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Archive for June, 2007

Podcasting is one of the great, albeit not-so-new technologies for distributing information FAST!   If you haven’t already dabbled with it, I encourage you to get your feet wet and try it out.  Here are a few good resources to get you started:

Now, get out there and start distributing content, you crazy Podcasters!

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Not all content that is intended for reuse is created equal.  Before deciding upon the destiny of your content, it makes good sense to understand and plan how it will be used (and reused).  To this end, I was recently contacted by RAND Corporation to participate in a study entitled:  “Reusable Digital Training Content:  Obstacles and Enablers.”   In order to prep their respondents, RAND Corp. provided a list of questions to help us solidify our thoughts about the topic at hand.  They insightfully acknowledge that reusable content falls into the following different camps: 

  • Redeployed content: Reusing content “as is,” but in different contexts or for different groups (e.g., making a course available to a wider group, or use content not only for training, but for an on-line “help” system”).
  • Rearranged content: Reordering learning objects to form a new module (e.g., In a refresher course, moving much of initial course to a backup section).
  • Repurposed content: Updating an existing module, or producing different “versions” of a learning module for different audiences.
  • Rewrite: Borrow assets from different learning objects to create new learning objects for a substantially new module or course.

If you are evaluating a new LCMS (Learning Content Management System), or re-evaluating your existing system, it is vital that you understand these four channels of content reuse listed above.  Further, it is critical to understand how your organization creates content, and how it would prefer to distribute that content so that you can clearly evaluate which learning object model and platform best suits your organization’s needs. 

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If it is true that we learn more from our mistakes than from our successes, we can say with certainty that we’ve learned tons since e-learning first made its mark in the digital landscape.  It hasn’t always been a pretty sight:  The initial efforts towards learning, adopting and using standards like AICC and SCORM were proof of that.  Still, we accepted that the industry was in a phase of growth and maturation, and  that the impending fallout would reveal a pretty good path we could all confidently follow, and that this path might be colloquially referred to as ‘e-learning 2.0’.   That day has arrived, and hopefully you now understand the loosey-gooseyness of my e-learning 2.0 definition.  For me, e-learning 2.0 is all about using what we’ve learned from e-learning 1.0 that works, filtering out that which didn’t work, and then spicing it up with methods, practices and technologies that encourage user acceptance, robust knowledge acquisition, rapid authoring and delivery, synergy and community.  That’s it; it’s not rocket science.  And if we try to make e-learning 2.0 rocket science, we’ll be back we’re we were in the early 90’s, futily trying to add self-importance to a practice and principle that need not be made excessively complex.  The goal, after all, is simply to facilitate learning.

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The answer to this depends upon whom you ask.  You see, “e-learning 2.0” (as a defined and accepted principle) doesn’t really exist.  Not yet, anyway.   Oh sure…you’ll find a few pretty good definitions floating around out there in google-space, but each of them will tell you that a, b, and c are e-learning 2.0, but not x, y and z.  The next definition will be similar, but will state that a, b and z constitute ‘e-learning 2.0’ but not c.  Everyone seems to be hungry to place borders, parameters and constraints on this poor, unassuming term that doesn’t yet even have a home on Wikipedia.  Well, I say, by God, let it be free!  Let e-learning 2.0 be what nature intended:  the natural, organic progression of everything that worked in the original flavor of e-learning with an added mix of new, collaborative, community-building technologies and tools and innovative new-millenium business practices. New ways in which we analyze, quantify and value-add our business can also take root in e-learning 2.0.  If we are truly dedicated and passionate in integrating our learning platform to performance management or talent management initiatives, so be it.  Give it your best shot!   Call this ‘e-learning 2.0’ and we’ll check back with you in a couple years to see if it “made the cut” and became a part of ‘e-learning 3.0’

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…there were books and instructors and blackboards and lectures.   And they worked pretty well for several hundred years.   Then, around 1969, the Internet was born as a Cold War project to create a communications network that was immune to a nuclear attack. The U.S. government created ARPANET, connecting four western universities and allowing researchers to use the mainframes of any of the networked institutions.  (That was all very good and well, but us commoners didn’t get to use it until the World-Wide Web became mainstream around 1994.)   In the 80’s we were still disseminating ways of distributing computer training and education through platforms such as AT&T’s Phoenix Authoring System, among many other company-grown systems too numerous to name.   CBT, or computer-based training, became the modus operandi throughout the early ’90’s, and with the advent of rich multimedia into the corporate vernacular, technology-driven training had gained a respectable foothold.   While this is admittedly a grossly-simplified view, my intent is to suggest that e-learning did not sprout up overnight but was a reasonably slow and organic process.  

E-learning 1.0 (or simply “e-learning”) was the first iteration describing how education, instruction and training could be distributed and disseminated to the masses.   It also included a way to record the impact of online instruction by providing feedback mechanisms (e.g., assessments and surveys) which could help organizations quantify the usefulness of such a delivery method.   Some e-learning platforms were so ambitious, in fact, that they provided functionality for such esoteric measurement tools as 360-degree feedback loops and skill gap analyses.  These tools were most heartily embraced in the corporate community where establishing and defending an e-learning platform’s validity by way of its ROI was critical to its survival and success.  

E-learning 2.0 is basically where we’re at today.   We’ve learned a few lessons from e-learning 1.0, and then some.  More than merely a new set of tools and technologies, e-learning 2.0 borrows generously from its predecessor by building upon lessons from the past.   There is a now a much greater focus upon the needs of the learning recipients.  Software engineers are called upon less and less to force-feed their insular development efforts upon the needs of the learners:  Functionality for functionality’s sake is no longer a value-added service.   Education in the e-learning 2.0 model is a bottom-up approach whereby the needs of the learners drive the technologies and business practices  instead of vice-versa.   Also, in e-learning 2.0, we have come to expect value of synergy in the learning community.  Many of the new tools and technologies focus on building synergy in ways that bring learners together in dynamic,  intricately-knit communities where the sum of the parts exceed that of the whole.

As for technologies, there have been many innovations since e-learning began to take root.  Social software technologies such as podcasts, integrated email and discussion forums, collaborative concept maps, web feeds, tagging, social bookmarking (and yes, even blogs like this one) are a few of the tools that aid in facilitating conversations, making connections, promoting collaboration and helping with context sharing.  

Make no bones about it; this is still somewhat uncharted territory.  The definition of ‘e-learning 2.0‘ is hardly defined.  In fact, it is up to you–that’s right, YOU–to decide what meaning we ascribe to this term, or whether this is even a platform we wish to use moving forward.    Hopefully, my blog will provide you with a forum to do just that.  I welcome your participation!

– Curt

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