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LMS Spotlight: TOPYX January 31, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in LMS Spotlight.
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As part of my research on LMS options, I found one that is so inexpensive that it still boggles my brain. Let me get right to the price before I share the features: $15,000 per year. For TOPYX, that’s it.

If you have been a part of purchasing an LMS, you know that 15 grand a year is practically unbelievable. When I talked with Jodi Harrison, Vice President Business Development and Affiliate Partners at Interactyx, I needed her to repeat the price a few times, and then I had to ask if that was just the set-up price. Nope. There are no hidden fees for each learner. No cost to implement and no charges for upgrades, which are free for life. Just $15,000.

And if $15,000 seems like a lot, you can opt for TOPYX Lite for less money and less LMS.

Topyx  LMS Best Value FlyerWith TOPYX, you have options. Having options is key in the elearning industry where everybody needs something just a little different. Maybe all the options inspired 100% of 2010 TOPYX clients to stay with TOPYX.

For an LMS that truly integrates web 2.0 to create a social learning experience, look to TOPYX. TOPYX comes ready, off the shelf, to integrate your favorite social media accounts like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and is built to add other plug-ins like your company’s webinar software. TOPYX has now won the Best of Elearning! award for Best Social Learning Software for two years in row, 2009 and 2010.

If you already have an LMS you like, or are stuck with, you might like TOPYX BOLT. BOLT is the social learning only component that plugs-in to your existing LMS so you can benefit from the award-winning social learning infrastructure.

TOPYX is sold as an SaaS solution (Software-as-a-Service) and is totally web-based. That might be bad news for companies that require behind the firewall solutions, but it’s great news for small companies or companies with inundated IT departments. The affordable and reliable hosting is provided by Rackspace.

If you do want to pay more than $15,000 per year, you can. There are optional add-ons like a built-in authoring tool, and although your first two language options are free, you can purchase more. And for more information, watch this short video from Interactyx:

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Introducing the SCORM Cloud December 9, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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I had the pleasure of meeting Mike Rustici this year at DevLearn. Mike runs Rustici Software and he’s a total SCORM ninja. In our conversation, Mike mentioned a new service that is offered by his company – the service is called the SCORM Cloud. It was easy to see Mike was pretty excited about this, and after hearing some of the details, I think it definitely provides us with some interesting new ways to deliver and track learning content.

How to describe the SCORM Cloud…

If you didn’t have to use an LMS to offer learning content, where would you want to do it? A Facebook page? Your WordPress blog? Via an iGoogle widget? Maybe, but you’d lose the ability to track and record and assess, right? Enter SCORM Cloud, which lets you take learning outside the LMS and put it pretty much anywhere you want.

How does that happen? Essentially, your course content sits out on the cloud (much like your Google Docs or your Flickr pictures), and SCORM Cloud lets you deliver it wherever you want. SCORM Cloud tracks and records the same things SCORM 2004 (or 1.2 or AICC) would in your LMS and reports them back. So you can score quizzes, track interactions or set sequencing for any content you upload to the SCORM Cloud. No LMS required.

As of now, Rustici Software has already integrated SCORM Cloud with several open source LMSs such as Moodle and Sakai. And they tell me that they are close to having it ready to work with WordPress and iGoogle. The current integrations are open-source and flexible enough to allow for customizations, and you can even build your own integration if you want to use SCORM Cloud somewhere they have haven’t considered yet.

(There’s a fee for using SCORM Cloud and it is priced based your usage and needs. And it is far cheaper than going the whole-LMS route.)

I’d recommend that you check out the SCORM Cloud if you’re feeling overly constrained by your LMS; it will help you break out of the traditional eLearning model and take advantage of some of the new 2.0 tools that are now available on the web. Kudos to Mike and his team for thinking up an innovative solution like this…

Check out the SCORM Cloud web page to learn more, sign up for a free account, and view pricing information.

LearnTrends 2009 Video Archive Available November 27, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the LearnTrends 2009 Online Conference, but I heard great things about it. Fortunately, I ran across a video archive of the conference, thanks to a blog post by George Siemens. (LearnTrends was sponsored by Jay Cross, Tony Karrer, and George Siemens.)

Check out the video archive.

There are tons of other details about the conference here, and you can get more info about LearnTrends on these social networks:

Enjoy!

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. I’d be curious to hear how it’s going and any tips you can provide to others. Thanks!

A Case Study of Micro-Blogging for Learning at Qualcomm November 19, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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Below are the slides from my presentation at DevLearn 2009. I co-presented this session along with my colleague, John Polaschek. The presentation had two main areas of focus:

  1. How micro-blogging can be used to help facilitate discussions and knowledge-sharing between employees
  2. How Qualcomm is using Yammer to help employees connect across divisions and geographic regions

I hope you enjoy it, even though you won’t have our charming personalities to accompany the slides! 🙂

Please leave a comment if you’ve worked with micro-blogging at your organization. I’d be curious to hear how it’s going and any tips you can provide to others. Thanks!

DevLearn 2009 – Day 1 Recap November 12, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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DevLearn 2009 is off to a great start! Yesterday was the official opening day of the conference, and it was jam-packed with a fantastic keynote by Andrew McAfee, several great presentations, and plenty of breakout sessions/bootcamps (ex. the Social Learning Camp). So much good stuff!

Social Learning Camp

Mark Oehlert has dedicated 99% of his time at DevLearn to the Social Learning Camp, and we should all say a huge THANK YOU for that. Mark is leading (almost) non-stop sessions on all aspects related to social learning and social technologies. Crowds gather around for each session, and I’ve heard a ton of great conversations there. Here are some of the key points I picked up in discussions yesterday:

  • Within organizations, most issues around social media and social learning are directly related to fear, control, and trust. Companies fear new technologies (especially ones that they don’t understand); they try to control every aspect of the user experience; and they don’t trust their employees to use the tools (ex. they try to implement approval processes, instead of just letting employees use the tools).
  • Related to the trust issue, Mark gave a great example: Companies trust their employees to make critical decisions, use expensive equipment, interact with customers, etc., but they’re terrified of having them use tools like Twitter and Yammer. Too funny.
  • Social media and social learning destroys hierarchies of knowledge (not management). Upper management often hoards information, and new tools flatten the organization, knowledge-wise. People find that they can get answers from each other instead of having to work up the chain.
  • Mark posed an excellent question, and he asked us to keep it in mind for the rest of the conference. Related to our work in learning and training, "How would you design things if you could start with a blank slate?" Then, when we get back to work (and back to reality), we should start to reverse engineer things until we can get as close to that new state as possible.

Enterprise 2.0 Keynote – Andrew McAfee

Wow, this was a great keynote. Andrew spoke on a few key themes:

  • Things have definitely changed; new technologies have drastically improved some of the ways in which people work/collaborate.
  • A key concept of Enterprise 2.0 is altruism. People want to help each other.
  • Our role is to give people the tools/technologies to do this. If we do this, good things happen.

Here are my notes from the keynote:

Enterprise 2.0 means that there are new ways in which technologies are being used, but (oftentimes) people on the business-side don’t care. They just want things done better, faster, cheaper. You don’t need to paint a grandiose picture of technology transformation – just get the work done.

Altruism
People want to help each other. We need to stop obsessing about risks when deciding on the uses of new technologies. (People deciding on technologies jump to this too quickly: “What might go wrong??!!”). Seriously, what’s the worst things that can happen? “Somebody tried to sell a used car on the discussion forum.” Big deal. Bottom line here: Lower the barriers to altruism.

Process
When it comes to capturing and sharing knowledge, beware of the ‘one best way’ approach. Build technology that lets people improve on their own. Ask: “How much workflow is necessary?” Usually, not much. Keep it that way. Use tools that let structure appear over time (ex. linking, tagging, voting/rating mechanisms).

Innovation
Innovation is the new strategy. Example: Innocentive is a clearinghouse where people can complete to solve complex problems for large companies like Eli Lilly and Procter and Gamble. Expertise is emergent. Don’t limit yourself to only certain sources of expertise. Consider crowdsourcing, both internally and externally. Question credentialism! Nobody cares where you went to school! Anybody can help solve a problem, and unique perspectives can be a huge help.

Intelligence
Crowds can be very wise – but you should enable peer review (ex. Wikipedia). Experiment with collective intelligence and see if it is a good fit for your organization (internally and externally).

Benefits
So, with Enterprise 2.0, what do these technologies allow you to do that you couldn’t do before? The tools help you make connections with people that you did not know existed. Better collaboration is not the only goal: Now you can also find new people to collaborate with. Advice: You should narrate your work via blogging or micro-blogging. This makes it easier for others to find you and connect with you.

Impact
We need to continue to look at technology with fresh eyes. We’re not going back to business as usual (economy-wise). Things have to change for us to be successful, and it’s important that we understand what’s going on.

Keynote Summary

  • Don’t declare war on the existing enterprise. That will end badly. You won’t make friends this way. Organizations need structure, we need to figure out ways to work around/with this.
  • Don’t allow walled-gardens. Otherwise they’ll stay ‘walled’. You lose the possibilities of great connections between divisions, departments, locations, etc.
  • Don’t accentuate all the bad stuff that can happen. Maybe you can point out issues, but don’t dwell on them.
  • Enterprise 2.0 technologies won’t replace email!!! Don’t tell everyone this will replace email, or they’ll think you’re crazy.
  • Don’t fall in love with features. It’s not about bells and whistles. People just want things to work (simply and well).
  • Don’t overuse the word ‘social’. It has negative connotations for most executives. People don’t want business to be more social. People want it to be more productive. Execs: “I’m not running a social club.” Social = hippie-talk. Think and talk in business terms and you’ll get much further.

Be sure to check out…

Session 114: Delivering Low-cost Mobile Learning Solutions

This session was presented by two guys from T-Mobile: Mark Chrisman and Jeff Tillett. Here are some notes from their session:

  • They use the approach of “Dream big, but stay scrappy.”
  • We need to be ready for Millennials. They use their mobile phones ALL the time, and they’ll likely be more willing to use mobile learning.
  • Mobile learning offers more accessibility, availability, and adaptability.
  • T-Mobile uses mobile learning for Pre- and Post-training at the moment. This may change with time.
  • The mobile web is the easiest way to reach a variety of devices. Consider building content in Dreamweaver using HTML, basic images, and .3gp video.
  • More and more user-generated content is coming. How can we tie this into training?
  • Have a heart-to-heart conversation with your LMS vendor about mobile learning. See if they’ll ever integrate mobile learning into their product.

Session 207: A Case Study of Micro-blogging for Learning at Qualcomm

I presented this session along with my colleague, John Polaschek. Our slides will be available on the DevLearn Resources page next week, and the lovely @julieastd took great notes during the session.

Session 315: Hacking SCORM to Gather Social Metrics for Online Resources

Gary Hegenbart presented a great session on how to use a guerrilla method of SCORM-hacking to record user opinions about eLearning tutorials and courses. Gary walked through steps to show how he added the following questions to his eLearning:

  • Did you find this tutorial/course helpful? Yes | No
  • How would you rate this module? 1 2 3 4 5
  • Would you recommend this module to co-workers? Yes | No

Gary had the interesting idea of storing answers to this information in the existing SCORM data model, using these elements: cmi.score.scaled, cmi.score.raw, cmi.score.min, and a few others. If all this SCORM-talk hasn’t scared you away, be sure to take a look at his examples/code. It’s definitely a clever approach.

Ok, I’m going back for more…

I’ll post an update about Day 2 soon!

The Next Generation of Learning Management Systems October 31, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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A recent post by Clive Shepherd references an interesting activity done by the eLearning Network at their recent Next Generation Learning Management event. According to Clive’s post, the event was attended by a cross-section of members: private and public sector users, LMS and content vendors, consultants, and others. In the activity, participants identified requirements for learning management systems for the 21st century. (Great idea!) You can download a PDF containing the results of the activity. It’s worth checking out.

I’ve written about the future of LMSs before (see "Have LMSs Jumped The Shark?"). I still believe major changes need to be made, but I find it fascinating to keep an eye on the market and watch the different approaches companies are taking. Some LMS vendors are choosing to integrate Learning 2.0/Web 2.0 functionality (ex. wikis, blogs, micro-blogging, etc.) into their systems. Others are choosing to integrate with HR systems (ex. talent management, development planning, etc.). Some people see LMSs as systems with a front-end for users, while others see LMSs as back-end systems that users should never see. I don’t know which approaches will prevail, but activities like the one above are a great way to get everyone working together to advance our industry. (And I hope LMS vendors are listening out there…)

I’m speaking at DevLearn 2009! October 7, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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Ok, I’ll admit it: I only wrote this blog post to show off my snazzy new DevLearn 2009 badge:

DevLearn 2009 Badge

But, since we’re here, I’ll go ahead and let you know that I’ll be presenting two sessions next month at DevLearn:

I will be co-presenting these sessions with John Polaschek, who also works at Qualcomm. Please drop by and say hello if you’re there!

Update:
I should mention that I have a beard now, so just imagine a hairier version of the picture above. 🙂

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!

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!)