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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.


vonnie said...

re your comment on no. 7 .... use of "SiteMeter to track how many people and who ... on my site". Have you considered adding the code for a Clustrmap to your site as this provides a geographic information visualization of site visits via an embedded world map?
Quick and easy and provides added interest for readers.

Tony Karrer said...

I'm bothered by the learning vs. eLearning terminology as well, but have settled on using eLearning 2.0 because it seems to be an umbrella term.

And, if you talk about Learning 2.0, then people naturally take offense that "the way people learn has not really changed."

I hope you'll cast a vote on the more recent post.