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Monday, July 31, 2006

Major CMS Vendor Adds LMS/SCORM Capabilities

Relevant to the recent discussions around Do You WANT an LMS? Does a Learner WANT an LMS? and the possibility that we could soon be seeing something that looks more like a Wiki+Tracking capability, I just saw the news: Vignette Provides Online, On-Demand Training For Customers. They've added tracking and SCORM to their CMS solution. So, maybe my previous comments about this being a couple years away may have been too conservative.

Keywords: eLearning Trends

Friday, July 28, 2006

Where are open source learning applications?

Good post by Harold Jarche - Where are open source learning applications? In it he points to the learning space and says that the current status of open-source learning applications is:
  • Innovators - Elgg Learning Landscape and several others
  • Early Adopters - Moodle and a few others
  • Early Majority - nobody
  • Late Majority - forget about it

I would tend to agree with him that there are relatively few open-source learning applications, but would add a few thoughts...

First, open-source generally succeeds once an application domain is fairly well understood and the feature sets are relatively more stable. If you look at the slow creep up the application stack of open-source solutions (OS, app server, database, CRM), then its easy to see the pattern. So, we should naturally expect to see open source solutions emerge where we see relatively stable feature sets.

Second, while for my corporate clients I wouldn't recommend any open source solutions today, I'm only avoiding it because it's probably worth the $ savings in the time you would lose dealing with a tool that is not quite as robust. In other words, the cost of Captivate is less than the lost time dealing with Wink. I do think it's worth keeping an eye on:

* Virtual classroom solutions - after having gone through trying to find inexpensive solutions, there's real opportunity here for Skype+conferencing. A few early tools exist, but they are in the early adopter stage.

* Demo + Audio recording solution - Wink is early adopter stage as well, but will soon be moving more mainstream. Think of it as freeware Captivate.

* Fun Interactions - Hot Potato

* Audio Editing - Audacity

and I know there's some that do essentially PPT + audio, lots of ways to create podcasts, video, and the list goes on.

Finally, I'm not really sure that asking about open source right now is as relevant as asking about free software as a service (SaaS) models. Having used surveymonkey, blogger, pbwiki and other tools quite a bit - it's even better than open source and even less expensive (open source you need time/dollars to get it up and going). While I wouldn't recommend open-source solutions today - unless you really, really don't value your time over dollar expenditure, I would recommend using SaaS solutions.

Keywords: eLearning Trends

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Does the discussion/debate do any good?

I just saw a great comment from Mark Oehlert around my post: Informal Learning - Harold Tells Us Where To Put It - Now What. In the comment he says relative to discussing Informal Learning:
P.S. Can I just say that I love this debate and think that it is serving our
industry well and that we need more of this and we need it at conferences, up on
stage in front of thousands of people.

This comment really struck me, because one of the questions that I struggle with all the time is whether spending time speaking/writing/talking about these issues does any good?

If you've attended Training, Performance, eLearning conferences over the past 10 years, I'm sure you've had the same experience of seeing the same presentations year-after-year. Many of them talk about:
  • We need to focus on business outcomes and performance - not butts in seats.
  • We need to look beyond training to other kinds of interventions.
But, the rest of the sessions will be about "Adding Interactivity" to your courseware. Getting your LMS in place so you can count butts in seats. How to build your eTraining more cheaply. Basically, how to do more of the same. If you look back at my Hot Topics in Training - A Crude (but mildly interesting) Analysis, you can see this. At least Games and Simulations were new intervention types getting more discussion.

So, while some of the speakers talk about new approaches (e.g., Marc Rosenberg - Rosenberg's Beyond eLearning - Is that eLearning 2.0?) the reality is that 98% of attendees are going to go home and do the exact same stuff as before.

So, I seriously question Mark's statement:
  • Do we need people talking about this at conferences?
  • Does it do any good?
  • What can we do to have greater impact on the practice of learning (as opposed to the rhetoric)?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Do You WANT an LMS? Does a Learner WANT an LMS?

I should be working on content for my presentations at DevLearn in October that look at what's next in eLearning. (As a side note: if you are going to DevLearn and are reading this, please drop me a note.) However, the "what's next" question has become more challenging recently as we've seen the rapid growth of simple and easy to deploy tools displacing more complex systems. My last post, Direction of eLearning - Emergence or Big System, received a couple of interesting comments and I wanted to add a couple of follow-up thoughts.

On Creating Passionate Users they had a great picture that captures how many of us feel about LMS products:

As the number of features increases our satisfaction level begins to go down because of the complexity of getting it to work for us.

What often happens when systems become very complex is that they begin to get replaced by simpler systems. This is exactly what's happened in the Content Management space. Wiki's have exploded onto the scene. They only do about 10% of what a typical CMS will do for you. But, they are so dang easy to get going and use. So, they've supplanted the low-end of the market. It forces the CMS products to seek ever higher features to continue to differentiate - a vicious cycle.
I believe we are poised to see this happen in the world of the Learning Management Systems (LMS). They are rapidly growing features that are far beyond what anyone needs. If you look at what's going on at Saba, SumTotal or any of the major players, they are adding features and major functional areas at an amazing pace. There are definitely some low-end LMS products that are easy to get up and going. But that's not really what's going to replace the LMS. They still require you to think and act in terms of "course" and "training" which is slowly becoming the wrong way to think.

Of course, this raises the question - well if we don't really want an LMS, then what's the replacement?

Scott Bradley Wilson helped by providing a post with more detailed visualization of this.

I think that folks who are in the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) space have a much better idea of what will come next. In fact, many of us have all created our own Personal Learning Environment by cobbling together using a variety of tools (RSS Reader, Bookmarking, Social Networking, Desktop Search, Web Search, Personal Learning Blog, To Do Lists). I'm not 100% sure that we've quite got this right, but it's certainly much more meaningful to me as a learner than an LMS.

If you step back and take the perspective of a learner, an LMS is simply one of many content sources and there is no advantage to me as a learner of having to go through and register for the course (except that I won't get bugged about not completing the course). The tracking is not for me as a learner.

That's what makes me think that something more along the lines of a PLE will begin to come together to replace it.

However, I remain skeptical that we really understand how to use these tools to be better learners and thus, are a bit away from having well-formed personal learning environments. In fact, I believe this to be one of the bigger questions that we face as an community.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Direction of eLearning - Emergence or Big System

I ran across a post by Dave Boggs - More Standards In e-Learning?.... that pointed me to some presentations at alt-i 2 -lab 2006 that look at where the eLearning interoperability standards are going in the future. This is an interesting topic because it highlights a schism that is echoed in the larger world of IT: Enterprise IT (Big Systems) vs. Emergence (see Enterprise 2.0 and emergence).

The idea of Emergence is somewhat simple. You put out small, flexible, relatively easy to use systems and you see what results. The best analogy that sticks in my mind is building a new school and not paving paths between buildings. Rather, you wait to see the dirt paths that emerge based on where people walk. Then you pave those paths.

Enterprise IT on the other hand, attempts to provide significant support for processes and business rules. A great example is accessing an eLearning course. Most LMS products (out-of-the-box) require you to search, register and then launch the course. If you want the content to be searchable through your Intranet search mechanism, most LMS products get in your way (even though the content may be easily indexed by the search mechanism).

When I looked through the discussion around the next generation of standards, it made my head spin. There are many overlapping product sets (virtual classroom, LMS, LCMS, Authoring, Assessment, Search, Collaboration, HRIS, Talent Management, etc.), standards and new technologies allowing them to interoperate (SOA, Web Services, REST). Further, the standards are becoming much more complicated to support richer kinds of interoperability. It makes you yearn for the days of SCORM 1.1 where there was pretty much an LMS that needed to talk to courses.

In many corporate environments, I'm already seeing the pendulum swinging away from Enterprise IT. Sure, we'll stick the compliance training and formal training kinds of things under the LMS. But, a lot of content and tools are now not under the LMS. It's accessible through the Intranet. We cobble these together from smaller, cheaper, lighterweight solutions such as Reference Hybrids

It would be great if the LMS could help us by tracking this, but instead, we end up using other tracking mechanisms.

It continues to feel like LMS Products are Two Generations Behind and that they are going to continue to make it such that Leading with an LMS - Harmful to Your Health (or Skipping Stages in Bersin's Four Stage Model).

Keywords: eLearning Trends

Monday, July 24, 2006

Informal Learning - Let's Get Real - Part II

I've received quite a bit of input on my blog post Informal Learning - Let's Get Real. I feel like many of us are in the same boat. We want to figure out what the process and mechanisms should look like when we are going after Intentional Informal Learning. Interestingly, Stephen Downes' new presentation - e-Learning 2.0 - Why the New Tools includes a slide that quotes my blog post:
I'm becoming convinced that folks in the informal learning realm are quite
willing to live with "free range" learning. It's way too touchy-feely and
abstract for me. If this stuff is important, then I want to:
  • Know that it will work
  • Know why it works
  • Know that its repeatable

At first I was surprised, because Stephen is more of the "free range" approach, but once I listened to the presenation, I realized he was using my quote as a counter-example to comment about how wrong I am. Stephen's counter arguments are roughly that (a) informal learning happens all the time "so we know it works", (b) it depends on how you define "works", and (c) if your definition of "works" is that people learn what you want them to learn then you have defined it wrong.

The good news is that it actually helps in clarifying my thinking (and our differences).

Let's me define "works" for most of my projects - changes human performance in a way that achieves desired business outcomes. For example, changes how store managers work with front-line employees in order to improve customer satisfaction scores.

If I look at what I do, I often start by breaking the problem up into Intermediate Factors (see also - Elves, Measuring Results and Informal Learning). In this example, an important factor might be Knowldge of Store Layout. And when you take a look at that factor you realize that the performance in question is really all about how the front-line employee answers a particular kind of question - "Where do I find X?" Unfortunately, there's a lot rolled up into being good at answering this question (product knowledge - what is that thing, store layout knowledge, how you answer questions, helping store managers instruct and work with front-line employees). And there are many, many ways that we could use to help the store manager help the front-line employee improve their performance here.

The answer to whether it works is quite scientific, has our customer satisfaction score improved on that question (in stores where the numbers were down).

So, while our solution allowed for limited bottom-up content creation (best practices capture), this was controlled and closely monitored against metrics - certainly not "free range." I'm not sure that I buy that we would have had nearly the same effectiveness by providing a more open environment. I think the initial seeding of best practices, the on-going follow-up and the control structure we put on top of this system where critical to driving the numbers at the end of the day.

Finally, back to Stephen Downes' comment that if you define "works" as "learning what you want them to learn" ... Well I didn't define it that way, but it was awfully important at the end of the day for the managers to learn certain things about how to affect positive change around the numbers and important to help the managers help employees improve their performance. Maybe it's the difference between corporate environments and academic environments, but I think there's more to it than defining "works" ... there's a fundamental difference in eLearning 2.0: Informal Learning, Communities, Bottom-up vs. Top-Down.

Keywords: eLearning Trends, eLearning 2.0, Web 2.0, Informal Learning, Collaborative Learning

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Dashboards - Performance Intervention Opportunity

Found this via a post on Column Two - Productive dashboards. Definitely worth a read since we've been seeing this trend as well and there is a definite opportunity to tie performance interventions to dashboards. The approach we've used with various clients is to tie each KPI to a set of performance suggestions, learning opportunities, etc. In some cases these are static lists, in other cases these are composed into action plans that must be approved.

The beauty of the Action Plan approach is that we can then do follow-up (based on the dates in the Action Plan) to ensure that the plan is worked. We have also been able to track the effectiveness of each performance suggestion based on the delta in the KPI after the plan is worked. It definitely surprised us what worked and what didn't in some cases. We pulled down stuff that didn't work and created more interventions using approaches that did work.

The end result of this kind of process is that you are able to impact performance that has a tangible effect on numbers in the dashboard. These have been my favorite projects!

Pew Survey on Blogging - Training Professionals Far Behind

Found via Joho Blog - Pew has a new report on a national survey of bloggers and blogging (PDF Link Directly). Interesting information:
  • Eight percent of internet users, or about 12 million American adults, keep a blog.
  • Thirty-nine percent of internet users, or about 57 million American adults, read blogs – a significant increase since the fall of 2005.
  • 37% of bloggers cite "my life and experiences" as a primary topic of their blog
  • More than half (54%) of bloggers are under the age of 30.

The 39% seems very high to me. It especially seems high because my experience at Training 2006 suggested that very few people in Corporate Training read blogs.

Question asked of 200 Training Professionals - "Where do you learn about what’s new in learning?"

  • Publications, e.g., Training Magazine, CLO, etc. – 99%
  • Blogs – 2.5%

Granted that much of what is being blogged these days is by teenagers telling their friends what they did today. But still it makes us seem a bit behind?

Why is our writing and readership level so low? A comment on a previous post by John Cleave:

I "use" blogs frequently via Google searches, but have never managed to integrate them into my daily practice, because there are only so many hours in a day.

I would suspect that John has hit the nail on the head. We are all so busy, how much time can we spend on Scanning/Reading as a way to stay up on what's happening? An hour a week? Two hours? If so, then what sources should I look at? CLO Magazine or a blog?

Personally, I've come to find that my Scanning/Reading activities are equivalent across magazines and blogs. Further, while I'm still a person who sits on airplanes reading trade magazines, I find myself doing more and more of my Scanning Online so that I can take advantage of Personal Learning Strategies.

Keywords: eLearning Trends

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Informal Learning - Harold Tells Us Where To Put It - Now What

Great post by Harold Jarche - Informal Learning and Performance Technology responding to my post - Informal Learning - Let's Get Real. His post is the kind of reasoned thinking that helps make sense of different approaches. It's interesting how Harold has broken up the world, and, frankly, I'm not sure how universal this is, but I think it helps.

* Performance Interventions
** Learning Interventions
*** Instructional Interventions (e.g., Training)
*** Non-Instructional Interventions (e.g., Job Aids)
**** Informal Learning Approaches
** Other Interventions
*** Long list here including things like Career Development, Feedback Systems, ...

Harold then gives a sample list of non-instructional performance interventions:
  1. Electronic Performance Support System (EPSS)
  2. Workplace Design
  3. Knowledge Management (KM)
  4. Just-in-Time Support
  5. Communities of Practice
  6. Multimedia
  7. Internet and Intranets
  8. Corporate Culture changes
  9. Process Re-engineering
  10. Job Aids

Learning Professionals I think would say that they commonly use: EPSS, parts of KM, Just-in-Time Support, Multimedia, Intranets, and Job Aids as part of their tool set. And realistically, we are beginning to see all of these be parts of the solution mix. And realistically, this is part of the challenge today, the broadening to look at a broader solution mix.

What is curious though is that much of the discussion around Informal Learning seems to center on Communities of Practice. I like that Harold has gone back to the more classic definition of HPT and just includes these kinds of solutions as part of his overall mix.

Harold states:

I think that informal learning is a way of categorising a whole range of strategies that we now have available with the advent of cheap web access, powerful personal computers and low cost applications likes blogs, wikis, tags, etc. Informal learning offers a new array of tools for the learning professional’s tool box.

So, it sounds like Harold positions this in with non-instructional learning interventions and sees the new array of tools (blogs, wikis, etc.) key to informal learning solutions.

I personally like Harold's direction on this because it is hopeful that we can find more systematic ways to think about where, when and how Informal Learning solutions can fit into the overall mix. I personally think that there's a disconnect between the design and implementation of HPT solutions and the "free range" approach that many in the Informal Learning community take.

Of course, even if we tend to agree with Harold's positioning of Informal Learning and his assessment of some of the kinds of tools used in Informal Learning, it still leaves us with an awfully blurry picture. A comment on my last post by Guy L. Levert provides a telling picture of how most of us feel on the subject:

my take on informal learning is a little blurry but I think there is value in there ...

I have more questions than answers - hence the blurryness of my understanding of that informal learning beast. Lots to find out - but that's good, it's informal!

So, I want to go back to my challenge in the last post:
But, are we collectively making progress in this? Where are the resources for learning professionals that help us learn? Where's our great examples of informal learning support? Please don't tell me it's TrDev and ASTD. Is that all we've got?

Let's get real... If supporting informal learning is the wave of the future and a critical capability for learning professionals of tomorrow, we had better come up with something more than "unclear process" and based on a "rough end target."

Monday, July 17, 2006

Better Questions for Learning Professionals

If you've been reading my blog, you know that I often discuss Personal Learning:

A big part of what I've come to realize that the barrier to us moving beyond being The Worst Learners are:

  • We (like many people today) lack the intrinsic motivation to systematically improve our personal learning capabilities. We already have too much to do.
  • We lack the right questions.

While the motivation question is certainly a big question, I want to skip over this for now. I'm going to assume that since you are reading this blog post, you must be in the top few % of motivated people.

What is more concerning is that I don't really think we know the right questions to be asking.

The Value of Questions

Now, let me start this diatribe with a brief rant on the importance of asking the right questions. In my mind, it is THE most important skill or ability to have. Maybe it's just the whole brainwashing they give you as part of a Ph.D. program, but the biggest aha while getting a Ph.D. is that it's the question that is most important. The answer is often easy once the question is formulated correctly.

As a funny aside, I will carry to my grave a memory of one meeting with a potential client. They were a start-up run by a strong Type-A CEO. As part of initial meetings, there is considerable value provided by any consultant in terms of the questions that help frame exactly what the problem/need is. After asking two hours worth of questions to help the CEO go from a hopelessly vague initial concept to a much better defined, more realistic product concept, the CEO looked at me and said that he was hoping that our next meeting we would come prepared to show some real value. After all, he had spent two hours of his time answering all of our questions and expected some value in return. It was a truly eye-opening experience.

In past writing about More Effective Conferences for Learning Professionals, I realized that the most important aspect of making sure you get the most you can from the conference is determining what the questions are that you should use to focus you during the conference. Otherwise, you will swim through the sea of sessions and vendors and will not get nearly as much from the conference.

What Questions Are We Asking

So, before going on, consider what the most important questions are that you face as a learning professional?

At training and/or eLearning conferences where this question was asked of the attendees, the common kinds of responses are:

  • How do I get more interactivity into my courseware?
  • How do I reduce the attrition rate in my course/courseware?
  • What's the best authoring tool to use?
  • What are other organizations doing?

One conference organizer told me that eLearning session descriptions with "interactivity" in the title would draw larger audiences. Clearly people are trying to get that question answered.

But, is that a good question? I think we can all step back an critique the question - it presupposes that I need more interactivity. Likely the person asking it wants more interactivity because they've been producing courseware that is basically "Click Next to Continue" type learning. The reaction is that this is boring. Or, they've not produced anything, but they know they don't want to only do that.

Better Questions

My guess is that just as most learning professionals can tell you the problems with the interactivity question, they can similarly suggest lots of much better questions that might be appropriate instead:

  • Is courseware appropriate for my audience and topic? What are some alternative blends that might work?
  • Does interactivity make a difference in terms of learning? What does the research actually show? Is there demonstrable return that I can use to justify greater budget? Where's Will Thalheimer and can you introduce me?
  • Can I reduce the duration of courseware and still get an effective result? How would I supplement that with reference? What's the cut-off point?
  • What are some possible ways I teach topic a process topic so it sticks? What are the pluses and minuses of those interactive styles?

As we drill down on any one of these we can successively improve the questions until we arrive at much more meaningful types of questions.

Going back to my example of preparing for a conference by formulating better questions, I think you'll get a much better conference experience if you are prepared with questions such as the above when you go into a booth or go to a session. But, even better would be to start with the underlying issues that your company, your organization, your team faces and formulate questions starting there:

  • What are other organizations who have an aging, highly skilled workforce doing to train the next generation of professionals? How are they getting them up to speed?
  • How are organizations handling the cross-over between management, knowledge management, learning?

An Industry Challenge

The good news is that for most individuals, coming up with much better questions for your particular situation is not necessarily that hard to do. If you are having a roadblock, start with the desired performance. If you are still stuck, drop me a note.

But, what I've been finding is that as an industry we seem to have landed on some basic questions that get answered over-and-over and we are not necessarily moving things forward. Maybe that's just because I've heard the same sessions given at every conference for the last 10 years. It is also that some questions in learning are hard to answer such as "Does the media make a difference?" (Although you normally can redefine the question to make it answerable and hence much more useful.)

I think the challenge of the right questions today is also because we are in the midst of a fundamental shift away from course as the unit of learning, a shift towards on-demand and at-work learning, a dramatically different technical landscape, a move towards business results and performance as the focus ... the world is allowing us to look at things in a very different way ... and we don't necessarily know that questions that we should be asking.

So, to get us started towards some better questions, here are some that I might ask of other attendees, presenters, vendors, etc.

  • Informal Learning - How can I provide a development process, tools and systems that foster informal learning in a way that I know will have impact on the performance that I care about and that is repeatable? What can I borrow from KM, collaborative learning, and management practices? What does this look like in practice? When do I use it? When are you using it? What effect is it having? How do you know?
  • Personal Learning - What systems, tools, techniques can I use to make myself a better learner?
  • Reference Hybrids - How have you organized landing pages to support both reference and learning modes? How do you define what will be treated as reference and what as learning? What tools are you using today? What do you expect to use in the future? How do you track this kind of learning? Do you have metrics on impact?

So what are your questions?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Informal Learning - Let's Get Real

I recently read an article by George Siemens - Changing Models where he points to the changes that necessarily need to happen in our understanding of how to support learning. I think he's right on the money (as usual), but then he points out:
ISD can be very effective for learning that has both a clear end outcome and
process. Often, today's learning has neither. We have a rough end target (solve
this problem, innovate, adapt, etc.)...and we really don't have a clear process
(other than teams, meetings, and emerging collaborative spaces).

Wow, I have a really rough time signing up to be in charge of something that doesn't have a defined end target and no process. In fact, this is the antithesis of what I would suggest is the cornerstone of my professional life (see: ADDIE Not Relevant?). I can understand the desire to allow for end-user contribution and an evolving system, but my software development background gives me great pause.

I've written about exactly this issue several times:
and have read lots about this. I'm becoming convinced that folks in the informal learning realm are quite willing to live with "free range" learning. It's way too touchy-feely and abstract for me. If this stuff is important, then I want to:
  • Know that it will work
  • Know why it works
  • Know that its repeatable

For kicks, go look up the definition of informal learning on Wikipedia. Whoops, there isn't one. Why not? Well I tried to figure out what I'd say and it's hopelessly vague.

Heck, I'm not even all that convinced that we, as learners ourselves, are particularly adept at learning (Do Learning Professionals Make the Worst Learners?). I've been trying to write (Personal Learning for Learning Professionals - Using Web 2.0 Tools to Make Reading & Research More Effective) about some ideas on how we can participate in improving our personal learning skills.

But, are we collectively making progress in this? Where are the resources for learning professionals that help us learn? Where's our great examples of informal learning support? Please don't tell me it's TrDev and ASTD. Is that all we've got?

Let's get real... If supporting informal learning is the wave of the future and a critical capability for learning professionals of tomorrow, we had better come up with something more than "unclear process" and based on a "rough end target."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Future of ISD in a World of Read/Write Web

Interesting post by Brent - ISDers: The Master Filters that parallels some of my recent posts talking about instructional design transition as delivery models have changed. Brent's main point is that in a world of user-generated content (or even SME) generated content then the role of ISDers is different. I tend to agree with most of his assessment, but disagree with his statement:
If we are good/lucky we meet in the middle and the compromise is the
mediocrity of elearning click2death courses that we have today.

Instead, I see ISDers continuing to act as filters (that's almost the job description) and probably looking a lot like aggregators. In other words, we'll be creating a lot of pages that point to all the best resources out there and putting a bit of context on those resources. Embedded within those resources will be links to interactive exercises, tests, etc. This is something that I call a reference hybrid.

One difference will be the source of information and content. Today, we often are interviewing SMEs and searching for source materials. Tomorrow, we will be finding much of the source information already posted.

Ideally, we will figure out ways to have continued contribution from SMEs and Users that adds value. But, the need of filtering and adding context will remain.

Keywords: eLearning Trends

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Business Web

Richard MacManus posted an email by CEO Marc Benioff and it really does a good job capturing how significant of a shift we are seeing in software. This is something I've pointed to before: Promise of Web 2.0 and eLearning 2.0 - Comparison to Macros, IDEs, and Visual Basic. I've got a copy of the email below, its well worth reading.

Here's a copy of the email:

"Is it the end of software as we know it?

Just three weeks ago, Bill Gates announced he would leave his day-to-day responsibilities at Microsoft, and turn his title of Chief Software Architect over to Ray Ozzie. Why did he choose Ozzie, a relative newcomer to Microsoft? Ozzie had made his views widely known in his October 28, 2005 memo called, “Services Disruption,” where he stated the future would be dominated not by software like that made by Microsoft, but by services offered by companies like Google and who were changing the software game forever by delivering a new paradigm.

Simultaneously, companies like Google and Yahoo have announced their intention to compete against Microsoft Exchange by offering a version of their consumer email services repurposed for business. Gmail for Domains ( and Yahoo Business Email ( are serious competitors to the traditional email server franchise. And, it’s not stopping there, as competitors to Microsoft Excel spreadsheets ( ( (, and even those taking on Microsoft Word processing ( ( begin to take hold as serious and viable alternatives to Microsoft Office software. Ozzie was right. Steve Ballmer has publicly fretted that he would not be “out hustled by anyone,” but the fact is that Microsoft is being out hustled by everyone.

In January, introduced AppExchange (, and already has more than 200 independent software vendors providing more than 300 different software as service applications. They applications range from sales, service and support, utilities, and tools to health care, education, real estate, and manufacturing. Thousands of customers have already started using these applications simply by adding them to their existing implementations.

And, many other companies are finally delivering a wide variety of software as service offerings from Business Objects to Adobe to Skype. And, Oracle and SAP
both have announced they would take the software as service market seriously as well with their own on-demand offerings. And, finally, Microsoft has announced that it will begin hosting its own business software under the Live brand.

The world has changed. Everyone and everything is becoming a service.

It was not so long ago that most executives and companies disregarded the movement to software as service, claiming it was limited technically, or isolated to a specific market segment such as small business. Now, everyone agrees that the future of software is no software at all—but rather an industry dominated by tens of thousands of heterogeneous services delivering everything from traditional Office productivity to Verticals to VOIP to ERP and CRM systems. All companies and executives now agree: no software application will remain standing at the end of this widespread transformation. Every market segment, geography, and customer will use these services with all of the rich customization and integration they demand–
and much, much more.

Put it all together and what do you have? The Business Web. And The Business Web– with all of its innovation, creativity, and most important, customer success—won’t wait for Microsoft.

We have seen the consumer Web dominated by companies like eBay and Amazon. Now we are seeing a wide variety of new software as service applications ( emerging to dominate The Business Web. And, it’s only starting. We are only at the very beginning of a huge change.

It will not be dominated by any one particular company or application or geography. The reason is that The Business Web will be best known for its ability to easily create composite applications, or what is now popularly known as “mash-ups.” Made popular on consumer sites such as, a mash-up driven by Google maps and, or, a mash-up driven by and Google maps, the point is simple: the future of business applications is multiple, heterogeneous applications talking to each other and sharing data.

Customers of all sizes are making the decision to choose software as service as evidenced by Cisco’s multi-thousand person worldwide sales organization now running on, or Merrill Lynch’s decision to jettison Siebel. Just a few years ago, that would have been unheard of. But, now ask any of’s 22,700 customer or 444,000 subscribers, and you’ll hear the same story.
No one can turn back time, and the Pandora’s box of services is now opened. New companies being funded on Sand Hill Road are not software companies but services companies. And, entrepreneurs around the world are starting their own companies to take on this great new opportunity of creating The Business Web.



In talking with friends at software development companies in Southern California, the general consensus is that this is going to be the way forward.

Keywords: eLearning 2.0, Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

ADDIE Not Relevant?

Brent Schlenker wrote Waterfall model - ADDIE - "is risky and invites failure":

The 37signals blog Signal vs. Noise pointed me to the Wikipedia entry for the waterfall model of software development. Sure sounds a lot like the ADDIE model to me. I wonder if there is any connection. matter...they are not relevant any more.

Having spent a lot of time working on a Ph.D. where I studied software development processes and now having built a services company based on building quality software and eLearning Solutions, there's still a lot that is relevant in both the Waterfall model and in ADDIE. We don't really use either model directly, instead we have a modified version and a process that's highly flexible to meet the needs of the particular project.

37signals tells you that all your clients (internal or external) care about is the end result. Get there as quick as you can. Get rid of intervening documents that just get in the way of getting to the end result.

I understand where they are coming from, but I would point out one really important thing - and in fact, when you are in a service business it's the most important thing ... The client's expectation of the end result.

A service business is ultimately all about mutually setting expectations and meeting those expectations with your client. I would claim that the real value in the Waterfall Model and the ADDIE model is successively more granular definitions of expectation.

I agree that these models are bloated. That we need streamlined versions of the models to be able to handle the speed in which projects need to occur. But, if you are iterating from the start through successive definitions of expectations and attacking risks early, you are destined to fail to meet expectations on some projects.

You can get a white paper on this topic that I wrote from my company web site: Innovative Projects and Software Development.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Thinking Outside the Training Box

Great post by Dave Lee - The Learning Circuits Blog: We're #3! We're #3! - that really should have been titled something along the lines of - looking at Customer Service and IT Help Desk for inspiration in training. When you look at Dave's list of things that these two organizations do, you begin to see solutions that don't look like training and instead look like help (with maybe a little training embedded when appropriate). This is the kind of solution we've been using in Reference Hybrids. And it also points us to solution elements as part of our blend that have included:
  • Collect Questions - During any use of Online Reference or eLearning, make it easy to collect questions that can be submitted in a batch (learning mode) or immediately.
  • Office hours - After the launch of the training, hold regularly scheduled virtual meetings to discuss questions or issues that have come up. Also, ask for input on any tips that people have for each other. This will fizzle out after a while, but as new things roll-out, it becomes important again.
  • Web Site - Use Wiki software or similarly easy to use tool to keep an up-to-date site where you minimally have pointers to your reference materials and training materials, FAQs, list of expert practitioners, and dates/times of office hours.
  • Update your FAQs - After each office hour, quickly make modifications to the Wiki. Ideally, you solicit expert practitioners to make updates to the web site including the FAQ.
Dave also points to metrics that are available in both of these contexts. We also have seen metrics get used in some domains that are quite effective, e.g., customer satisfaction surveys. But, it is certainly the exception that we have these kinds of metrics available to us.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Moving from One to Many - LMS Products are Two Generations Behind

I ran across an article by Bob Mosher in CLO entitled: Moving from One to Many that discusses the disconnect of what LMS products are focusing on "competency mapping and effective resource management" vs. what Bob sees as the overall industry trend - "industry shifting its overall training focus away from skills acquisition to an overall strategy of project-based and outcome-driven learning."

Bob is pretty wired into both the LMS world and hears what people are talking about at conferences and I've heard the same things, so I don't disagree that he's hearing this stuff, and I quite agree with his statement:

Many of the latest LMS and e-learning efforts have driven learners into learning silos, isolating them from their peers. We need to build the collaborative aspect of learning back into these experiences if we’re going to achieve the collective outcomes we want.

But I found myself disagreeing with where he took the conversation...
Learning teams and projects need to be assigned based on job roles. Teams need
to learn to support and understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Collaborative learning environments and strategies such as virtual classrooms,
discussion forums, mentoring and coaching need to be enabled and mandated as
part of the learning experience.

While I welcome LMS products providing these kinds of capabilities, I am worried that we are about to see another whole cascade of LMS features that will make it even hard to get a reasonable implementation done. Further, the fact that he's suggesting that they need to get on-board with collaboration suggests that LMS products are two cycles behind. Focusing on job roles, teams, collaboration sounds like a heavy, groupware type approach that is going to take too much work and be too inflexible if you ever get it done. This is the same problem that Andrew McAfee discusses ERP vs. Enterprise 2.0.

Instead, emergence suggests that we should provide lighter-weight solutions that enable the individual to improve their personal learning and provides value to the individual first, but enables them to reach out and collaborate via the same toolset where it helps them. The value of / Yahoo MyWeb is that it first helps the individual and by helping the individual it helps the collective.

Making LMS products bigger, more complex is likely the exactly wrong way to go. In fact, there may be some big opportunity for more nimble players on the low end based on simple publishing (think Wiki) and simple tracking and bundles of other simple kinds of solutions to make significant in-roads. The stuff being discussed in LAMS and Drupal/Moodle make me wonder what the landscape will look like in five years. Especially if large LMS vendors take Bob's advice and become even bigger and more bloated and are really, really hard to implement (which is his very first complaint).

Improving Personal Learning - A Continuing Challenge for Learning Professionals

From Wikipedia's description of Knowledge Economy, quoting Peter Drucker (1966):
A manual worker works with his hands and produces "stuff". A knowledge
worker works with his head and produces ideas, knowledge, and information.

What's the most important skill of a knowledge worker? I would claim...

The most important skills of a knowledge worker are learning skills.

I would also suggest that learning skills are dramatically shifting over the past few years and learning professionals are not staying ahead of these shifts. If you read what is coming out in discussions of Informal Learning, Personal Learning Environments, eLearning 2.0, all of them point that personal learning (or self-directed learning or learning how to learn) is where we should focus our attention to get the greatest effect.

I would ask you to assess yourself right now...

How much time/effort are you spending on understanding how you (as an
individual) can be a better learner? How much time are you spending understanding how to help others as individuals become better learners?

I would assume that anyone reading this blog post is likely in the top few percent in terms of personal learning, but I would question whether you've thought about how this could help others improve - or how are your personal learning processes similar or different from other readers. This is what I don't think the broader community has addressed well at all.

If you take a look at what is being discussed in learning circles, I would claim that We Are Approaching Learning from the Wrong Direction. One phrase has stuck with me that captures it well...

The individual is the new group.

We need to focus on helping individuals be empowered and competent in their own learning. A recent article in CLO Magazine, Implementing Learning-How-to-Learn Strategies talks about this need, but focuses primarily on getting more from instruction as opposed to learning on your own. It also lacks specific, pragmatic advice to build learning skills.

I would suggest that before we can help others, we need to help ourselves. We need to better understand how we can improve our own personal learning. By this, I mean specific suggestions, specific skills, pragmatic advice. I'm looking for Lifehacker for personal learning.

I'm going to try to post specific advice and suggestions on this blog and have in the past (see: Tools and Strategies for Personal Learning and Personal Learning for Learning Professionals - Using Web 2.0 Tools to Make Reading & Research More Effective).

I would ask that as you run across things you find interesting in this domain you blog about it and drop me a note so I can link to you, or let me know so I can blog about it.

Or if you disagree that this is one of the most (if not the most) important discussion topics for learning professionals today, I would love to hear your counter argument.

Keywords: eLearning Trends, eLearning 2.0, Web 2.0, Personal Learning