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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Searching for Expertise - LinkedIn Answers

Yesterday I created a screen cast on LinkedIn for Finding Expertise. Today, I saw a post on our Free - Web 2.0 for Learning Professionals where someone said:
I am currently trying to find a SME experienced with Moodle (a CMS/LMS) and WizIQ (synchronous web class technology). I posted a query about this to several of the groups that I've joined on LinkedIn and have received about a dozen responses so far. I have yet to discover (through further research) which (if any) of the responses will be most helpful to me. This is definitely a knowledge work task where talking to someone will help. Just yesterday (after having joined this ning as my first ning ever) I found a ning on the topic of Moodle, and I posted my question there. But how long do I have to wait to receive a response to my query? I need information faster than that.
So in this screencast, I look at what I would do given this need. How would I get a conversation going with someone on this topic? A big part of my answer is to go to the individual, don't always rely on group answers. Connecting and scheduling a 30 minute call can often be the best.

Note: the screen casts do not appear in my RSS reader - not sure if you will see it in yours. So you may need to click on the post to see.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Twitter Mass Follow - Nevermind

I saw that Tony Hirst has posted a pipe that aggregates the twitter posts (tweets) from the learning professionals that Jane identified. I had said that I might want to subscribe to these folks. So, I looked through a small portion of the output of the pipe:

GeekMommy: @themantisofdoom - wild, isn't it? I've been in "online" communities since BBSing days in the early 80's. Higher % of good people here.

GeekMommy: @Merlene - I saw that you were jumping back in the deep end! Happy to be swimming around here with you! :)

problogger: @dingman having said that, there is room to improve 4 sure. Happy to take suggestions back to them. They r still in beta and improving fast

GeekMommy: Only I could somehow accidentally end up with 2 Twitter Moms profiles. A site so good I signed up twice!! :)

acarvin: ...and for next week, maybe Yom McKippur?

problogger: @dingman photrade r a step ahead of many competitors when it comes 2 SEO as many others use javascript. Their images do well I google images

GeekMommy: @gradontripp - thank you! You know I'm trying to pretend that it doesn't mean I spend too much time twittering! ;)

chrisbrogan: Can't even dent my inbox. Falling behind in life.

GeekMommy: @myklroventine - I'm afraid it just means I'm overly chatty - but thank you! :)

michellegallen: loving my new laptop table from IKEA. It's lickable.

GeekMommy: @themantisofdoom - personally, I always feel amazed at how lucky I am to have found so many amazing folks on Twitter. :)

acarvin: You just know that if Obama does any High Holidays events, the headline will be Shana Tovah Obamah. Or Obamashanah.

markpentleton: Back in hotel: checking emails and uploading pics to flickr before bed. Looking forward to home tomorrow, but now before breakfast in BCN!

RobMcNealy: @rosenz Do YOU eat bacon? LOL Yes, yummy, a rabbit wrapped in bacon.

acarvin: Wondering if anyone named Cohen has ever changed it to Koan just for Zen coolness.

gminks: @BrettPohlman Yeah it gets very very cold for real. You get to wear cool clothes though. I think the worst thing is the darkness.

GeekMommy: @Merlene - it will go faster than you ever imagined. It has for me. The past year has been a whirlwind! :) An aqua-blue Twitter whirlwind...

gminks: wow I always use twhirl, but my updates say "from the web"

gminks: another for my "don't do this" category: don't make an out-of-print book required, and then tell us the author is your college mentor. gah.

joedale: New Tumbleblog post: “ Bilton Grange French: Les aventures de Florian & Maja. I- Je m..

joedale: New Tumbleblog post: “ Nos Projets 4: Des messages d’accueil pour un répondeur/boîte ..

rgalloway: Wow, heard really exciting ideas today, got only about 25% of planned work done though.

GeekMommy: What to say for 20,000th Tweet? Simply this: thank you for sharing your Twitter with me. It's been a great ride so far. Really. Thank you!!!

gminks: @BrettPohlman me too! Was supposed to go back 4 the mullet festival but it didn't work out this year. Seen a Boston winter yet?

LisaMLane: tiring of the cck08 squabbling

Well, never mind. I don't think I need to a way to subscribe.

Or maybe I'm missing something. Do you see value in any of this banter? I guess the very last comment from Lisa about cck08 is at least somewhat interesting.

LinkedIn for Finding Expertise

As part of the Web 2.0 for Learning Professionals, I've created a couple of screen casts showing very quickly how I use LinkedIn to find expertise. This is my first time using Jing. Let me know what you think.

FYI - the Jing object does not appear in the RSS feed.

Whoops, I clicked too fast on publish - I will try to get additional screen casts posted soon.

By the way, I'm still looking for a free tool that will let me do this with someone else online at the same time. In other words, record my walk-through and conversation. Prefer it produces Flash Video Format.

Learning 2.0 Strategy

Over the past two years, I've worked with start-ups and corporations around the world who are grappling a bit with the impact of Web 2.0 on learning. One of the more interesting aspects of this is that I've really changed and refined what I advise both audiences in terms of their learning 2.0 strategy. But, here's what I see in terms of a CLO perspective.

Seven Key Aspects of Learning 2.0 Strategy

1. Start Tactical and Bottom Up

The title of the post is horribly misleading. When I used to work with organizations on defining an eLearning Strategy, I always worked from a very broad view of needs across the organization and the implications that had on people, process and technology. I always felt this worked pretty well and we'd have a roadmap that covered a few years and provided the basis for moving forward. I initially attacked eLearning 2.0 and Learning 2.0 the same way. But, I'm not sure that really works. Instead, I've found that it's much more effective to look at individual opportunities and figure out what makes sense. You need to be prepared to apply learning 2.0 solutions. You need to be able to spot new kinds of opportunities that you might not have been involved in before (see Long Tail Learning).

In defense of the title - I still call it a Learning 2.0 Strategy because you have to be prepared to provide these new services and solutions. But, it's quite a bit different than the top-down kinds of approaches I've used in the past.

2. Avoid the Culture Question

Learning 2.0 implies some pretty significant changes in the way that organizations look at the role of a knowledge worker, management, the learning/training organization, boundaries of organizations, when you reach across boundaries, etc. The idea that workers/learners have largely become the instruments of learning and that learning is not controlled or controllable is something that causes all sorts of culture questions. I get asked at seminars all the time - "How can I change the culture?" Horrible question. There are some gurus who claim to be able to change culture. I don't feel I can do that - even in really small organizations. But I can change particular behaviors. I can provide tools and support. I can go in tactical and avoid the culture question.

3. Avoid Highly Regulated Content (and Lawyers)

If you are in pharmaceutical manufacturing, there are some procedures that are almost there more for legal reasons than for practical reasons. They establish exactly how you are supposed to manufacture everything. This is what's used for audits and lawsuits. A lot of the time, the way people actually learn how to work in this environment is through informal learning. However, you can't afford to have any of that written down (email, wiki, etc.) because it represents liability in a lawsuit. Likely, there is no way you are going to be able to fight this. I can argue until I'm blue that the reality is that there's a whole unwritten code of conduct that should get surfaced so you know what's really going on and can correct it. But the reality is that they want it that way and you can't change it.

However, this is the exception. Many people assume that their content falls into that same pattern. That's not true. If people are allowed to send thoughts in an email, then chances are your content is not that regulated.

4. Learning Professionals Must Lead

A big part of a learning 2.0 strategy needs to be getting learning professionals in the organization ready to Leading Learning and Help Them Acquire New Skills. The good news is that instructional designers and performance consultants have good analysis and delivery skills that are an important part of identifying and making tactical implementations happen. However, because of the ever shifting web 2.0 landscape, learning professionals need to become far more proficient in the tools and the related work and learning skills. They must be prepared to be thought and practice leaders. They must spot and support tactical implementations. This requires up-front support.

5. Prepare Workers for Learning 2.0

I was a bit surprised by the lack of preparation of workers for web 2.0 (learning 2.0) found in the recent eLearningGuild survey. Like preparing learning professionals to lead the charge, you need to be thinking about how you are going to help workers be successful when you use these approaches. We've complained for years that our internal clients thought that just giving someone a tool made them somehow competent in its use. Now, it's us giving them a tool. Don't assume competence. Help build competence. If you are going to be successful rolling out tactical solutions, you need to prepare the workers to be successful with the tools.

6. Technology is Tactical not Strategic

First, learning 2.0 uses Web 2.0 technologies, but it is really more about a shift in responsibility, a shift in tactics, a shift in skills. It really is not about the technology. That said, there is almost always some technology (Wiki, blog, RSS, etc.) that can enable it. But, keep in mind that you DO NOT START with a big technology selection process. Find tactical, simple, solutions that can be applied to the particular problem. If you try to choose tools through an elaborate selection process, you almost always end up dealing with a whole bunch of bigger picture questions that the CIO cares about, but that really are not going to help you.

7. Avoid the CIO

Find out what's already implemented in your organization either by IT or by some rogue group. Find out about tools that you can use as a service (without the CIO's permission being required). Go with one of those two out of the gate for your tactical solution. You can always move it later. But, you won't get started if you have to go through the CIO's office.

I'd be curious what you'd add to the list.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Twitter Learning Professionals

I was wondering why I was suddenly getting so many Twitter followers - a tool that I'm not yet convinced is a good thing except for people who need to be on the very bleeding edge of information flow - and finally Brent pointed me to a post by Jane Hart with a list of learning professionals to follow on twitter.

Now the stupid, lazy person question - is there an equivalent to OPML import for twitter for those of us who don't want to go through the list and add people one at a time?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Web 2.0 for Learning Professionals - Free Online Event

I've announced this already - Free - Web 2.0 for Learning Professionals and the response is great already - it looks like we are going to have quite a mix of people involved.

To sign-up, go to the Ning group.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Know Where You Can Find Anything

As part of my presentations on Work Literacy and eLearning 2.0 - I discuss how learning and knowledge work are changed by things such as computers, mobile computing, the web, social media, social networks, access to people/experts through the web, and the flood of new tools. To me, this change is still being underestimated - it's so radical that it's pretty hard to comprehend it.

A post by Gina Minks - - where she discusses a quote from an inscription at FSU:
The half of knowledge, is knowing where to find knowledge

Led me through to the King William's College annual General Knowledge Paper (GKP). I guess it's been published in the Guardian since 1951 - 2006 test - but it was new to me. Students sit for the test twice: once on the day before the winter holiday, and again when they return after the holiday (after having researched answers). It is highly difficult. Here are the first two questions from 2006:

1) In the year 1906:

1 which bedstefar was mourned multinationally?

2 which fruity concoction rivalled the first all-big-gun ship?

The test is now voluntary. There's a beautiful quote at the start of the test (and it's translation).

"Scire ubi aliquid invenire possis, ea demum maxima pars eruditionis est"

"To know where you can find anything is, after all, the greatest part of erudition."

And if you run a Google define search on erudition for those of us wanting to make sure we understand the term, you get roughly:
profound scholarly knowledge
So, as opposed to half of education being to know where to find things, the King William's quote puts it at "the greatest part."

But let's go back to the start of my post, impact of the web, social media, etc. on learning and knowledge work. Well let's think about it - if you were an adept student today being asked to do research for the general knowledge paper, well it's a bit unfair right. The questions today are made harder and more obscure because the quiz master checks to make sure that the answers cannot easily be located via Google. For example, the word "bedstefar" doesn't even seem to have a definition - possibly it's an old spelling for the word used in 1906.

But, it's going to be tough for the quiz master to keep up with what's going on out there. Students can essentially farm the questions out - seeking out interested experts in each domain. Or even easier - they can hand it off to the crowd via metafilter. And they get wonderful help including things like a person posting the day it went live:
Bedstefar is Christian IX, king of Denmark, dead in 1906
posted by parmanparman at 5:38 AM on December 21, 2006
Some quick fact checking shows that indeed that's when he died. And then further, I found someone who posted a comment that:
‘Bedstefar’ means grandfather in Danish.
Which makes this highly likely since the King has such international influence through his children.

After looking at this, I first was thinking - the poor quiz master. First, having to fight Google. And now having to contend with social / network solutions. In fact, because the test is well known, I'm sure it's a bit depressing to see things like metafilter come up with answers that makes it somewhat irrelevant for students today. However, if their wasn't broader public interest in the quiz, then I believe there's real value in the test.

So, if the students were forced to take the quiz in today's world and the public was not generally interested in helping them find answers, what skills do the students need?
  • Search skills - Likely this is wonderful fodder for how-to information on using varied search sources to find answers.
  • Network skills - Also very good fodder for engaging others to help find answers.
There's real value here, but, unfortunately for the quiz master, they have a following - so I'm not sure the quiz serves the students as an audience anymore.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Where to Post Announcements?

I just posted about Web 2.0 for Learning Professionals, and likely it will get picked up by various bloggers. However, I'm curious where else it would make sense to post about this to reach people who are not regular readers of blogs? Any recommendations?

Free - Web 2.0 for Learning Professionals

Work Literacy and the eLearning Guild are partnering to provide you with a great (and free) opportunity to get up to speed on Web 2.0 tools and their implications for learning professionals. This 6-week, highly active, social learning event will introduce you to new methods and tools. It will be moderated by Michele Martin and Harold Jarche, with help from Tony Karrer. This is your opportunity to ramp up your understanding of Learning 2.0 technologies prior to DevLearn 2008 so that you can participate better either in-person or as an outside spectator, and to interact and learn with people who are passionate about learning.

Each week we will share new activities that will allow you to explore different Web 2.0 tools and discuss their implications for learning. The activities can be done at your own pace and will be hands-on.

The program topics and schedule...
Date Title
09/29/2008 Introduction to Social Networks
10/06/2008 Free your Favorites / Bookmarks
10/13/2008 Blogs
10/27/2008 Wikis
11/03/2008 Implications / Summary

We will be posting more details of how to get into this online experience soon. In the meantime, you, we're suggesting that anyone who's interested in joining us can start by signing up for the Ning network we're using for the event.

Learn at your own pace...

We have designed the activities for completion at your own pace. We recognize that there will be different levels of interest, experience, and time available for exploration, so these activities will give you meaningful experiences at three different levels:
  • The Spectator – These will be exercises or activities that should take approximately 15 minutes to complete. The Spectator level is for people who want just a quick exploration of the tools and minimal interaction.

  • The Joiner / Collector – For those who want to delve more deeply into a particular Web 2.0 tool, the Joiner / Collector level will consist of activities that take approximately 30 minutes to complete.

  • The Creator – These activities are for people who want to really spend some time exploring and trying out a particular tool or set of tools. The activities will take approximately 75 minutes to complete, and will allow you to immerse yourself in the Web 2. 0 experience.
Based on your experience with the different tools and methods being explored, your involvement may take longer or shorter periods of time. You will also have complete flexibility to participate at different levels of activity each week. Our goal is to create a range of opportunities for people to learn about and explore various Web 2.0 tools and their implications for learning professionals in an environment that's fun, supportive, and responsive to your needs and interests.

The goals of this program are to...
  • Introduce you to new tools and methods for work and learning

  • Discuss implications of these tools for learning professionals

  • Prepare you to participate in DevLearn 2008 in new ways as an attendee or as a spectator.
Event Moderators

Michele Martin is an independent consultant who specializes in using social media tools to support learning, and career and professional development. She has worked with federal, state, and local governments, nonprofits, and corporations to design and deliver a variety of learning interventions. She used online tools such as forums, listservs, and a “virtual office” to support learning in the late 1990s, and has added tools such as blogs, wikis and social networks. She's a co-founder with Tony Karrer of Work Literacy, a network of individuals, companies, and organizations focusing on the frameworks, skills, methods, and tools of modern knowledge work. Michele blogs at The Bamboo Project.
Harold Jarche has found a passion in the area of sharing, learning, reflecting, and collaborating using Web tools such as social network systems, blogs, and wikis. He constantly tries out new tools and techniques, and then uses his pragmatic business bent to recommend the right ones for clients and colleagues. Harold has been a freelance consultant for the past five years, and blogs about learning and working on the Web at Previously, Harold worked as a Chief Learning Officer of an e-Learning company, Project Manager at a university, and Training Development Officer with the Canadian Forces.

Tony Karrer is CEO/CTO of TechEmpower, a founder of Work Literacy, and a well-known consultant, speaker, writer, and trainer on e-Learning and Performance Support. He has twenty years’ experience as a CTO and leader of software development, and eleven years experience as an associate professor of Computer Science. He works as an interim CTO for many start-ups, and was the founding CTO at eHarmony. His work has won awards, and has led him into engagements at many Fortune 500 companies including Citibank, Lexus, Microsoft, Nissan, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard, among others. His blog eLearning Technology won the best e-Learning Blog award.

Examples of eLearning 2.0

During my presentation last Thursday that was an introduction to eLearning 2.0 as part of an online event for the eLearningGuild, I mentioned a few common ways that I've seen eLearning 2.0 approaches used in corporate learning settings:
  • Alongside Formal Learning
    • Blog as writing tool
    • Wiki as a collaborative learning tool
  • Editable reference materials (Wiki)
    • Internal / External Product information
    • Process information
    • Sales scenarios
    • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) / support information
    • Online reference / glossary
  • Experience Capture
    • New-hire blog
    • Maintaining a “lab or project notebook”
  • RSS Reader, Podcasts - Steady Drip
Then I ask the group for examples of how they are using eLearning 2.0 approaches. In the past, I've only had a few people respond, but this time, there were so many responses I couldn't really read them and present. Here are some of the things that people mentioned:
  • link new hires and senior staff through a wiki to learn from one another in starting at corp
  • questions and answers
  • used a wiki to collect data from managers instead of surveying them
  • Vodcasts
  • wikis and semantic engine for knowledge management and mining
  • classroom extension / preclass work
  • wiki for java programmers
  • sharing info about sustainable practices throughout the corporation
  • We are using a blog to assist our Adobe Captivate users with internal troubleshooting and to release important internal standards
  • group roleplays that grow over time
  • creating learning paths on wikis
  • converted help manual from robohelp to wiki for our support team
  • We have a wiki where people describe new business processes they've developed.
  • new acct mgrs have an online community space
  • wikis for student collaboration
  • project management
  • RSS feeds from social bookmarks to capture reading list for group of SMEs
  • We use a wiki to update associates on new documentation
  • wikis internally and learning blog pointing users to most valuable resources
  • Allow people to post their software tips on our intranet
  • Using blog as answering tool and wiki as collaboration tool
  • using a wiki to support development and techniques in for WebEx trianing
  • blogs for student experience - marketing tool
  • wiki on grape varieties
  • project WIKIs, best practices dissemination via RSS
  • rss feeds for hr pages
  • Using a tool like "linked in" to help network our different users with each other, started using blogs.
  • internal processes on wiki
  • starting to use wikis internally
  • Moving faculty bookmarks to Delicious
  • use wiki for learners to craft definition of 'seamless service' after searching orgs that proclaim to provide seamless service
  • We hope to build wikis that our students can use to share information.
  • We use podcasts to release information on department updates
  • wikis for SMEs to submit content/feedback
  • project Wikis ; resource / tools sharing on wiki
  • online reference for patient care
  • using podcasts for our ASTD chapter to introduce upcoming speakers
  • wikis, blogs, jing to capture best practices, conduct training and elearning resources
  • virtual learning environment that encompasses social tools
  • Use discussion boards and blogs for reflection and share learner experience
A great list of examples. One thing I really like about the list is how tactical they are. I always suggest people shouldn't try to come up with a big eLearning 2.0 strategy and worry about culture change, but should instead look for tactical implementations that just make sense. These make sense.

There's still work to make sure you support users. But, wow, what a great list!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Social Learning

At first when I saw Grockit and heard they got $8M in funding from some pretty good VCs including Benchmark Capital, I was wondering what was going on. It didn't seem like this was something that could justify that kind of investment level.

Their example at a presentation at TechCrunch was "preparing for your GMAT." It wasn't until they got into Q&A that the light bulb finally went on ...

The spark was the example of a teacher/course/set of students/partner that provided their content into the system so that the students could study through a social learning experience. Two thoughts. Wow, that's a great idea. Man am I stupid not to have figured that out from the description.

(Actually, I've got to say that this was an incredibly bad presentation. Industrial model learning -> social learning. Then a demo that just shows trivial examples. Wow, it was really bad. How the heck did they get $8M from VCs with presentation skills like that - actually it wasn't presentation skills it was bad content.)

The good news is that I think there is opportunity here. When the light bulb finally went on for me, I thought back to when I was teaching. The absolute best learning opportunity was twice a semester right before midterms and finals. I would hand out a study guide filled with questions including past exams. I held an optional study session outside of office hours and class time. It was almost always fully attended. The session was two hours, and I would answer any questions they had. Of course, there's no way for me to go through all of the questions that I had handed out in two hours and show solutions, so what the students did was go through the questions ahead of time to figure out which ones they knew and what they had trouble with or weren't sure. They were extremely motivated and prepared. Almost an ideal class. In two hours, I could go through the content in ways that just wasn't possible at any other time. And, they learned tremendously from each other.

The promise of GrockIt is supporting similar kinds of interactions online. It's a bit like Cramster and CampusBug, but focused more on real-time studying.

Certainly this kind of approach, leveraging the interest of other students, mentors, coaches, experts, etc. into the learning is something that I believe has big time value.

A long time ago I posted about Authoring in eLearning 2.0 / Add-ins & Mash-ups where I suggested that there would be easy ways to add social dimensions to our courses. Examples I suggested were polls or seeing other responses to open-ended questions or discussions, etc. I still think there's value in having these kinds of widgets available to us to include in our authoring. I don't think that Grockit can be the be-all and end-all of learning models. For example, I recently talked about italki - Social Network for Language Learning and Social Learning Objects - Flash Cards that each use different models. Still, it's obvious that lots of people see social learning and new models of content creation as big opportunities.

Part of the difference here between how a GrockIt looks at the world and how the typical learning professional looks at the world is size / scope of audience. When you have a potentially massive audience then you can make assumptions about finding enough people who are interested in real-time interaction. When I think about the relatively smaller audiences that we often have in corporate learning situations, then assuming that you will find five people online at the same time who are willing to interact, that doesn't feel like a safe assumption - unless you suggest when these study sessions will happen. Oh, hey, we could maybe do that. Allow people to schedule themselves into blocks of times when they know that other people will be fighting through the course as well. Naturally, the more social learners who enjoy studying when other people are studying will find this more appealing.

There's also a difference here in terms of who authors the content. Most of the social learning start-ups look for users to author a lot of the content. In the corporate world, that still mostly falls to the training / learning organization. I'm not sure I get where the content will come from, except by capturing things like mentoring notes, best practice answers, etc. Normally when we talk about eLearning 2.0 in a corporate context, it's not this kind of model, it's much more bottom up learning without someone formulating content ahead of time. My guess is that there's something in-between. Some structure provided but much of the content comes from learners using other resources and figuring things out on their own with guidance from experts, mentors, etc. Wow, that sounds a lot like how we learn many different things in our daily lives.

But certainly, I'm left with the question - what will social learning solutions look like in the corporate learning world?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Rules for Copying Presentation Style?

In a previous post - Video and Screencast Styles for Corporate Training? - I had mentioned Common Craft as an example of a particular well-known style that seems to have struck a chord. I'm still looking for examples of other good styles that people have seen.

In the meantime, I ran across a post by Ewan McIntosh who points to a video by McKann Erickson (the big ad agency) that uses the same style as common craft. Ewan tells us -
It's a shame that one of the largest ad agencies out there, McCann Erickson, feels the need to rip-off others' work, without even a casual link out to the people they're attempting to copy. ...

Why, then, have McCann repackaged/stolen the idea and produced something that's mediocre at best, plain boring rather than plain English?
I'm wondering about this. This is obviously a rip-off of the style used by common craft. And as Ewan tells us, it's not well done. They slip into power point looking stuff along the way. The humor isn't really there. But the question this leaves me with ... if I found something that I thought was a good style to copy for the videos and screencasts that I'm thinking about, I was planning on borrowing from it. Would this be wrong?
What are the rules for copying presentation style?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Forums vs. Social Networks?

I'm debating the value of forum / group / threaded discussion software vs. social network software for a particular situation.

It aims at a very broad audience that includes everyone from early adopters to technology laggards.

We generally expect users to break into:
  • 5% - Heavy Users - spend quite a bit of time and heavily participate
  • 15% - Light Users - spend a little time, participate a little
  • 80% - Fly-Bys - spend very little time, read bits and pieces
It is likely that some of the Heavy Users will be technology laggards, but they will want to participate because of the content.

Participation will eventually mean a lot of different things, but initially it will primarily be sharing ideas. A user can do this through posting to a threaded discussion quite easily. They could also do it as comments on a blog.

So, I'm trying to figure out what's going to be the right software / service to adopt, but I'm also trying to think about the differences in:

Forum / Threaded Discussion / Group

Examples are Google Groups and Yahoo Groups. Typically they center around threaded discussions. Generally are easy to get into. Options are simple.

Social Network

Examples are Ning and KickApps. They center around individuals. They form a network of people via interactions, groups, etc. Being a network, they generally are a little harder for people to understand. However, they typically try to give a better sense of the person and make interactions more social.

The distinctions here are horribly gray and most of the services end up with fairly similar offerings. A lot of what it comes down to is the primary view you show users - classic threaded discussion view - or a personal home page with all that is happening in the network.

Some thoughts I have about why we might adopt threaded discussions / forum software vs. adopting a social network solution.
  • Longer-term we want to have more of a social network where people will become more social, interact in a myriad of different ways, create groups within the site, and generally will take it into classic social network realms.
  • Short-term we want this to be really simple to get into. I'm especially concerned about the user who would want to be a heavy user - contributing lots of ideas - but who has never used a social network. Possibly they've never used threaded discussions either.
What do you think I should be considering here?

Clearly, there's a lot more to it than just the software. It's how we use the software. It's providing the necessary direction and hand holding. It's having people ready to help/guide/mentor users.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

To-Learn Lists

This month’s Learning Circuit’s Big Question is on: To-Learn Lists. The results this far have been really interesting to me.

It appears that most of us (as is the case with me) don't keep a formal / tracked to learn list. Rather its an informal, ever changing list. It is impossibly long and things naturally fall off the bottom.

However, the danger of not having a more formal list that is tied to goals means that likely they are not getting integrated into the to-do list and into daily lives.
Who has time for learning that is not tied directly to formal work activities and to-do items?
For me, I generally put to-learn items in my to-do based on specific projects or preparing presentations, writing, etc. In these cases, my To-Learn items are not distinguished from my To-Do items. I think this is the case for lots of knowledge workers.

If items are not specifically tied to work deliverables, then I find myself not having a formal to-learn list. Instead I make progress based on allocating time for blog reading, posting, commenting. This is time allocation based rather than to-do list based. This may be a mistake.

One thought I have here is to get involved in activities that somewhat force you to learn. Being involved in finding speakers for organizations, preparing presentations, etc. All of these put deadlines on learning activities that move them right into a To Do list.

Great line from Michael Hanley
I would categorize myself as a "learnivore" - I continually acquire new knowledge and information through my Web-, book-, podcast-, and presentation reading, blogging (reading and writing), academic study and research, and work-based learning-related tasks. These activities are drivers for the information I to take on board in my attempts to enhance my skills, abilities, and expertise.
I'm certainly a learnivore as well. Actually, I might better say I'm an Infovore. This definitely helps with keeping a learning list going.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Test LMS

In the past, I've had a few posts around how you can test your courses under an LMS:
One of the problems cited was the lack of available LMS test environments. Recently I've seen two possible approaches that seem quite interesting - although we've not yet tried them (so I would love to get feedback).

One is a Moodle installation that allows teachers to get up and going cheaply. You can use a free-trial and then test.

Probably the most interesting is: Open Source CMS - a site that has a whole bunch of open source tools installed so that you can play around with them. The site is reset periodically and has a count down timer. Anything you do will get lost after that timer. But still it's a great way to show people the basics of what an LMS does. And I believe you could then get your courses tested.

The eLearning software I saw was:
  • ATutor
  • Claroline
  • Docebo suite
  • Dokeos
  • DrupalEd
  • Interact
  • Moodle
  • SyndeoCMS
It also has a bunch of content management systems, a CRM (SugarCRM) and others ...
  • Wikis:
    • BoltWire
    • DokuWiki
    • MediaWiki
    • PmWiki
    • WikkaWiki
  • Blogs:
    • Dotclear
    • Eggblog
    • FlatPress
    • Globber
    • LifeType
    • Loudblog
    • Nucleus CMS
    • Serendipity
    • SimplePHPBlog
    • Textpattern
    • WikyBlog
    • WordPress
    • Zomplog
I hope someone will play around a bit and let me know how this works out for them.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Web Video Conferencing

Two of my startup development clients have recently discussed adding video conferencing to their web offering. Both startups use have two kinds of users involved who are going to want to do 1-to-1 communication through a variety of different communication approaches (text, phone, etc.) and now they want to explore providing video chat between the parties.

An equivalent example (drawing from my eHarmony days) would be providing video chat in a dating site. Since you don't know what users of the site have installed and you would prefer that there's not a lot of downloading required. In looking out there, it seems like there are some flash-based solutions like Sightspeed, ooVoo, SnapYap and Tokbox. Skype would seem to be out because of the fat client download. I even would think that someone having to do a download like WebEx does would be annoying enough that users wouldn't want it.

On the flip side, I would want the system to "call" the person to see if they are available to receive the video chat and/or show them as "not available" if they can't receive a video chat at that time.

So, how could I provide easy-to-use video chat to the users of a dating site?

I'm likely going to need an API to set up various "channels" that will allow on the fly chat sessions or to associate sessions with manually created channels.

Being start-ups and given that we don't know the usage levels, we'd like to keep things cheap.

So, some questions I'm hoping to figure out shortly:
  1. Are there examples out there of sites who are already doing this for their users? I'm not asking specifically about dating, but rather having integrated video chat.
  2. Am I missing video services that would work?
  3. Do I need an API for integration or are there other ways this could work out?
  4. Is there a good way to make this as nice a user experience as possible?
  5. Finally, any thoughts around the viability of video chat for something like a professional networking site? Make sense or not? Are we too early still for the technology?
Any thoughts or help would be greatly appreciated.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Training Method Trends

Steve Wexler who runs eLearningGuild research has been producing some really interesting information recently. All of the data comes from surveys to the eLearningGuild membership (which is more than 30,000) and typically they have 2,000 - 3,000 respondents on surveys which is large enough to get pretty good indications.

He recently provided me some information about what learning delivery methods were being used and particularly if they were trending up or down. The way he did it was by assigning scores to responses that were - Often, Sometimes, Rarely, Never. So, if you see a 4.5 that means that people were between often and sometimes. A 2 is between Rarely and Sometimes. It's a bit complicated, but it effectively judges the trend - not necessarily the amount.

So here's the graph showing all of the trending information ...

Training Method Changes

Increase Decrease Training Methods

Some things that jump out at me:
Prediction #8 => Serious Games - Seriously Sorry, Not for You

They will continue to get talked about A LOT. And people will continue to be interested and excited. Likely YOU will get to attend a session on them. But YOU won't get to build one, or buy one, or participate in one.
  • While I'm claiming victory on my predictions, might as well point out that mobile learning also showed a big drop which lines up with another prediction from the beginning of the year (Prediction #5 => Mobile Learning - Continued Scattered Examples and Disappointment). I actually believe that mobile delivery will become more important over the next few years, but the form of it will be web access, not specialized mobile learning applications. That likely will make the numbers around a term like mobile learning a bit problematic. If someone can get to your online reference (stored on a wiki) through their smart phone's browser, is that mobile learning?
  • Big winners: Communities of Practice, Wikis, Blogs, Podcasts. Warning that on Blogs and Podcasts, the numbers are so low that any adoption looks bigger than it really is. However, that's still impressive. And I would expect that Wikis will continue to grow - actually my guess is that this is the fastest growing item over the next couple of years.
  • What was my biggest surprise - online mentoring / tutoring shows a drop. What? How can that be. There is so much more of these kinds of systems being created. There is so much more informal learning through these techniques. I'm glad I didn't predict those trends at the beginning of the year. I would have been wrong.
Corporate Training Methods

But what about in corporate training? What are the trends for methods in corporate learning? How do they possibly differ from overall trends shown above? Here's the graphs for corporate (non-Government, non-Education) training methods:

Surprisingly little difference between Corporate and Overall in terms of the training method trends. A few notes:
  • Virtual Labs - which certainly are used a lot in distance IT training, show no drop off here as compared to a 4.8% drop overall.
  • EPSS shows a small increase as compared to a drop overall.
Training Methods in Corporations 500+

Often the size of the corporation makes a differences, so what about when we only look at corporations above 500 employees?

Again, this is pretty close to overall, but a few differences:
  • Blogs, Podcasts, Communities of Practice, and Wikis have jumped even more in larger corporations than in smaller corporations.
Training Methods in Education

How does this compare to Education?

Again pretty close. Some differences:
  • Knowledge Management Systems (KMS) show greater increase in education - good luck with that. I wonder what could be behind undertaking things that have been so problematic in the past and seem to have lost out to emergent knowledge capture solutions.
  • In-person tutoring/mentoring shows a drop in education while it shows an increase in overall and corporate. This is a surprise to me. I don't even have a guess why you would see a drop in education both for in-person and online tutoring and mentoring. That seems like a really bad trend.
  • Look at mobile learning in education. 23.5% drop!
  • Games, EPSS, Simuations also dropping fast in education.
I also noticed that education is showing more dropping and corporations are showing more increasing. Not sure what to make of that?

Training Methods in Government

How about with Government?

Some notes on Government training method trends:
  • Online mentoring in Government shows a big increase. This is what I expected overall. I don't get this.
  • Classroom instruction is trending up even faster in Government.
  • Simulations are trending up in Government.
  • Wikis are almost flat - weird - especially given some of the well known government case studies around use of Wikis.
  • Synchronous eLearning is trending down? What?

Questions I have:
  • Why is online tutoring / mentoring showing a drop overall? And why are both online and in-person tutoring / mentoring dropping in Education? And why is Government trending up in both and especially in online?
  • Why is education showing more stuff trending down than corporate?
  • Why aren't Wikis showing a bigger jump in Government?
  • And what's the deal with synchronous eLearning dropping in Government?

Keywords: Conference Calls, In-person mentoring/tutoring, Online References, Online Assessments and Testing, KMS, Learning Content Management (LCMS), Knowledge Management, Portals, Print-based materials, Video Broadcasts, EPSS, e-mail, Chat rooms, Instant Messaging.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Web 2.0 Corporate Access

I’ve been working with Steve Wexler and the eLearningGuild on the eLearning 2.0 survey. This is resulting in some pretty interesting data such as the Web 2.0 Tools Used in corporations. I also recently saw some surprising results that show that some corporations are locking down their firewall so that employees can't get to common web 2.0 sites.

One of the comments I received on Network Effects - YouTube - Video Blogs and More that had a video hosted on YouTube was:
We see and hear more and more about corporate content published on YouTube. How many companies are giving their employee's access? If there is a way to separate the good from the rest, I'd love to hear about it.
Well I can help answer the question about access to YouTube and other Web 2.0 tools.

This shows data only for corporations (excludes education and government). So, YouTube is blocked 27.7%. Wow, that's quite a bit.

Of course, factor in that 2.6% tell us that Wikipedia is blocked. So, maybe reduce all of the other numbers by that amount. Who blocks Wikipedia after all?

I somewhat understand why MySpace might get blocked (28%) but given how many people are using Facebook for business connections, blocking it at almost the same rate is a little bit of a surprise.

What somewhat surprised me is how much other sites are being blocked:
  • Twitter 11.5%
  • Digg 9.8%
But most surprising - LinkedIn being blocked by 7.9%. If I was CEO of these corporations, I'd make sure my HR/recruiting folks and my Biz Dev folks had access. Why shoot yourself in the foot? Of course, if it were me, I would absolutely open up access to LinkedIn. It's such an amazing resource to find expertise and get answers. Yes, your employees might use it to go find another job, but come on.

This also shows the discrepancy in the perspective of getting information via a resource like Wikipedia vs. getting it from other people via something like LinkedIn. Corporations have not woke up to the need for knowledge workers to reach out for expertise.

Now the second half of the question is: How can you separate good YouTube from bad YouTube content? Great question. Anyone have an answer?

Keywords: firewall, blocking, barrier.