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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

eLearning Hot Lists Moving to eLearning Learning

Important announcement: I've moved where I will be creating the eLearning Hot Lists.  So …

Want a weekly list of the best content on eLearning from around the web?  Please read this post and then head over to eLearning Learning and subscribe to the Best Of feed via RSS or eMail.

In Using Social Signals to Find Top eLearning Resources I discussed a particular example of using the social signals capability of Browse My Stuff to find good resources on a particular topic. 

This capability also works for finding the top resources over a given time period.  I've been using eLearning Learning to create Hot Lists for a while now:

From now on I will be creating and publishing these hot lists over on the eLearning Learning site.  The first post is up now:

Learning Theory - Enterprise 2.0 - Social Software - eLearning Learning Weekly Hot List

With the recent updates to the site, you can subscribe to the Best Of RSS feed to receive these hotlists or you can visit the site and sign up to receive them via email.

As always, I would welcome input, ideas, etc. on eLearning Learning and Browse My Stuff.

Monday, June 29, 2009

New Learning Solutions

For the past 15 years, I've spent a lot of time working on start-ups both inside and outside the world of eLearning. As I mentioned in Blogger Outreach, I'm now getting quite a few emails that are announcements of new services, products, events, etc. One thing that really surprises me is the number of new products that constantly appear that leave me scratching my head. Why am I scratching my head? Because I'm not sure that they've really done any market research, competitor analysis and have come up with a unique value proposition.

In some cases, I'll connect back to the vendor to ask how it's different than some of the other products in the market. In most cases, they will mention some neat new feature that makes their product marginally better.

A marginally better new product is not going to do anything in the market.

You only need to read a few marketing books to understand why that is. You won't be able to get above the noise.

And this isn't just me. Stephen Downes – What Not to Build. Notice how a lot of the solutions he suggests not to build falls into the category of marginally better. The places he sees opportunity are significantly different. I don't necessarily agree with him on some of his suggestions – too bleeding edge. We'd need a lot more market research before I invested much time and money. But the point is to make sure you are not a "me too" solution.

What's going to make a new learning solution interesting?

Addresses Real Pain Point

Tell me the pain that customers are feeling that will make them pay for your eLearning Solutions – or adopt your free solution. Even if you are free, you still have to have enough pain with how they are doing things today to get them to adopt.

A corollary to this is to make sure you tell me who your customers are. It's surprising how many times I run into new products where it's not clear who they think will be using it.

Different Type of Solution

I'm going to be more interested when you tell me about a new solution that doesn't fit into the existing categorizations of tools. Actually, this is the same thing as differentiating a solution. For example, let's say that you are building a web conferencing solution that includes an easy to use 2.5D representation and avatars. You would categorize the space from faceless (WebEx) to 3D/complex (Second Life) and your solution is this new category of approachable 3D. You get the feeling of presence and personality, without the complexities of Second Life.

Integrates in Interesting Ways

Another way to get my attention and possibly get the market's attention is to have a solution that integrates with existing, already adopted solutions. For example, if you build something that integrates with Facebook, Twitter, etc. that can take advantage of an existing audience in order to help you solve particular issues. Or maybe it's a product that lives on top of SharePoint. Or integrates with all the major LMS products.

Islands have a hard time making it.

Interesting Market Entry

This somewhat relates to the integration issue. If you can integrate with Facebook, Twitter, or similar products and you have some kind of viral aspect, then that could make you more interesting. For example, create a business simulation that integrates with those products. Or a learning tool that leverages those products to help aggregate activity.

But interesting market entry can also be things like the strategy that Yammer took. They allow you to set up a corporate twitter that is based on your email domain without ever asking permission from IT. It's a similar idea to the original groups that Facebook had where you couldn't be part of it unless you had an email with the appropriate domain. Yammer thus provides a very interesting market entry model that can effectively beat out competitors who need to go through a full IT sales cycle.

An Example – New Survey Tool

What sparked this post was an email I received that was a new survey tool. I'm not going to mention the specific tool because they didn't provide any of the information I would need to assess whether it's an interesting offering or a me too.

On the surface, the tool looks very similar to many other survey tools on the market. Actually, in terms of reporting and some other aspects, other tools look like they are way ahead. This new survey tool appears to have additional multimedia question types, but I was not clear on why that's any better than providing some media or a small embedded captivate piece and having the question there.

Some thoughts and questions I would have for this company -

Customers? Pain Point?

Who do they perceive to be their customers? What is the pain point?

From my experience using survey products, there are definite pain points that are encountered in specific situations. You want to create a survey with a particular purpose, but the reporting doesn't seem to work out for you quite right. Or you want to create surveys that need to have reporting done in specific ways. Or maybe these surveys are aimed at employee satisfaction and the goal is to feed it back into the LMS? Maybe there's a unique roll-up of results? Or unique aspects of sending it out to the right people and tracking who's completed it?


Notice how several of the above pain points relate to integration. Quite often integration is the barrier to adoption of tools. If this survey creates something that can feed back into the LMS, then it might be able to get traction in the market.

Of course, most survey tools today really are aimed more at integrating with social platforms. If you could create a survey and have it work seamlessly with Twitter, as a widget on your blog, with Facebook, with your LinkedIn connections, etc., that represents a pretty interesting offering. Or maybe there's something about being able to report back out through these same tools?

You need to be a little careful that you still find customers and pain points.

Market Entry

Survey tools can have a very nice viral aspect to them. You see someone use the tool and then you want to use it. It's a bit like hotmail in the early days. And if you are able to use it with twitter, Facebook, etc. it will be that much more viral.

Maybe this tool could be bundled with other authoring tools?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

ISA Participating - Future of the Business of Learning

I just finished a great conversation with Pam Schmidt, the Executive Director of ISA.


I've been in the training industry since the early 90s and only recently ran into ISA. I'm curious if readers here already know about this organization?

They describe themselves as "the executive connection for training industry leaders." The membership seems to be a who's-who of training company CEOs.

Pam and ISA will be helping me to pull together the event that focuses on the issues raised in Business of Learning. ISA recently looked at some of these issues that were beautifully captured as Graphic Illustrations (PDF). I'm looking forward to more conversations with ISA members and in the conversation on July 23.

You can sign up for the online, free event through Learn Trends at: Future of the Business of Learning.

Welcome aboard Pam and ISA.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Using Social Signals to Find Top eLearning Resources

I recently had a great experience working with Abhijit Kadle one of the authors of the Upside Learning Blog (disclosure). As part of writing an eLearning Games White Paper he had collected a wonderful list of articles, posts, white papers, etc. as part of his research. We decided that it would make sense to bring those great resources into eLearning Learning and then use the automatic categorization, filtering and social signals capabilities of Browse My Stuff to have it surface some of the better content. As he describes it:

In putting this list together, I worked with Tony Karrer and his eLearning Learning site extensively to match links that are popular based on social signals, specifically in the Games and Simulation categories.

You can find the results in his really great post:

Top 100 Learning Game Resources

Abhijit also committed to continuing to add to his list and to continue to add links to eLearning Games & eLearning Simulations on the eLearning Learning site.

This is a great use of the capabilities of eLearning Learning and it will provide on-going value to the community. Thanks Abhijit!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Google Wave – Social Learning – Business – eLearning Hot List

eLearning Learning Hot List

June 12, 2009 to June 19, 2009

Top Posts

The following are the top posts from featured sources based on social signals.

  1. Business of Learning- eLearning Technology, June 15, 2009
  2. New online book on mobile learning -available for free download- Ignatia Webs, June 12, 2009
  3. Phases of the 3PD Approach: Discovering Instructional Design 15- The E-Learning Curve, June 16, 2009
  4. Google Wave as a Learning Tool- Learning and Technology, June 12, 2009
  5. Student Guide: Introduction to ‘Wikis’ in Blackboard- Don't Waste Your Time, June 12, 2009
  6. Captivate Widgets Tutorial: Create your first Widget- Adobe Captivate Blog, June 19, 2009
  7. Discovering Instructional Design 14: the Three-Phase Design Model- The E-Learning Curve, June 15, 2009
  8. How Big is Moodle?- MinuteBio, June 12, 2009
  9. 3PD Approaches to Evaluation: Discovering Instructional Design 16- The E-Learning Curve, June 19, 2009
  10. Nintendo’s Four I Standard- Upside Learning Blog, June 19, 2009
  11. Call for Panelists - Future of Business of Learning- eLearning Technology, June 18, 2009
  12. New tutorial on Captivate 4- Adobe Captivate Blog, June 18, 2009
  13. Top 100 Educators to follow on Twitter- Don't Waste Your Time, June 18, 2009
  14. New Networked Organisation- ThirdForce Blog, June 17, 2009 
  15. The Tipping Point - Are You There Yet?- Engaged Learning, June 16, 2009
  16. Opera Unite for Windows/Mac/Linux gives you immediate access to group or personal learning spaces- Ignatia Webs, June 16, 2009
  17. #eden09: educational shift in Japan, using ubiquitous learning by Haruo Nishinosono- Ignatia Webs, June 15, 2009
  18. Is it ever okay to have multiple tweeters for one twOrganization?- Business Casual, June 14, 2009
  19. Brain rule #12- Clive on Learning, June 12, 2009
Top Other Items

The following are the top other items based on social signals.

  1. Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked, June 17, 2009
  2. Here’s Why You Need an E-Learning Portfolio, June 16, 2009
  3. Game Studies 0102: Cultural framing of computer/video games. By Kurt Squire, June 17, 2009
  4. Interesting Web Sites for Game-Based Training, e-Learning and Education:, June 17, 2009
  5. 10 Strategies for Integrating Learning and Work (part 1), June 15, 2009
  6. What is a Game? The Art of Computer Game Design, June 17, 2009
  7. The Top 5 Platforms for Creating Educational Video Games « Educational Games Research, June 17, 2009
  8. Why Do People Play Games? - The Art of Computer Game Design, June 17, 2009
  9. Social Network Analysis: An introduction, June 12, 2009
  10. Rapid (Collaborative) Authoring Tools for developers/SMEs in multiple locations, June 17, 2009
  11. U.S. Spies Use Custom Videogames to Learn How to Think, June 17, 2009
  12. Marc Prensky - Twitch Speed, June 17, 2009
  13. Business Impact of Social and Informal Learning, June 12, 2009
  14. Fourteen Forms of Fun, June 17, 2009
  15. Gamasutra - Features - "Natural Funativity", June 17, 2009
  16. Integrating Learning and Work, June 16, 2009
  17. Why group norms kill creativity, June 14, 2009
  18. The Ideal Computer for Camtasia Studio, June 17, 2009
  19. Examples from TWITCHSPEED.COM Digital Game-Based Learning, June 17, 2009
  20. Twitter Search in Plain English, June 17, 2009
Top Keywords

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Call for Panelists - Future of Business of Learning

I am pulling together an online only event for Learn Trends that will occur on July 23. I'm seeking several kinds of panelists who can contribute to the discussion. Please contact me via email: akarrer @ if you are interested in being on one of the panels. Or if you know someone who I should recruit.

This event focuses on the issues raised in Business of Learning. The event is:

You can click the link for a bit more detail and to sign up to Learn Trends. The crux of the session is looking at:
While training as a publisher of courses and courseware faces an increasingly challenging market, what other things can learning businesses successfully sell to internal or external customers?
The session will have several panels looking at different perspectives on these questions.

CLOs /VPs Learning from inside medium to large corporations who will discuss:
* What new offerings are they selling or trying to sell to internal customers?
* What new offerings are they looking to buy to bring into their company?

Training CEOs who run companies that sell particular training offerings to corporations
* What new offerings are they selling or trying to sell?
* What are the key challenges they face in selling these?
* Are they moving beyond blended learning to social learning solutions?

Software/Services CxOs Vendors who provide other kinds of software or services to corporations
* What new offerings are they selling or trying to sell?
* What are the key challenges they face in selling these?

Industry Analysts and Others
* What do they see as being the new kinds of offerings that will get traction in the market?
* What should CLOs, training companies and Vendors do to create and sell these offerings?

This should be a lively conversation.

Roughly scheduled from:

9 AM - 1 PM Pacific Time / 4 PM - 8 PM GMT
July 23

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Social and Network Learning - Free Online Discussion - June 18

This is somewhat last minute notice, but Learn Trends will be having a free online discussion tomorrow on the topic of:

Social learning and social networks continue to grow in prominence in corporations, organizations, and universities. The impact of networks, however, remains somewhat misunderstood. How should organizations “restructure” on network principles? How can ROI be calculated? Are networks a superior method of organization learning and development? How can professionals re-create wholeness of understanding in fragmentary conversations and information shared through social networks? What lessons can learning professionals apply from Facebook, Twitter, iPhone applications, and other software and technology trends?

Join LearnTrends on June 18th for presentation and discussion on the social, networked learning and organizations. Topics include: ROI of networks, Value Networks, fragmented conversations and sensemaking, and the next stages of social and learning networks in organizations.

All sessions will be held online and recordings will be made available after the event.


What is Social and Network Learning?
George Siemens and Tony Karrer - 9:30 AM Pacific

ROI and Social and Network Learning
Tony Karrer and Will Thalheimer - 10AM Pacific Time

Organizational Challenges of Social and Network Learning
Verna Allee - 11 AM Pacific Time

Dave Snowden - Noon Pacific Time

To attend the event or to be notified about future events, sign up to Learn Trends.

Blogger Outreach

I've been getting more and more messages these days that are asking me to take a look at a particular product or service.  I wish I had time to look at all these great things, but I find that I have to be pretty selective about where I will spend my time.

I have a tendency to talk about things that are a little less bleeding edge than some other bloggers.  I want to see that they are proven in the market somewhere before I'm generally going to jump on them.  So, I may be a little harder to convince to review something – although I'm sure that most bloggers do very similar filtering.

So I thought it would be worthwhile to post on how I evaluate whether I'm going to spend time on a request to look at a particular product or service offering.  I have a tendency to get a bit of push-back on these types of posts: Profile Photos, Profile Photo, Questions Before You Ask.  Yes, I'm exposing bias here.  Yes I'm making a snap judgment about how much time I'm going to spend.  You have to do this in life.

The amount of time I will spend relates to a variety of factors …

What's your position/role?

I generally will spend a lot more time with people at the top of this list than people at the bottom of the list.

  • Possible Client
  • Entrepreneur / CEO
  • Chief Marketing Officer / VP Marketing / Product Management
  • Business Development / Sales
  • PR Person at Company
  • PR Person at PR Firm

Of course I'm going to spend time with someone who I believe is legitimately a potential client.  I'm also more willing to spend time talking to key players in a company.  Once you get to someone who likely is motivated and compensated for purely getting the word out through any and all means, it becomes more of a one-way relationship.  That doesn't mean I won't engage with a PR person, but I'm much more likely to ignore a classic PR-driven request.


PR Firms have a lower probability of success in blogger outreach.

Are you engaged in social media?

I'm not sure when this started happening to me, but I look at things like:

  • Do you have a blog?  Is it a marketing only blog?  Or an interesting blog?  Are you a thoughtful person with some interesting discussions on your blog?
  • Do you have a LinkedIn profile?  What's your background?

I get so much value from my blog relationships and social network relationships.  If it appears you are going to be a good blog connection or LinkedIn Connection, I'm naturally going to be more interested in engaging in a conversation with you.


Blog before you do blogger outreach.

Engage with social media before you do social media outreach.

Interesting Product / Service

Let's assume that you are a person in a PR firm representing a client with no blog and you don't have a LinkedIn profile (not sure why you wouldn't).  Is there a chance that I will spend time looking at your product / service?   Yes, but you are going to need to spend some time to be in position to get me to spend time.

  • You have spent time figuring out how this product / service is different / interesting in the market place.  Your message to me should indicate some real thought.  You know that there are five types of competitors in the market and here's where this product fits into that.  Add value with your research.  Take a look at Questions Before You Ask.  The percentage of PR people who really do this is very small because they don't really understand the domain and thus can't really engage in a more interesting conversation with a blogger.
  • You've looked at my blog and know who I am and some things I've written about before that relate to your product.  I likely have talked about stuff in your domain.  Otherwise, it may not make sense for me to blog about your product / service.  So, how about reminding me of that, but adding some thoughtful information about how the product / service is interesting.


Do your homework.

Nothing New Here

The reality is that this really is nothing new.  Using the Browse My Stuff site B2B Marketing Zone, I found some interesting articles on Blogger Outreach:

PR and Blogging Outreach: Practical Tips

8 Tips about Blogging Outreach:

1. Bloggers are not journalists

2. Read the blog first

3. Develop a relationship

Don't pitch, get "coverage" and then leave. It's like getting ready for a hot first date and being taken to a McDonald's for dinner. When you start corresponding with the blogger, maintain the relationship.

4. Be Transparent

5. Customize your emails

6. Grammar and spelling do count

7. Don't disregard the smaller bloggers

8. Read Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. At least read the the section about "Blogging Wrong & Right."

My Top 5 Blogging Outreach Mistakes

Number 5: Oops – I thought that was MISS Blogger, not MISTER Blogger

Number 4: Spellcheck is a wonderful technology…when you USE it

Number 3: I’m not stalking you honestly. Could you just puhleeze respond to me?

Number 2: Sorry – didn’t realize you just wrote about this… yesterday!

And the number 1 mistake that I’ve made pitching a blogger:

Who cares about YOUR interests, it’s all about ME

Blogger Outreach for PR - Worst Practices

1. Just send a press release.
2. Act like you expect coverage.
3. Send exactly the same message two (or more) times.
4. Promise something you can't deliver.
5. Don't acknowledge return correspondence.
6. Don't acknowledge coverage.

If you want more you can go to:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Performance - Collaboration - Social Network Analysis - eLearning Hot List

eLearning Learning Hot List

June 1, 2009 to June 12, 2009

Top Posts

The following are the top posts from featured sources based on social signals.

  1. The Various Roles of Instructional Design (work in progress)- Jonathan's ID, June 5, 2009
  2. Mistakes made in Academic Blogs- Don't Waste Your Time, June 3, 2009
  3. New online book on mobile learning -available for free download- Ignatia Webs, June 12, 2009
  4. Discovering Instructional Design 12: the ICARE Model- The E-Learning Curve, June 11, 2009
  5. Audio in eLearning: When Rough Around the Edges is Better- Learning Visions, June 9, 2009
  6. Compliance or competence: you choose- Clive on Learning, June 9, 2009
  7. E-learning in the Mobile World and the Right Business Model to Deliver It- Electronic Papyrus, June 9, 2009
  8. Discovering Instructional Design 9: Implementation and Improvement- The E-Learning Curve, June 8, 2009
  9. Expert Level Answers via Social Networks- eLearning Technology, June 8, 2009
  10. Presentation: Camtasia in eLearning- Don't Waste Your Time, June 4, 2009
  11. Does Deliberative Practice Lead to Quick Proficiency?- eLearning Technology, June 3, 2009
  12. Student Guide: Introduction to ‘Wikis’ in Blackboard- Don't Waste Your Time, June 12, 2009
  13. Discovering Instructional Design 11: The Kemp Model- The E-Learning Curve, June 10, 2009
  14. I Say Instructional Designer, You Say Tomah-toe- Learning Visions, June 9, 2009
  15. Attribution in a Web 2.0 World Part 2- Social Enterprise Blog, June 6, 2009
  16. Should you Care about Google Wave?- Social Learning and Communities of Practice, June 4, 2009
  17. Our Top 10 Learning Tools 2009- Upside Learning Blog, June 4, 2009
  18. Firefox Bookmark Shortcuts- eLearning Technology, June 4, 2009
  19. Google Wave as a Learning Tool- Learning and Technology, June 12, 2009
  20. Productivity tip: Quickly convert auto captions to voice over narration- Adobe Captivate Blog, June 11, 2009
  21. Tips for Teaching Problem Solving Skills- Kapp Notes, June 8, 2009
  22. A Little (Random) Learning- Blogger in Middle-earth, June 6, 2009
  23. The When and What of M-Learning- Element K Blog, June 2, 2009
  24. Web 3.0: yes, they went there- WISE Pedagogy, June 1, 2009
  25. Time Spent- The Learning Circuits Blog, June 1, 2009

Top Other Items

The following are the top other items based on social signals.

  1. Work Together: 60+ Collaborative Tools for Groups, June 6, 2009
  2. Ultimate Guide to Delicious Social Bookmarking, June 8, 2009
  3. 13 More Tips to Help You Record Narration Like the Pros, June 9, 2009
  4. 4 Simple Tips for Recording High-Quality Audio, June 2, 2009
  5. Chief Learning Officer magazine - Get Out of the Training Business, June 9, 2009
  6. Price Ranges for Learning Management Systems in 2009, June 1, 2009
  7. Social Network Analysis: An introduction, June 12, 2009
  8. Social Learning Resources, June 6, 2009
  9. Collaborative Learning « Social Enterprise Blog, June 3, 2009
  10. Organizing for Performance Effectiveness, June 1, 2009
  11. Business Impact of Social and Informal Learning, June 12, 2009
  12. When it's just so obvious NOT to train it's painful to watch it happen, June 12, 2009
  13. Co-operation for Networks, June 1, 2009
  14. Social tools for networks, June 1, 2009
  15. OutStart and HotLava Software - mLearning is Going Mainsteam, June 9, 2009
  16. Aging. Can We Enhance People's Cognitive Outcomes?, June 4, 2009
  17. From E-Learning to Social Learning, June 10, 2009
  18. Investigating the Application of Social Software to Support Networked Learning, June 4, 2009

Top Keywords

Monday, June 15, 2009

Business of Learning

This is a very strange time. While increasing amount of concept work and the pace of change puts a premium on learning, the business of learning faces an incredibly difficult time. In the past few weeks, I've had some really eye-opening conversations about the state of Learning as a Business. It makes me realize that we had really better get moving on thinking about our collective future. There are some important calls to action at the bottom of this post.

Particularly, I'm interested in the question of:

While training as a publisher of courses and courseware faces an increasingly challenging market,
what other things can learning businesses successfully sell to internal or external customers?

Troubled Times for Publishers

By way of background for this, I think it's instructive to look at what is happening in parallel industries. Publishing happens to be a pretty close parallel to training. The challenges for publishers has been well documented:

  • From Terrible to Terrifying: “The stats show that total newspaper ad sales dropped by an unprecedented 28.28% in the first quarter of 2009, a deep plunge that represents a loss of more than $2.6 billion in ad revenue compared year-over-year.”
  • Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable by Clay Shirky "...the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem."
  • New Yorker – Out of Print

Few believe that newspapers in their current printed form will survive. Newspaper companies are losing advertisers, readers, market value, and, in some cases, their sense of mission at a pace that would have been barely imaginable just four years ago. Bill Keller, the executive editor of the Times, said recently in a speech in London, “At places where editors and publishers gather, the mood these days is funereal. Editors ask one another, ‘How are you?,’ in that sober tone one employs with friends who have just emerged from rehab or a messy divorce.” Keller’s speech appeared on the Web site of its sponsor, the Guardian, under the headline “NOT DEAD YET.”

Watch this following video from the Daily Show:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
End Times
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Newt Gingrich Unedited Interview

Great lines - "You guys are like a walking Colonial Williamsburg." At 3:23 - "Give me one thing in there that happened today." The reaction is priceless. "What's black and white and red all over. Your balance sheet."

The editor at the end makes a great point that you don't find a Huffington Post, Drudge over reporting in Iraq. It reminds me a bit of the arguments about the loss of quality as you lose our instructional design and go to cheaper forms of delivery. But that doesn't mean you have a viable business.

State of the Business of Learning

Oh, those poor publishing people. Thank goodness that's not us. FYI that's what publishers thought about the music industry when it when through it's slide. That may be happening right now when we (learning businesses) look at publishing.

I don't think there's much doubt that we are in a very tough period for learning businesses. Take a look at the Masie – Learning Barometer.




Learning budgets are decreasing. Spending on external services are decreasing even more. And learning departments need to do more with fewer resources.

If you are inside a corporate learning department, assuming you still have your job, then you feel this by being more busy. In many ways, that's not a bad feeling compared to either the person who lost their job. Or the people who have seen their learning business crushed by this. Anecdotally times are incredibly tough right now for training vendors. See My business has cracked! for one first person story. But I've talked to training vendors who are down 30 – 60% on their sales in the first quarter. 60% lower sales is a really difficult thing to manage. You have fixed overhead.

Temporary Downturn or Changing Landscape?

While the market is tough right now, there are some people who believe that learning businesses who sell classroom, virtual classroom and courseware training will rebound once the economy rebounds. And maybe within some niches that's true.

I personally believe that traditional training as publishing is on an overall downward trend. I'm certainly not alone. When we asked the Big Question of Workplace Learning in 10 Years – the responses of many experts were that in 10 years there would be significantly shift from classroom to eLearning and virtual classroom, but combined total training dollars spent on traditional formal learning will be less in ten years.

You can certainly argue against this being the case. And probably the best argument comes from the fact that learning needs are greatly increasing. Of course, the crux of the issue is whether those needs are being fulfilled through self-service learning or by formal training. I personally would bet against training as publisher of formal learning in the long-term.

Interestingly, I expected that the stock market – which generally I think of as being forward looking – would show bear this out. In other words, the stocks of public training companies would be down as compared to the market as a whole. Instead, it appears that the stock market considers these companies to be okay bets.


But when I drilled down on one company, Learning Tree, it's quarterly revenue from last year is down from $47M to $30.5M and it's running an operating loss from making $4M. That's a big ouch. And for smaller training businesses, it likely feels more painful than that. I'm not quite sure how the market can be treating them as well as they are.

However, I would be a bit worried about these stocks when I think about what has happened in No Bull: 2008 — The Year Newspaper Stocks Collapsed:

The statistics behind the collapse of newspaper stocks in 2008 are sobering as New Year’s Eve approaches:
GateHouse, down 99.55% in this calendar year
McClatchy, down 93.6%
Lee Enterprises, down 97.3%
Journal Register Co., down 99.58%
Media General, down 92.47%
Gannett, down 80%

I guess that's why I'm not a stock analyst.

There are pretty important question here to ask about your learning business:

  • Will there be demand for our training products (classroom, virtual classroom, eLearning)?
  • Is it generally going to be still growing or are we selling into a market that's contracting?

I always think it's good to go back to customers and what they are willing to pay for as a reality check. Put your customer hat on for a minute. Are you more or less interested today in taking a course on something? Do you remember 10 years ago when going to a five day course seemed great? Do you even consider that anymore?

Okay, I'm leading the witness, but I believe that you will find that most people are less interested in training as a product.

That said, I would still claim that because of the pace of change and the increasing number of concept workers

There is an ever increasing need for learning.

Future of Learning as a Business

Weird times certainly. There's an increasing need for learning, but a demise of training. I can't say this is really anything new. The writing has been on the wall (or in blogs) for quite a while:

Jay Cross and Harold Jarche in The Future of the Training Department

The second half of the 20th Century was arguably the Golden Age of Training. Every corporation worth its salt opened a training department. Xerox Learning, DDI, Forum Corporation, and hundreds of other “instructional systems companies” sprung up. Thousands upon thousands of trainers attended conferences to learn about new approaches like programmed instruction, behavior modeling, roleplay, certification, interactive multimedia, sensitivity training. corporate universities, and Learning Organizations. Training was good; efficient training was better.

Future of Training Started Yesterday – Dave Wilkins – Mzinga

The gist: we need to completely rethink training departments and responsibilities from the ground up (both literally and figuratively) and we need to recognize that we are midst of a transition to a new normal.

This is similar to a post I wrote called Social Learning Defined where I argued that there were three models at play simultaneously: socializing existing formal models (top-down), the sharing of information “from the trenches” back to management (bottoms-up) and the sharing of best practices and collaborating (side-to-side).

All of this should scare the crap out of you if you are in learning.


This Venn Diagram courtesy of What Consumes Me captures the questions pretty well. I'm somewhat focused on the bottom right – what we can be paid to do and figure things out from there. Thus, the challenge I really see around all of this is:

What will internal or external customers pay for that's not traditional training?

In having lots of conversations with heads of training departments, training vendors, and training consultants, it's not at all clear what we should be selling instead.

Sure we know about software and services that go along with things like:

  • Informal Learning
  • Social Learning
  • Toolkits
  • Resource sites
  • Books 24x7, Safari

But will people really pay for these things? Training is a known product. These things are not. And you are competing with a perception that there are free/open or public or cheap versions of all of these things. Or that someone can figure it out. Don't I just use SharePoint? If we start using social learning, do they really need anything from the learning department?

As one example of the challenge, Upside Learning (disclosure) who often works for training companies to help them build innovative eLearning Solutions has what they call an Innovation and New Projects Team. This team builds innovative solutions, often in concert with their training company partners, that they believe will help generate business. This is an applied R&D effort with the goal of building out things that customers will ultimately want to buy. That's worthy of a blog post on its own, but this topic raises and interesting question: What should the innovation team be building? Should they spend time building out things that are listed above? The safe bet is for them to build things that are closer to existing eLearning solutions. But that doesn't get us across the chasm.

We seem to be squarely in an Innovators Dilemma. One caution about the above Venn diagram is that it doesn't necessarily imply the disruptive changes that may be required here. Incremental changes, e.g., going from face-to-face in a classroom to virtual classroom or courseware, likely are not going to be sufficient in the long run.


Ending this with these somewhat terrifying questions is probably going to be a little bit unsettling. But I certainly don't claim that I have the answers to this. I've talked with enough VPs of Training and CEOs of Training Companies to know that this is a hard problem that definitely has their attention. And I don't see easy answers.

Maybe just because of my nature, I'm actually still optimistic because there's greater need for learning than ever before. I believe that we are in the learning business – and there must be things we can do. It's part of the reason for Work Literacy and Aggregage. These are small pieces to a larger question.

Calls to Action

I would like to ask you to help me pursue this topic:

1. If you have thoughts on this by all means comment or write a post or engage me in a conversation. It's too important not to discuss.

2. What business models, products, companies do you currently see getting ahead in this? Where should we collectively be looking to understand what's next? What's already selling?

3. I am planning to hold a discussion through Learn Trends around this topic in July. I'm going to bring together people who represent a variety of different perspectives for a frank discussion and exploration of the business of learning.

Learning Department Heads

  • What can they sell internally that's not training? What will they pay for?

Training Companies, Software Vendors, Services Vendors

  • What products and services are selling? Where are they going? What are the challenges?

More to come on this. I hope you will find this topic compelling enough to want to participate.

July 2009 Discussions

In July 2009, we held a Free Online Conference – Future of Learning. You can see the video recordings of the session.

Additional Reading

I used eLearning Learning to find some other great pieces on this topic:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Individual Value Required

Interesting post found via the Communities and Networks Connection - The Future of Collaborative Networks by Aaron Fulkerson, CEO of MindTouch. 

Aaron's main point is that enterprise 2.0 software or enterprise social software should not focus on:

social networks or social software, which is focused entirely on enabling conversations

Instead, Aaron points to what he calls Collaborative networks:

Rather than focusing on socialization, one to one interactions and individual enrichment, businesses must be concerned with creating an information fabric within their organizations.  This information fabric is a federation of content from the multiplicity of data and application silos utilized on a daily basis; such as, ERP, CRM, file servers, email, databases, web-services infrastructures, etc. When you make this information fabric easy to edit between groups of individuals in a dynamic, secure, governed and real-time manner, it creates a Collaborative Network.

Collaborative Networks are focused on groups accessing and organizing data into actionable formats that enable decision making, collaboration and reuse.

Social Networks' Characteristics Collaborative Networks' Characteristics
One to one Group to group
Social interaction centered Objective and content centered
Achieving personal objectives Achieving group objectives
Individual enrichment Operational excellence
Results immeasurable Results measurable


While I agree that making information that is currently in application silos available is really important, I feel like Aaron has missed two really important issues:

Adoption Rate = Perceived Usefulness (PU) * Perceive Ease of Use (PEOU)

Aaron may not have meant this, but he seems to suggest starting with a focus on group value, achieving group objectives.  I'm sure some people will buy into that, but I believe it's a much easier sell if you first focus on individual value.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How I Spend My Time

A really great question this about Time Spent month on the Learning Circuits Blog … okay so I'm the one who writes the question.  Please contribute your answers.  Each person's answer (like mine in this post) individually might not be that interesting, but collectively I think there's something pretty interesting.  For example, I can already see that TV is losing out to lots of other activities.

My Typical Day

Like a lot of the people answering, there is no such thing as a typical day.  I'm involved in a bunch of different things all at the same time.  How my time gets distributed really depends on the day.  But here are some elements of how I spend my time:

  • I spend the vast majority of my time talking with people about particular business needs, market opportunities, technology opportunities, product specifications, social media marketing, researching related information, position of products in the market, talking to partners, VCs, etc., generally helping businesses figure out how they can be successful.
  • I spend about 2-3 hours each week writing blog posts.  This can either be early morning hours or weekends in the morning.  For example, I'm writing this on Sunday morning.  I used to get up on Sunday mornings and read the newspaper from cover to cover.  Now I get up on Sunday mornings and open up my blog editing tool and begin to write.  I also will take the Sunday morning time to run through my reader to "catch up."      
  • At any time during the week, I save interesting topics for blog posts into a big electronic pile whenever I encounter them.  So, if I happen to see something that sparks – oh, I should look at that – I save it into the pile and take a look at it when I have time to think and write about it.
  • I also will save interesting questions that I've encountered because of particular work with clients.  So a lot of my blog posts directly or indirectly relate to clients or to start-ups that I'm working on.
  • I spend maybe an hour or two each week on various outside topics such as Professional Speaking, Communities and Networks, that is related to public topic hubs for Browse My Stuff.  This doesn't pay back in monetary terms, but it definitely pays back in learning and networking terms.
  • I spend 0-60 minutes each day catching up on topics being discussed via Twitter, different LinkedIn groups, blogs, other discussion groups, etc.  I used to open at lunch time.  Now I will jump onto these sources.
  • I have roughly one 30-minute conversation per day with someone new who I've met through blogging, LinkedIn, or some other virtual networking activity.  In most cases, this is directly related to a particular presentation, project, start-up, etc. I've never really felt great about connecting with people without somewhat having a reason.  But connecting around something that I'm working on is fantastic.
  • Closely related to the above, I probably average 15 minutes per day on LinkedIn searching for people.

When you add all the time I spend with social media, it's quite a bit.  However, when I do my  Top-Down Strategy to look at how I spend my time, what information sources to consume, etc. … my time is pretty well aligned with what makes sense.

Finding the Time

One of the main reasons I wanted to ask this question is explained by Jenise in her response to the question:

I have heard Dr. Tony Karrer speak in person at my local ASTD chapter. We all sat dumbfounded to hear how much he knows, calculating in our brains how much time he must spend online, on the WWW, each day. He has a family, so we bluntly asked him… “Do you spend time with your family?” He does, but we left the meeting wondering how he balances his work and his life.

The reaction Jenise had is quite common after presentations and it boils down to:

I'm already too busy, how the heck can I also do all of what you are telling me about?

So part of the question were the specific questions:

  • How did you find time for all the relatively newer things like reading blogs, twitter, social networks, etc.?
  • What are you doing less of today than you were 3-5 years ago?

I've worked a bit with Stedman Graham and something he said really sticks with me:

We all have 24 hours in a day. What makes us different is how we choose to spend it.

In looking at my response above and what I described in Top-Down Strategy, I've made some very specific choices about where I spend my time – and a lot of it is replacement.

  • I consume far less mainstream media – I don't watch the evening news, I skim the Sunday paper (3 hours has turned into 15 minutes), I'm watching less TV – but that's more a function of my kids keeping me busy.  I've replace the Radio with listening to podcasts.
  • I've cut out / down trade publications.  I used to get Information Week, InfoWorld, CIO, Training, etc.  I still even get a few of these.  But, as I've described in Stop Reading - Skim Dive Skim and Information Radar I find that the vast majority of these publications trail what bloggers are talking about and they have to be superficial in comparison.  So, I've tuned them out and I've instead spent more time with very specific sources.
  • While I still buy lots of books, I read a book from cover to cover far less often than I did 5 years ago.  Actually, I'm trying to remember the last time I read a book cover to cover.  Instead, I'm using my skimming behavior on books.  Good news is that with Safari and Kindle and things like that … pretty soon this will be a more natural integration.
  • I've cut down on local networking events.  I used to go to a lot of these and even served on boards.  I still go to a few and I organize a local CTO Forum.  But I've cut down and I use Pre-Networking to make sure it's going to be a good use of time.  One thing that I've realized is that rather than committing 4 hours to an evening meeting to meet 5 random people to have a few minutes of conversation pales in comparison to the value of spending an hour on LinkedIn findings interesting people related to specific topics and scheduling 30 minute conversations with them.
  • I've similarly cut down on conferences.  I still like to go in order to get together with people I already know.  And by presenting, it helps me build new connections.  Still there's a question in my mind of the value of doing a conference vs. the value of spending time doing something like Learn Trends.  Right now, I'm doing more virtual stuff and less in-person.


Part of the question behind the question is whether the replacement of these things makes life better or worse.  I don't have any more time than I had 5 years ago.  And some people would see replacing 3 hours with the Sunday paper with writing this blog post as a bad thing.  I personally don't see it that way, but I'm sure it's open to debate.  Right now, mentally, I think I'm talking to you.  Yes, you.  Well actually not you, but a theoretical model in my head of who you are.  But still it feels like a kind of conversation. 

It also continually puts me in a better learning mode – I'm not sitting passively consuming.  I'm active.  I'm writing.  I'm conversing.

But probably the best part of all of this has been the greatly increased interaction with other people to discuss targeted questions.  Reaching out through LinkedIn to have 30 minute conversations is a beautiful thing.  Discussing things via blog comments or blog posts is beautiful.  Getting online together via Learn Trends is great.

By the way, I still spend lots of time playing volleyball, taking my kids to all their events, having a generally great life here in sunny Southern California.  In fact, once I'm done with this post, my kids and I will be heading to the beach for volleyball and some fun.

Life is better with social media.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Collaboration - Knowledge Management - Expert - Hot List

eLearning Learning Hot List - May 29, 2009 to June 5, 2009

Top Posts

The following are the top posts from featured sources based on social signals.

  1. Adobe eLearning Suite: is it worth it?- Clive on Learning, May 29, 2009
  2. Capture Examples- eLearning Technology, May 29, 2009
  3. Mistakes made in Academic Blogs- Don't Waste Your Time, June 3, 2009
  4. Time Spent- The Learning Circuits Blog, June 1, 2009
  5. Presentation: Camtasia in eLearning- Don't Waste Your Time, June 4, 2009
  6. Does Deliberative Practice Lead to Quick Proficiency?- eLearning Technology, June 3, 2009
  7. Should you Care about Google Wave?- Social Learning and Communities of Practice, June 4, 2009
  8. Favorite 10 Tools For Creating Learning- Business Casual, May 28, 2009
  9. The Various Roles of Instructional Design (work in progress)- Jonathan's ID, June 5, 2009
  10. #IeL09 Technology and the Next Gen Learner- In the Middle of the Curve, June 5, 2009
  11. Discovering Instructional Design 8: Developing Material for Learning Programs- The E-Learning Curve, June 5, 2009
  12. Webinars – A Cool Marketing Tool- ThirdForce Blog, June 5, 2009
  13. #IeL09 The Social Web and Learning- In the Middle of the Curve, June 5, 2009
  14. #IeL09 Successful Implementation of Online Collaboration- In the Middle of the Curve, June 5, 2009
  15. Our Top 10 Learning Tools 2009- Upside Learning Blog, June 4, 2009
  16. Firefox Bookmark Shortcuts- eLearning Technology, June 4, 2009
  17. Technology in Education- Don't Waste Your Time, June 3, 2009
  18. Discovering Instructional Design 7: Objectives Analysis- The E-Learning Curve, June 3, 2009
  19. The When and What of M-Learning- Element K Blog, June 2, 2009
  20. Web 3.0: yes, they went there- WISE Pedagogy, June 1, 2009

Top Other Items

The following are the top other items based on social signals.

  1. 4 Simple Tips for Recording High-Quality Audio, June 2, 2009
  2. Does Google Wave Mean the End of the LMS?, June 2, 2009
  3. Micro-blogging at Work, May 30, 2009
  4. The future is people, not technology, May 30, 2009
  5. Price Ranges for Learning Management Systems in 2009, June 1, 2009
  6. Collaborative Learning « Social Enterprise Blog, June 3, 2009
  7. Organizing for Performance Effectiveness, June 1, 2009
  8. Co-operation for Networks, June 1, 2009
  9. Social tools for networks, June 1, 2009
  10. Picky, picky, May 29, 2009
  11. Case Study: Royal Bank of Canada, June 3, 2009
  12. Grains of sand, June 3, 2009
  13. ONLINE FORUM: Lights, Camera, Action - Using Media to Engage the Learner, June 2, 2009

Top Keywords

Monday, June 08, 2009

eLearning Learning - Best of May

eLearning Learning Hot List

May 1, 2009 to May 31, 2009

Here is the best stuff from May 2009 via the eLearning Learning site. Hope you enjoy.

Top Posts

The following are the top posts from featured sources based on social signals.

  1. The Truth About Twitter- Social Enterprise Blog, May 11, 2009
  2. Twitter Tips: for Teachers & Educators- Don't Waste Your Time, May 9, 2009
  3. Twitter and Webinars- eLearning Technology, May 14, 2009
  4. Presentation: Twitter in Education - Don't Waste Your Time, May 12, 2009
  5. The Challenge of Training the PlayStation Generation- The E-Learning Curve, May 15, 2009
  6. Adobe eLearning Suite: is it worth it?- Clive on Learning, May 29, 2009
  7. Implementing New Learning Technology? Choose the Right Pilot Group- Kapp Notes, May 22, 2009
  8. Presentation: Wikis in Education- Don't Waste Your Time, May 19, 2009
  9. List of System Variables in Cp4- Adobe Captivate Blog, May 15, 2009
  10. Presentation: Social Bookmarking with Delicious- Don't Waste Your Time, May 15, 2009
  11. New Way of Learning- eLearning Technology, May 4, 2009
  12. Discovering Instructional Design, Part 1- The E-Learning Curve, May 19, 2009
  13. The Ten Commandments of eLearning- Upside Learning Blog, May 8, 2009
  14. Avoiding the Virtual Ghost Town- Kapp Notes, May 6, 2009
  15. Meeting icebreaker-How to get a group to acknowledge differences in perceptions.- Business Casual, May 16, 2009
  16. Audio in eLearning: Cultural Differences?- Learning Visions, May 12, 2009
  17. Overcoming Objections to Social Learning - One Week at at Time- Engaged Learning, May 8, 2009
  18. Skype screen-sharing collaboration & feedback- WISE Pedagogy, May 28, 2009
  19. MOBILE LEARNING - eLearning Tour Part 1 - Hosted by Corporate Learning Trends and Innovation- Discovery Through eLearning, May 21, 2009
  20. How I use social media to learn- Adventures in Corporate Education, May 17, 2009
  21. Lies, damned lies, and Wikipedia…- ThirdForce Blog, May 8, 2009
  22. #ela2009 workshop George Siemens: social networking technologies for teaching and learning transformation- Ignatia Webs, May 29, 2009
  23. More on Social Learning and the Military- Social Learning and Communities of Practice, May 28, 2009
  24. Gaining Audience Attention >- MinuteBio, May 27, 2009
  25. Twitterfall - letting the web work for you- eLearning Acupuncture, May 26, 2009
  26. How Do You Build A Team?- Blogger in Middle-earth, May 26, 2009
  27. Tips for Working with SMEs- Bozarthzone , May 21, 2009
  28. Social Networking in Times of Stress and Personal Emergencies- Electronic Papyrus, May 11, 2009
  29. Aligning Learning Theory with Instructional Design- The E-Learning Curve, May 21, 2009
  30. Developing a PLE Using Web 2.0 Tools- Don't Waste Your Time, May 10, 2009
  31. Informal Learning Technology- eLearning Technology, May 11, 2009
  32. Capture Examples- eLearning Technology, May 29, 2009
  33. Presentation: Blogs in Education- Don't Waste Your Time, May 22, 2009

Top Other Items

The following are the top other items based on social signals.

  1. A List Apart: Articles: In Defense of Eye Candy, May 16, 2009
  2. 9 Free Tools That Help Me Build Better E-Learning, May 5, 2009
  3. Control and Community: A Case Study of Enterprise Wiki Usage, May 4, 2009
  4. Facilitating Online | Centre for Educational Technology, May 19, 2009
  5. 7 Tips for Better E-Learning Scenarios, May 26, 2009
  6. The Eight Classic e-Learning publications? | Tony Bates, May 8, 2009
  7. Are Your E-Learning Courses Pushed or Pulled?, May 19, 2009
  8. 25 Tools: A Toolbox for Learning Professionals 2009, May 19, 2009
  9. The End in Mind " A Post-LMS Manifesto, May 8, 2009
  10. Micro-blogging at Work, May 30, 2009
  11. Using Elgg as as Social Learning platform, May 2, 2009
  12. Learning with 'e's: e-Learning 3.0, May 4, 2009
  13. Does technology change the nature of knowledge? | Tony Bates, May 8, 2009
  14. Learning 2.0 and Workplace Communities - 2009 - ASTD, May 18, 2009
  15. Modern Corporate Training: The Enterprise Learning Framework, May 24, 2009
  16. Learning 2.0, May 5, 2009
  17. The future is people, not technology, May 30, 2009
  18. Learning Management Systems 2009 - 2009 - ASTD, May 21, 2009
  19. Engage Your Learners By Mimicking the Real World, May 12, 2009
  20. Sensemaking, PKM and networks, May 17, 2009
  21. The Mobile Learning Engine (MLE) for Moodle, May 18, 2009
  22. Royalty-Free, Podsafe, and Stock Music, May 25, 2009
  23. A closer look at using a social media platform ..., May 10, 2009
  24. Learning as a Network, May 7, 2009
  25. Become a chief meta-learning officer, May 3, 2009
  26. Modernize Corporate Training: The Enterprise Learning Framework, May 24, 2009

Top Keywords