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Monday, December 31, 2007

Looking Back at 2007

In December 2006, I posted my challenges and predictions for 2007. I thought it would be worth looking back at what I said in this post to see how I did for the year. Shortly, I'll be responding to this month's Big Question with my Predictions for Learning in 2008.

Biggest challenges for 2007?

I could answer this as the biggest challenges for Learning Professionals generally, and maybe I'll come back and do that, but for now, let me just write what I see as some of my bigger challenges in 2007.

  • Finding high quality people, especially programmers

    This may come as a surprise, but it's really hard to find really good on-shore development talent. Especially since I'm spoiled by a really great, really nice, fun group of developers.
We were very fortunate. I found several very high quality developers at several levels in 2007. Still the market (at least in Los Angeles) remains very tight. Of course, part of the issue is that we spoiled by the quality of our current developers and finding people who match up makes it tough.
  • Deciding if I should be speaking more or less at conferences?

    I love going to conferences when there's energy and I meet interesting people with interesting problems. I hate hearing the same presentations over and over. The last couple conferences have been interesting again, but I'm not sure if that trend will continue. In the meantime, I'm spending more time blogging and in virtual sessions. Those seem to have been a good replacement for my conference time. I'm still unsure how I should spend my time.
I'm still debating around this. I've basically limited myself to eLearningGuild and ASTD conferences. My expectation is that I'll be doing more speaking in 2009 based on some new work. But, I've increased my blogging and writing and decreased my speaking. Still not sure.

  • Retooling my knowledge

    I've been paid to be a CTO type consultant on a broad range of topics. And if you are talking Reusable Learning Objects, Courseware Templates, Tracking Mechanisms, Content Management, etc. I'm really well positioned. Of course, since I'm truly believe that the form of what we will be building in the future is changing and things like RLOs and Courseware are going to become much less important, then my current knowledge base seems diminished. Instead, I now need to get smart on things like community, networks, personal knowledge management and other such topics. These have normally been tangential, but I see them as core moving forward. I've already started on this, but the challenge is knowing where to focus.
This is an area where I really believe I've made considerable progress during the year. I've been doing a lot of work on custom content delivery and even more on the implications of Web 2.0 on all kinds of businesses. This continues to be a challenge, but I'm way ahead of where I was starting 2007.
  • What does all of this mean? What will the landscape look like in 10 years?

    Along the same lines, I really am challenged right now to understand where all of this is going. If it doesn't look like a course and doesn't look like a reference system, what will it look like? What is the form of informal learning?
Still working on this, but my belief is that the picture is not going to be a simple, clear answer.
  • Why am I not finding more opportunities to create front-end tools?

    I am a big believer in the ability of web sites to provide simple forms that a user can fill out, that captures data that can be reused, and then feeds the data into templates that provide significant value. At the simplest, these are dynamic job aids. More complex solutions look like marriage matching (eHarmony), action planning solutions (large retailer), marketing support tools (large financial services). These are the most powerful and best solutions that I can personally be involved in. Yet the projects are sparse. My challenge is to find more of these projects.
I've slowly been finding more opportunities around these kinds of implementations. I've also been writing articles on exactly these kinds of solutions. I continue to hope to find additional examples of these sorts of things because they still have the great potential to make a big difference for learners.
  • Find Lots of Examples of eLearning 2.0

    I've already started to identify some of the initial eLearning 2.0 kinds of solutions that people can adopt right now. But 2007 would seem to be a good time to find even more smart, small, starter examples of solutions that don’t fit within classic eLearning, eReference type solutions.
This is probably my biggest failure for 2007. During a panel session in the fall discussing a few examples of eLearning 2.0 solutions, the panelists told us about interesting examples. When we asked where we could find out more, the answer was that there really wasn't a place to hear about these solutions. That's a problem for me/us.

What are your predictions for 2007?

  • More learning professionals are going to find themselves blogging.
If you had asked me about this in June, I would have been worried, but it seems like there's been a wave of new bloggers this last fall... More eLearning Bloggers.

  • Discussion will emerge/increase around the next generation of LMS that focus on quick access to content, search, web 2.0 capabilities, with tracking being done behind the scenes. In the meantime, LMS Dissatisfaction will continue to the Rise and Do You WANT an LMS? Does a Learner WANT an LMS?
  • I somewhat got this wrong as the big LMS vendors seem to now refer to themselves in terms of talent management and workforce productivity rather than innovating around the learning itself. However, there's Communities / Social Networking and LMS Merger
    announcement around Mzinga. There's also more community platforms and other kinds of alternative solutions being discussed. So, there has been some innovation. Part of the issue is that if the picture is a loosely coupled collection of tools, then what's the role of a central piece of software?
    • Discussion will emerge/increase that SCORM doesn't fit next generation learning.
    I still believe SCORM doesn't fit the world of eLearning 2.0, but interestingly the discussion has been more of how to fit SCORM on top of alternative tools such as Wikis rather than the demise of SCORM. So, I get low marks on this one.
    • 2007 will have even more creativity around types of solutions and how those solutions get created.
    This is definitely true, but it didn't go as far as I would have thought.
    • Informal learning will be a big topic and will become more formal
    Interestingly, I feel like there's been less discussion of informal learning (as a term) during 2007. Part of this is that as you formalize aspects of it, it's really no longer informal learning.

    • Courses and Courseware are going to continue to fade
    I believe this is true, but it's going to be a long cycle. Think classroom training to eLearning. How long did that take 15 years and counting?

    • Training 2007 will still have a blind spot around eLearning 2.0, but one keynote by IBM will open some eyes
    Yep. And, not sure if the keynote happened, but certainly some stuff out of IBM is opening eyes. And definitely I think that recent sessions I've done have opened some eyes.

    • It will be harder and harder to find any software getting installed locally
    • We will start to see Wikis and tools like ZohoCreator being used by normal people like us to build simple web applications - similar in complexity to spreadsheet programming.
    I think I was a bit ahead of the curve on this one. We are still only at the really early stage of using things like Yahoo Pipes. These tools offer some incredible promise. But the true Visual Basic of Web 2.0 is still being figured out.

    Overall, I was ahead of where we actually went in 2007 and I got at least one seemingly wrong. Still, I don't think I did too bad considering where thinking was a year ago.


    Anonymous said...

    Tony, as I read through your predictions, I couldn't help but wonder if one of the reasons changes aren't happening as quickly as you thought is because students coming out of our schools (high school and college) don't have the creativity and technology skills that we assume they have. As a result, training and consulting companies are having to use a push rather than pull strategy for the use of new technologies. New, younger employees are not prepared to use technologies in a business setting the way it is used in their personal life.

    As a professor at a college, I was shocked that many of my students did not even know what a blog or wiki was, much less know how to use it. I was the only professor, for most of them, who was even using these tools in class (or even using the computer for anything more than wordprocessing or powerpoint presentations).

    In addition, I have found that students that come in to my class are waiting to be told what they should know, rather than being prepared to identify what they know and work on those areas they need to know. The test-based system of education is now evident in my new students (most of the freshman were part of the first "fourth grade" tests developed in our state). Many have little knowledge of how to analyze data, develop creative solutions (that have not been taught through a formula), or identify sources of information. In addition, the testing in our schools are still pen and paper based to technology is considered an "add-on".

    Finally, I think part of the problem with finding programmers is that most companies are looking for those employees that can start the job running, rather than finding those people that perhaps don't have the degrees or the program languages, but have the creativity and ability to learn new innovative processes. I remember a project I worked on in Hungary just after the fall of communism in which we could not find good competent book-keepers or accountants to work at our center. Finally, we decided to look for employees who had experience working with foreigners, were not afraid to try new things, were willing (and wanted to) go through training. These later groups of employees were our most loyal, competent employees, coming up with creative solutions to very complex problems we had as the Hungarian economy and political structure was reorganized (problems such as how to get money to the program when there was no such thing as corporate bank accounts and some of our funding came from federal funds which required organizational bank accounts).

    Tony Karrer said...

    Virginia - this is a REALLY important comment about the challenge facing us. It goes far beyond education though, but certainly that's a place where it needs to be addressed as well.

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