Friday, March 13, 2009

The future unmasked

What a catchy title... This is a general session, Todd Maffin is the speaker. Funny so far, let's see if it is informative too. Here are some bits and pieces from this talk.

He is talking about the "shinny object syndrome". If it looks good, must work. Not really, not without specifically understanding the pros and cons, measuring efficiency, and knowing your stakeholders. Right.

Everyone is talking about podcasting, blogging, wickis, virtual worlds, etc for eLearning. When are they useful though? When can they be efficient? Sometimes less is more. These tools save money. True. Wikis - do we need those highly skilled ID's training strategists, etc, or should we just let the average user write their own curriculum. Answer: we need the learning professionals more than ever! The way corporations can save money is by hiring the right people to develop efficient e-learning and training in general. It's nice to hear that.

Roz, thank you for telling us this a long time ago. Mutitasking is mythology. The brain cannot do it. :-)

Baroque music is the only type of music that has been proven to improve efficiency.

The learning environment matters tremendously: if you learn in a "work" environment instead of a "learn" environment the percentage of retention goes down.
Nobody can "teach". The job of teachers, IDs, training strategy is to provide the environment for learning to take place. Learning environment should not be distracting.

This is fun. Take this test, please and let me know what you think.

Mobile learning: only 3% of the overall learning uses mobile learning. Most of the targets are sales people and executives. Most used types of mobile learning: audio podcast and text messaging. Top opportunities: content conversion, media services (e.g. video), custom development. Healthcare will be the biggest user of mobile learning in the next few years - up to 20%. Corporations will be next: "the young shall lead them" and "just-in-time mentality".
SUN - distributed mobile learning via iTunes
Capital One Bank - gave away iPods for mobile training - online video training

Blended Learning: exploration. The brain needs variety and reinforcement. Most of the blended learning on the market: classroom training, on-the-job training, and web based. It works.

Virtual Worlds: Opinion is they mostly do not work for learning. Using virtual world for meetings, showing videos and web based course? Why? Why not just show the video, have the meeting and take the web-based course?

Very entertaining and interesting session. Opinions?

How about games?

There are some real life examples of games implemented in organizations that actually work. Most of them are for leadership training, though. I have not seen anything yet on technical topics. I'll keep listening.

Simmulations are good. Military games rock. I'm going to a different topic now!

Esspreso Learning

Way to early in the morning and the coffee hasn't hit yet...
But I am here at a round table talking about pre- and post- learning. What's surprising to me is that everyone here is brainstorming about what pre and post learning activities they could use and nobody brings up the issue of how do you get people to participate in these activities. Sending surveys out is huge here... I feel like telling them that they are nuts if they believe that they will actually get the surveys back!

OK. I talked about the power of communication, value proposition, understanding your audience, engaging each stakeholder group, the "what's in it for me?" concept. I am the hero of the day. This is sad.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Here are some fun, free links for different things ID's can use or explore if you haven't already:

Screen Capture Software (other than SnagIt): Wink -

Image Editors (be careful though, do not use for sofisticated things - we have a graphics group with real software): Gimp - and Picasa -

Tips for developing rapid instructional design:

Decentralized training problem

This may be news to a lot of you, but corporation have a great problem with decentralized training. :-) Basically, the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing in the corporate training department (where there is one).

So, what do you think the Rohm and Haas is doing about that? Other than getting bought by Dow Chemicals... They are building a Community of Practice that allows memebers to generate ideas, find solutions, leverage the strength of others. Sort of Social Networking. Is it to new, though? Is Rohm and Haas ready for it?

Well, they tried. The Education Content Manger was tasked to developing an e-learning training course for all SAP use. Many, many topics and modules. So, the training department created a training community of practice. They developed a logo and branding (guess what their logo is: remember the picture of hands holding a small green plant we used for WM? that's it. That's the logo they have. They invited 12 colleagues at first, they used WebEx for their formal meetings and they posted their comments as a simple blog on their site. Now, a year later, they have about 30 people colaborating from all of Rohm and Haas sites. They seem to have a lot of energy around this effort.

Challenges: obvious - sustainment and growth. That's why we have Kim!

So, maybe it is time to start, although maybe small at the begining...


I know... I know... We tried it and we didn't like it.

They do have some new (or maybe not so new) features though:
- in Edit Mode - you can just drag and drop images, animations, content into slides; then, when you preview it, it actually works...
- if there are videos in mpg, or other types, when publishing in Lectora, there is a choice to convert those videos to flv
- adding buttons to any of the slides - from a menu system; adding an action to a button is also just a click away
- it has "508 Compliance" (for users with disabilities) checks
- Notes reports - keeps track with your "to do" list
- I know Steven and Chris (both of them) will love this one: It has an even larger clip-art library!
- They have a Translation tool - it gives you a text file that identifies the content that needs to be translated, once translated, you can load the same text file and the course comes up in a different language
- Lectora Online: available 2nd quarter of 2009 - one can publish and design the course online and use it for in-situ reviews and comments, keeps track of version control (users can work on the same project, on various pages or sections of the project in the same time)

Quality Assurance for e-Learning

This is something I want us to do internally. So, this session, has been really helpful, provided handouts and process flow on how to come up with internal standards. I will share this with you guys and it will definitely be on my list of things to accomplish this year.

I'm watching a demonstration

These group of ID's were working on a literacy program for foreigners that had no knowledge of reading or writting. They started with a public software designed to teach illiterate people the alphabet. Few problems to start: the software opens up and the menu is in words (mind you, this people have never had a book or held a pen and paper ever!), there are icons on the screen that don't mean anything, there are no instructions, the icon for spelling is a bunch of bananas (?)... It was developed in ToolBook. This software has a terrible instructional interface. I mean, terrible. We need to buy it just to use it as an example of how things shouldn't be done! Terrible. Horrific.

So, the group of ID's fixed it and everything was fine (they added objectives, user friendly interface, instructions, etc)... They all lived happily ever after!

Technologies in Development

This is a conversation about what's in the pipe as far as eLearning technologies, and LMS. Sounds interesting so far... We will see.

SCORM 2004 4th edition - SCORM 2.0: this will have a lot of features beyond content, will address simulations, ties with HR systems (that sounds like it will be a mess!), lots of communication with all of other systems. Hmmm... maybe couple of years down the road.

This is interesting: Doing quizes and tests using Twitter: you build your courses however you want, then set-up Twitter to send out a question or problem every day/ hour/ week and the user works on it, submits the answer through Twitter also and a separate engine keeps the score...

Wiki's (of course): how about building courses with user generated content? In a business context, we would develop the basic course design, objectives and basic content and the engineers, SME's would fill in the gaps with us moderating. Let's try that at Chevron next week, OK?

And Virtual Worlds again - immerse into your world!

Games: a game that lets you create games with custom designed curriculum. Tina, JMJ is involved in this.

iPod Touch learning. I can already see some smiles in the office. Oh, hold on. You can use any smart phones for that! So there, our giant blackberries will work too!
They are using the cell phones just like we did the polling devices for Waste Management Conference. We way ahead of time, since I remember discussing the use of cell phones for that too.

All of these people at this conference need some help with their look and feel though!

2nd day

I am ready for another intense day. I wish that they wouldn't have so many sessions I want to see, all in the same time. That's not fun. I have been working on the cloning process, but haven't been very succesful. Angelique is having fun with that too.

Speaking of Angelique... She is awesome and a great room mate. You all may want to surround her with laughter when she gets back next week, though. Afterall, she just spent a whole week with me... and you know how exciting and happy I can be! :-)

Going now... I will see you later on the blog. I cannot wait to give you some more stuff to read. HA!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dealing with difficult SME's

I thought this may be interesting...

Learning to recognize the occasional difficult SME, and make the necessary adjustments as early as possible, can contribute tremendously to the success of a project.

There are eight Difficult SME types:
- the Know-It-All
Characteristics: may have some ID and elearning experience, opinionated and bad at listening, witholds info, suggests unrealistic improvements
Strategies: listen and admire, force them to be specific, attempt to "bring back down to earth" by discussing realities of scheduling and resources
- the Know-Nothing
Characteristics: long term ILT, wants nothing to do with eLearning, dumps information on you but doesn't collaborate, often obsequious and deferential

I am extremly dissapointed with this session. The presenters feel that their experience is the only thing that matters. Several people from the audience (including myself) brought up different other ways of handling the SME's, but the presenters negated all of these points.

So, the other types were: the MIA, the Reluctant Participant, the Kitchen Sinker, the Turf Warrior, the Worry Wart, the Nit-Picker and I am not going to take your time and describe them in detail, because the presenters' approach is pretty much the same for all types of difficult SMEs... Agree with them, validate their concerns, do what you think it's best and ask for another SME if things don't work out. Dissapointing.

Rapid eLearning vs. Traditional eLearning

Adobe eLearning Suite - it's all about rapid authoring. Ok. It's actually all about Captivate 4.

I guess I didn't really know that there is a "traditional" eLearning. We are changing quick. :-)
So, the Adobe guy presenting just said that Flash and Dreamweaver are page turners! How about that, Steven?

It's interesting looking at some of these examples. We are really doing some cool things at Obsidian. I will go give this guy my business card at the end of this presentation... See if we can help them a little bit.

There is something we need to look at here: Captivate creates personalized scenarios with decission points and branches based on particular user response. And this can be done without any scripting. I need someone to look at this! This is done only by use of variables within the scenarios. Pretty cool and fast.
Captivate 4 has a speech converter: you type and it converts it into almost studio quality audio. you pick your voice type and click "convert". We could have used this for Well Integrity project!

Captivate 4 has also introduced project templates (you can send them to the SME as a PPT and help the SME organize their content, place the graphics and text to where the ID doesn't need to reformat anymore) and also project reviews (manages comments of multiple reviwers and keeps track of the SME and author's comments). Pretty good tool, I would say.

Here are some interesting numbers: Green eLearning
Annual CO2 impact of a weekly course attended by 20 learners every week is 1200 ton. Here's a tool to determine the carbon footprint for an individual ILT:

Brain based strategies for passionate learning

So, we are starting with the domestication of the horse... Here we are now: technology has changed, how about that?

This is a talk about using your brain. We should thank some of our SME’s for already pointing that out to us.

Everything is related to emotions. The goal as an instructor is to achieve a high level of emotion that motivates the student.

Did you know that there is a Brain Fitness Market? What about Brain Morphology? Kids are being studied in California based on their use of technology and the effect on their brain. Don’t worry; apparently nobody is harmed during this experiment…

So, our brain has grown since the time of horse domestication (interesting). However, the emotional area of the brain, although not larger, is still stronger (That’s based on brain scans). I am starting to wonder about this session… Don’t take me wrong, it completely feeds my science brain, but I want to know how feasible it is to hook up our BP or Landmark engineers to some brain scanner and see how emotional they get when they follow our WBTs… Suggestions anyone?

I am learning now that I have huge problems with my cortex. It apparently filters the world around me, so it is to blame when I see things differently. From now on, please don’t blame me. It’s my cortex!

Oh, and a huge e-learning mistake: showing a video about the brain for 5:38 minutes. Not good.

Fortunately, Dan Rather has an utube video about all these, so you can get a whole lot more information. :-) Also, if you are interested in the Alzhaimer Disease, Dalai Lama, and buddhist monks, it's all in this session. I'll bring handouts. NOT

Web 3.0

We are ready for it. Or maybe we think we are...

Web 3.0 knows everything about you. If you sign up now for Facebook and then, you decide to go to Twitter too (which I have done) you have to fill-in your personal information over again. Web 3.0 will know who you are. Is this going to be more like Itunes Genius or Microsoft Office assistant? And how do we even use this for learning purposes? Lots of questions and most result in the same reaction: freak-out!

Web 3.0 should provide significant performance support. The web browser becomes your personal assistant. Web 3.0 is something called the Semantic Web. The Semantic Web is a place where machines can read Web pages much as the humans read them, a place where search engines and software agents can better walk the Net and find what we're looking for. "It's a set of standards that turns the Web into one big database.

But how is this actually going to work? Will all of the existing content have to be "re-tagged", changed in such a way that the applications can read them as we do? That will take years. So, there is reasearch and there are talks about broweser plug-ins that will read the already there semantic tags, there is open source research in building powerful semantic search engines.

And then, there is the 3D side of Web 3.0, an extension of the Virtual Worlds, a web environment where you can walk around, and the Pervasive Web, the web that is everywhere, cellphone, iPods, TV, radio, etc. Intersting and scary in the same time. Especially for this poor, easter european woman... :-)

Executive insight into the new blend of learning

What is the New Blend of Learning?
- Lots of questions, lots of tools
- Extreme diversity

This is a session where CEOs, executives share what's important to them, how do they choose their learning avenues. Interesting. Cost and money saving came up three times in the first 5 minutes of the conversation. Obviously, one of their major problems is that the learning environment is changing so rapidly, but their roles in the corporations are stagnant and slow to change. First line item to be cut in the organization's budget: training budget. One has to provide extreme value in order to be comelling to an organization. I know these are not new things, and we know them, it is interesting to hear from these people personnally, though.

The change in technology is what everyone thinks is shaping the transition to the new blend of learning. The power of the network is amazing. What do we do with the significant percentage of employees that are reluctant to make the change, though? The message is strong on this point: they have to change or there is not life left...

Efficiency is what matters to all of these folks. Better, faster, no paper, interesting, compelling. There is a strong need for STRUCTURE in the instructional design, though. Too many are offering "cool" tools, that are overwhelming. Not everyone is there yet. What we can do, though, is set the structure and be ready when the demand is there.

The problem that they all see is that the new, young learners think they know what they need to know and that does not necessarily match with what the employers think they need to know. It's interesting that the entire pannel is formed by baby boomers and it is not surprising that they agree that they know what the young learners need to learn. They are open, however, to teaching them by using different methods then the PowerPoint. Thank you! It's a tough world out there!

Cool comment: " I think we are all trying very hard to place the learners in boxes and describe their needs and wants". The ultimate effort and, I believe it what brings the most value, is to figure put what the learner's motivation is and cater to it.
One of the Pharma companies CEO's response: "Make the training mandatory. That's the only way you motivate people". Hmmmm..... I wonder if he's Romanian?

"Focus on competition" works but only in US. Europe and Asia don't go for that.

Are evaluations of learning important? ABSOLUTELY. Nobody does it, though. These are our clients talking here: they want to receive training incorporating the pre and post training assessments. Communications programs to drive the importance of learning evaluations and behavior observations are very much needed. People are willing to pay for this.

Virtual Worlds and learning

So, the main common element of a virtual world: immersive environment. Did you know that it only takes few minutes for you to connect and really identify with your avatar? It's true, try it. Just a side note now: I cannot believe I am blogging about Virtual Worlds! This is Monica, by the way. Don't expect Kim's style blogging, I am not really good at this. It's all about efficiency though, so I can take notes and share them with you at maximum speed. :-)

Here are some virtual worlds platforms, people use out there:
- Second Life (hi, Cindy - a little too gamey for the learning world, can be scary and intimidating)
- Protosphere (developed specifically for an enterprise or a corporation; from a learning perspective, motions, locations, maps, the environment in general, has to be extremly user friendly; they have classroom settings, conference rooms where you can have virtual meetings and inpromptu discussions; also, collaboration tools is huge - you can exchange documents - I am seeing this awesome spreadsheet!; it basically turns into a GoToMeeting type environment)
- Virtual Territory (leaders board, developed as a training tool for sales personnel, you can load your marketing materials, your address book, you can make calls and client presentations; you can practice the sales calls - pre-programed scenario, a coaching and performance tool)

How about some of the common challenges:
- It is too game-like. Answer: limit the choice of avatars, make the game-like components, scoring, etc very specific
- Too expensive. Answer: it is really a very wide range of prices; depends on the specific needs of the client... No kiddin'
- Too hard to use. Answer: create drop-down menus, baby steps - start with a live meeting, then add more content as you go
- Can it connect with the LMS? Answer: absolutely

When is it appropriate to use Virtual Worlds: mostly for higher order skills; social learning (it pulls people together, community of practice, real life scenarios and collaboration)


- Role play - facilitator training
- Scenarios
- Preceptorships - lots of Pharma companies use this, Health Care - a day in the life of...
- Coaching
- Virtual hands-on experience: simulators, Tina, remember the NACE question about how to teach people to use the tools without touching the tools?
- Break-out sessions, presentations

- save money - don't have to get people to fly places... Duh'
- high level functionality
- fun and compelling

How do you find Virtual World platforms? Easy - There are about 77 platforms on the market and a lot of other non-public platforms.

It will be awesome to try something like this. I've chatted with some of the folks here and they all agreed that starting with a facilitator training or a live meeting is the way to go. Most of them use platforms other than Second Life for their training needs with lower barriers of entry.

Note to Obsidian: none of the existing platforms have a very quick, user friendly, user tutorial specific to learning.