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My Peripheral Learning Resources September 11, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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One of my favorite things about my job is the variety: Some days I find myself playing the role of a consultant, sometimes I act as a project manager, and other days I find myself tinkering with code or troubleshooting the LMS. I’ve been known to build fully functional web sites and web applications, and I’ve coordinated enterprise-wide programs, all in the name of learning and performance improvement. Being in this role requires me to stay sharp in several areas; I wear multiple hats, so to speak. I wanted to share some of the web sites and blogs that help me stay up to date on all the areas outside (or on the edge) of learning and technology. Check out some of the sites below. They may spark an interest for you, or help you peripherally on some of your current projects. (And please leave a comment to share sites that you find useful…)

Business / Leadership / Innovation / Productivity

Achieving Business Excellence
Emerging business trends and insight from thought leader John Spence

Great Leadership
Opinions and information on leadership and leadership development by Dan McCarthy

Harvard Business Review Blogs
A collection of really sharp people blogging about business, innovation, leadership, and more

Read It For Me
The world’s most engaging business book summaries

Seth Godin’s Blog
Thoughts from an exceptional business and marketing guru

TED
Ideas worth spreading, all related to Technology, Entertainment, and Design

The Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) – Workforce productivity and Human Resource productivity research

Coding / Web Development

NetTuts
Web development and design tutorials

Script & Style
Links to help you grow as a designer and developer

SitePoint
New articles and fresh thinking for web developers and designers

Smashing Magazine
Expert design and development resources

Technology

Enterprise Web 2.0
A blog about social technologies and their impact on business (and everything else)

ReadWriteWeb
Web apps, web technology trends, social networking and social media

Mashable
Social media news and web tips

Elgg, Ning, and SocialText September 2, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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Several social media platforms have emerged over the past few years which allow you to create your own social network. Organizations are using these platforms to aggregate some or all of their social learning tools so employees don’t have to keep jumping from application to application. These platforms generally have user profiles, status updates (pseudo micro-blogging), collaboration tools (ex. wikis, blogs), and more. I personally haven’t had a ton of experience with these platforms, but I’m anxious to dig in and learn more. Please chime in and comment on your experiences if you’ve used Elgg, Ning, and/or SocialText.

Elgg

    "Elgg empowers individuals, groups and institutions to create their own fully-featured social environment."

    Pricing
    Elgg software is licensed under the GPL version 2 from the Free Software Foundation. The full license is here.

    Hosting
    You can download and run Elgg on your own servers or you can pay to have somebody host it for you (see hosting information).

    http://elgg.org

Ning

    "Ning lets you create and join new social networks for your interests and passions."

    Hosting
    Ning hosts your social network(s) for you.

    Pricing
    Ning has both free and paid options. The free version has ads. For some reason I was unable to find the exact pricing details on the Ning site.

    http://www.ning.com

SocialText

Again, please chime in if you have experience with any of these platforms. I’m curious to hear feedback!

Quick and Dirty Video Production August 21, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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I’ve become a big fan of the site, readitfor.me, which provides "the world’s most engaging book summaries" in video form. My friend (and incredible business/leadership consultant), John Spence, told me about this site and I’ve been glued to it ever since. Essentially, Steve Cunningham reads mainstream business books and then produces a short, entertaining video summarizing his take on the book. (Note: The image below links to a large version of one of the videos.)

Here Comes Everybody

You can see that this is a simple yet highly effective way to get a message across to your users / learners. Steve’s style reminds me of CommonCraft videos, which use pseudo-animation and paper cut-outs to communicate a message. Here’s an example:

Both styles use an informal, relaxed approach along with seemingly low-budget, low-quality video production. To be clear, I mean that in a good way. Essentially, these aren’t polished productions.

I wanted to show these examples and bring up the fact that video production is getting easier and the tools are getting cheaper every day. It’s now much more conceivable to create videos to help communicate concepts to our learners, rather than using typical eLearning consisting of bullet points, static text, and images. I also think it’s important to show these videos because they prove that visual perfection is not required; content is king, and you’ll be fine as long as the content is accurate (and entertaining). You can create videos like this using only a shoestring budget and a little imagination.

Here are some tools to consider for quick and dirty video projects:

  • Flip video camcorders are around $200 and I keep hearing that they do a wonderful job.
  • Jing is a screen-capture and screencasting tool that I’ve mentioned before. The basic version is free and I can’t say enough about how much I love Jing.
  • Captivate and Camtasia can help you assemble more complicated projects that include video, text, images, audio clips, etc. Once finished, you can export your project as a .swf (Flash file) and embed it on any web page.
  • Audacity can be used for editing audio. It’s free.
  • If you want to get fancy, there are a few YouTube-like systems you can set up at your organization to house video: PHPMotion (open source) and ClipShare are two examples.

What tips / tools have I left off? Have you attempted anything similar at your organization? If so, I’d love to hear about it…

Highlighted Blog: Social Media In Learning August 16, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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Jane Hart’s Social Media In Learning blog is proving to be a great resource for keeping up with technologies related to social learning, a.k.a. Enterprise 2.0, a.k.a. Learning 2.0. This blog complements the Social Media In Learning Handbook & Toolkit, which is a free resource for those who want a quick, easy-to-use, structured introduction to social media for learning as well as a practical guide to using social media tools. If you’re new to these tools and technologies, Jane’s blog and associated tools provide an excellent starting point. (And the info is still helpful, even if you’re a seasoned veteran.)

Jane continues to offer amazing resources to the learning and technology community. As I’ve said many times before, thank you, Jane!

(Pardon my short post this week; I ran a half marathon today which has had me a bit distracted recently!)

#lrnchat August 8, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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If you’re looking for a great way to connect with other learning professionals to discuss experiences and share best practices, #lrnchat may be your new best friend. #lrnchat is an online chat that happens every Thursday night 8:30-10pm EST / 5:30-7pm PST on Twitter. Participants are people interested in the topic of learning from one another and who want to discuss how to help other people learn. (If you haven’t yet joined Twitter, this may be a good opportunity to give it a shot!)

#lrnchat is hosted by @marciamarcia, @quinnovator, @moehlert @koreenolbrish and @janebozarth. The official twitter account is @lrnchat.

You may want to consider using a free service like TweetGrid or Monitter to follow #lrnchat; these services make it much easier to tune into the conversation.

Transcripts are available if you are unable to attend the live #lrnchat sessions. Personally, this has been really helpful for me, because I can’t seem to synch my schedule to participate in the live chat sessions. Here’s an example transcript of #lrnchat from July 30, 2009.

Thanks to Jane Hart; her recent post on #lrnchat reminded that this would be an excellent topic to cover in eLearning Weekly.

Enterprise 2.0 August 1, 2009

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Enterprise 2.0, the use of social media and social networking tools in a business setting, is having a major impact on how employees learn and share information. As learning professionals, it’s becoming increasingly important that we stay aware of these changes and understand how and why they’re happening. We need to play a bigger role in understanding and selecting Enterprise 2.0 tools, and we need to partner and collaborate with our IT departments along the way. Let’s dive in to learn more about Enterprise 2.0 and learn more about why it matters to us.

What is Enterprise 2.0?

According to the Enterprise 2.0 Conference web site: "Enterprise 2.0 is the term for the technologies and business practices that liberate the workforce from the constraints of legacy communication and productivity tools like email. It provides business managers with access to the right information at the right time through a web of inter-connected applications, services and devices. Enterprise 2.0 makes accessible the collective intelligence of many, translating to a huge competitive advantage in the form of increased innovation, productivity and agility."

Essentially, Enterprise 2.0 is the idea of creating an ecosystem of open, connected tools while growing and nurturing a culture of learning and sharing. Yes, it sounds a little soft and fluffy, but the main idea is to encourage employees to exchange ideas, learn from each other, and become more independent learners. This is very much in line with the theory of informal learning and social learning. Some of the more common tools related to Enterprise 2.0 are blogs (ex. WordPress), wikis (ex. MediaWiki), micro-blogging platforms (ex. Yammer or Present.ly), social bookmarking sites (ex. Scuttle), and even in-house social networks, similar to Facebook.

What role should we play?

Rather than look for ways to integrate Enterprise 2.0 tools with the LMS, I believe we need to take time to experiment and identify which tools have the most value at our organizations. Enterprise 2.0 is definitely not a one-size-fits-all situation. In fact, I find that if you have the right mindset, you’ll naturally figure out what works at your organization. For example, if you determine that you’re going to help connect people to people, and people to information, you’ll start to see areas where these tools will fit naturally in your organization. Don’t try to shoehorn fancy new technology where you think it will succeed. Listen to your learners, run small pilot programs (many of these tools are open-source / free), and experiment. Fortunately, unlike an LMS, you can install several of these tools and experiment under the radar. Then, after you start to see potential areas of success, you can be more visible and vocal with your efforts. (Depending on your situation and your comfort-level with technology, you may want to have an ally in your IT department during your experimentation. They can help install some of the tools / systems for you.)

Enterprise 2.0 Resources

Take some time to check out some of the links below. These are some of the best Enterprise 2.0 resources I’ve found:

LMS Customer Support Expectations July 17, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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I know a few people who have run into major customer support problems with an LMS vendor over the past few months. The vendor has not provided competent support, communication has been difficult, and the project is taking months longer than what was originally expected. I’ve worked with several LMS vendors in my day (both good and bad), and this one is taking the prize. It makes me ask this question: What level of customer support should you expect to receive from your LMS vendor?

Here’s my take:

  • Customer support should be available via phone and email during regular business hours.
  • All inquiries should be recognized and responded to within 24 hours (auto-response emails don’t count!). A solution isn’t necessary within 24 hours; just let me know that you’re working on the issue.
  • Urgent issues should be recognized and responded to within 2 hours (or sooner).
  • An online ticketing system should be used to track all open requests, issues, fixes, etc., and this system should be visible to the customer.
  • An account representative should stay in touch with you every month or so to check in and make sure everything is running well.
  • Finally, on a more technical level: If I need to troubleshoot a complex SCORM issue, I would like to send the SCO to the LMS vendor to get their input. If the problem lies within the SCO, I should have to fix it. If the problem lies within the LMS, the vendor should address it.

Keep these points in mind when working with LMS vendors. If you’re about to purchase an LMS, carefully review the support details in the contract and request changes if necessary.

Can you think of any other expectations for LMS vendor customer support?

(By the way, the eLearning Guild has a great research report (Learning Management Systems 2008) that provides a ton of detail around features, demographics, satisfaction, costs, implementation timelines, and much more. Be sure to check it out if you’re in the hunt for an LMS.)

Supporting Formal and Informal Social Learning June 18, 2009

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Last month I wrote a post called The Future of eLearning is Social Learning , featuring work by Jane Hart. I highlighted several of her online presentations, which do an excellent job of outlining the basics of social learning while also addressing some of the most common misconceptions and pitfalls. Jane recently released another presentation titled Supporting Formal and Informal Social Learning, which covers the people side of social learning and the settings/contexts in which it takes place. The presentation is below. This is Part 3 of a series.

I continue to realize the most difficult part of implementing social learning is the change management – not the technology. Slides 14, 15, and 16 do a good job of addressing this. Thanks, Jane!

eLearning Skills Then and Now June 11, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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Have you noticed a change in the focus of your eLearning skill set over the past few years? I’ve noticed a change in mine. I’m doing more work with existing products and services, instead of developing things from scratch. And I find that I’m doing more research and development of learning technology tools now that so many options are available. I’m also doing less and less work with the LMS. I’d like to know: Is it just me? Have you seen your role change? And if so, how?

Here’s a summary of my most-heavily used skills, then and now, ordered by most-used to least-used:

Old skills

  1. LMS skills (SCORM / AICC)
  2. Development skills (ex. HTML / CSS / JavaScript)
  3. Adobe Flash
  4. Adobe Photoshop
  5. Adobe Captivate
  6. Troubleshooting
  7. Project management
  8. Internal marketing and communication of learning initiatives

Current skills

  1. Project management
  2. Research and evaluate learning / technology tools
  3. Internal marketing and communication of learning initiatives
  4. Development skills (ex. HTML / CSS / JavaScript)
  5. Troubleshooting
  6. LMS skills (SCORM / AICC)

How about you?

Social Learning Resources June 6, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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I wanted to highlight a few social learning resources this week that I find to be very valuable. Take a look at the slideshows below for several perspectives and best practices for using social learning at your organization.

Defining Your Social Learning Strategy

Social Learning and Internal Communications

Harnessing the Power of Social Networks in Teaching and Learning

Social Learning Success Stories, Models, And Roles

Also, be sure to check out these books: