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

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Corporate eLearning Development: Learning2.0, Identity2.0 and

On Brent's blog, he has a good post with a link to a presentation on Identity 2.0:

Corporate eLearning Development: Learning2.0, Identity2.0

Definitely we are going to have to deal with authentication and identity issues at some point to get integration and groups to work effectively in distributed applications. Can't say that it's here and now though.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Does eLearning 2.0 Make a Difference?

I want to thank Al Moser and Claude Ostyn for some interesting discussion over on the Brandon Hall AT group. They’ve helped to clarify a couple of aspects of eLearning 2.0 especially in terms of differences in terms of authoring…

Background Example

I can best illustrate by having you look at my blog:
Obviously, my blog is not a course, but some interesting aspects of my blog:
  1. It was created with an online service within about 10 minutes of sign-up. No authoring tool to download.
  2. Subscribe to Feed (right side chicklets). I went to an online tool that I typed in the name of my blog and it created a small HTML block that I could put into my course (no I mean blog). It has all the chicklets.
  3. Email Subscription. I went to an online tool that handles email feeds for people who don't want to use RSS. It gave me a small piece of code that is being pulled dynamically from their service - and FeedBlitz handles all the email for me.
  4. Bookmarks ... another service that creates HTML.
  5. Blogs ... used BlogLines to compose together my reading list. This gets pulled dynamically. When I add something into BlogLines - it is updated on my blog.
  6. My Tags & Links - same thing as BlogLines, but with my top tags and recently added links.
  7. SiteMeter - at the very bottom of the page, used SiteMeter to track how many people and who is going on my site.

Differences in eLearning 2.0

A lot of what is discussed as being the interesting possibilities in eLearning 2.0 authoring (link to my article), are theoretically possible with tools that are available today.

As Al Moser points out –

> Today, you can have many people participate with chat rooms, mail lists,
> bulletin boards, alt groups, teleconferences, etc.

In other words, one of the common complaints against eLearning 2.0 is simply that all of this capability really already exists in eLearning 1.0 world. So, what’s different?

I agree that we have a lot of the same capabilities in the eLearning 1.0 world. We sometimes use tools like the ones that Al cites. But some differences that eLearning 2.0 makes …

1. Ease-of-Creation.

In eLearning 1.0, these tools take more work to get set up. If they are provided as services, it only takes 10 minutes in a lot of cases to pull something together. So, as a course designer/author, I’m much more willing to try them out. So, if I want students going through my eLearning course to take a poll question and see other past student responses. Buying a shrink wrap poll creation tool that I need to integrate - I just never bothered. I am doing it today because its so easy. Quite easy to do this with eLearning 2.0 tools, but I’m not sure I would do it without the eLearning 2.0 solution. All the rest of those tools in use on my blog also made the adoption barrier so low, that I'm using these tools.

2. Seamless Integration.

Let’s take a different scenario for this one. Let’s assume that I’m creating a course and what to pose a thought provoking question and ask the students to put in their answer and then review and comment on other students answers.

Under Learning 1.0, I can set up a threaded discussion and point my students to it within my course. And let's assume for a minute that it is equally easy to set up a threaded discussion in both eLearning 1.0 and eLearning 2.0 (which it isn't).

I am still generally more reluctant to try it in eLearning 1.0 because it sits outside the course as a separate tool, students are going to get a different interface to learn. They may not feel comfortable with it.

In eLearning 2.0, I can integrate this seamlessly into the course where there is very little overhead for the student. I would present the on the first page with a text input box embedded right in the course. And then on the subsequent page, allow them to explore other answers embedded right in the course. And see commentary from me on the answers in the course.
In some ways, it is the same thing as eLearning 1.0, but I believe that learners can be much more easily led into this kind of experience with the seamless integration.
And the proliferation of these kinds of eLearning Patterns are going to explode with eLearning 2.0.

3. Fine-grained Tools

This relates closely to the previous two points. With the ease of creation, I’m simply willing to use smaller, more focused tools that do one job, but do it very well.

4. Static vs. Dynamic Composition

Al Moser points out…
> 1. The difference between the "lego blocks" idea where content is
> provided by different computers and using courses built from different
> media is about where the content is hosted. What I understand is that
> at delivery time in "Web 2.0" you are merging the content from various
> locations, possibly created at real time. Today we merge content built
> by different tools into a "web site". The site is prepared (or it has
> links to other content, and these links are prepared) ahead of time.

In the eLearning world, we routinely compose our courses out of combinations of things like Lectora + Flash + Captivate where Flash and Captivate are used to create components that are embedded within the Lectora container. As Al points out, these objects get composed ahead of time into a course. This is the norm in eLearning 1.0.

In eLearning 2.0, we will use both static and dynamic composition.

Static Composition is when the content is create by an authoring tool ahead of time into its presentation format and embedded within the course. In my blog, the Chicklet creator was an example of this. I went to the site and gave it some parameters. It handed me back some HTML to put in my page. I never have to talk with the Chicklet creation tool again unless I change something. The only difference between this example and embedded Flash is that one is provided via “software as service” and the other is provided shrink wrap.

Dynamic Composition is when the component is called each time that the content is needed and is provided by a remote system. The Links, Blogroll, etc. on the right side of my blog are all the result of my blog calling out to these services. The poll question example is exactly this as well.

5. Dynamic Content

The other obvious difference in the example is that some of the content is updated on my blog by the dynamically composed services. In my blog, its my links, blogroll, etc. If I use to mark a page as interesting, my blog is now updated with that information (and anywhere else that has it). In the eLearning course examples, polls, question answers, questions to the teacher, etc. are all dynamic content that will be updated as people take the courses.

Up to eLearning 2.0, most of us inherently think of a course as having all static content.

While we’ve been able to have dynamic content for quite a while, we haven’t done it because of many of the reasons I’ve cited already.

6. Software as Service vs. Shrink Wrap

The previous sections point out that eLearning 2.0 is going to continue the trend towards more and more software being provided as a service. We already have lots of services, e.g., hosted LMS products.

There is an ever changing answer to what will be provided as software services vs. shrink wrap. Clearly a graphics heavy tool like Flash will probably stay on the desktop for a while. While simple, form based authoring will make sense to be provided as a service.

Interesting Issues

Even under most eLearning 2.0 scenarios, I'm still going to use ReadyGo, Lectora, etc. or an LCMS or something that will allow me to (if nothing else) compose together my content into Courses/SCOs so that I can deliver it at the end of the day. So, I think we are again on the same page.

And, the nice thing is that many of these tools allow you to embed HTML snippets (and hopefully JavaScript snippets) right into the course.

Thus, using an authoring tool and one of the online poll creation services, I can within about 5-10 minutes create a course that has an embedded poll. So,

1. Do we care?

Does having a seamlessly embedded poll question inside your course make the course more interesting or engaging. Anecdotally the answer seems to be it depends. But, I'm designing this into a course right now. We'll see. And, I'm wondering why I didn't do this before? Was it just that I didn't think of it? Or did I worry about technical complexity? But, it's here now!

2. What can/should authoring tools do to make this easier/better?

Assuming that an authoring tool wants to be a leader, I would claim that composition (dynamic or static) needs to be something it supports. The poll is an easy example because there doesn't need to be identity passed to the poll (it can be anonymous). And the poll doesn't need to pass back information on what the user answered. But, as these become more common, we need ways for the composed units to talk. And authoring tool companies would likely do well to make it easy to pull these things together.

3. Broader Programs?

And all of this discussion is focused on singular, contained learning units that you would author with ReadyGo or whatever. But, I want to create a blended learning program where this learning unit is one piece of the program at one point in time. I want the learners to review and comment on each other's answers. Or have their manager get involved at the end. I think this is going to be an interesting place to watch.

Add-ins & Mash-ups - Poll Results w/ 44 Responses

In my post, Authoring in eLearning 2.0 / Add-ins & Mash-ups, I discussed a few different kinds of simple tools that could be (today) easily added into an online course. So far, out of 44 responses:

The results are fairly even across the board. I would have expected polls and discussions to be clear front runners. Also, clearly I should do another poll but include "not very useful" as a category. Certainly discussions in other places have suggested that is a common opinion.

Two other notes:

1. You can still vote at the original post location.

2. The one "other" was virtual characters. I've since seen several other good suggestions around simulation tools and such.

Keywords: eLearning 2.0, Web 2.0

Friday, February 24, 2006

Interesting Discussion on eLearning 2.0

Over on the Brandon Hall AT group, there's a discussion around eLearning 2.0 (okay I'll fess up to having started it), but there are definitely a couple of interesting comments and some strong opinions on both sides.

One of the more interesting ones was from John Cleave of Experience Builders which is probably worth the aggrevation of having to register, but he definitely points to some interesting ways in which composition can help that line up with what I've been talking about. He also comments:

Move away from the packaging model. If my course consists of an amalgamation of 6 different feeds, and I want to continuously update and improve it as per Flickr, does it make sense for me to have to package and upload the thing to the LMS server? How about I host it, the LMS routes to my site when a user wants to take the course, and my course will simply send the user tracking info back to the LMS as needed.

Push away from “objects” and toward “layers.” The SCO model envisions a world where there are self-contained e-learning units that can be freely mixed and matched. Yet, these are done in a chain: users work through SCO1, then SCO2, and so on. If you look at some of Reilly’s examples and those above, we might have to start thinking in layers: you’re in SCO1 and SCO2 simultaneously, and SCO3 comes in and goes out as the user needs it. The SCO could be a link, an RSS, a data entry form, or even a package of algorithms, never seen by users, that govern communication between sim1 and sim2 and determines when to bring up coaching as contained in SCO3.

Which raises the same kinds of questions being looked at by the LMOS folks.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Learning Trends Point To and Shape eLearning 2.0

Okay - somehow I messed up in a previous post that introduces What is eLearning 2.0?

Somehow it lost a middle section that talks about important trends that are a big reason for the move to eLearning 2.0. I've fixed the original post and I'm putting a better version of the missing contents here...

There are a few articles on this, probably the two most commonly cited (up until this article) are: E-Learning 2.0, Stephen Downes, E-learning 2.0, whatever that is, David Jennings.

Both of these took me a long time to partially understand. Part of the what makes understanding eLearning 2.0 hard is that several different “camps” have all landed on the same basic kinds of approaches from different directions. I would, via a gross generalization, put these camps down as:
  • eLearning
  • Collaboration / Communities
  • Knowledge Management

Again, this article is primarily aimed at people coming from the eLearning world and in my case I'm mostly familiar with eLearning in corporate settings. In this world, there are significant business and learning trends moving us towards eLearning 2.0.

In 2004, my company, TechEmpower, conducted a research effort around eLearning Technology Trends. We interviewed CLOs and Training Directors from 75 corporations (revenue 300M+, 1000+ employees). The interviews were fairly free-form, but followed along three basic questions:

  • What are the primary challenges facing your business today?
  • What does this mean in terms of learning challenges?
  • How is technology supporting what you need to do?

Business Challenges

From almost every training executive, we heard various primary drivers for their business such as:

  • Company moving from product-centric to customer-centric
  • Facing more/different competition, price pressure, insurgents
  • Changing marketplace

But, we definitely heard a fairly consistent message that their business was facing “change” and an “ever increasing pace.” “We need to move fast.”

Learning Challenges

On the learning front, there was a good-news, bad-news situation. We heard fairly consistently:

  • Senior management in their organizations are definitely focused on human capital issues.
  • CLOs are consistently hearing the following messages from senior management: “People,” “innovation,” “learning,” “organizational effectiveness,” or “agility” are “the only sustainable competitive advantage” – “Execution is key!”
  • Senior management was keenly aware that – 50-70% of their costs were people costs.
  • Ability to change performance was often the key barrier to execution.
  • There was often a sense of growing frustration level among senior management in terms of the ability of learning and training functions to be able to accommodate the pace of change. This was further heightened by factors such as:
  • People in organizations have no time for change or development
  • Complexity of jobs are increasing and changing more rapidly
  • Demographics are having a major impact

The net is a real sense of concern among CLOs in terms of the challenge around learning strategy. If you step back and look at it, the general sentiment was that they needed learning solutions that were:

  • Very fast transfer
  • Occurred in short bursts w/o leaving the workplace
  • Fast to develop (and low cost)
  • Had real impact on performance

When the CLO looks at their typical arsenal of solutions, it’s no surprise that they are concerned. The central question comes from the fact that traditional learning strategies that are really based on a class model, don’t match with the requirements listed above. Thus, they are asking:

What learning models will address these challenges?

In my mind, this goes to the heart of the eLearning 2.0 definition. There is a need for new kinds of learning solutions. We’ve seen the slow smushing together of Online Reference, Online Job Aids, small eLearning pieces, Rapid eLearning and Blended Learning. So, my concept of eLearning 2.0 starts with the trend towards:

  • Small pieces of content
  • Delivered closer to time / place of work
  • Likely delivered in pieces over time as part of a larger program

This trend exists independent of the whole discussion of Web 2.0. In reality it is what is driving a lot of the discussions around Blended Learning and Rapid eLearning. And it’s really a big piece of what eLearning 2.0 is. An interesting discussion of this trend can be found in Elliot Masie’s column in CLO Magazine (but I hate his title) “Nano-Learning: Miniaturization of Design.”

The reality is that eLearning 2.0 is going to be driven as much or more by this question than the folks who are coming from a Web 2.0 (read/write web) standpoint.

To put this another way, if you come at this from a Web 2.0 standpoint, you would be talking about how learning is going to be shaped by:

  • Information and learning objects created more easily and by a broader collection of people
  • Information and learning objects enhanced by tagging and group use
  • Communities providing access to people and information

While I agree that these are important, I personally believe that eLearning 2.0 will first and foremost be shaped by:

  • Seamless integration of information objects and learning objects
  • Short-burst learning objects in the context of work
  • Increased frequency of small communication / awareness learning objects
  • Increasing diversity of tools / resources
  • Multiple interventions over a period of time
  • Involve multiple people in the overall intervention, especially managers and peers
  • System proaction (prompts) as follow-up
  • Reporting tools and assessments tied directly to information and learning objects
  • Integration of metrics and community use information to track utility

I have seen interesting examples of each of these types of approaches that exist already today, but with Web 2.0 technologies, this is becoming even easier. Furthermore, as you combine the two lists, the combination strikes me as having real potential to be a game changing approach.

I will attempt to provide more information and examples of these over time.

Keywords: eLearning Trends

Interesting Articles on Web 2.0 Impact - eLearning 2.0 Implications

Thanks to Eilif Trondsen for pointing me to these articles found at Commerce.Net. They can all be found at:

I found most interesting:

AI Meets Web 2.0: Building the Web of Tomorrow, Today December 2005. 34pp

Microformats: A Pragmatic Path to the Semantic Web January 2006. 20pp

Both suggest the impact of Web 2.0 technology. The article about AI could have easily been written about the impact on eLearning.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

eLearning Blogs - Quick Way to Find Good Ones

Someone recently posted on ASTD that they would like to know what blogs people subscribe to. Since I've only been getting really into blogging over the past couple of months, I've gone through the experience of following links from web sites / blogs. Here's the problem:
  • 50% of the links point to blogs with old content only (6 months since last post) - at least that's a pretty quick rejection.
  • If it has a recent post, then I need to scan the contents to determine if they are posting things that will interest me.
  • If they pass that test, then I go through the process of finding their RSS or Atom link and adding that content to my reader.

That takes me quite a bit of work. So I've tried to figure out how to make this easier for the next person.

Solution 1 - BlogLines

BlogLines allows you to review blogs online and has some nice features to find related blogs based on what other people are subscribing to. It also allows you to have a BlogRoll (which I've put in my template on the right).

You can check out the blogs I subscribe to at:

Of course, unless you are signed up in BlogLines, then it doesn't make subscription any easier.

Solution 2 - OPML Files

The other approach is to sign-up for a whole bunch of Blogs and slowly delete the ones you don't like. Some readers help you out with this, but I find I just push them to the bottom and delete after a while (or I just ignore them). Note: all the blogs I've got listed in my Blog and on BlogLines I think have good stuff on them (these are not in the junk pile).

Of course, to do this, you ideally could just sign up. The good news is that this is starting to become easier because of OPML files. These files contain a list of subscriptions and many readers will allow you to import and export OPML files.

Since I'm using BlogLines to track the good stuff, you can grab my subscriptions at: or click on the OPML file link on the right.

For anyone with a list of blogs, they really should be handing out OPML files to make life better.

Remaining Problem

One problem with this approach is that after you've grabbed my OPML file and imported it, if I find a new interesting blog - which I probably find about one a week - add it to my list of blogs, you won't find out about the new one.

Of course, I could post the blog to my blog to let you know, but it would be so nice if that was just automated. In other words, I should allow my reader to subscribe me to anything that you are reading and it will automatically update the list of blogs. It would remember the ones that I've marked as junk.

My guess is that this is where BlogLines is going (or maybe they already do it).

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

eLearning 2.0: Informal Learning, Communities, Bottom-up vs. Top-Down

As you can see from earlier posts, my approach to eLearning 2.0 is more from an evolutionary, pragmatic side of how does it help me with my eLearning solutions today. However, as you review some of the best thinks on eLearning (and really learning) Trends, one of the things that they quickly point to as a big part of the eLearning 2.0 trend is the ability to leverage the community as part of the larger eLearning picture.

Informal Learning and Loss of Control

Jay Cross' presentation How to Leverage Informal Learning there's very interesting slides that shows the net effect of formal learning. With his calculation, formal learning impacts less than 1% of behavior change.

Now, whether you agree or not with his final number, I think its safe to say that we all agree that blending in other kinds of support including follow-up, job aids, involving managers and peers, and other elements that we would put in Blended Learning yields better results.

Jay Cross' article Informal Learning: A Sound Investment in CLO Magazine I think begins to show more specifics of what he means when he talks about informal learning.
Support the informal learning process:
  • Provide time for informal learning on the job.
  • Create useful, peer-rated FAQs and knowledge bases.
  • Provide places for workers to congregate and learn.
  • Supplement self-directed learning with mentors and experts.
  • Set up help desks 24x7 for informal inquiries.
  • Build networks, blogs, Wikis and knowledge bases to facilitate
  • Use smart tech to make it easier to collaborate and network.
  • Encourage cross-functional gatherings.

Marcia Conner's introduction to Informal Learning. She points to a balance between formal & informal but also adds the dimension of intentional and unexpected.

I really see a lot of what is discussed around Informal Learning on the "Intentional" side as being fairly well in line with many of the things we are trying to do in our Blended Learning solutions today. But what's very interesting about the graphic is that once you get into the realm of Unexpected, it becomes much less comfortable.

Now, once we start to look at what is being discussed around eLearning 2.0, it becomes even more uncomfortable. In Stephen Downes' article "eLearning 2.0" in eLearn Magazine:

the Web was shifting from being a medium, in which information was transmitted and consumed, into being a platform, in which content was created, shared, remixed, repurposed, and passed along.

He's talking about the fact that now everyone can create content. I agree that this has a big impact on how we should be thinking about creating our eLearning / Blended Learning solutions. Also in Stephen Downes' article "eLearning 2.0" in eLearn Magazine.

What happens when online learning ceases to be like a medium, and becomes more like a platform? What happens when online learning software ceases to be a type of content-consumption tool, where learning is "delivered," and becomes more like a content-authoring tool, where learning is created? The model of e-learning as being a type of content, produced by publishers, organized and structured into courses, and consumed by students, is turned on its head.

Insofar as there is content, it is used rather than read and is, in any case, more likely to be produced by students than courseware authors. And insofar as there is structure, it is more likely to resemble a language or a conversation rather than a book or a manual.

Whoa, hang on Stephen. This is where it starts to get really different and uncomfortable for many practitioners. In particular, once you begin to head down this path (and Stephen is far from alone), we've lost control of the process.

We naturally begin to ask questions like:

  • Even if I'm successful in creating a community or a learner produced content source, how do I know that learners are getting the right information and that its support the performance that we want at the end of the day?

  • How can I make sure that I'm able to hit my learning objectives if I don't control the content and the learning process?

There is a natural feeling of a loss of control of the learning experience when we open it up to informal learning, communities, and other techniques where we are not prescribing the learning content.

I think George Siemens also strikes a chord in his article Theories for Informal Learning Design:

Informal learning is too important leave to chance. But why don't we have theories that provide guidelines?

even more amazing was that George was looking at this back in 2004 in his article Learning Development Cycle: Bridging Learning Design and Modern Knowledge Needs.

Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up

In the discussions around informal learning, eLearning 2.0, communities, etc., one of the things that I quickly realized is that I'm a "top-down" or "intentional" kind of person. Unfortunately, both terms are somewhat derogatory terms in certain circles.

What I mean by "Top-Down" and "Intentional" is that I am used to thinking about prescribing a blended learning regime that my learners will be asked to follow that at the end of the day, I'm confident will result in knowledge transfer and performance. This was the case as a professor. This is the case as a designer of eLearning / Blended Learning solutions.

"Bottom-up" and "Unexpected" learning means that you provide tools to your learners to allow them to be more self-directed, peer-supported, community based, etc. You create the environment for learning and foster it, but really you don't control it.

While I don't really dispute the need and value of the Bottom-up (99+% of my personal learning is bottom up), like most people in eLearning, I'm being asked to create Intentional learning. Someone (a client of some kind) wants to support/improve particular performance. And there is an expectation that some element of the solution will address a known knowledge gap. Likely the expectation is that additional follow-up support will be provided. If I tell the client that I'm going to create an environment for learning, that had better be after I've explained my Top-Down/ Intentional learning design.

Okay, Tony, so what?

There are lots of times and places for creating environments for pure Bottom-Up / Informal / Unexpected. Each of us reading this will probably live mostly in this domain for the rest of our lives. There are times and places for pure Top-Down / Formal / Intentional - think compliance training.

The real interesting place right now for me is thinking about the broader context of Blended Learning solutions by taking advantage of techniques/tools such as collaboration, community, learner created content, effective follow-up activities, coaching, etc. Yet, I need this to be done in an Intentional / Top-Down (structured) manner to ensure that I'm first supporting the learning objectives (performance objectives) are being met.

Putting This in Practice

So, what are we talking about here?

Look at what Bill Bruck is doing over at Q2Learning. He has communities tools that are similar to threaded discussions, wikis, groups, etc. On top of that, we has a system for creating "programs" which are a structured series of expected activities by all the participants in the learning. For example, you can set up a program that requires learners to post a review of an article and comment on two other reviews (peer-review). It tracks all the activities (which is something you don't get in most of these applications) and thus allows you to know if people are following your program.

Also look at tools that are being positioned in the "follow-up" camp. There's a review of ActionPlan Mapper that describes the basic idea of having a series of follow-up activities. Certainly, we've used this kind of approach as part of solutions with big effect.

By looking at these tools, I come away thinking that I can at least have the level of control that lets me be prescriptive about a whole series of expected activities that make up my broader blended learning solution.

Friday, February 10, 2006

eLearning 2.0

Updates made Apr 2008. I need to do a bigger set of edits to incorporate thinking from:
and others on the topic. Related posts from several eLearning Blogs:
Someone from the Institute of the Future said (and Bill Gates likes to say it as well):

The impact of Technology is often overestimated in the short-term and underestimated in the long-term.

I think eLearning 2.0 is an example of where technology has snuck up on us and there’s something very interesting going on that we are only beginning to recognize. Another time, I’ll talk about how amazing the technology revolution is, right now, let’s just focus on something I just heard. The person roughly said, I’ve been hearing about Web 2.0 and eLearning 2.0 and I don’t think I get it. What is eLearning 2.o anyhow?

It’s really not an easy question to answer, but let me take you through what I see as the cornerstones of eLearning 2.0. And let me apologize up front that I’m not trying to give any kind of formal definition. Instead, I’m trying to describe how I see eLearning 2.0 playing out in the short-term and medium-term for people in corporate eLearning.

Also, as you read this, if you have questions, comments, additions, please put a comment at the bottom and I’ll try to improve this over time.

Finally, if you really want to help yourself to “get it” – I strongly believe you need to play around with some of this technology. I’ve put a couple of Action Items within the contents. I don’t think I really “got it” until I played with these things.

Web 2.0

To get a sense of eLearning 2.0, it’s helpful to have some sense of what Web 2.0 is. Probably the most cited article on this is from Tim O’Reilly called "What is Web 2.o?"

To pull the most relevant aspects for eLearning 2.0:

  • Software Services

    Today, you can easily go out and get software that runs completely outside of your own systems – “software as a service.” All you need is a browser. Probably the most known example of this is – which is a CRM package that you just sign-up for on the web. Now, this is becoming quite common.

    If you aren’t sure what this means, take a look at: & These are two examples of Word Processor applications delivered through the web. And since they are web enabled, you can easily share this with others.

    Action Item: sign-up for Writely or WriteBoard and try it out. It’s instant. No installation.

  • Harnessing Collective Intelligence

    In some ways this is very simple to understand, Google and Amazon have made fortunes on using this approach. Google ranks search results partly based on how many other sites link to that page. They are relying on the fact that the more other people have linked to something, the greater likelihood that it has value. Similarly, Amazon uses other shoppers patterns to help you find things you might like.Under Web 2.0, this approach is being used with dramatic results. Consider the following:

    · Wikipedia ( – a fantastic online encyclopedia based on entries from everyone.
    · ( – shared, tagged bookmarks
    · Cloudmark – collaborative spam filtering

    Action Item: If you’ve not been to WikiPedia, you really need to go visit it.

  • Everyone as Publisher

    While related to the previous item, this is slightly different. The barrier to being able to create content has dramatically fallen. Probably the best example of this are blogs. Also included are wikis (like that used for WikiPedia). But in reality it also includes all sorts of other ways for us to create content including Flickr (photos), eVite (invitations), Podcasts, and the list goes on and on. Many people have referred to this as the transition to the “Read-Write Web.”

    Action Item: Go to and create your own blog. Takes about 5-10 minutes. Only hard part is what the topic for your blog should be. How about posting your take on eLearning 2.0 and putting in a comment that points us to your blog. (I know – this is a really cruddy kind of threaded discussion. Don’t get me started on that again.)

  • Aggregation & Tagging

    Of course, now that everyone publishes, information overload is taken to even new heights. So, to help make sense of this, we have ways of grabbing this information and pulling it together through mechanisms like RSS aggregators. We similarly have the problem that the information is not neatly organized, so one of the approaches to help make sense of this is Tagging as is done in systems like

  • Lightweight Programming & Composition

    A really BIG trend for all of this is a change in the way software is being designed and built. Many applications are being built as small components that can be plugged into the middle of other applications. The classic example of this is Google Maps that allows you to embed a map in the middle of your web page (which is now your application) that shows your data on top of the Google Map. This kind of composition is often called a Mash-up. For an example, check out

eLearning 2.0 Base Trend

Okay so that’s Web 2.0. Now onto eLearning 2.0…

There are a few articles on this, probably the two most commonly cited (up until this article) are: E-Learning 2.0, Stephen Downes,

E-learning 2.0, whatever that is, David Jennings

But both of these took me a long time to partially understand, so let me give you a slightly different angle or take on eLearning 2.0. Oh, and also part of the what makes understanding eLearning 2.0 hard is that several different “camps” have all landed on the same basic kinds of approaches from different directions. I would, via a gross generalization, put these camps down as:

  • eLearning
  • Collaboration / Communities
  • Knowledge Management

Again, this article is primarily aimed at people coming from the eLearning world.

In this world, probably THE major trend that we’ve seen is a demand for faster learning in the context of work. We’ve also seen the slow smushing together of Online Reference, Online Job Aids, small eLearning pieces, Rapid eLearning and Blended Learning.

So, my concept of eLearning 2.0 starts with the trend towards:

  • Small pieces of content
  • Delivered closer to time / place of work
  • Likely delivered in pieces over time as part of a larger program

This trend exists independent of the whole discussion of Web 2.0. In reality it is what is driving a lot of the discussions around Blended Learning and Rapid eLearning. And it’s really a big piece of what eLearning 2.0 is. An interesting discussion of this trend can be found in Elliot Masie’s column in CLO Magazine (but I hate his title) “Nano-Learning: Miniaturization of Design.”

eLearning 2.0 Meets Web 2.0

But, let’s start to add in a couple of things from Web 2.0.

If you did the Action Items above, you likely had the same reaction when you created your blog. Wow! That was incredibly easy! For me, it was really an “aha” moment. Wow, this software as services thing really works. Wow, I can now create a web page incredibly fast that’s publicly available.

Another “aha” was when I looked at the Add-ins for Blogger. These are small modules that are provided by completely separate companies (which are also very easy to set up) and plug right into my Blog. I created a poll and put it right in my blog. Wow, this small software component stuff really works.

Content Creation in eLearning 2.0

Okay, at the end of the day, a lot of us in eLearning think of ourselves as delivering content. Sure, sure, we are trying to improve performance in a way that has bottom line impact, but I’d also better produce some content.

Because of the Base Trend described above, we are today creating more content that looks like Online Reference and Online Job Aids. CMS & Wiki solutions make this really easy to do. It’s basically no harder than using a MS Word. Again, did you look at Writely? Better yet, chances are that your company already owns a CMS / Portal tool (and is looking for someone like you to use it).

Action Item: Go find out what Portal software you have in your company. It has CMS built in. You’ve got your easy to use content creation tool.

What you don’t get when you put up Online Reference or Online Job Aids is tracking. In other words, you won’t know who’s gone in and looked at the materials. Right now this is the big advantage of LCMS solutions, but you can actually create an add-on for the CMS solutions to track this today. Today, most companies are forgoing the tracking of who’s accessing the reference material and instead looking to gauge overall hits (total usage) and if they really want to test competence, they look use a follow-on test, they survey the manager or they look at the numbers.

Okay, so first content creation trend is the insanely easily creation of reference materials.

But it gets better…

We all know that in the middle of my HTML based course I can easily drop in a Flash interaction, right? Or I can also drop in a brief demonstration or simulation authored in Captivate. I’ve done this many times to create a kind of hybrid reference / courseware piece.

Now, the number of components that I can drop-in is increasing dramatically (think about Blogger Add-ons). See my previous article to get some ideas about different interactive elements that I can drop in.

Hang on – I use Lectora and I already have “drop in” interactions. What’s different here? Well you do and its pretty much the same. But using add-ins instead of what the authoring tool provides allows me to choose best of breed. I can use what Lectora gives me or I can choose a different add-in. And, that add-in can allow my students to interact with the content and each other!

Wait, what was that?

Yep, interaction with your students within your content. I’ve done this the hard way in the past. For example, a few years ago for one of our clients we created a pretty cool little feature. The client would be bringing a new customer up on their software and would need to train five people how to operate and run the software. These learners would go through online courseware for about 6 hours that would teach them about the software and test them using simulations. At any time during the course, the learner could click “Ask a Question” and it would allow them to type in a question that would be saved in their question list. At the end, they would be able to edit their list and then it was sent to the instructor. Once all five people were done with the courseware, the instructor would schedule a WebEx and go through the questions.

It really worked well. But, of course, we had to build that capability. Now I can drop it into my course for free. I could also drop in other opportunities to interact with the content that would get back to the instructor and also to share thoughts and comments with other learners.

This is GOOD STUFF!!! And it’s here today!!!

And, by adding in the ability for students to interact with our content, we are suddenly opening a lot of possibilities. I’m citing some very narrow examples above. Remember that this also means that I can very easily set up blended learning opportunities that have significant follow-up components that include active participation by learners and other related people. For example, in retail, when we have an intervention aimed at store managers, we will include the district managers as coaches and require that the store managers create action plans that are reviewed and commented on by district managers. We could also ask them to review other store manager’s plans and provide comments. We can then track the intervention through online discussions to find what’s working and not working.

Of course, this is where the KM and community / collaboration folks look at us and say “welcome to the party.” But, I’m not here to tell you that it’s easy to go to the next level of multi-point content creation where you are capturing knowledge and fostering communities that help with individual and organizational learning. But, I am saying that eLearning 2.0 has opened the door where there is a low-barrier to looking at models for going beyond one-way communication (trainer -> learner) or even two-way (trainer <-> learner) and consider many-to-many communication schemes that involve training, SMEs, coaches, peers, managers and others who are involved in fostering the performance at the end of the day.

Can anyone argue that given a low barrier to creating a 10 minute piece for the learner’s manager that we shouldn’t be creating that piece in most cases? That we shouldn’t foster some kind of communication and follow-up? The tools to do this are really here today and the barriers to using them are dropping rapidly.

As a community, and with the help of folks from KM and community / collaboration backgrounds, hopefully we can figure out what patterns really work here. I do believe the next few years are going to be times of incredible experimentation with many-to-many communication approaches as part of learning initiatives.

Content Access in eLearning 2.0

And one more thing that I put in eLearning 2.0 is content access through search, aggregation and tagging. As we lower the barrier to content creation, look to create smaller objects, have students create content, have SMEs create content, we are going to have an explosion of content. We need this content to be searchable. We also need ways to aggregate it into interesting “courses” and “programs.” We need to be able to tag it so that we can later find it.

Out of these three, aggregation you are already doing – in fact that’s almost half of our job description - it’s just that we are going to need new tools and techniques as multi-point content creation becomes more prevalent. Search is a slam dunk. In fact, Action Item: go find out what search you have in your company. Tagging I’m still trying to figure out how necessary its going to be. I know as a means of fostering community research, its great. I’m assuming that it will be important to help us aggregate.

Again – if you have comments, questions, thoughts, ideas, I welcome them.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Authoring in eLearning 2.0 / Add-ins & Mashups

One of the really interesting things going on in Web 2.0 that has real impact for eLearning 2.0 is the ability to add Mashups or Add-ins as part of your learning environment or learning content. In other words, in the middle of my content, I can throw in some fun learning component that I've created through an online tool.

An example is shown below with a simple poll that I created using Bravenet MiniPoll. And, I've provided the code for it that you could easily add into your blog or course or whatever.

Some examples of this would be:

  • Poll

    I can put in a poll that would be hosted elsewhere and would allow the student to see previous results of other students who have taken my courseware.

  • Discussion

    I can add in a simple discussion inside of my course right on that learning page. Of course, I can have it also live elsewhere and beyond the course. This could allow me to have previous answers from students.

  • Announcements / Updates

    I can put in an announcement or update place in my course that will automatically be updated with the latest information.

  • Find & Add Assignment

    I can make students go find an interesting example and add it to that page in the course that will be a leave behind.

  • Rating

    I can have students rate things and see other peoples ratings. I can also embed a question about how well we are doing on a particular topic within our company to spark thinking and hopefully discussion.

  • Survey

    I can embed my end of course survey into the last page of the course.

  • Leader Board

    I can have who is leading among those who have taken the quiz and/or based on other data.

If you have a chance, go ahead and add a link to this article and the poll code into your blog. The code is:

Keywords: eLearning Trends, eLearning 2.0, Web 2.0

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Solo vs. Group, Aggregation - The Problem w/ Blogs

Yikes - this is a really messy stuff.

I want to thank Bill Bruck for his thoughts on my last post. And, he inspired me because our recent exchange highlighted the problem of Solo vs. Group that I wrote about in my last post.

Here's the quick scenario:
  • I make a post about the problems I'm having getting various Web 2.0 tools to match my specific needs.
  • Bill somehow finds my post - so at least part of this stuff is working. :)
  • Bill wants to comment on the post. But he also wants to make the readers of his blog ( aware of the discussion because it may have interest. So he does the natural thing. He puts a brief comment with a link to my article on his blog and then he has to copy the comment onto my blog (because my readers would also be interested).
  • I see the comment, its quite interesting, and I want to respond. So I add my own comment, only to realize that now I have to copy it in two places.

The bottom line problem is that a Blog is really aimed at linear presentation of material in a single location to a particular group (the readership). Bill and I just tried to do two things that Blogs really are not good at: combining information from multiple locations & handling groups in a more dynamic fashion. Ideally, we would have some mechanism to on this topic basis combine our readership groups, combine the discussion. When we were "done" with the discussion, the content would be owned by both groups.

This is some pretty basic stuff. Am I a fool to be writing a blog if I want to actually exchange ideas?

Keywords: eLearning 2.0, Web 2.0

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Big Problem with Web 2.0

What’s the problem? The solutions today never seem to do what I want, and I think there are some hard problems that we may be glossing over in all the hype.

Here’s an example of what I want to use Web 2.0 applications for:

I am often researching different topics either personally or as part of a group:
  • For example, I’m researching eLearning 2.0 for articles, presentations and my blog? Who is actually doing stuff with this? What are they finding? What works? What doesn’t?
  • I’m researching content management and Wiki software with a group of people in the office for an upcoming proposal.
  • I’m researching learning object models in concert with a client.
  • I’m researching vacation places with my wife.

What I would want Web 2.0 software to provide is the following:

  • I need to be able to search every document I have, every site/document I’ve viewed or marked in the past. I want these to exist forever so that I don’t have to worry about them. Right now I use desktop search to hit all the documents I’ve got locally. Soon we’ll have a network search to search across all the many project files on the network. And, I’ve been looking at a couple of Web 2.0 applications to find something that will keep all the stuff that I mark out in the world.
  • Of course, I shouldn’t have to think about which search to use in which case. And, I shouldn’t have to worry about where things are located.
  • I also need to be able to control access to the information. I have various groups I belong to. These groups may be very long lived or may come together for very short bursts. While we are operating, we want to be able to work collectively. We want the stuff we share to be automatically available after we are done working together (under my search solution). I need to be able to communicate with these groups at the appropriate speed without need for worrying about how to actually reach them. I shouldn’t have to think about email, IM, phone, SMS, etc. And, if I’ve done it via some kind of text, it should save that correspondence along with the group and project.

With the Web 2.0 Software that exists, I find that I have to fight the different (but seemingly related) models. Blogs are great for the simple creation of information – but there is no sense of groups. Wikis definitely can have groups, but they are not nearly as easy to get setup and going as Blogs. And, of course, all the linking, adding comments, file sharing stuff seems to suggest the use of Social Bookmarking. But this really doesn’t seem to handle the grouping aspects at all.

I think some of this is going to naturally fall away, especially as people like Yahoo start to pull in all these separate pieces.

But there are two problems that I see looming: one is Solo vs. Group; the other is hierarchy, tagging vs. search.

Part of the beauty of Blogs is the incredible ease - you can just create it and go. Literally, this blog took 10 minutes to setup. Blogs are primarily a linear activity (generally with one owner or a small group of owners). Aggregation then becomes the problem. How do you turn all of these separate unrelated linear streams of activity into a meaningful collection. Do you just search? Do you enforce structure? Sure there’s software (even myYahoo) that can aggregate the RSS feeds, right? But it doesn’t really pull them together in any meaningful way. And, people can go on their merry way saying what they want in their Blog without every really participating in the aggregated group. They may even be unaware of other blogs talking about the same topic. It becomes the responsibility of the reader to make sense of the many streams of information. And, there is inherently little structure.

Wikis come at it from an explicit group standpoint. I think this group modeling is very important and some of the Wiki tools have it right where you can define groups and then define what they can do and what they see. Of course, there’s still mental overhead to set this up for each group. And, there’s even more overhead in thinking about how the group will work together. A wiki generally also forces you to face the question of how do you organize the information.

And both Wikis and Blogs today are really bad at supporting the collection of documents and links, tagging those.

The structure part is also really interesting. I love the idea of tagging. It frees me from having to think about the hierarchy. Certainly now that I have desktop search, I’m less concerned about where files get place and my inbox doesn’t get sorted into a whole bunch of project specific folders anymore. At the same time, I’ve not found tagging to be very helpful to me. It’s too random. I find that I’m missing things. I end up having to go back to search and retag.

Yeah, I know that Web 2.0 is all about having software in small chunks that you can compose together. But, it sure doesn’t feel easy right now having all these separate pieces running around.

Worse yet, what would I recommend a client adopt who wants to do the same kind of thing internally?

I’m really excited about where this is going, but I feel like we are actually at Web 2.0 pre-alpha release right now.

Or am I missing it?

Keywords: eLearning Trends, eLearning 2.0, Web 2.0

Monday, February 06, 2006

eLearning 2.0 - Is This Real

As part of pulling together two separate presentations on the future of eLearning, I've been doing a lot of research on the technology trends.

In the past talks, I've primarily discussed key business/learning trends:

  • Need for faster development
  • Need for shorter delivery time
  • Need for quick access in the context of work

and the resulting shift in eLearning towards

  • "rapid eLearning" such as recorded class sessions, quick-and-dirty courseware, etc.
  • performance support tools such as online reference, search, km, etc.

However, I'm seeing now considerable value in what is happening in the Web 2.0 and I believe much like Steven Downes - E-Learning 2.0 & Is E-Learning 2.0 For Real? - that there is a lot of value to be had, but I'm also concerned as to how much this is really happening.

Normally during my presentations, I talk about what people are really doing inside of corporations with eLearning. Certainly, I'm not seeing widespread adoption of Wikis, Blogs, Social Bookmarking, etc. within corporations as a means of sharing information and learning.

Am I just missing it? Is this just wishful thinking? Or are we just early on the adoption curve?

More soon.

Keywords: eLearning Trends, eLearning 2.0, Web 2.0