Thursday, 28 February 2008

First Thoughts After ASTD Sessions

I’m on the flight back from ASTD TechKnowledge and thought I should try to capture some initial thoughts from the conference and sessions while it was still fresh and before life clouds my memory…

I did two sessions and face time at the conference. I also had some really good lunch conversations. I found that one-on-one and small group is a fantastic way to have meaningful discussions. It’s too bad that there aren’t ways to do more of this at a conference.Are there models for this that people have seen work at different kinds of conferences?

I need to go back and look at Better Conferences, Be an Insanely Great Professional Conference Attendee to see if there were suggestions.

I read the evaluations from both sessions before I left. I always appreciate written comments thanks to the people who spent the time to write something. By in large I got very favorable evaluations on the first session and a mixed bag on the second.

The first session was an Introduction to eLearning 2.0. The slides were similar to eLearning 2.0 Presentation - ISPI Los Angeles.

I felt this session when pretty well. The audience had diverse experiences, backgrounds which always makes it challenging. Generally people were familiar with what a Wiki was, but few had ever edited a Wiki page or seen it done. At least I showed that in my session.

About 15 out of 130 were bloggers – likely on personal topics – one was politics. Only 2 people said they read my blog. Yikes.

Almost no one was familiar with social bookmarking.

How much ground can you really cover in an hour? I tried to go all the way from the overall landscape to individual tools back to the new landscape that is eLearning 2.0. That was a big challenge.

I’m going to do a similar presentation in June at ASTD ICE in San Diego. I’m going to try to work on improving the flow a bit. Otherwise, I’m not sure what I’ll change.

The Second Session was intended to be a discussion session that was eLearning 2.0 - Applications and Implications - a follow-up to the first session. I used suggestions from Conference Breakout Sessions to help me design this session.

As I said, the second session was not rated as high. I’m going to write a follow-up post around the discussion in the session and some other more detailed thoughts. But some high level thoughts... Oh, and I just saw that Kevin Jones posted his thoughts around the session: TK08 - Tony Karrer and Implementation of Social Learning.

Challenges / Mistakes

  1. Needed a better session description. It was not clear that this was a discussion, Q&A with relatively little presentation.
  2. I was planning for 30 and instead had more than 100 – not even sure how many more. I have not been successful getting into small group discussions at large conferences.
  3. Room was way too big and hard to hear some contributions. And with that size, people were not able to get their questions asked and answered. I’m sure it was probably somewhat frustrating. However, some people said upfront that they wanted to be lurkers, so maybe it was okay for them.
  4. I needed to seed the audience with more people who had hands on experience. We had about 7-10 people with real experience of different kinds.
  5. People did not offer up as many examples of where they’d like to use Blogs, Wikis, Social Bookmarking as I anticipated. I thought they would be just rolling out. Especially with the survey to prompt some ideas. It would have made the session a lot more energetic. Again, seeding would have worked much better. Once I started asking for examples, that worked well. Of course, it was hard to hear.

Things that went okay / well

  1. I’m really glad I didn’t do small group discussions Conference Breakout Sessions - thanks everyone for steering me away from that. It would not have been good.
  2. Good examples from the audiences. Intuit – Wiki for customers to discuss tax issues. Worried about quality. In the end, updates happen in about 5 minutes if someone posts something wrong. Good adoption.
  3. People were able to voice challenges that they faced and I feel we had good discussion / sharing around these challenges. Kevin said he was frustrated that he couldn't jump in and dismiss some of these more quickly. I think I should have attacked it that way instead of getting the list all at once.

Overall, I might try to do this again, but I’m going to have to figure out how to overcome some of this. Clearly 75 minutes is not enough to discuss eLearning 2.0, but having a discussion of eLearning 2.0 for the next 75 minutes is not quite right either. More guidance and structure would have probably been better. Hmmm … okay, I’ve got some ideas. That makes me feel a bit better.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Long Tail Learning - Size and Shape

Beth Griese - posted a response Is Learning 2.0 a long tail? to my post Corporate Learning Long Tail and Attention Crisis. In it, Beth shows a graphic:

This caused us to have a good exchange. Beth tells us:
I'm thinking of "topics" as anything that an organization's people would want to learn about for their jobs. I'm not limiting that to the "traditional means" training topics, but I do limit that to things that are job-related, which is why I think the tail has a limit.

I'm thinking that the scope of the demands from our learners are finite and still within the means of a training department (with the help blending training programs and of the social knowledge of the company properly harnessed), rather than requiring the power of an Amazon-sized retailer to meet a near-infinite long tail of interests.
If I think about myself and my current and future information needs that relate to all aspects of my job, these are continually changing and growing. So, even if there was a way to define my current tail, tomorrow there's more. And when you talk about all people within an organization, well it seems clear that it's very, very large - effectively infinite. So, I'd want to make sure that we don't delude ourselves:
  1. Long tail learning is effectively infinite
  2. There is no way for an individual to keep up (see Kathy Sierra's The Myth of Keeping Up) much less learning and development.
  3. Trying to "keep up" and putting ourselves in the producer role is not going to work.
Instead, I truly believe that the information needs are tracking the shift shown in the following graph (and Beth's graph seems to agree with this except that she cuts it off):

We have to face up to the reality that information needs are shifting and our role can either only focus on the shrinking tall end of the long tail or we can look at how we can play in the long tail where smaller audience sizes, rapidly changing content, etc. makes it such that traditional "topics" kind of approach doesn't really fit.

There's quite a bit more on the size and shape of the long tail through my post on Long Tail SEO - 60+ Articles.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Internet Overhaul Begins

For our more technical friends out there, earlier this month (as described in this article from the BBC) the master Internet record addresses started the long process of being upgraded from the standard Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) to Version 6 (IPv6). The upgrade is intended to provide a huge number of new individual addresses for computers and other devices to be registered on the Internet but, it is also meant to provide other technological upgrades. The Wikipedia article on IPv6 provides an excellent summary of these benefits.
What does this mean to you in the near future? Not very much except for technical managers purchasing new networking equipment. But over time the upgrade provides an improved foundation for the growth of the Net.

Learning Object Tools

A reader from another country has asked me about Learning Object Tools. I asked him to clarify what they meant and the response was:
Learning Object Tools are those that allow you to create, edit and manage learning objects.
There is also a bit of language barrier. I pointed them at the Wikipedia article - Learning Object. It cites quite a few repositories and briefly mentions "Burrokeet is an Open Source Software tool that assists in the creation of Learning Objects from existing content. " This is something I'm not familiar with. I also suggested looking at LCMS products. And looking at SCORM / SCOs.

But it got me to thinking that I've really not looked at Learning Objects in quite a while - and I've not really kept up on Learning Object Tools.

So, I was hoping that someone could help me and him:

  1. What are good general discussions of learning objects and learning object tools?
  2. My impression is that these were a big topic about 4-5 years ago, and a lot is happening in academia, but not much is happening in corporate spaces. Is that the right impressions?
  3. What are the categories of tools that represent this space?
  4. What are some specific tools within those categories?
Any help would be appreciated.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Work Learning - Same Thing

Mohamed Amine Chatti (a fellow Eddie eLearning nominee) last two posts The LaaN Perspective, and Requirements of a PLE Framework are both interesting posts and worth reading.

His requirements for a PLE Framework include:

  • Personalization
  • Social features
  • Social filtering
  • Incorporate various Web 2.0 concepts and technologies (mashups, widgets, aggregation, OpenID, RSS, etc.)
  • Flexibility and extensibility
  • Web browser platform
  • Aggregation/Mashups
  • Ease of use
Several thoughts jumped out at me:
  • The concept of a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) exists, but actual PLEs only exist as theoretical combinations of skills, methods and tools. The concept of a Personal Learning Environment Framework gets it even farther from some actual system. There will be Social Network Operating Systems that will allow us to pull together our highly personal environment. But, too much structure is not going to work.
Knowledge work is not separate from learning.
Yes, there are times that Knowledge Workers will step away from day-to-day activities to go do developmental learning activities that may not be directly related to their day-to-day knowledge work. But that's the exception. In almost all cases work and learning is inseparable.

To me, it does not make sense to look at using one environment (an LMS or PLE) as part of learning and another environment as part of knowledge work.

That's the reason I call these:
Personal Work and Learning Environment (PWLE - pronounce p-whale)
And there's only one for me. It's the set of methods, skills, tools that I use to perform my day-to-day knowledge work activities where I acquire information, knowledge, etc.

Luckily all of the requirements that Mohamed cites apply equally well to a PWLE.

I'm curious if anyone actually sees this different? Do we gain something by separating them?

If we are going to make progress with Corporate Learning Long Tail and Attention Crisis, I think we have to think about these things in an integrated fashion.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Corporate Learning Long Tail and Attention Crisis

John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler’s recent article - Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0 talks about the implications of the Long Tail on Education. The article is definitely worth a read, and it got me to finally write about what I see as a crisis in corporate learning.


If you are not familiar with the concept of the Long Tail, head over to take a look at the Long Tail article on Wikipedia. It's a pretty good introduction to the main concepts around a very important concept. You can also look at getAbstract's - Abstract on Anderson's The Long Tail.
The core idea is that for retailers like Amazon, they sell very large volumes of titles that cannot even be carried in a bricks-and-mortar store.

Typical Long Tail

Carried further, when distribution, storage and production get lower, it becomes viable to sell relatively less popular products.

Thus, markets in Long Tail situations shift towards larger volumes of increasingly broader products with smaller volumes at the top.

This is happening in many situations: major publishers (CNN, Yahoo, Cnet) competing with niches publishers, competing with blogs; TV production facing a widely distributed audience across 500 cable channels and YouTube. There's quite a bit more on this in Long Tail SEO - 60+ Articles.

Since everyone still has the same amount of time to spend consuming all of these products or information, they are naturally going to spread their time over broader and broader range. This gives rise to the Attention Economy where the scarce resource is not distribution channels or information, the scarce resource is attention. Each person only has a certain amount of time. Where we choose to spend that time is important. And even if we are successful in getting someone’s attention, we often get Shorter Attention Spans and only getting partial attention - Stop Reading - Skim Dive Skim.

If you think about the Long Tail graph, it works just as well when we substitute Attention instead of Sales.


How does this impact the world of learning organizations and corporate learning functions (training organizations)? Consider the following:

  • Corporate learning functions today act like a publisher / distributor.

  • The average knowledge worker has access to an increasingly large set of information resources and corporate learning is an ever smaller part of this set.

  • Cost is most often not a factor in a knowledge workers decision about the use of information. Time (attention) is much more important. Factored in is expectation of quality (how much time I need to spend filtering the content to determine if it’s of value). As a quick example, we choose our preferred search engine in large part because we feel it will be the best investment of time to find the best quality information.

  • Information sources will continue to grow exponentially, so Corporate Learning as a traditional publisher will be able to focus on an ever smaller portion of the knowledge worker’s needs.

If we do not receive attention, we risk becoming progressively marginalized. Receiving attention becomes far more important than it ever was and will require far more effort than in the past. Corporate learning is in the midst of an attention crisis.

  • Corporate learning functions are seeking to find ways to lower production costs so they can attack broader markets – go farther into the long tail. They look to eLearning approaches to lower distribution costs. They look to rapid authoring tools to lower production costs.

  • For corporate learning functions to really impact the long tail, they will be forced to look at eLearning 2.0.

What we know at any point in time has diminishing value.

  • Corporate learning is also facing the fact that anything they create and publish becomes out of date that much faster so effective production costs are increasing.


The list of issues above represent what can truly be considered a crisis for corporate learning organizations. It's a crisis born of the Long Tail and the Attention Economy. A whole range of challenges result. I believe our first challenge is to really recognize our current world and the Disruptive Changes in Learning and realistically that we are facing an Innovators' Dilemma in Learning/eLearning.

Corporate learning functions will either continue to focus on the front of the tail and an ever smaller portion of the total information needs of knowledge workers or will look to expand into the long tail. To play in the long tail, corporate learning functions will need to:

  • Find approaches that have dramatically lower production costs, near zero
  • Look for opportunities to get out of the publisher, distributor role such as becoming an aggregator
  • Focus on knowledge worker learning skills
  • Help knowledge workers rethink what information they consume, how and why.
  • Focus on maximizing the “return of attention” for knowledge workers rather than common measures today such as cost per learner hour.

Focus on Personal Work and Learning Environments (PWLE) - More Discussion and Personal Work and Learning Environments.

These challenges represent some pretty dramatic questions for us:

  • How do we get into the attention economy business?
  • How do we dramatically lower production and delivery costs?
  • How do we support self-service learning and user generated content?
  • How do we foster knowledge worker skills?
  • What are the new metrics?
  • What does this mean for our current learning systems?
  • How do we aggregate content?
  • What are the legal and compliance issues?
  • What are the new roles that must be created to go after this?
  • Where do our skills fit? What new skills do we need?

This is going to be interesting!

Friday, 15 February 2008

NCSC Partners With Lockheed Martin for FBI Project

Press Release:

On February 12th, 2008, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) awarded Lockheed Martin a ten-year, $1 billion contract today to develop and maintain the Bureau’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) system, a multi-modal, state-of–the-art biometrics system for use by state, local and federal authorities. The Lockheed Martin-led team includes Accenture, BAE Systems Information Technology Inc., Global Science & Technology (GST), Innovative Management & Technology Services (IMTS), Platinum Solutions and the National Center for State Courts (NCSC). 

"The NGI system will expand fingerprint capacity, doubling the size of the current database, and will now also include palm prints, iris and facial recognition capabilities.  Additionally, the system requires a significant degree of technical flexibility in order to accommodate other biometric modalities that may mature and become important to law enforcement efforts in the future."

Thursday, 14 February 2008


There have been lots of good comments and discussion on the post Test SCORM Courses with an LMS : eLearning Technology. Well worth looking at some of them.

The basic issue covered in the post was how to test SCORM courses prior to loading on a given LMS (e.g., Docent, SumTotal, Saba,, etc.).

We talked about the SCORM test suite, SCORM test wrappers, and various test tools such as Trident, Reload player (, SCORM Test Track, remote debugging using tools like WebEx, HTTP traffic tracking with tools like Firebug, and some other things. Quite a great bit of discussion and useful information. If you are interested in testing your scorm courses, probably worth a read.

But recently someone (anonymous) left comments challenging a few of my base assumptions and I'd be curious to get thoughts. They asked:
"Why is testing courseware different? Why assume that the client or someone else is supposed to provide systems for testing for courseware vendors but not say accounting systems?"

"Perhaps you can rent or lease the software? Most major LMS vendors have their own test labs, support, and professional services."

"All of them sell their LMSs."

"There are third-party companies which you can hire to test courseware against LMSs."

"Have you ever tried contacting SumTotal about what options they have available for third-party courseware testing? What did they say? How many other LMS vendors have you spoken to?"
All of these challenge the base assumption that I made which is - the LMS vendor really is not looking to work with people who are creating small amounts of courses that need to be tested on their LMS. That's my general sense having working with a variety of different LMS vendors, but maybe that's not true?

Also, I wonder how much it would take to get the LMS setup for scorm testing? Cost? Hours?

Any comments from the LMS vendors ?

Any experience out there in working with LMS vendors to do scorm tests?

Or is it pretty much that you are using scorm testing tools and then getting on the actual installation to test and debug issues?

Safety Training Design

Some interesting discussions are going on in the Big Question for February The Learning Circuits Blog: Instructional Design - If - When - How Much. I thought I'd take a cut at an answer based on something we've been involved with recent - the design of safety training. This includes topics like driver safety, defensive driving, following rules, workplace safety, OSHA, operating machinery, wrist safety, food preparation, kitchen safety, first aid, fire, etc. There are striking similarities to most of the topics:
  • Most of the core information is already known by the learner. They probably already know the 3 second following safety rule.
  • There is likely content that is known, but ignored. Even though they know they should drive their truck 3 seconds behind the car in front, they don't because it feels like you are losing a lot of time when someone cuts in front of you and you have to slow down to allow 3 seconds again. (Note: it actually doesn't cost much time, but it does feel like it ... especially here in Los Angeles.).
  • Performers need consistent reinforcement of these messages.
The reality is that much of the training on these kinds of topics is rather boring and mundane because it assumes that its purpose is to teach the person the information in the first place.

This is where design comes in ... We have to look at the larger picture and figure out what is going to make sense.

The answer we commonly come out with is a blended solution that involves various touch points including activities for managers, posters and a series of small (15 minutes or less) eLearning pieces that focus on reminding, reinforcing and on likely bad habits. Content around bad habits addresses things like - how much does it really cost you to let the person cut in front? On most trips it is almost nothing. It's almost all perception. Yes, there are lots of studies. And, in fact, stressing about it is bad for you. Be cool, follow the 3 second rule.

Corney, yes. But possibly very effective at attacking the problem. By the way, they already know the 3-second rule.

So, what does this case of Safety Training Design have to do with Instructional Design - If - When - How Much?

The recent post by Gary Hegenbart - Why Bother with Instructional Design? Gary tells us:
For eLearning I think careful planning is required, especially for self-paced courses. For classroom training, and maybe even live online training, almost no ID is needed. Huh? An instructional designer saying you don’t need instructional design? Yep, you need course developers not instructional designers.

In the past year I’ve spent a lot of time working on instructor-led training for both in-person classes and live online classes. What I’ve found is that no matter how much work I do two things are true:

  • The instructor will always do things their way.
  • Students don’t care about instructional design.
Wow, I don't really buy these arguments. I don't disagree that the instructor will take liberties with the instructional design. And Gary later makes the point that you need a good instructor - agreed. However, they should be given a decent road map. And "students don't care" - hogwash. If the safety training design was for manager delivered training, would you want to tell the managers to teach the three second rule or would you want them to concentrate on the real point - why people ignore the rule even though they know it. Would you want them to try to do it all in one shot, or over time. Design is needed here. And you often see really poor design around exactly this kind of topic.

So, Gary's argument around this topic don't hold water for me. I definitely need some level of instructional design or my training is going to be focused on the wrong things.

What's interesting about the design of safety training is that it feels like a topic where you would need very little ID. After all, you can quickly find a list of the topics that go under something like driver safety. You'd find out that you need to teach the 3 second following rule. And you quickly jump onto a really boring (since the learner already knows the information) course.

To me, this is where Common Sense and Intuition is Not Enough around when, if and how much instructional design is needed. Common sense and intuition is why there's so much really horrible safety training eLearning in the world today.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Making the Most of Attending a Conference - Ideas Needed

In comments in the post Death of Magazines - Broader Deeper Coverage, Virginia Yonkers commented:
I have to wonder what you expect to get out of a conference. I have never gone to a conference with the expectation of learning anything (although it would be a nice aside) but rather to network, discuss issues, and market (myself, my institution, my discipline, my theories/philosophies).
and later
I just had two papers accepted at the AERA conference in NYC this year and am dreading it. Last year's experience was horrible when it came to the conference itself, because I felt no sense of connection with such a massive organization.

However, the learning took place when I came home and was able to read through the papers and journals I picked up while there. I also contacted some of the people whose papers I found interesting. Unfortunately, at this point in my career, I must attend these types of conferences. So I will suffer through a trip to NYC (I'm a small town girl) and give me 10 minutes of presentation.
Sadly, I've felt the same way about going to conferences. I'm going to present at the conference and I'll get together with folks for networking and discussion. I'll learn through those things, but it seems that creating a conference where I also get to have a great participation experience is not on the agenda of conference organizers or attendees. This is something I've lamented about frequently.

Lots of people chimed into the post Better Conferences and among the ideas were things like:
  • Free wifi (top choice on the poll)
  • Smaller sessions with more advanced topics and discussions (this worked great at the last DevLearn but unfortunately was at 7AM)
  • Unconference within a conference
  • Keynotes aimed at us
  • Lots of demos
  • Cheat sheets or other sharing to help you get more from the conference
But this was from the perspective of what the conference organizer should do to make it a better event. Clark Quinn told me back then that it really is up to the attendee (especially the "expert" attendee) to get more out of it.

I somewhat agree with him on this. And I've certainly tried to think through this (see Be an Insanely Great Professional Conference Attendee and Session Hopping a Practical Guide). I've also continually suggested that the key is Better Questions (see also Continuing Thoughts on Questions and What Questions Should We be Asking?).

However, Virginia's comments got me thinking. I thought about how great the conversations are at my CTO Forum where a group of peers come together. Why am I not getting value from conferences? Why is Virginia clearly dreading going to her conference? Shouldn't something that costs so much money and time offer me more value that something that's free (my CTO Forum). Something is wrong here. Maybe
As a practitioner with more experience, I'm not doing the right things to get more from my conference experience.
But what are these things? What do other people do to get more from a conference?

For more discussions on networking and LinkedIn see Networking Events in Los Angeles and Southern California, Secret for Networking at Events – Prenetworking, Pre-network with LinkedIn, Local Event Organizers Need to Adopt Social Media.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

InnovAction Award Competition Announced

From our friend Andy Atkins at the University of Florida Levin College of Law:

The College of Law Practice Management is excited to announce the "official" launch of our 2008 InnovAction Awards.  We are looking for lawyers, law firms, and other deliverers of legal services who are engaged in some extraordinary innovative efforts.  The goal of the Awards is to demonstrate to the legal community what can be created when passionate professionals with big ideas are determined to solve the business challenges faced in today’s competitive markets.

Award entries will be judged on the basis of four primary criteria:

1.  Absence of precedent (never been done or done quite this way before) 2.  Evidence of action (the innovative idea was transformed into action and not merely reflective of best intentions) 3.  Effectiveness of innovation (there is some measurable outcome that indicates the innovation is accomplishing what it was intended to do) 4.  Action must have taken place within no more than three years prior to this entry.

Any lawyer, law firm, or entity providing legal services to clients anywhere in the world is eligible.  Further information about the awards, past winners, eligibility rules, and entry forms are
available at  

The 2008 InnovAction Awards are sponsored by the following organizations and companies which have a passion for innovation.

Platinum Sponsors: Australian Lawyers Weekly and Greenfield/Belser Ltd.
Gold Sponsors: ABA Law Practice Management Section; The Canadian Bar Association; International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) and Levick Strategic Communications.
Silver Sponsors: Altman Weil, Inc.; Association of Legal Administrators and Project Leadership Associates.

Uniform Electronic Discovery Rules website

The University of Pennsylvania Law School, Biddle Law Library is hosting a website containing information on the Uniform Rules Relating to the Discovery of Electronically Stored Information and much more. The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws has partnered with the library to post this and much more information.  Click here to go to their website.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Death of Magazines - Broader Deeper Coverage

Rick Nigol posted and reminded me of a post by Donald Clark - Training magaZZZZZZZZZZines. Both are lamenting about the fact that picking up any publication tends to cover roughly the same ground over and over. I have a similar feeling about the limited value of these publications for me and it's something that I mention at most presentations I ever do on eLearning 2.0. In particular, I say that since I've begun to shift my scanning behavior to blogs (scanning is how you stay up-to-speed on a topic) - my rapid fire skimming of blogs via a Skim Dive Skim approach has meant that magazines have mostly become pretty irrelevant to me. I will bring copies of magazines on a plane to flip through, but rarely do I read articles in any great depth. They simply are not worth my Limited Attention.

In other words, my scanning behavior has radically changed because of blogs (see Time Spent on Blogging, Personal Learning Strategies).

I also lump into this most of the activities at conferences (see Better Conferences). In fact, my limited attention has made me into a Session Hopper. It's much like skimming, but at a conference.

But Rick and Donald got me thinking that the reality is that Magazines and Conferences continually must aim at introductory, novice, overview level content. That appeals to the broadest audience. And somehow, ASTD conferences attract 50-75% newbies to ever conference. If you look at it, there is a relationship here:

Introductory / Novice Sources:
  • Conference Sessions
  • Training
  • Wikipedia
  • Magazines
What's common about these is that they are higher level coverage from a more trusted source, but they only go to a certain depth. And, yes, after you've gone through these for a while, they tend to be fairly repetitive.

Expert Sources:
  • Search
  • Blogs
  • Conversations with other experts
These sources tend to offer more depth along more narrow topics. Further, there is a tendency to involve other people in conversations to really explore the topic. The conversations can happen in all kinds of ways both online and offline.

The conference sessions I present on eLearning 2.0 and the articles I write on various topics (e.g., Learning and Networking With A Blog (T+D article)) have to be somewhat of an overview. You cannot assume that people come with a common understanding of a topic. And I would suggest that I normally focus on more advanced topics.

In Disruptive Changes in Learning, I point to how the long tail of learning is addressed through alternative sources...
  • Mainstream media -> YouTube
  • Mainstream press -> Blogs
And this has real impact when you see things like: InfoWorld Folds Print Magazine and you also see things like The Industry Standard coming back, but as an aggregator / prediction market.

It will be interesting to see what begins to happen to mainstream sources that chase large audiences. Can they survive with such broad coverage? Can they also add value for people looking for deeper content? I personally think there's an interesting aggregator role, but they may be made irrelevant by networked aggregation unless they get out in front today.

Certainly, for most experts, my guess is that they've lost much of their value and there are much better scanning sources.

Of course, this also relates to the same issues we face as developers of training. We currently focus on large audiences. We face much the same challenge as publishers and conference organizers. How do you pursue opportunity in the long tail?

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Online Training vs eLearning

I don't remember what I was reading, but the post/article differentiated learning as what the learner does and training as what we do to the person - and hopefully they learn.

What's interesting is that eLearning has become pretty much synonymous with Online Training as opposed to use of technology for various kinds of learning.

In a world:
  • where we have to be responsible for our learning,
  • where learning and work are often not separate activities,
  • where there's just too much for each of us to learn so we have to make choices,
  • where we have to continually evaluate our sources of information,
  • where we have to Stop Reading and instead Skim Dive Skim
How relevant is Online Training as compared to supporting Personal Learning?

This really relates to the questions being discussed in this month's Big Question (Instructional Design - If? When? How much?) where I've argued that Common Sense and Intuition Not Enough to justify ID. But maybe my concern stems partly from the targeting of smaller audiences, niche learning needs, diverse backgrounds - all that suggest a hard time for instructional design - although not necessarily for the right kind of instructional designer.

I'm not sure where I'm going with these thoughts, but it really struck me that confusing eLearning with Online Training is problematic. This relates to the discussions in Learning Systems and EPSS and ePerformance.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Challenges 2008

At the end of 2006, I spent some time thinking about 2007 and wrote a post challenges and predictions for 2007. This was a great exercise and the fact that I had not considered my big challenges for 2008 made it harder to do my Conference Planning for ASTD TechKnowledge 2008. When I was writing that post, I told myself that I really needed to sit down and define what I see as some of my bigger challenges right now. So, here they are ...

Well, actually before I dive in, I should provide some background to give context...

At any one point, I’m actively working with about 5 clients helping them define their direction around use of technology to support human performance. I will also be working a little bit with roughly 5-10 other clients. I typically talk with 2 or 3 new prospects each week who come to me randomly mostly based on personal introductions from people I know or through my various speaking, writing, blogging, etc. I spend probably 1-2 hours initially looking at what they are doing, and offering high level thoughts. A small percentage of these turn into actual clients and some percentage of the clients who engage my for consulting turn into clients who engage the designers, architects and developers from my staff.

In general, I love doing this. I really enjoy looking at a wide variety of interesting challenges and new ideas in different kinds of organizations. It’s fun to work for a lot of different people who often bring very creative ideas and varied skill sets. Life is not dull. In fact, if I could summarize my biggest challenge - and it's the same challenge every year - it's finding more interesting people, companies, etc. to talk to about what they are thinking about doing and trying to figure out creative ways to help. Of course, I need to break this down and think through this in more detail ...

So, when I look at 2008, some challenges jump out at me:

Challenge #1 - How do I balance time spent between blogging, direct conversations, small group virtual conversations, small group networking, speaking at virtual conferences, speaking at conferences and writing?

My goals for all of this are to accelerate my learning, continue to build my network, and find interesting opportunities. In terms of accelerating learning, blogging is definitely the best for me. However, I still get many more discussions with prospects through personal interaction and blogging lags a bit on that front. When I sit back and look at how I was introduced to various opportunities, my personal network that was built through years of different kinds of face-to-face interactions is still the biggest winner. Part of this is that geography has impact. The closer someone is, the more likely I am to work with them.

But maybe I'm missing better choices here. Can I be doing things different online to build personal relationships that rival what I have in my face-to-face network? Will this net more interesting opportunities?

Challenge #2 - How can I help individuals within corporations become better at work / learning skills?

I'm convinced there is a need here. People need help. I’m pursing a bunch of different avenues here to get smart on this topic. More on this during the year.

Challenge #3 - How do I get involved in more projects that really will make a difference?

The projects I like the most are those where I'm working directly with a start-up on their core systems, or working with a company where the project will impact people in a way that directly ties to the bottom line. There's no question of whether it has impact. There's obvious linkage to what matters. I see this happen on projects such as:
  • Metrics-driven performance support tools
  • Performance support tools and workflow
  • Integrated psychometric models
  • Matching Algorithm
Unfortunately, I randomly find these projects. I've tried various ways to get the word out and maybe my blog can help, but I'm still struggling with how to increase the likelihood that I'll find these kinds of opportunities.

Challenge #4 - Get smart on Advisory roles that would make sense

Out of the many people I talk to, in some cases it might make sense to take an Advisory role. Several have asked. Normally the conversation stops as we mutually struggle with defining a model that works.
  • I have to figure out what some of these models might be.
  • I have to figure out if and when it makes sense for me to take Advisory roles.
I'm still working through defining these challenges, and I would very much welcome any thoughts that folks have around this.

Monday, 4 February 2008

eLearning Attention Spans

Dennis Coxe posted Let me tell you about...Excuse me, what were you saying? about an article: The Post-Literate Era: Planning Around Short Attention Spans. The article is more or less summarized in the following graphic:

Dennis' point is that this points us to designing eLearning that is shorter and to the point.
The advent of shorter attention spans that successful learning events need to engage the learner, but I think this concept has often been given lip service while the focus of most learning is on how to save dollars by using software that will allow rapid development of e-learning courseware by the subject matter experts who know their materials. Unfortunately the subject matter expert may not be the best story teller.
Great points ... I also wonder if changes around reading styles (see Stop Reading - Skim Dive Skim) doesn't suggest better content presentation formats to make sure that people get the few critical items.

Social Network Operating System

In the 2008 Horizon Report, they discuss various technology trends including. Their comments around Social Operating Systems is interesting:
The issue, and what social operating systems will resolve, is that today’s tools do not recognize the “social graph”—the network of relationships a person has, independent of any given networking system or address book; the people one actually knows, is related to, or works with. At the same time, credible information about your social graph is embedded all over the web: in the carbon-copy fields of your emails; in attendee lists from conferences you attend; in tagged Flickr photos of you with people you know; in your comments on their blog posts; and in jointly authored papers and presentations published online.
This is a good definition of what we need from an open layer that allows a transportable, open social graph that we can leverage across various applications.

This address a critical problem that we face right now that I described in Social Networking Entrepreneurial Opportunities on my SoCal CTO Blog.

Certainly, what we are seeing with OpenSocial and DataPortability represents a possible future state where we can avoid some of this issue. If we could focus on building our "destination" on top of a set of open protocols that provide us with the social graph for users but that allows us to control our destiny, I believe that's the right model in most cases. It reduces friction for end-users and still gives us the leverage you want.

What I found interesting and I disagreed with was the statement that:
The essential ingredient of next generation social networking, social operating systems, is that they will base the organization of the network around people, rather than around content.
First, I don’t necessarily consider the social operating system to be “next generation social networking” – rather it’s a layer that allows us to have transportable information between all the places that knows about our information. Social networking sits on top of this and provides interfaces that allow us to interact.

Second, I don’t agree that next generation social networking will be based around people rather than around content. My personal experience is that content and social networks are intertwined. Blogs are both content and a social network. There is a social network around, YouTube, Flickr, etc. I’m much more likely to form and keep a social network when there is common interest in some form of content. And as we see more and more niche networks forming – they will almost invariably form around content. In fact, the Social Operating System will make it more likely that common interest and content will be the tie that binds.

If you go to the introduction page for OpenSocial, you can see that it too focuses as much on content as it does on person to person. The image is great and shows that OpenSocial thinks of the social graph as being BOTH people and content.

Friday, 1 February 2008

CATO Updates Website

The Conference of Appellate Technology Officials (CATO) announced that they had recently updated their website at:  The website also contains information on their Annual Conference scheduled for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in August.

NIEM Leader Recognized

The February 1, 2008 NIEM Newsletter contained an article regarding Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff's speech recognizing CIO, Ms. Donna Roy's efforts.  The article stated:

"In a speech to the DHS Law Enforcement Shared Mission Community Conference, Secretary Michael Chertoff took the time to recognize the important work of the Office of the CIO in DHS in promoting information sharing.  He noted that “enterprise data management is an essential ingredient of an effective information sharing program, and the work of OCIO, and in particular Donna Roy, deserves recognition."

Common Sense and Intuition Not Enough

Jay Cross jumped in early with a response to this month's Big Question. The question this month is:
For a given project, how do you determine if, when, and how much an instructional designer and instructional design are needed?
Jay Cross response concludes with:
The answer this month’s Big Question is: common sense and intuition.
I love mixing it up with Jay. Neither of us is shy about our opinions. And while I would agree with him that the current answer to the question is common sense and intuition, this shouldn't be the answer going forward. It's clearly insufficient. How do you back it up when you ask for funding?

Further if you look at Jay's examples and turn those into theoretical projects, e.g., help audience X, with background Y:
  • learn to speak French
  • learn the way to the store
  • learn Ruby on Rails
  • learn to negotiate
  • learn to taste wine critically
  • learn to lead effectively
You would need to break down each quite a bit more right. Haven't we already required some ID? So is there some level in every "help learn ..." type task?

I don't buy that the end of the answer is common sense and intuition.

Sterns County Minnesota Tests E-Court Ideas

The St. Cloud Times in Minnesota notes in an article titled "Courts look to improve availability and reduce paper" the efforts in Sterns County State's Attorney and District Court to move toward electronic support systems.  One example listed is that "Stearns County already has wired a courtroom that one day could allow attorneys to leave many of their paper files behind and rely instead on digital case files in juvenile court hearings. It's a small step toward what could be the court system of the future — largely paperless and accessible by attorneys, judges, court staff and the public via computer."