Monday, 15 December 2008

Training Standards

Bill Sawyer posted in response to my Conversation Topics post. You can find posts aggregated via eLearning Learning - 100 Conversations. I've not met Bill before, and this was a great way to start. He is definitely challenged and thinking a lot about training standards.

Bill has quite a few questions in his post:
eLearning is suffering from the Beta/VHS or Blu-ray/HD-DVD challenge. In fact, it is probably even more systemic. For example, it is elearning? eLearning? e-Learning? or E-Learning? Heck, if something doesn’t even have a standard for what to call itself, is it really ready for a rev. 2.0?
I'm not really going to address this much. See some thoughts at: eLearning or e-Learning vs. learning, but I somewhat agree with Jay Cross (who coined the term eLearning) that it's not worth a whole lot of time trying to define it too closely.

Instead, I'd like to focus on what Bill asks about the challenges around training standards and eLearning 2.0:
What is happening with the eLearning world is that we lack standardization. Should we support Flash? Where does PowerPoint fit into the standards? Should we be supporting OpenOffice? Where does SCORM fit into the picture? Should we demand that our product support SCORM? What about Adobe products vs. Articulate vs. Qarbon?

Until eLearning vendors bite the bullet, come to real standards on formats, and then the tools and structure can build up to support those standards, eLearning is never going to be what it can be.
When I talked about Training Design one of the things I didn't discuss is how we've gone through waves of innovation along with each innovation cycle. When CBT (CD-ROM based multimedia training) came out, there were a lot of different authoring tools and approaches that came along with it. It was hard to choose a tool because you didn't know quite what you were eventually going to do with it. However, it all settled down to roughly Toolbook, Authorware and IconAuthor. I used to love these tools. Each allowed us to do some pretty incredible things. But then along came the web and WBT (web-based training), again huge innovation, lots of tools. This made us uncomfortable with our choices. But, I actually think things in the world of traditional online courseware development have become much easier. There are a few leading elearning authoring tools that work in most situations. That said, the cycle of innovation is happening so fast now that one cycle doesn't settle completely before the next cycle starts. That's why it feels so uncomfortable all the time ...

When he asks what do we use as the front-end technology and in which case?
  • HTML + simple JavaScript
  • AJAX
  • Flash
each has different characteristics and quite different implications in different kinds of environments. The inclusion of Flex in this mix makes it that much harder. And add into the mix, mobile delivery. This makes it hard to decide what front-end is best. Especially if you are trying to decide on what will be the right answer 3 years from now.

In terms of SCORM, Almost always the answer is yes, authoring tools need to support it. Do you ever plan to track it in an LMS? Then yes. But don't most tools support SCORM at this point?I completely understand why Bill feels the way he does. The amount of innovation and change and number of choices definitely makes it harder to decide how to approach things. At the same time, asking for standards is likely to be asking a lot. It's doubtful we are going to see enough coming from standards except in narrow areas like SCORM.

Bill, I hear you. Certainly, there's a lot to try to figure out. And it's not getting any easier. I'm not sure I buy asking for help from training standards, but there seems to be a need to have some ways to get through the clutter to understand how to structure things.

In a prior post, Bill tells us that:
I train Oracle programmers, primarily internal employees in the E-Business Suite (EBS) line of business, how to write J2EE-based applications for Oracle’s EBS product using our framework called Oracle Applications Framework (FWK).
Given this context, I think I can understand a bit more about why Bill would have expectation that there would be more in the way of training standards. In the world of J2EE app development, there are incredible standards being worked on all the time. These allow all sorts of interoperability. I'm not sure I even know what the standards would be in the world of eLearning.

At the same time, this happens to be an area where likely there will be high expectations about providing more than just training. Programmers are very much used to accessing code examples, reference libraries, seeking and getting help, etc. I'm going to guess that Oracle does quite a bit of this for this exact audience. I have no idea if/how this ties to training standards, but it may be the case that elements of eLearning 2.0 already exist in this world.

Bill, I look forward to any further thoughts on this.

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