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LMS Frustrations September 29, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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Gary Hegenbart has a great post on his blog about his frustrations when dealing with learning management system (LMS) vendors. Amen, brother. Gary is in the process of shopping for an LMS. He leads off by saying how surprised he’s been at how much LMSs can cost:

I am seriously considering building my own (LMS). Why would I pay tens of thousands of dollars year after year for something I can build myself? Time is the only valid reason – I don’t really have the time.

He describes more pain points:

I’ve found three areas that make it hard to find an LMS: they don’t all post pricing online, they don’t all have trials available, and the feature sets vary greatly.

Gary is dead-on regarding pricing (and the other items as well). Not only is it really difficult to get pricing from most LMS vendors, but the pricing structures often differ wildly. I have seen LMS vendors charge per user, per server, per year, and per usage. I’m not saying that all vendors should fall into a cookie-cutter model, but it’d be nice if they could clear away some of the confusion and make things a bit more transparent for people like Gary and me. After all, we’re the ones that are heavily influencing the final selection. Wouldn’t they want to make things easier for us? (Stepping off my soapbox…)

Read Gary’s blog post.

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Advice for Learning and Technology Professionals September 23, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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I will be facilitating one of the Breakfast Byte sessions at the upcoming DevLearn 2008 conference. The session will be called, "I’m new to eLearning and I have no idea where to start!"

This will be an open session for people who are new to the learning and technology (eLearning) field. I will provide resources, tips, tricks, suggestions, etc. I’ll do my best to help people get on the right track. I figured I would break my information into these groups:

  • Learning Management Systems / AICC / SCORM
  • Tools and technologies
  • Useful blogs, eBooks, and books
  • (e)Learning 2.0

I believe I only have an hour, so I will be covering these from a very high-level; however, I will be available each day at the conference, and I’ll be happy to chat if anybody wants more info.

So, what advice would you give to people starting out in the field of learning and technology?

I’ll start out with these…

  • Never trust a vendor that says they are 100% SCORM compliant. Always test courses thoroughly in your LMS before agreeing to any type of purchase.
  • Exciting and flashy interactions do not always equal effective learning.
  • Don’t create boring eLearning; people will fall asleep if they aren’t engaged. Use techniques like storytelling to get (and keep) your learners’ attention.
  • Always read eLearning Weekly. 🙂

Please chime in if you have any other advice and I’ll be sure to pass it along. Thanks!

DevLearn 2008 – Register Now To Save $100 September 19, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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Early bird registration is almost over for DevLearn 2008! Register by September 26th to save $100.00 off the total cost.

DevLearn, which runs from 11/14 to 11/18, will be held once again in San Jose, CA. If you’ve never been, DevLearn is an excellent conference for learning and technology professionals. You’ll have great opportunities to learn new skills, see what other organizations are doing, and network with peers. I will be presenting Session 702: Virtually Anywhere: A Case Study of Mobile Learning at Qualcomm, along with a co-worker, Barbara Ludwig.

The Adobe Learning Summit will be co-located with DevLearn, too, so be sure to sign up for that if you’re interested.

Download the DevLearn 2008 brochure (PDF) for more information about the conference.

Learning 2.0 Is Like Punk Rock September 12, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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I had a fun discussion last night with several friends / colleagues. We were trying to hypothesize why so many (e)Learning 2.0 initiatives don’t get the traction we would expect, both at our organization and at other organizations. Several of us learning tech geeks see such great opportunities with learning 2.0, but it sometimes feels like others just don’t get it. We have fantastic tools at our disposal, like blogs, social bookmarking, wikis, RSS, etc. – and many of these tools are free. However, it feels like we’re pulling teeth when we try to make a business case to show the value and possibilities for these tools. To get around this, we’re seeing more grassroots movements take place. Instead of waiting for top-down direction, employees are installing learning 2.0 tools/technologies and experimenting with them on their own.

Peggy Gartin, a friend and colleague, came up with a great simile: Learning 2.0 is like punk rock. Punk is a music genre that defies the mainstream. It grows from people wanting to express themselves and share their work; they don’t wait for an executive at a record label to provide them with ideas. Punk embraces a DIY (do it yourself) ethic, with many bands self-producing their recordings and distributing them through informal channels (A bit of that definition was borrowed from Wikipedia.). This resonates with what I’ve seen related to learning 2.0. If you try to harness it, control it, and direct it, you’ll lose its magic. It won’t have the same effect. If you force people to use social bookmarking, they’ll ignore it. If you force them to blog, they’ll get writer’s block. On the other hand, if you provide these tools and let people run with their ideas, I believe you’ll see much better results.

Many executives are still in the early stages of hearing about learning 2.0 and they’re still trying to get their hands around it. From what I’ve seen, the key may lie in the everyday learning and technology professionals like you and me. We should continue to test-drive tools and technologies. Experiment on your own and find out what works best for you and your organization. Don’t wait for some suit in an executive office to tell you what to do. We need to be the rebellious ones. Now go forth and rock. 🙂

Basic Mozilla Ubiquity Commands September 5, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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Last week I discussed Mozilla’s new project, Ubiquity. Ubiquity is an add-on for Firefox that allows you to quickly perform tasks that would normally take several extra steps (and involve you having to access other web sites). It’s a great little tool that makes power-users giddy with excitement. Ok, maybe just me… 🙂

I’ve been experimenting with the commands in Ubiquity, and I managed to create a few that will be pretty helpful at work. The three commands I’m sharing are:

  • lms
    Type in lms topic – and Ubiquity will take you to your LMS search results page for that topic.
  • cd
    Type in cd name to search for somebody in your company’s directory with that name.
  • q
    type in q searchTerm to search for information in your company’s intranet site.

(All three of these commands assume you can access these systems via the query string. If nothing else, the commands will help you understand how Ubiquity works, which may help you build your own custom commands.)

To get started, make sure you have installed Ubiquity in Firefox.

Next, go to this URL: chrome://ubiquity/content/editor.html (sorry, I couldn’t make this a link – WordPress wouldn’t let me).

Paste these code snippets into the editor:

CmdUtils.CreateCommand({
  name: "lms",
  takes: {"your search string": noun_arb_text},
  preview: "Search the LMS for courses.",
  execute: function(searchString) {
    Application.activeWindow.open(Utils.url("http://
www.INSERT_YOUR_LMS_URL_HERE.com?courseName=
"+searchString.text));
  }
})

CmdUtils.CreateCommand({
  name: "cd",
  takes: {"your search string": noun_arb_text},
  preview: "Search our company directory.",
  execute: function(searchString) {
    Application.activeWindow.open(Utils.url("http://
www.INSERT_YOUR_COMPANY_INTERNAL_DIRECTORY_
URL_HERE.com?query="+searchString.text));
  }
})

CmdUtils.CreateCommand({
  name: "q",
  takes: {"your search string": noun_arb_text},
  preview: "Search our company intranet.",
  execute: function(searchString) {
    Application.activeWindow.open(Utils.url("http://
www.INSERT_YOUR_COMPANY_INTRANET_URL_
HERE.com?query="+searchString.text));
  }
})

(Note that you’ll probably have to fix the line wrapping for the Application.activeWindow.open line of each command before they’ll work in Ubiquity.)

Finally, insert in your custom URLs in the 3 places where it says “http://www.INSERT_…”

Now you’ll be able to press Ctrl+Space to open Ubiquity, and then you can use the lms, cd, and q commands.

I used the Ubiquity Author Tutorial site to create these commands. I recommend that you start there if you’re interested in creating your own commands. Plus, it shows you how to package and share the commands with the rest of the world (or just your organization).

Happy command-writing!