jump to navigation

Blogs and RSS as Learning Tools July 30, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Many of us techies have been using RSS for years, and you may even run your own blog. This stuff is pretty much second nature to us, and it’s easy to forget that lots of people are still not in-the-know. I think there’s a ton of potential related to RSS in terms of learning and I don’t think many people are harnessing it well (yet). Think of it this way: As a worker, wouldn’t it be helpful to regularly receive bulletins, tips, tricks, and other relevant information while on the job? RSS provides an excellent framework for distributing information to groups of people in settings like this. Blogs can also be a fantastic way to record your progress on projects, take notes, share findings, etc. We, being the more tech-minded people, can help make this happen at our organization. But we may have a few hurdles to jump before we can get there.

What are some of the obstacles we face in using blogs and RSS readers at our organizations? First, blogs and RSS don’t get much respect in the enterprise. Now, I know many companies have executives and employees who blog regularly, but this is still more of the exception than the rule. (This is based on my own observations and discussions with colleagues.) Second, users are either hesitant or scared to use new tools like an RSS reader. Third, people assume blogs take up TONS of time and require expert writing skills. Fourth, people are getting overloaded with unstructured information hitting them in every direction. The last thing they want is another resource or web site to worry about. Finally, we need to figure out how to communicate the fact that RSS is essentially a highly-focused channel of information that, when used properly, can be more powerful than other forms of communication. I’m sure there are other reasons, but I’ll stop here…

The topic of RSS came up for me recently because eLearning Weekly was just listed on a new web site called Alltop.com (actually, the eLearning Weekly link is on Alltop’s Education page). Alltop is a project developed by Will Mayall, Kathryn Henkens, and Guy Kawasaki. At first glance, the site may just seem like a listing of links and stories, but it is being described as a "a ‘digital magazine rack’ of the Internet." It’s a place that allows you to quickly scan a particular subject area and then glean information about its current happenings. Here’s the trick: The site is simply pulling in RSS feeds from various sources across the web. The interface is clean, and I think it does a great job of easing a user into the idea of RSS without throwing too much technology or jargon at them. Plus, the blogs appear as official and credible news sources. Essentially, Alltop is an online RSS reader for the non-techie people on the web.

A recent article on ReadWriteWeb asks, "Will Alltop entice mainstream readers to follow blogs and use RSS more?" I would say that it couldn’t hurt. I’m beginning to wonder if this may be a good site to reference – or possibly use as a model – when beginning to introduce blogs and RSS readers into an organzation. This may allay some of the fears, uncertainty, and doubt around these tools.

What do you think? Do you use blogs and/or RSS at your organization? Has it been successful? Please chime in!

Also see:

The Perfect Learning Management System (LMS) July 21, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I often find myself daydreaming when dealing with LMS problems. I say to myself, "If I built an LMS, it would…….." Ah, if only it were that easy. This line of thinking leads me to these questions: How would you design your perfect LMS? What features would you include (or exclude)? How would it differ from current LMS products on the market?

I’ll start this off, but I really would love to hear your thoughts. Who knows, maybe (if we’re lucky) some LMS vendors are listening!

My perfect LMS would…

  • Support the AICC, SCORM 1.2, and SCORM 2004 specifications 100% accurately. I don’t want to deal with the "Oh….we chose not to implement that particular part of the spec."
  • Work great in all modern web browsers (ex. IE 6 / 7, Firefox 2 / 3, and Safari).
  • Support single sign-on (LDAP or otherwise), so learners could use an already existing username and password.
  • Have an open API, in case I wanted to integrate it with my intranet or develop add-on modules.
  • Be extraordinarily easy to use. Common tasks should take no more than a couple mouse clicks. I should be able to teach my grandma how to use the LMS in 5 minutes or less.
  • Be affordable and accessible to any organization, no matter their size or industry. I don’t mind if the price scales up based on the number of users, but the baseline shouldn’t start at $80,000.
  • Have excellent 24/7 support, by phone and email. Crazy, I know.

What else? Let me know!

Tracking Instructor-Led Classes in an LMS July 19, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

This week’s post starts with a simple question: At your organization, when you hold an instructor-led class, how do you give learners credit for attending the class in your LMS?

I’ve seen organizations do this several ways, but I’ve never been a huge fan of how it gets done; it has always seemed like a workaround more than anything else. I’m going to list out a few of the ways I’ve seen. Please chime in if you know of other ways…

  • Use a sign-in sheet
    Learners sign-in when arriving at the class, and then some poor soul has to go into the LMS after the class and manually give everybody credit for attending the class.
  • Use a quiz
    Learners must complete an online quiz in the LMS after the class takes place. If the learner passes the quiz, they get credit for the course.
  • Use a Level 1 Evaluation
    Learners must complete a Level 1 Evaluation (smile sheet) – online or on paper – and then somebody manually gives them credit for attending the class in the LMS.
  • Use a badge reader
    An ideal scenario: At organizations where employees must carry an ID badge, ask employees to scan their badges as soon as they show up for the class. The badge reader would then communicate with the LMS to give them credit for attending the class. I’ve been exploring this option lately. It may sound crazy, but it is very possible. Get in touch with me if you’re interested in learning more. 🙂

What did I miss? Are there any other ways to give learners credit for attending instructor-led classes in an LMS?

Thoughts on Blended Learning July 12, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

Clive Shepherd has three great posts about blended learning over on his blog (see the links at the bottom of this post). Clive gives us a well-needed closer examination of how we define and prescribe blended learning. In the past, I remember using the term and concept to help get management away from the idea of only using instructor-led training. This at least opened their eyes to consider using online courses, virtual classroom training, etc. Now I feel like too many people blindly say, “You should create a blended learning solution…” but they can’t describe it or explain why they need it. Sigh.

Blended learning the process of using one or more media to facilitate one or more (instructional) methods. However, Clive breaks down the methods based on the social context(s) of the learning experience. He groups the methods based on their social context as follows:

  • Self-study: for example, reading, reflecting, interacting with content, viewing video, simulation, undertaking a project, writing an essay;
  • One-to-one: for example, on-job instruction, coaching, mentoring, support;
  • Small group: for example, discussion, role play, group assignments, multi-player games;
  • Large community, for example, lecture, presentation, Q&A.

Clive then explains the importance of the social context:

It seems to me that, if you want to enhance the effectiveness of a learning intervention, then you are more likely to blend the social context than you are the medium. If the learning requirement is multi-faceted – perhaps it has elements of underlying knowledge, skill building, attitudinal change and application to the job – then it is hard to see how a single social context will be ideal throughout. Blending social contexts enhances effectiveness.

He emphasizes that the media should be fairly easy to choose once the methods are selected. However, too often, people will choose their media first before they’ve given any thought to instructional design and the methods they should employ. This is where blended learning can backfire. (See Clive’s post It’s the method, not the medium for a good look at this.)

I’ll definitely keep this approach in mind; the idea of examining the social context really seems to tighten up the design phase. Clive’s posts also discuss when the blended approach should be used. Looking back, Clive does an excellent job of discussing the full circle of blended learning: He covers its definition, how it should be designed, and when it should be used.

Here are the links to Clive’s posts on blended learning:

Great stuff. Thanks, Clive!