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From the Vendor’s Perspective May 31, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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I ran across a great post over on the Learning Reflections blog this week that presents several tips for ensuring good working relationships with vendors. The post is The 7 Top Tips for Implementing Learning Technology. The Vendors View!

When working with learning technology vendors (ex. LMS providers, service providers, etc.), I often find myself thinking, "Our organization is unique, and we need things implemented our way." I tend to forget that vendors usually work with many, many organizations and they probably have a better idea of how to run the implementation than I do. Just because it’s my turf, I (mistakenly) think I always know better.

Be sure to check out the post. The tips are also useful because they help ensure long-term success, after the implementation takes place.

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A Speedbump for Social Learning May 24, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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Whether you call it Learning 2.0, eLearning 2.0, or Social Learning, there’s a relatively new wave of tools and technologies that allow people to communicate and collaborate in a surprisingly easy and effective way. Some of these tools and technologies include wikis, blogs, social bookmarking, and social networking. Well…I’ve run into a situation recently that I believe will be encountered more and more by people who try to implement social learning at their organization: I’ve realized that you need to be very careful of how and where your organization’s information is stored. If you’re not careful, you may end up accidentally leaking confidential and/or proprietary information out to the public.

Most social learning tools are web-based, and the social (or sharing) aspect generally means that the information you submit is likely to be available to other users that may or may not be affiliated with your organization. So if you’re using these tools to store or communicate sensitive information, you may be in for a big (bad) surprise. Make sure you clearly understand all aspects of the tool before using it at your organization. I know, this seems like common sense for many people, but I think it’s important enough to bring it to light. People that aren’t technically-savvy may not think in these terms, and this is an area where one small mistake could lead to a large problem.

In terms of being ready for business use, blogs and wikis appear to be ahead of the pack. It’s very easy to find blog and wiki software to install behind-the-firewall, where your organization’s information will be safe. But social bookmarking and social networking tools are lagging behind a bit. This means that we may find wonderful social learning tools that we unfortunately cannot use safely at our organizations. Some examples are Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook; to my knowledge, these applications don’t have a separate, secure, option for private business use. I hope this is just a speedbump for social learning, and I hope we start to see more options for social learning tools that can be considered safe for business use. These may be open-source options, behind-the-firewall installations, or even protected/secure options for internet-based applications. But either way, just make sure you do your homework before rolling out any new tool that communicates out openly to the internet.

Does this ring true for anyone? Or can you suggest how we can use social learning tools without these risks?

eLearning Guild – Online Forums Presentation – Working Harmoniously with your IT Department (Yes, It Can Be Done!) May 15, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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Thanks to everyone who attended my presentation from the eLearning Guild’s Online Forums, titled "Working Harmoniously with Your IT Department (Yes, It Can Be Done!)." I think we had around 27 participants and good discussion was shared.

Here are the handouts from the session. (PDF)

Good luck working with your IT department!!

Free mLearning White Paper May 11, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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If you’re interested in Mobile Learning (mLearning), check out Clark Quinn‘s free white paper titled, "mLearning Devices: Peformance To Go." (Get the PDF or read his blog post.) Clark presents his theory of mLearning and explains why mLearning is important to consider as an option for our learners. He states that mLearning is more about doing than about learning. He says, "We learn to accomplish something: to get better at things we need to do, to better perform those things we want to do, to be more effective, more efficient, smarter, even wiser."

Clark also dispels several common misconceptions about mLearning, including:

  • My employees don’t have mobile learning devices
  • Those small screens are too limiting
  • Too hard/costly to program these things
  • Limited to (smart) phones
  • I don’t know what (devices) employees have
  • Mobile devices aren’t secure

Clark then outlines the types of mobile devices that are often used for mLearning, including cell phones, digital media players (ex. iPods), GPS units, handheld gaming systems (ex. PlayStation portable, Nintendo DS), and PDAs. He avoids classifying laptops as mobile learning devices, mainly because they function the same as a desktop PC when internet connectivity is available. (As an aside, I once heard Judy Brown state that mLearning takes place on portable devices that are within arm’s reach and have untethered power supply that can last for at least a day. I thought that was a pretty solid definition.)

The white paper then goes into some of the specific functions and connectivity options available in mobile devices (ex. GSM, CDMA, WiMax, IR, Bluetooth, WiFi). It’s a great little summary, especially if you’re not familiar with these technologies.

I have high hopes for mLearning, but I still have a few logistical concerns about it. They include…

  • Do all employees at your organization have a mobile device (ex. a cell phone)? Sure, I know most people do, but will an organization buy a phone for the few that don’t currently own one?
  • Will organizations make their employees use their personal devices (phones) to access mLearning materials? What if people aren’t comfortable with this?
  • What if employees don’t have a data plan on their personal phone? Will the organization pay for their data plan so they can access mLearning materials?
  • Is it unfair to make mLearning materials available to a lucky few in the organization who have capable devices? Could the left-out employees complain if they don’t have access to the same learning materials as everybody else?

Organizations are working through these scenarios now. I’m guessing best practices will emerge in the coming months. Please chime in if you have thoughts on this!

Jing: My New Favorite Application May 1, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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I usually don’t get very excited about new applications, but I’m pretty pumped about Jing. Download it now if you haven’t already: both Mac and PC versions are available. So, what is it? Jing is a free application that masterfully lets you take screenshots and record desktop capture videos (up to 5 minutes long). What’s so special about that? Jing then automatically uploads your screenshot (as a .png) or video (as a .swf) to a location you specify – and then it copies the item’s URL to your clipboard. You can have Jing automatically place your captures on an internal server at your organization, or you can take advantage of a free account at ScreenCast.com and post your work there. Jing is incredibly easy to use, and I think you’ll see its value within the first minute or two you use it. In fact, this description is more complicated than actually using it. So I’m going to stop there. Go download Jing now! (And, no, I wasn’t paid for this endorsement!)

Jing is brought to you by TechSmith, the makers of SnagIt and Camtasia Studio. Special thanks to Anton Bollen at TechSmith. I met Anton at AG08 and his excitement about Jing was obvious…and contagious!