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Ten Commandments of eLearning Design April 25, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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5 comments

Cath Ellis has a great post outlining her Ten Commandments of eLearning. These basic principles, if adhered to, can make a huge difference in whether or not a project will be successful. These principles apply whether you are designing an eLearning course or introducing a new tool for your learners (ex. a blog, wiki, discussion board, etc.).

Here’s a summary of the Ten Commandments, but be sure to read Cath’s post for detailed information on each of the items:

  1. Put the pedagogy (not the technology) first
  2. Be aware of workloads and work patterns (yours and theirs)
  3. Balance risks with safety
  4. Balance obligations with rewards
  5. Make ethics a priority
  6. Model good practice
  7. Make expectations clear
  8. Establish patterns and stick to them
  9. Keep spaces available for students to use and shape to their own needs
  10. Use/develop protocols

Read the full Ten Commandments of eLearning.

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Are You a Learning Guru? April 18, 2009

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

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Karen Boyle, the founder of LearningGurus.com. Learning Gurus is essentially a staffing agency for professionals in the learning and technology field. Karen has over 15 years experience in corporate, government, and education settings, and she specializes in the learning and development/training industry. She started Learning Gurus to help place people in jobs, and at a time like this her services are even more critical.

I heard about Learning Gurus a few weeks ago, and I was surprised to learn that Karen was based just a few miles away from my office in San Diego. Karen and I met for lunch, and she filled me in on her philosophy and reasoning for starting Learning Gurus a few years ago. I was very impressed; Karen is in this to help match great people with great jobs, not to get rich. And Karen’s background in training and development plays a huge role: She’s able to match the right people with the right jobs. That’s a key difference when comparing Learning Gurus to other staffing agencies.

I would highly recommend that you submit your information to Learning Gurus to be considered for jobs (it’s free). I’m very happily employed right now, but in this economy, it’s always smart to be aware of great services like this. And if you have a need for learning/technology talent at your organization, you should also get in touch with Karen.

Here’s a more thorough description of the services offered by Learning Gurus, from their web site:

Learning Gurus provides top-notch Workplace Learning Professionals for your learning and development initiatives. Our staffing and employment agency provides contract, contract-to-hire, and direct hire services. Our nationwide network of Learning Gurus design and develop training and performance solutions for corporate, government, and educational institutions. Whether you need a instructional designer for a 1-month project or you’re searching for a new Chief Learning Officer, we’ve got the guru for you! Our gurus specialize in the following areas:

  • Instructional Design & Development
  • Facilitation & Instructor Led Training (ILT)
  • Performance Analysis & Needs Assessment
  • Project Management
  • eLearning, Web-Based Training (WBT)
  • Multimedia/CBT Development
  • Technical Writing & Documentation
  • Quality Assurance & Evaluation

Visit LearningGurus.com for more information.

Beware of Social Learning Backlash April 11, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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4 comments

I’m finding out that the old adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” has some major significance when it comes to introducing social learning (specifically, social learning tools) at an organization. In fact, even worse things can happen if you don’t market your offerings correctly…

When introducing social learning tools and concepts, it’s easy to get excited and anxious to share our findings. We often see the potential of how these tools can impact our organization, and we can’t wait to tell everyone we know about it. But here’s the tricky part: A good portion of our audience may not see the same potential, and it’s important to understand their point of view. They may have these feelings for several reasons:

  • They may not understand the concept(s)
  • They may fear new technology
  • They may be afraid to learn something new or change their current processes
  • They may feel intimidated or threatened

In fact, some people may undermine your efforts by expressing doubt to others and they may refuse to use new tools. To be clear, I believe constructive criticism is always a good thing. I’m only concerned about the people who counter your efforts because of one of the reasons listed above.

On a sidenote, it doesn’t help that many of the social media and social learning tools have goofy names. Many non-technical people immediately dismiss the idea of using these tools because they can’t take the name seriously. (Personally, even though I am a fan, I think Twitter’s name is one of its biggest downfalls.)

Here are a few tips to prevent social learning backlash:

  • Communication and change management are key
    Begin by explaining the basics of social learning and gradually work up to the benefits of using social learning specifically at your organization. Explain all benefits and be honest about possible shortcomings.
  • Seek out allies in your organization
    Find people within your organization who can help you tell the story of how social learning can benefit your organization. This way you won’t be seen as the person trying to make all the changes on your own.
  • Don’t just talk – produce
    I can talk about Web 2.0 and Learning 2.0 until I’m blue in the face, but it won’t do anybody good until I actually produce something. I would recommend staying light on the concepts and heavy on the examples. As they say, actions speak louder than words.
  • Carefully connect social learning to familiar external sites
    Explain that most people already use social media and social learning resources outside of work, whether they realize it or not. For example, what tools do you usually use when you have a question, or when you need information? Wikipedia, Google, and social bookmarking sites like Delicious are a few simple examples.
  • Re-brand the technologies in-house to use more conventional names
    If you install any social learning applications in-house, you may consider re-branding their names to something that makes sense within your organization.

Kevin Jones has done a fantastic job of covering all things related to social learning. Be sure to check out some of his posts below. You’ll find additional tips for improving the adoption of social learning at your organization:

Build a Learning Portal Using WordPress April 3, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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12 comments

eLW moved to eLWmag.comI’ve written before about learning portals and how they can be a great way to improve access to learning materials for users. I wanted to provide a more in-depth post that shows how you can create your own learning portal using the freely available content management system, WordPress. So, let’s get started…

Refresher: What is a portal?

(This paragraph is from a previous post.)
A learning portal is a web site that contains links to all different types of learning and training materials for employees at an organization. It may display upcoming classes, online courses, job aids, programs, links to web sites, etc. It may also include search functionality, a rating system, bookmarking ability, and more. The content displayed on the portal may be general to all employees at an organization, or it may be customized for that individual and the role they play. In a perfect world, the learning portal would be able to analyze the person’s department, role, and previous training history. It would then automagically determine learning resources that may be most valuable to that person. It may take a little while, but we’ll get there.

This tutorial will show you how to get a basic learning portal set up. You can add the advanced functionality yourself using either custom programming or by using one of the thousands of free WordPress plugins.

What is WordPress?

WordPress is a free content management system that allows you to build and manage your own web site or blog. WordPress is used by millions of people, and it has an amazing support community in case you run into any questions or problems. I have personally used WordPress for several years and I’m a big fan. In fact, eLearning Weekly is a WordPress site. Learn more about WordPress.

WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org

I want to prevent some confusion around WordPress… It’s important to know that WordPress.com and WordPress.org are completely different, even though they’re run by the same people:

  • WordPress.com hosts your site for you, which is convenient, but it prevents you from making detailed customizations. WordPress.com sites are publicly hosted.
  • WordPress.org allows you to download the installation files to your computer (or to a server) where you install it yourself. You can then customize the system as much as you want. This tutorial will focus on using WordPress.org.

Install WordPress

You’ll need access to a server to install your portal, but you can install WordPress on your own computer if you just want to test it out first. Follow these directions to get WordPress installed. Essentially, you’ll need to have PHP and MySQL installed wherever you want to set up the portal.

After you’ve installed WordPress, you’ll have a front-end and a back-end. The front-end is what your users will see – it looks like a normal web site or blog. The back-end is your administration site that you’ll use to make updates. The back-end is password-protected, and you can create user accounts if you want to share the administration with others.

Use a Template

After you have installed WordPress, you’ll probably want to select a theme to use for your portal. There are thousands of themes available on WordPress.org, or you can select from many vendors on the web that provide WordPress templates (ex. StudioPress or WooThemes). Some themes are free, and some cost money. Grab a theme, and then follow these steps to get it installed.

Tweak the Settings

Poke around with all of the settings in your WordPress site. You’ll probably be surprised to see how many things you can easily configure. I don’t think you can really break anything in there, so feel free to try things out. (Famous last words, huh?)

Add Learning Content

In WordPress, you can create pages and posts. Pages usually consist of content that is less likely to change on a regular basis. Posts are generally used for content that is regularly updated, for examples news and announcements.

Once you have your site up and running, populate it with your learning content, such as a list of upcoming classes, online courses, job aids, programs, links to web sites, etc. You’ll see that you can add media (ex. images and video) to your pages and posts, too. Preview the site frequently to make sure everything is appearing to your liking, and continue to refine you content until you’re happy with it. Be sure to get feedback from colleagues, too.

Widgets and Plugins

You can add a great deal of functionality to your site using widgets and plugins.

Widgets are known as “sidebar accessories” for your site. Visit this page to learn more, or simply play around with the widget section in your administration site.

Plugins can add almost any functionality you can dream of to your WordPress site. Visit the official plugins page on the WordPress.org site for more info.

That’s it!

The hardest part about setting up WordPress is making sure you have PHP and MySQL installed and ready to go. Other than that, everything else should be straightforward. You’ll be successful if you update your learning portal on a regular basis and continue to get (and respond to) feedback from your users.

Troubleshooting

As I mentioned, WordPress has an amazing support community, but feel free to ask questions here and I’ll do my best to help you out. Good luck!

See the new site! eLWmag.com