Thursday, September 28, 2006

Where have I heard this before

I've been following all of the discussions about the next wave of informal learning and it all rang a bell, but I could not place my finger on why. Then it struck me today in talking to a subject matter expert who was dismayed at the limitations we faced in developing elearning content. He stated that his subject is best learned by having the learner working with an accomplished individual.

That's when it hit me. The approach espoused by the informal learning proponents is a return to the old master/apprentice relationship and the trade guilds. The guild halls especially were places where tradesmen of all skill levels congregated and exchanged knowledge and skills. The question is, can electronic components recreate the give-and-take represented in both the master/apprentice and trade guild face-to-face experience?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Is Corporate Training an Oxymoron?

It's been a while since I posted anything, but then that's because I have been a busy little beaver at work. New customer, new training initiative, quick turnaround...the typical elearning initiative fueled by the new buzzwords in elearning, rapid development. And I am a firm believer in keeping my work/life well-balanced, so I really haven't been following the learning blogs that closely either.

Today, was the first time I started to see what I have missed and I followed a link from Brain Based Learning to Talking Story with Say Leadership Training, titled Unplanning Learning: Debunking the Merits of a Traditional Corporate Curriculum. While there is much of what is said here that I agree with as far as how people learn, I think Lisa Haneberg has a great deal of sound arguments, but her proposition falls in the category of tossing the baby out with the bathwater.

I concur whole-heartedly that much of what is presented in traditional corporate training has no real application, or, if does have application there is no opportunity to immediately apply it once the trainee leaves the classroom (or shuts down the computer in the case of elearning.) Yet the concept of discovery learning. She writes:
As trainers, coaches, and managers, the way we approach helping employees learn is more important than anything. We need to understand the significance of creating a learning-ready environment and we should let learning be a personal and customized experience. [Emphasis in original]
My problem with this approach is that it assumes that all people want to learn at all times. Call me cynical, but I have been around long enough to recognize that not everyone wants to learn. Some people think they know everything they need to know. Others are scared to try something new. Finally, others just want to put in their 40 hours and go home and have a beer.

My point is that, while I decry the corporate bean counting which is only interested in measuring butts in seats and think that the answer to every corporate culture problem is training, I think there is a need for formal corporate training. For the people who think they know everything they need to know it is an opportunity to present new concepts to them. For the people who are scared to try something new, it provides an opportunity to try something in the safety of a classroom.

So am I dismissing Lisa's ideas. NO! She's right that more learning occurs in an informal environment than in a formal one. Learning occurs more often when the learner is interested in learning than when they are directed to learn by higher-ups. The key is for corporate leadership to provide the opportunities to its employees to discover new tools, concepts, and skills that can improve themselves. This can be done through formal training experiences. Then the leadership must provide opportunities for the learners to expand on those skills informally. On corporate time. If an employee does not take the opportunity then Darwin's Law will take over and those that do not improve themselves will fall by the wayside.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Potential Dangers of Web 2.0

This article, What's Next: The Idiocy of Crowds, highlights a couple of things that bothers me about how things are done today and the future of some of the Web 2.0 tools that are often discussed by the informal learning crowd.
  1. Why are we so enamored by group think? The school systems particularly are big on arranging group projects where one or two kids do most of the work and the rest kind of kick back and do little or nothing.
  2. Wikis seem to be a good idea for managing what has historically been seen as tribal knowledge that is lost when the person or persons who possess it leave. But how do you control the malicious employee who injects misinformation into the wiki content?
I guess it boils down to personal ethics.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Do U.S. elearning companies have a disadvantage?

I was trolling Bloglines for an old blog that was operated by an India-based instructional designer when I stumbled onto the site The Learned Man! and found this posting form back in February particularly fascinating, because the issues raised by this gentleman regarding Indian elearning firms also rings true for their U.S. counterparts.
Right now, more than ever, there is an acute need to have a common
voice, a common body in place that will promote the Indian eLearning
companies collectively and fight for mindshare in markets increasingly
crowded by companies from Ireland, Scotland, Canada and even SE Asia.
I don't know of any organization like the Canadian endeavor, and I would be curious if anyone can point out something like this in the U.S.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Wayward Web 2.0?

Here is a story of how quick perceptions and possibly quicker blog posts can be deceptive. It all started as I was reviewing some of the usual elearning and learning blogs I customarily visit. I just finished reading Steven Downes piece on 10 things you should know. Within that piece he links to another one of his posts, Principles for Evaluating Websites, in which one of his points is to always go to the source to check facts.

Now I continued my reading and I came to an entry by George Siemens at the elearnspace blog entitled: Berners-Lee on Web 2.0
I love it! I am filled with much joy :). Berners-Lee on Web 2.0: "Tim Berners-Lee, the individual credited with inventing the web and giving so many of us jobs, has become the most prominent individual so-far to point out that the Web 2.0 emperor is naked. Berners-Lee has dismissed Web 2.0 as useless jargon nobody can explain and a set of technology that tries to achieve exactly the same thing as "Web 1.0.""
I was kind of taken aback by this entry; it seemed so out of context. Since there was no way to post a comment I decided to investigate further. So I follow the link to find out more of what Berners-Lee, who is credited with inventing the web, had to say. Interestingly there is a link to the actual transcript of the Berners-Lee interview and I found the Berners-Lee is not as down on Web 2.0 as the elearnspace blog account would lead you to believe. Here is the complete question and answer.
LANINGHAM: You know, with Web 2.0, a common explanation out there is Web 1.0 was about connecting computers and making information available; and Web 2 is about connecting people and facilitating new kinds of collaboration. Is that how you see Web 2.0?

BERNERS-LEE: Totally not. Web 1.0 was all about connecting people. It was an interactive space, and I think Web 2.0 is of course a piece of jargon, nobody even knows what it means. If Web 2.0 for you is blogs and wikis, then that is people to people. But that was what the Web was supposed to be all along.

And in fact, you know, this Web 2.0, quote, it means using the standards which have been produced by all these people working on Web 1.0. It means using the document object model, it means for HTML and SVG and so on, it's using HTTP, so it's building stuff using the Web standards, plus Java script of course.

So Web 2.0 for some people it means moving some of the thinking client side so making it more immediate, but the idea of the Web as interaction between people is really what the Web is. That was what it was designed to be as a collaborative space where people can interact.

Now, I really like the idea of people building things in hypertext, the sort of a common hypertext space to explain what the common understanding is and thus capturing all the ideas which led to a given position. I think that's really important. And I think that blogs and wikis are two things which are fun, I think they've taken off partly because they do a lot of the management of the navigation for you and allow you to add content yourself.

But I think there will be a whole lot more things like that to come, different sorts of ways in which people will be able to work together.

The semantic wikis are very interesting. These are wikis in which people can add data and then that data can then be surfaced and sliced and diced using all kinds of different semantic Web tools, so that's why it's exciting the way people, things are going, but I think there are lots of new things in that vein that we have yet to invent.
After reading the full interview, I initially thought that Mr. Siemens was not a fan of Web 2.0 applications and I was going to write a quick snarky response. But then I got to thinking. What if Mr. Siemens was not against the application of what is called Web 2.0 tools for learning, but was just happy to see someone like Mr. Berners-Lee pointing out what we call Web 2.0 was just a continuation of tools already put in place by Web 1.0.? Mr. Siemens did not give me enough information to form a firm appreciation for the point he was trying to make. My wish is that he would clarify his statement. I have sent him an email asking for that clarification.

External Elearning

Most elearning created by elearning houses are destined for the training of employees, to help them to perform their jobs better. But what about the public? I don't know how many times I have purchased a product and when I went to review the user's guide it was impossible to read because the print was so small.

So instead I stumble along and learn how my camera works by trial and error. So it was interesting to read this little article that was posted on the web by the Financial Standard of Australia titled Intelligently designed elearning boosts sales.
“Traditional eLearning programs are excellent for keeping finance professionals in touch with new compliance requirements and products, but the technology is now playing a greater role in branding and sales,” said David Becker, senior eLearning consultant with IT consulting group iFocus.

Branded eLearning has emerged from marketing departments as a way of influencing consumer decision-making, building trust and establishing a brand as an ‘authority’ in its category, according to Becker.
Well this got me thinking. If marketing can use elearning to help customers make purchasing decisions, why can't businesses go a step further and offer online elearning tools to help people use their products after the purchase? It would go a long way to build brand loyalty and with new Web 2.0 technology it does not have to be expensive.

Advice on giving advice

While perusing my typical stable of learning and elearning blogs, what should pop up, but a really sound piece of advice, which many people could use when they attempt to help someone with a problem.

It was at Tony Karrer's blog, eLearning Technology, where Tony had the following advice:
...[O]ne CEO group that I was part of drilled into your head to never give advice directly, but rather provide relevant personal experience that might help you draw your own conclusion.
It's one of those truisms that is so obvious we almost always miss it. And, hey, Tony, if you read this, here is the only time "I" is used. For anyone who does not regularly read Tony's blog, just follow the link and you will understand the joke.