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

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.


Tony Karrer said...


Thanks for the comments.

I understand what you are saying about the limitations we face when you try to suggest solutions that don't fix inside the box of the expected form of the deliverables. On Friday, at a presentation, we were discussing exactly that issue and that the barrier is both management and learners (and their ability to be successful with something that's different).

I've been talking with lots of folks trying to collect the patterns they use and the related success stories to be able to combat some of this, but I think this is going to be tough in a lot of corporate environments for a while.


Anonymous said...

Hi - Great eLearning 2.0 summary!

I am the manager of an Adobe Captivate Users Group in Seattle and would like to invite you to give a 30-45 mins remote presentation (via Adobe Connect) of 'What is eLearning 2.0'. Would you be interested? Our group would be really interested.

Here is our website:

Happy New Year!

Prof. Dr. Mohamed Amine Chatti said...

nice article Tony!

My own "view" of e-Learning 2.0: The freeform application of Web 2.0 concepts for learning.
You can see more about my thoughts on the same at my blog

Stephen Downes said...

Nice article, and I like the way you step people through the 'aha' moments that lead them to see that e-learning 2.0 isn't just some new type of technology but also a new way of thinking about technology.

Unknown said...

Great article! We are using web 2.0 technologies to build online courses here at the United Nations University.

Take a look here:

Essentially, we played around with Wordpress and used various plug-ins. So in a sense, supporting your arguments, we don't really need authoring software anymore.

Even better, most of the stuff we use is absolutely free!

Regarding collaboration, our subject matter experts can be anywhere in the world and still access, edit and update their content. This is really exciting.

Brodie said...

Great stuff! Now I can only hope that high-speed Internet reachers the rural areas of the US before we're all ready for Web 3.0! Our problem is that all the technology that would really help rural America is so far centered on high-density population areas. Web 1.0 barely works with dial-up. Web 2.0? Fageddaboutit!

Terence Armentano, M.Ed said...

Great post Tony. I really like how you include action items in your post. Enabling your readers to experience the Web 2.0 landscape produces those "ah-ha" moments. Also, I am an Instructional Designer at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and I will be publishing an article for our Distance Learning newsletter titled "University 2.0 - Online Courses Enhance Universities." Currently I have a draft of it posted on my blog and I wanted to share it with you and your readers. One of our biggest challenges is getting professors to see that learning online can be extremely effective. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks! Click Here to view the University 2.0 article

Anonymous said...

Great article! I'm looking forward to seeing it in my blog carnival at:,-2007-Edition.html

Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Picking up on Stephen Downes' comment... one of the things about all X 2.0 that tends to bug me is that those already inside the building are (you should pardon the expression) a-twitter, while those outside are wondering about the label, the apparent focus on technology, the newest and coolest factor...

Stephen's key phrase, in my opinion, is "you step people through the 'aha' moments that lead them to see..."

In other words, you offer them the chance to make / experience the insight themselves.

Some of 'em will, some won't. But I don't think non-early-adopters get talked into things so much as shown into things. Or maybe even solutioned into things, as when they believe a problem/opportunity, similar to one they experience, has been addressed.

This is why lists and examples like the ones you post are so valuable.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tony and Readers,

Just wanted to offer some thought on your comments about managing the shear mass of content creation with e-learning 2.0.

The internet, while clearly is one of the most profound innovations to date, is also a colossally complicated landscape to navigate with the volume of information. IT is the modern Wild West and when it comes to finding the right learning solution I have great sympathy for those out there shopping. Where to shop? What to buy? How much to spend? What can it do? What do we need it to do? Let’s do a search.

Google became such a popular tool because it finds anything and everything related to your key words. As we’re all adjusting to the concept of surfing endless information Google feels all inclusive because it uses the no stone unturned approach. A search for “e-learning technology” for example brings up 49,900,000 results. That’s incredibly thorough, but in a sea this vast how do we wade through all of that information?

People spend a ton of time and money figuring out how to be at the top of search results. What’s not paid a pay per click ranking comes down to networking ability and popularity. None of these characteristic guarantee quality but they do narrow the field.

Take your site for example; I came across it after a whim to start a blog led me to do some research. I followed Articulates top 25 blog sites on e-learning. Articulate is familiar product that represents quality to me so I immediately assigned trust in their recommendations. Based on your credentials, your ability to consistently and rapidly and produce your blog and the fact that you’re asking the same questions and addressing the same issues I might attempt, I say why reinvent the wheel when I can become part of it?

I don’t anticipate that this logic will prevent the explosion of content as web 2.0 and e-learning 2.0 become old hat. I do imagine though that quality, branding, usability, ease of access and cost will play the same role they have always played in weeding out competition.

Ranking by popularity and the ability to pay for it is a traditional “survival of the fittest” way to look at this. But developments in user-centric software are creating opportunities for a far more dramatic shift in the way we access knowledge. Using the Netflix and Amazon approach to learning their shoppers’ preferences is the same path educators and content developers should take for training and learning content. True value is what is perceived as value to the learner. So why not give them what they want.

If the boss asks me to take a course in Sales rather than just grab-bag one of the gazillion options let’s use a learner profile approach. Maybe it’s a data base or tags that recognizes my learning preference and offers suggestions. For example I might have a profile that shows I’m looking for content that is delivered by email M-F, under 5 minutes in length, that is scenario based or interactive, that’s applicable to my specific field, within X budget. Now we’re talking about sailing with a compass. With learner profiling learners get what they want with ease of accessibility and developers are directly connected with their market. That sounds like win-win to me.

Feel free to check out our website

Prerna Anshul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Prerna Anshul said...

This blog post surely added to my knowledge pool and experience as I was yet to discover much about elearning 2.0. Thanks for all the great links as well. Also, as instructed by one of your action items, I created my first blog on the subject close to my (our) heart – elearning! I can't help that. And, as you encouraged me to create a blog and (indirectly) to write my first post, I would like to invite you (and your readers) to visit my blog ( and share your views. Thank you for introducing me to the world of blogging.

Unknown said...

Great post and excellent resource.

As a former educator with an M.Ed specialized in the online delivery of education, but now working for an e-recruitment company, the convergence of technology and education is fascinating to me.

Every day there are new technologies that emerge - and even if they are not intended specifically for educational contexts - that can be applied to education through the themes of collaboration, remote interaction, integrated information linking and overall connectivity.

My continual rumination is on the prospect of a package of "2.0" tools that is both educationally sound and financially feasible that educators can use with limited technological barriers to entry. This will encourage mass adoption and mass benefit.

visits are welcome to (contemplating the development of learning with technology)

jasonbbailey said...

WOW. I must say, in all of my blog searching on eLearning and the "training of the future," I must say this is one of the most impressive posts I have seen, AND one of the most outstanding blogs I have seen. Hitting the subscribe button now!

Personally, I am a corporate trainer for a Fortune 100 company here in the US. I have been in the "learning" field for almost 7 years now, as a developer and a facilitator. Along the way, I have used tools like Macromedia FX, Camtasia, and a few web design apps to develop, administer and promote eLearning. But now, the game is changing.

I am finding that in this new Web 2.0 world, many learning and development organizations are falling behind.

From blogging, to podcasting, to developing fully interactive web-based courses, companies must begin looking at these types of technologies or they will be left in the dust. I have recently taken lead on developing a podcasting strategy for our learning organization. And we are now using both Captivate and Articulate to develop much more interactive training courses. So, yes, I think we are headed in the right direction, but still have so far to go.

This post will be an excellent resource for me and my team going forward. Thank you for taking the time to educate us.

My blog:

Tony Karrer said...

Thanks for the really nice comment Jason. I've just subscribed to your blog. Look forward to future conversations.

Rina Tripathi said...

This is amazing, I have been blogging since a year and a half but had never realised the potential of the blogs. As I read this wonderful article it is becoming clear how these shared pieces of information are revolutinizing the learning. I leave here my blog link,my blog is more about my observation and about communicating with people and understanding their feelings. Thanks for sharing.;_ylt=AvnA5jC1v95f.fie2BuZN5PkdeJ3?cq=1

Anonymous said...

Hi Tony - I'm recently smitten with blog and Web 2.0 fever. I started a blog about a month ago called - Knowledge Coach. As a learning needs analyst, I work with organizations to identify how to improve individual performance success with the goal toward organizational success. My mantra is around continuous learning and its value as competitive advantage. This week I attended a conference and heard a seminar on Web 2.0 and it fueled my new fire even more. Since then, I'm seeing the world in a new way -recognizing the changing environment and how social networking will be so much part of corporate learning. With the boomers retiring and Gen Ys coming onboard, I am convinced we in learning and development and organizational change must recognize this new trend as a turning point in how we do business and learn.

I look forward to reading, learning and commenting on your blog. Please visit my blog at
Thanks. Ruth

Unknown said...

So much said and done about e-learning 2.0, I think something is still missing. I am student currently preparing for my GRE, and for me what e-learning 2.0 is is just a forum and a search engine. Where did the rest of it go? Similar was the case when I gave SCJP during March this year. I had to bookmarking site comprehensively providing all links, the wikibook was under construction and I was left to buy a printed book for paper specific studies, discussing the content on the forum, occasionally as the book had solutions as well.
If e-learning 2.0 has to offer me something more do mail me for GRE has a month to go. Otherwise, I think we need a solution where one could have everything one wants paper/course specific at one place. I have a lot more to discuss. Do send me a mail, sir, if you find my talks insightful...

Tony Karrer said...

That's an interesting comment. I'm not sure that studying for the GRE (a knowledge based examine) is where I would expend effort on eLearning 2.0. But that said - there must be online avenues to find other people who are studying and foster a sense of community, share studying techniques, pass around content?

Isn't there a Cramster for the GRE?

Unknown said...

GRE has active forums( and people study in community. The study patterns have changed considerably, we even see people collaborating over skype. has tried to provide a learning management system for it as well.
But the fact remains that such tests(knowledge based as you say it) are still like more tiresome a broswing(if you prefer online learning)than the study. With the varities of students coming into picture, study does not come out as smooth as to be.
What a student wants is a diagnostic test and a set of links to study, with a set of people to discuss based on where he stands. How can students of different fields of interst find a the same methods to study as good, add to this the culture of the person. Similar was the case with certification preperation.
What I suggest is, to have a portal where there is a defined set of milestones which defines a target score of a standardised test. Then each individual who takes the diagnostic, gets to follow a route based on it, gets a community as well as a set of links to study and rate. As he goes on to do his job, he gets a chance to add stuff or links for others, maybe write a few articles for the people of his background, or maybe set up a new route. The material gets sorted based on who it is suitable for. Everything is rated and compared based on who the learner is, so that he is satisfied that nothing is left behind and the methods he applies is the fastest for him.

Say for example, I'm a gre student from the computers field. The LMS should provide me cs students to study with, ideally of the same level as mine. It is no use studying with an arts student who takes a double time as compared to me in maths, and has the english section as a flier. Nor can such a person guide me. Same is the case with the subject material and the tips. Its boring to read what u know. An intelligent LMS will give material that will be most useful for me first, bcoz that is when the interest is at a peak. And I never say the developer develop it in it. Open this to the community. Give me the freedom to change my course as per my experience, make the author of the material reconsider what he has written, maybe propose a better method. As people get involved with it, material, ratings, analysis, all is gonna come. Wikibooks(any present method) is dry and like any other book. It is community developed, too general for a community, not for a section where everything can be speeded up.
Similar is the case with IT cerifications. If say a person has been a network programmer, he skips those chapters as easy. Another person might do this with something else. If they make a mistake they say that but the words are lost as they are not relevant to the general public. An ideal LMS should bring it to the person of the same type. Otherwise I think, learning will be clustered and different as it presently is. If the best study companion which you can find (rest of the people of my type are lost among the thousands on web) lives next door, why use web for learning.

David Grebow said...


I think eLearning 2.0 and even Learning 2.0 starts with a great quote from Chris Collison and Geoff Parcell in their recently updated book and CD, “Learning to Fly”:

“You can’t manage knowledge. Nobody can. What you can do is to manage the environment in which knowledge can be created, discovered, captured, shared, distilled, validated, transferred, adopted, adapted and applied.”

The 2.0 represents a paradigm shift from being the gatekeepers of knowledge to providing a context for the content that can be easily and readily accessed by people who need to know and know-how. And a follow-up that improves the learner's ability to adopt and adapt what they came to learn.

Our job in the 2.0 world of learning is to enable the learners to interact with the knowledge and with one another and be there as a knowledgeable Mentor or SME.

Exactly, for example, as you suggested with your "Ask a Question" list built during the elearning sessions, and the follow-on WebEx session in which the "instructor" tries to answer the questions.