day-to-day knowledge work.  In my recent post, I claim Social Learning Tools Should Not be Separate from Enterprise 2.0.  You need to think about how your learning business lines up with the reality of work and tools in the near future.  Of course, one of the big problems is that the marketplace (especially learning / training leaders) are not yet ready to replace courseware expenditure with other kinds of spending quite yet.

Question 2)  As new technologies for learning grow, and the use of games, simulations and immersive learning matures, how do you think self-directed asynchronous eLearning, will compare next to these more interactive programs? Will there remain a need for eLearning libraries?

Yes, there’s still a place for eLearning libraries.  I really don’t see them going away soon.  I see the pressures I’ve described above.

In terms of games, simulations, immersive learning – I continue to believe that there are wonderful opportunities to create really compelling learning experiences using these approaches.  But, we’ve yet to see a true blockbuster.  Shouldn’t there be a Management 101 Game program that’s sold 10M copies in the US?  If there was, then it would be tough to the a less compelling offering in the same space. 

But clearly there are lots of other barriers that keep games and simulations in check.  The numbers I’ve seen over the past couple of years don’t suggest that these kinds of solutions are really gaining broad acceptance in the market.

I should caveat that I believe that given how easy video is to shoot – simple kinds of video-based simulations will happen more often.  Actually, as price/effort continues to drop for each of these kinds of solutions, we will see more of them.  But we aren’t talking about massive numbers or replacement at this point.

See also When Do Learning Games Make Business Sense?

Question 3) Who is really using what in learning? What is the use level of simulations, gaming, and avatars?

I’m hoping someone can help.  The last numbers I had are a little old now.  In 2008, I published some numbers from the eLearningGuild in Training Method Trends which shows a snapshot at that time.  The recent ASTD numbers provide some additional insight.

Anyone know where there are some numbers around this?

Anyone with different thoughts on the trends around simulations, games and social learning?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

eLearning Innovation 2010 – Top 30

I had an interesting conversation the other day about whether there’s that much new going on in eLearning here in 2010.  The general sentiment around the room was that many workplace learning organizations were focused on nuts-and-bolts training, and that there was little innovation.

I’m probably not the best judge of whether there’s innovation going on because:

  • People call me when they want to do something innovative.  I tend to work on things that are a bit leading edge like Data Driven performance solutions or eLearning Startups or the next great idea that someone has.
  • In the world of eLearning, I generally pay attention to other innovators.  These are often bloggers as exemplified by the great bloggers found via eLearning Learning.  I also might be talking to people I’m talking to in conversations who are thinking about something innovative.

So, I’m afraid that I’ve a skewed perspective.

That said – I’m still under the impression that my central eLearning Predictions for 2010 is going to come true.  At the end of the year, we will be saying:

“Wow, 2010 was a crazy year!”

I was asked for some specifics and at the time I didn’t come up with really good answers.  I suggested that they review my predictions – which is a pretty good indicator of where I see some more interesting innovations coming.

But I also thought I’d cheat and use what eLearning Learning is telling me the hotter topics are for the first 3 months of 2010.  What are these?  These are topics that are coming up in the participating blogs more during this time than they have in the past and that have good social signals.  So, I pulled the top 30 terms.  I’ve grouped them and commented on what I’m seeing.

So, here’s what we are already seeing this year.

Google Buzz, Google Wave and PKM

PKM stands for Personal Knowledge Management, which is a definite passion of mine (see Work Literacy and Social Media for Knowledge Workers).  Interesting to me to see that these pop to the top.

  1. PKM in a nutshell, March 22, 2010
  2. PKM in 2010, January 27, 2010 
  3. Google Buzz in eLearning, February 11, 2010
  4. Seven (Possible) Ways to Use Google Buzz for Education by Jeremy Vest, February 17, 2010
  5. Google Wave: 100 tips & tricks, January 25, 2010
  6. New Features Added to Google Wave: More useful for e-Learning by Bill Brandon, January 26, 2010

iPad, Mobile Learning, iPhone

The iPad and other mobile solutions offer something pretty interesting.  Retail, restaurants, construction – great stuff!

  1. Making Sense Of The iPad For Online Learning, February 8, 2010
  2. Apple's iPad: What does it offer for e-Learning? by Bill Brandon, January 27, 2010
  3. The iPad and its impact on m-learning., February 22, 2010
  4. Tools For Mobile Learning Development, March 21, 2010
  5. Five Mobile Learning Implementation Tips, March 1, 2010
  6. The Advent of Mobile Learning Technology, January 7, 2010


Interesting to see this up this high.  But it makes sense.  Do you remember when you couldn’t do video because the network didn’t support it?  And when it took too long to shoot the video and put it up?  That was probably only two years ago for most of us.  And now that’s pretty radically changed!

  1. Planning A Video Production, January 8, 2010
  2. Instructional Design for Videos, January 22, 2010
  3. 25 places to find instructional videos, February 8, 2010

Social LearningSocial MediaTwitter, Facebook

Not a surprise to see that there’s lots of discussion of social learning and specific social media tools for social learning.

  1. Twitter for Learning – 55 Great Articles, March 24, 2010
  2. Social Learning Strategies Checklist, January 11, 2010
  3. How to use Twitter for Social Learning, March 20, 2010
  4. Checklist of Social Learning Strategies, January 12, 2010

Virtual World

The tools are starting to get there where simulations in 3D worlds makes sense. 

  1. Eight 3D Virtual World Design Principles, March 8, 2010
  2. Virtual Immersive Environments: From Theory to Practice, February 7, 2010
  3. Instructional Design for Virtual Worlds, January 22, 2010

Nuts-and-Bolts Topics

Here are other topics that come up.  I’d suggest that these would argue in favor of nuts-and-bolts.  But you can be the judge of that.

Not Sure

Here are the final two.  Not sure how to categorize these things.


I’d be curious your thoughts?

BTW – did I miss anything that you see as a big discussion topic already this year?

And I’m curious if you think that 2010 is so far a year of nuts-and-bolts or if you are seeing innovation?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Social Learning Tools Should Not be Separate from Enterprise 2.0

With the recent launch of InGenius by SkillSoft, I believe it’s time again to raise a pretty important question:

Where do Social Learning Tools belong?  Should they be coupled with your LMS or other learning-specific tools?  Or should they be separated?  Or ????

My contention (as expressed in LMS and Social Learning) is that most of the vendors are getting this wrong.  Instead of looking at providing tightly coupled Social Learning Tools, they should instead be looking at how their offering can integrate or leverage Enterprise 2.0 tools.  Using David Wilkins diagram:


We are talking about how formal (or informal) can leverage tools that employees will be using outside of the context of learning.  This could be: SharePoint, Yammer, Confluence, etc.

John Ambrose in Social Learning Will Fill Enterprise 2.0’s Empty Drums discussed part of the strategy with InGenius.  It’s finding content that can fill the empty drums of enterprise 2.0 tools when they are first rolled out.  I agree with John that rolling out an empty Wiki or other enterprise 2.0 tool often leads to poor uptake.  So having something that can serve as base content, makes sense.  But I have trouble with two aspects of the InGenius solution:

  1. It ties social interaction to books (and eventually other learning resources).  It’s clearly the Amazon model.
  2. It is local to the InGenius solution.  If an organization has SharePoint and InGenius, my preference would be that social interaction occurs in SharePoint.  InGenius should integrate into SharePoint.  Employees don’t want to have multiple social solutions that do similar things – one for learning and one for working.

As a side note, Skillsoft is trying really hard to get Social Learning to be SEOed to their inGenius product.  I hope that people find Jane Hart’s Handbook or they find resources from eLearning Learning’s Social Learning page.  Trying to extrapolate from a single product like inGenius is going to be hard for most people to understand social learning.

While I’m being critical of Skillsoft’s product as it currently stands, I do applaud their efforts to embrace social learning and add to the conversation.  As an example …

Pam Boiros, a speaker at last year’s LearnTrends conference, recently posted on the The 8 Truths of Social Learning (listed here, but see her post for the details):

  • Cross-generational appeal
  • Discovery of knowledgeable colleagues
  • Shared best practices and capture of tacit knowledge
  • Intuitive to use and easy to roll-out
  • Enhance learning programs 
  • Respect for privacy
  • Ownership of user-generated content
  • Safe, trusted, proven environment

I would add to this:

  • Obvious value
  • Same tools as your work tools

When we talk about Social Software Adoption it follows the formulas described in

Adoption Rate = Perceived Usefulness (PU) * Perceive Ease of Use (PEOU)

So, Pam’s right on ease-of-use (or perceived ease-of-use).  But you have to also have perceived value.  And that’s what I learned from Selling Social Learning – Be a Jack.

I would also claim that perceived value and real value are closely related to the tools being the same tools you use as part of day-to-day work.  A separate set of tools greatly diminishes the on-going value (perceived and actual).

Monday, April 05, 2010

Failure of Creative Commons Licenses

As part of last month’s big question Open Content in Workplace Learning?, I’ve been trying to find out more about specific answers to Creative Commons Use in For-Profit Company eLearning.  I was contacted by someone out of the Creative Commons organization, but in going back and forth with them, we realized that I was looking for legal interpretations which they clearly can’t do.  They are there to help set up the licenses.  But that said, it also shows a failure of the current licenses.

What do I mean by a failure?

As I pointed out in my previous post, Creative Commons themselves conducted a study to understand commonly held interpretation of the understanding of the meaning of these licenses.  This common interpretation is important if you are going to defend your use of licensed materials.  But it also shows that lots of interpretation is required.

The person from Creative Commons suggested I post to the cc-community mailing list my questions.  I only received one response with the following suggestion:

Contact the copyright holder to verify that:

a) The work was distributed under the license you received it under;

b) Their understanding of what the license permits and your understanding of what the license permits are congruent;

MIT,for one, has a couple of pages that outlines their interpretation of the CC-BY-SA-NC license. Most other educational institutions have similar pages, albeit not always with the same degree of examples as MIT.

But that leaves us with having to go and contact the license holder of each work which somewhat defeats the purpose right?

That’s what I mean by failure.

We don’t have an answer to some pretty basic questions!

The one good thing that came out of it was that at least MIT recognized this failure and has additional information: MIT Interpretation of "Non-commercial"":

Non-commercial use means that users may not sell, profit from, or commercialize OCW materials or works derived from them. The guidelines below are intended to help users determine whether or not their use of OCW materials would be permitted by MIT under the "non-commercial" restriction. Note that there are additional requirements (attribution and share alike) spelled out in our license.

  1. Commercialization is prohibited. Users may not directly sell or profit from OCW materials or from works derived from OCW materials.
    Example: A commercial education or training business may not offer courses based on OCW materials if students pay a fee for those courses and the business intends to profit as a result.
  2. Determination of commercial vs. non-commercial purpose is based on the use, not the user. Materials may be used by individuals, institutions, governments, corporations, or other business whether for-profit or non-profit so long as the use itself is not a commercialization of the materials or a use that is directly intended to generate sales or profit.
    Example: A corporation may use OCW materials for internal professional development and training purposes.
  3. Incidental charges to recover reasonable reproduction costs may be permitted. Recovery of nominal actual costs for copying small amounts (under 1000 copies) of OCW content on paper or CDs is allowed for educational purposes so long as there is no profit motive and so long as the intended use of the copies is in compliance with all license terms. Students must be informed that the materials are freely available on the OCW Web site and that their purchase of copied materials is optional.
    Example: An institution in a remote area has limited Internet access and limited network infrastructure on campus, and a professor offers to create CDs of OCW materials relevant to her course. The professor may recover the costs of creating the CDs.

If you have questions about acceptable use of OCW materials, please contact us.

For those of us in eLearning, the key line is “A corporation may use OCW materials for internal professional development and training purposes.”

That’s great news.  But it doesn’t necessarily hold for other Open Content, just MIT.

Bottom line is that Creative Commons is failing to really help us.  If you have to go and contact each license holder to find out, you are basically in the same boat as with copyright.