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Exploring the Benefits of Using WordPress for Learning November 20, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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Below are the slides from my second presentation at DevLearn 2009. I also co-presented this session along with my colleague, John Polaschek. The presentation covers the basics of blogging and describes the advantages we’ve found with using WordPress. We’ve used it internally at Qualcomm and we’re very pleased with the results. Check out the slides for more info!

Have you introduced blogging at your organization? If so, please share a little bit of your experience with us. Iโ€™d be curious to hear how itโ€™s going and any tips you can provide to others. Thanks!

Top 99 Workplace eLearning Blogs August 26, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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Tony Karrer recently posted a list of the Top 99 Workplace eLearning Blogs over on his eLearning Technology blog. This list is based on the blogs that are used to power the eLearning Learning site, which is a great aggregator of information.

Tony’s list was inspired by a recent post over on the Upside Learning Solutions Blog that listed the Top 47 eLearning and Workplace Learning Blogs. (And I’m happy to say eLearning Weekly made both lists!) Be sure to check out these lists to find some new sources of info.

I read dozens of blogs, but here are some of my favorites that I read on a regular basis. They are in no particular order:

(I will be updating my blogroll soon to include these sites.)

Want to write for eLearning Weekly? July 4, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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Up to this point, I’ve used eLearning Weekly as my own personal blog to talk about my experiences with learning and technology. I’d like to open up the format for others to contribute so we can all benefit from different perspectives. If you are interested in writing for eLearning Weekly, please email me at . I’m open to most topics related to learning and technology. I will allow vendors and consultants to contribute if and only if they contribute new ideas and perspectives. I will not allow people or companies to push products or services to my readers.

eLearning Weekly is read by thousands of people each month. This could be a great opportunity for you to get visibility and engage in dialog with peers around the world. I look forward to your contributions!

Email me at if you have questions or to submit ideas. Thanks!

P.S. – I will continue to write for eLearning Weekly, too. I’m not leaving. ๐Ÿ™‚

Build a Learning Portal Using WordPress April 3, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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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 personโ€™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 weโ€™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

Have LMSs Jumped The Shark? March 20, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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I constantly hear people (across many organizations) complain about their learning management system (LMS). They complain that their LMS has a terrible interface that is nearly unusable. Upgrades are difficult and cumbersome. Their employees’ data is locked in to a proprietary system. Users hate the system. It’s ugly. (Did I miss anything?) I think LMSs may have jumped the shark.

If LMSs are going to survive, they’ll need to change drastically. We’ve recently seen LMSs shift to include more functionality, such as wikis, blogs, social networking, etc. I think they’re heading in the wrong direction. I don’t really understand why LMS vendors are now thinking they need to build in every possible 2.0 tool. If I want a great blogging platform, I’m going to download WordPress (it’s free and has a huge support community). If I want a great wiki platform, I’m going to download MediaWiki or DokuWiki (also free and they have huge support communities). And when it comes to social networking, as a co-worker put it, “Do they really think I’m going to create a ‘friends’ list in the LMS? Seriously?”

Maybe LMS vendors are taking advantage of the people/organizations who don’t have the technical resources to install these free open-source systems on their own. I think it’s a big problem; by using these tools within the LMS, people are now locking even more data into a closed system. One of the few LMS add-ons that I think may have merit would be a talent management module, mainly because it could integrate well with the data in an LMS. That seems like a good fit to me.

Instead of adding all this new functionality, LMS vendors should concentrate on better connecting and integrating with open standards and technologies. User data should be 100% portable. RSS feeds should be available both ways: people should be able to subscribe to a feed to monitor when new resources are added in the LMS, and the LMS should be able to import and act on data fed to it. The systems and the data should be mashable. The LMS will need to become one of the building blocks within the enterprise, rather than remain as a standalone system that doesn’t play well with others.

I don’t mean to sound pessimistic; I’ve made a good living in the world of learning and technology working with LMSs. I think I’m most frustrated because other areas of software and technology seem to have progressed at a much more rapid pace in terms of usability and flexibility. I believe there is a future for the LMS, but only for the vendors who are able to see the changes on the horizon and adapt before it’s too late.

What do you want to see in 2009? December 18, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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Each week, I write about my experiences in the world of learning and technology. Sometimes I talk about projects I’m working on, and other times I highlight resources that I’ve found to be useful. Now I’d like to get feedback from YOU. What helps you? What would you like to see on eLearning Weekly in 2009? Please vote in the poll below.

Thanks!

eLearningToolChest.com – Resources for eLearning Professionals December 1, 2008

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A new site called eLearning Tool Chest (eLearningToolChest.com) has a collection of eLearning books, authoring tools, blogs, and other miscellaneous resources. The site is growing each week. I think it could be pretty big in a month or two. If you think a specific book, authoring tool, or resource should be listed, you can suggest that it be added.

Visit eLearningToolChest.com

DevLearn 2008 – Day 3 Recap November 14, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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Today was the final day of DevLearn, and technically, it was only a half-day. I presented Session 702: Virtually Anywhere: A Case Study of Mobile Learning at Qualcomm, along with Barbara Ludwig. (The slides are below; I’ll try to get the handouts posted soon.)

Unfortunately, I missed the keynote by John Medina, author of Brain Rules. I talked with several people who raved about it, so I may have to pick up a copy of John’s book.

Because I wasn’t able to learn much new info today (I was a bit preoccupied with my presentation and getting to the airport on time), I will defer to two bloggers who did manage to post today. Surf on over to read Clark Quinn’s blog and Brian Dusablon’s blog for updates on Day 3 of DevLearn. And again, don’t forget the other DevLearn bloggers mentioned in this list.

While I liked all of the sessions I attended, I have to say that I enjoyed the people at DevLearn more than anything else. This was an incredible event for networking. I can’t even begin to list off all the people I met (my apologies), but please know that I enjoyed meeting each and every one of you!

Also, I can’t say "thank you" enough to Brent Schlenker and the rest of the eLearning Guild staff for putting on such a great conference. Your hard work definitely paid off!

DevLearn 2008 Bloggers November 13, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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In case you’re not getting enough DevLearn 2008 coverage, here’s a list of awesome bloggers who are writing about their experiences here in San Jose:

Did I accidentally leave you off the list? If so – I’m sorry! Please add a comment with a link to your blog.

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. ๐Ÿ™‚