Monday, December 31

Predictions for Learning in 2008

Happy New Year! As promised ...

The Big Question for January is:

What are your Predictions for Learning in 2008?

To help you get started, you might want to look back at the posts on last months big question and last year's predictions.

How to Respond:

Please post on your blog or put thoughts in a comment and I'll put a link to your post. You will get bonus points for:
  • Including a link to this post and even better include the Big Question logo.
  • In your comment, provide an HTML ready link that I can simply copy and paste. For example, Tony Karrer - My Aha Moments in 2007 is great. To do this simply use an anchor tag in your comment.
Posts So Far:

Thursday, December 13

What is to Come in 2008

As I read the blog I'd like to post a few updates on our research and predictions for e-learning in 2008.

1. Social Networking is hitting the corporate scene, driving tremendous demand for informal learning, or what we call "learning on-demand." The solutions organizations are looking for include blogs, wikis, and communities of practice. The CoP companies we talk with tell us that their businesses are booming (Tomoye and Mzinga being two which focus heavily in this space).

We just surveyed 800+ worldwide training directors and CLOs and found that 83% feel they have a significant or urgent need to change their learning programs to deal with the learning styles of younger workers. And despite this need, only 35% feel that they have the tools and experience to do this today.

What we expect to happen in 2008 is an explosion in the use of "self-published content"- that is solutions which enable learners to reach out and support each other. Organizations which do this today include Cisco, IBM, Symantec, Infosys, and many more. In fact, this is something which is relatively easy to do - if you remember that your role is to "facilitate"this content interchange, not "create content."

2. E-Learning, as defined, is not as successful as one may believe. I have to say, I started working in e-learning before the term was coined and spent much of my career over the last 10 years in the development, analysis, and research in this topic. I figured that by now we would have "figured it out." This is not the case. In fact, in the same research I cited above (to be published this Spring), only 19% of organizations feel they are doing a good job at building "high-impact"courseware, 13% at building simulations and other higher fidelity forms of training, and most surprising of all, only 23% feel that they are doing a good job at blended learning.

This really suprised me. While many large organizations are doing quite well at this, far more are still behind the curve. I believe the problem is that the complexity of e-learning grows each year, and now we consider searchable content, audio, video, and web 2.0 interactions as "standard" for all internet applications. Content which is in the early 2000s "page turning" style has become very boring and hard to complete.

Anyway, much more to talk about but I'll keep this short. Please contact me at (510) 654-8500 or visit our website for more - we're publishing our 2008 predictions this week. (

Wednesday, December 12

Self-organized groups and the methods and ethics of accessing learning resources

Jay Cross has posted some further reflections on the Hole in the Wall project that was presented in a keynote speech by Sugata Mitra at Online Educa Berlin two weeks ago. Although the Hole in the Wall has been going for at least 7 years and has been deployed (as Sugata told me privately) extensively not only in various locations within India but also in Africa and Cambodia, confirming the potentially universal application of the results, the deeper findings of the ongoing experiment only came home to me in Berlin, which -- incidentally and somewhat ironically -- perhaps reveals that public presentations by an active speaker in front of a passive audience may occasionally be an effective way of transmitting knowledge. This post can also be read as my personal answer to the Big Question for December, since the Hole in the Wall (HiW) was indeed the most significant revelation of the year for me. It’s always pleasant to see the experimental confirmation of one’s favorite hypotheses (concerning both social learning and e-learning as a resource), but as with all empirical evidence, I’ve discovered in HiW material for extending the original hypotheses and introducing new dimensions (e.g. the organizational, the psychological and the ethical).

It seems to me that the fundamental key to the success of HiW is the notion of "self-organized groups" who learn on their own. If education is to become truly non-invasive, as Jay suggests, it must refrain from defining both the goals and the means to reach them, entrusting the groups with this task. If educational gurus (authorities) notice that a group is neglecting what is considered "essential" in the curriculum (for whatever reason, whether it’s basic security, survival or inculcating an existing set of values), the group could be challenged to account for why they may be neglecting a certain topic or reminded of the interest in pursuing it. Respecting the self-organizing group and its decision-making capacity is the sine qua non of success. It also happens to be the absolute opposite of the organizational principles of traditional education and training.

It's worth reflecting on how learners in self-organized groups use external resources to solve problems. One of Sugata’s anecdotes in Berlin concerned a girl who was overwhelmed by the exposure to the micro-biology courses in English (a language she had to learn as the medium of instruction). She stole some money from her mother to phone her uncle in Delhi, who she hoped might be able to explain in simple terms what DNA was. His vague and unscientific but nevertheless informative answer gave her the minimum she needed to begin constructing her understanding of the lessons she wanted to explore.

In other words, everything one already knows or has access to in the world becomes a potential resource for building rather than simply receiving knowledge, traditionally from a single authoritative source. This is probably also the best answer to Andrew Keen – another keynote speaker in Berlin whose stock-in-trade is lamenting Web 2.0’s loss of the sense of established authority common to traditional education and the Web 1.0 -- because it demonstrates that even sources of knowledge (the uncle) that are not fully reliable can contribute to the construction and refinement of knowledge. Being exposed to a multiplicity of sources and entering into dialogue with them is the best way of evaluating the components of knowledge and understanding relationships between complementary elements. Inevitably such increasingly complex networks of knowledge (and interpretation of existing knowledge) produce a more diversified intellectual culture capable of appreciating value rather than relying on arbitrary criteria, such as university degrees or media-induced standards of celebrity: see for example this interesting article in the LA Times on the Trump University.

I expect that within the family (in Indian culture) the mother could forgive her daughter for the theft. It’s worth noticing that in some cultures – and especially within educational institutions -- that theft would not be forgiven and the child would be branded as a real or potential delinquent. It’s the old Jean Valjean problem that our western cultures are still struggling with, where the “rule of law” can easily become a rigid regime of “law and order” and human potential stifled with a vengeance.

Sugata told me that his results apply strictly to an age range of 6 to 13. He wouldn't commit to drawing any conclusions about how the findings might apply to older children and even less to adults. It's obvious that a similar experimental setting would be difficult to imagine. But I believe that parallels can be found, that the principles concerning the motivational factors of learning are similar and that, with some imagination in the "learning design", similar results could be produced in adults. The place to begin, of course, is CoPs since what the HiW children effectively did was to build and run their own CoP. And isn't "self-organized group" the best and most succinct definition of a CoP?

Friday, November 30

December Big Question - What did you learn about learning?

We've somewhat lost our fearless Blogmeister, Dave Lee, so we've not been doing the Big Questions the past few months. I'll be doing the moderating. But, we are starting again ...

The Big Question for December is:

What did you learn about learning in 2007?

To help you get started, you might want to look back at some discussions going on last year at this time with a similar kind of question:
I personally am going to be looking back at some of my blog posts and look for those "aha moments." There were quite a few, but it's always good to go back and look.

January's Topic:

Predictions for learning in 2008

How to Respond:

We are going old-school on this, no forms.

Please post on your blog or put thoughts in a comment.

If you post on a blog, please include a link to this post. Ideally, you would also include the Big Question logo. After you post on your blog, leave a comment on this post with a link to your blog post. Periodically during the month, I will add you to the list below.

By the way, if you can make it as easy as copy and paste for me, that would be great. Otherwise, the links may not look great, but everyone can still get there.

Good stuff already coming in!

Posts So Far:

Saturday, November 24

The Campfire and the Sandlot

One can imagine the time in our pre-paleolithic history when formal learning consisted of two balanced parts:

During the day, people with skills would show others how to do something. "Grab the spear here," the teacher might say, taking the hands of the apprentice and putting them in the right spot. "Now practice in that sandlot over there by throwing it at that big tree. Keep doing it until you get it right. Then throw it at the smaller tree."

While at night, people around the campfire might tell of great adventures, including myths and legends. People would share ideas, and help their community expand their thinking. The best story tellers would gain bigger audiences and develop their own craft of narrative and suspense.

Then came the technology of writing. And suddenly the balance shifted. Communities were able build on the written work of the past. Written work also scaled well, where the work of one village could impact villages all around it. The disciplines of accounting and drama evolved geometrically. Meanwhile, practicing in the sandlot didn't change much. It was still a one-to-one activity.

Since the technology of writing, many subsequent discoveries have further augmented the "learning to know" skills. Paintings, theaters, printing presses and books, photographs, schools, universities, sound recordings, movies, scanners, Google (and now, the Kindle) all turned our culture into masters of linear content, enabling both great artists and our own exquisite vocabulary around such catnip as plot devices, antagonists, suspense, and the hero's journey, just to name a few. We can watch a Spielberg movie, a piece of campfire-style intellectual property that is the recipient of cumulatively trillions of dollars of investment and R&D, and evaluate it at a level of cultural sophistication that would awe citizens from a even a hundred years ago.

And yet, in the "learning to do" area, we are probably worse than our hunter-gatherer ancestors. For teaching the simplest skills, we mirror our ancestors ("put your hands here"), and for the more complicated skills, we don't have a clue. Ask a Harvard Business School professor to develop leadership (or any Big Skill) in a student and she will go into campfire mode with PowerPoint slides of grids, case studies, and so-called inspirational stories.

The advent of flight simulators and computer games, however, have introduced technology around "learning to do" that can finally scale. Today, there is a robust, if nascent, set of "sandlot" tools that is receiving a significant intellectual investment of the current community, and is able to build on the discoveries of the past. Today's "authors," often game designers, can begin to create virtual sandlots where participants can practice skills, instead of just hearing about them (the theory of nudging a pinball machine to get a better score, from a campfire perspective, is trivial; the practiced application is where it is hard).

And, correspondingly, an entirely new language is being developed. Gamers now effortlessly talk about end-of-level bosses, mapping Actions to interfaces, the attributes of on Maps, and what is good or bad level design.

During the next twenty years, the sandlot technologies (the "learning to do" through games and simulations) will successfully challenge the campfire institutions of universities, movies, and books not only for the discretionary time of the community (which we have already seen), but for help in improving their quality of life. We are already seeing glimpses of the latter through Carmen SanDiego, The Oregon Trail, Age of Empires, America's Army, Full Spectrum Warrior, Virtual Leader, and Brain Age. Will Wright, the creator of SimCity and The Sims, is the first Shakespeare or Beethoven of this medium.

In other words, people will engage in games not to play a super-hero, but to actually become more like one. And the balance between "learning to do" and "learning to know" may finally be restored.

Sunday, October 21

How would the world have evolved if everyone assumed training was just about worthless? Like it has!

There is a pact between corporate students and corporate trainers (and, I think, IT, budget holders, the lawyers, and middle management) that essentially says, "We all know that training does almost nothing. Given that, let's all agree to make it as frictionless as possible so that we can all check off that necessary corporate requirement and get on with our 'real' work."

This was the motivation for "e-learning" back in 1999. "Given that training was useless, let's make it cheap and convenient." The biggest sponsors of e-learning were the corporate managers who most opposed learning programs. The vendors who did well offered the most titles as cheaply as possible.

Today, most organizations only bother with level one analysis of training. "Question one: did we make the program as convenient and easy as possible? There is no question two." And stunningly, in a recent eLearning Guild's report, managers of educational programs from both academics and corporate, when asked about relative importance in a learning program, ranked ease of deployment (57.4% said it was very important and 37.2 said it was important) over every other category, including provides a strong return on investment (34.6% very important/ 41.4% important) and fun and exciting for participants (50.2%/28.4%).

The newest attempt to reduce the friction of learning to all stakeholders may be epitomized by the informal learning movement (which is happening if we choose to label it or not). "People learn what they need on the Internet. Who needs an LMS when you have Google?"

Simulation people disrupt that pact at all points. Students actually have to put some skin in the game, and experience intellectual awkwardness (which they hate). Trainers have content that does literally change behavior, so now they have to be extra careful it is the right content, and they actually have to learn how to measure the impact of formal learning, something they have never really figured out. IT, in some cases, has to now justify why some employees have old browsers, bad connections, and no sound. Middle managers have to free up the participants to actually learn (which means offloading work and not just letting it pile up in their absence).

Any new program can be killed by any member of the pact who feels that the deal is changing. We may be at a point where real formal learning is the enemy of everyone (but the organization's shareholders).

There are exceptions, of course. There are environments that truly value formal development programs. These are the groups that say (in a riff on the more famous phrase) "train hard, manage easy." That seems better than, "if you pretend to teach me, I will pretend to learn."

Saturday, October 13

Which name is better - Serious Games or Educational Simulations or...?

There is a new field emerging, dealing with interactive content. I have created examples of it and written books about it, as have many others. But there is no universal name for the space (as in, "For our next program, we will use a ___ approach, or I am going to a conference to learn more about ____").

Here are the top ten:

10. Virtual Experiences: Pros: Captures the essence of the value proposition. Cons: Overlaps with Social Networking (see below).

9. Games: Pros: Unambiguous; unapologetic; makes the core point of learning by playing. Computer games (a subsection of all games) are a 10 billion dollar industry, therefore computer games should be in classrooms (other people say it more convincingly than I do). Cons: People play lots of games anyway - what is the value of forcing them to play more; too diverse; would you want your doctor to have learned from a game?

8. Simulations: Pros: Scientific; accurate; really serious. Cons: Includes many approaches that are not instructional (weather simulations) nor engageable; implies one hundred percent predictive accuracy.

7. Social Impact Games: Pros: Convey the nobleness of the cause. Differentiates from the default notion of games as not having a (or having a negative) social impact. Cons: Still emphasizes the tricky word of "games;" doesn't fit in corporate or military cultures; has any social impact game actually had a social impact?

6. Practiceware: Pros: Emphasizes the core of practicing to learn skills. Recalls model of batting cage and driving ranges. Cons: Franken-word; doesn't include a lot of puzzles and more awareness-raising activities; sounds vocational.

5. Game-based learning/digital game based learning: Pros: Spells everything out - game AND learning - any questions? Cons: Sounds dated and academic.

Serious Games? In e-Learning Guild's landmark (and live/ongoing) [survey] of 1,785 corporate, military, and academic practioners, most suggested not using the "serious games" name.

4. Immersive Learning Simulations: Pros: Hits all of the key points. Cons: Doesn't roll of the tongue. Name sounds a bit redundant (wouldn't any two of the three words work just as well?).

3. Educational Simulations: Pros: Sponsors like it. Cons: Sounds hard and perhaps too rigorous for casual students.

2. Serious Games: Pros: Nicely ironic; students like it; press loves it - loves it (I mean NY Times and Serious Games should get a room); researchers use it as a way to get foundation grants; most popular handle (see unscientific but anecdotally consistent poll results above). Cons: Sponsors hate it; instructors from academics, corporate, and military hate it; emphasizes the most controversial part of the experience - the "fun" part (i.e. the game elements); often too conceptual (you would never call a flight simulator a "serious game."). Most examples of serious games are neither very serious nor very good examples of games; For better and worse, the successor to edutainment.

1. Sims: Pros: Attractive to both students and sponsors; captures essence; fun. Cons: Also includes computer games in general, as well as one very famous franchise.

Some of the other names include: action learning simulations, performance simulations, interactive strategies, and activities based training.

Social Networking?

And then there is the question of to includes Social Networks or not? Pros: Most people lump Second Life and World of Warcraft into this area on their own. Con: Social networking and simulations should be used very differently and have different value propositions (see Top Ten Missing Features of Second Life). But including social networking adds words such as world, life, or environment, and sometimes virtual.

Saturday, September 22

Can one create a great educational simulation around ethics?

Can one create a great educational simulation around ethics?

One should be able to in theory. One point of Sim is to make an experience that allows people to see the consequences of their Actions in a safe environment.

If you made a pure "ethics" sim, however, then of course students would just always "do the right thing." It would be as useful as the official Enron Ethics Handbook.

Rather, my own thinking goes, one would build a life sim, or a business sim. One would challenge students to some realistic activity, and then toss in some ethical problems along the way.

But then what? Would it be a challenge to recognize ethical problems, or would they be obvious? If they were obvious, is the best game play thing to always do the right thing, to accept an "ethics" friction? Or would they somehow represent interesting choices?

Would you ever make people go bankrupt for making ethical decisions? Would you ever create a situation where people made some ethical compromises and were better off for it? Would the ideal strategy to be a little immoral? What is the role of realism vs. learning objectives?

Can karma have the properties of an accumulator, where one might be able to work off debts? Can this moral ambiguity exist in an environment supported by corporations, for whom ethics have to be black and white?

Can one's negative actions create indestructible demons waiting to spring upon one, perhaps visualized in a heads up display (HUD)? (In WILL Interactive's branching story on Sexually Transmitted Diseases, drinking too much eliminates options for getting out of a high pressure situation; in Tropico, where you are the president of an island-state, you can put off elections, but that increases discontent of your people that might rise up in arms.)

And, would you want to seduce people into becoming bad? Would you engage in moral entrapment? Would you want to pull people to the dark side, and then surprise people with a mirror of themselves?

Is this a matter of aligning strategies and tactics? One's degree of morality becomes a strategy that has to work into a larger context? Cheat, but only in certain industries?

Would the ethical problem really be just a single solution puzzle, like the beer game? Would students go through it once, be tricked, and then never be fooled again? Would older students tell younger students "the solution?"

Likewise, how might one deal with ethical violations in others? What if a great salesperson committed slight moral breaches? Do ethical violations spread in a chain reaction if not stopped? Are ethical violations contagions to be caught and spread? Or is there a balancing loop? Might one set up a containment strategy around a necessarily or incurably corrupt group? And how do you even find ethical violations? Does it require an act of probing?

And if you were a manager, would you be concerened if an employee playing the sim engaged in highly unethical behavior? Aren't sims supposed to be safe places?

All of this talk is academic, to some degree. The most important design consideration is that corporate sponsors can't even acknowledge that breaches of morality might have anything but bad consequences. It might be a paradox of this industry that in areas where sims could do the most good, they might not be able to do anything at all.

See selective enforcement or breaking of rules: the critical skill that no school or training group will even admit exists.

Monday, September 10

T+D Article - Input from a LCB Big Question

I periodically get feedback from people on the value of having the varied perspectives that come in through the Big Questions. I'm sure that participants have seen that value as well (although it likely differs from month to month).

I also wanted to point out that a recent T+D article Learning and Networking with a Blog used perspectives from the October 2006 Big Question - Should All Learning Professionals Be Blogging?

You can see a bit more of the article that got deleted at: Learning and Networking with a Blog (Deleted Scenes).

September Big Question - Where to Work?

This question was sent to me a few weeks ago and I think it's great. The basic question is what are the best places to work. I'm sure we've all thought a bit about the different trade-offs with internal vs. external, different size/shape companies, types of industries, etc. And, I'm sure you'd love to know what other people think about this. So, this month's big questions is...

So, this month, The Big Question is...

Where to Work?

Please answer this question by posting to your own blog or commenting on this post.
(For further help in how to participate via blog posts, see the side bar.)

Points to Consider:
  • What should be considered such as innovative work, interesting projects, real impact, pay, life style, etc.?
  • What types of companies make sense in different situations?
  • What resources exist to help make sense of this?
  • How does this differ for different roles such as Manager, Instructional Designer, Trainer and Authors?
  • Does this apply in the US, UK, India, etc. equally?
  • If you aren't at a "best place to work", how might you make a transition?
Alternatively, feel free to tell us what's good and bad about your current job and what you are considering and why. I'm sure that everyone will be interested in these varied perspectives.

Participating Blogs:

Once you’ve posted your answer on your blog, please report your post using the form below. Your post will be added to the list within the next 24 hours (hopefully sooner) that will appear below the entry form.

NOTE: If the forms do not appear below, please hit your browser’s refresh button. If the forms still do not appear, please use the Dear Blogmeister form which can be linked to from the top of the sidebar.

This list can also be viewed by clicking here.

We have created a tag for The Big Question. Please feel free to bookmark your participating post, your comment rss for your post, other web-based resources you feel relate to the June 2007 Big Question to using the tag


You can go to the page for this tag by clicking on the image to the left.


Wednesday, August 8

No August Big Question

Just a quick note to let everyone know that because of lack of time during August, I'll not be posting a Big Question for August. See you again in September.

As always, if you have thoughts around the big question, feel free to leave a comment here or send me an email (akarrer [at] techempower [dot] com).

Friday, August 3

What groups of employees are the no-brainers to train?

I was doing some benchmarking the other day between a few different organizations. One question that was asked was, what are the "no-brainer" groups of employees to train? (And there may be a second question, what are the no-brainer topics to train, like leadership, ethics, sexual harassment, etc).

To me, the obvious groups are:

What are other obvious classes of people that should be part of a formal learning program?

Tuesday, July 31

The Bottleneck - A Lack of Succession Planning in HR

We are all faced with a hobbling paradox. Most agree that employees make or break an enterprise, but the HR team often seems to be constantly catching up.

Business leaders complain that they have to "break in" new HR people, and that individuals with HR degrees in college are not overly useful. Finally, when business leaders do praise HR, it is an individual person who gets praised, not the department.

Obviously, this impacts Training and Development efforts directly. Any real effort to develop Big Skills requires a trust on the sponsor's part and a competency on the deliverer's part that too often are just not there. And any T+D efforts not around Big Skills is just treading water for the training group.

As I work with global organizations, I have recently been aware of a staggering truth. Most HR groups have no succession planning for themselves. This is true even when HR works hard to create succession planning for every other part of the enterprise.

If this is true, it both provides an explanation and a surprisingly easy remedy for the Hobbled HR group. And best of all, HR is already good at it: they know the tools of identification, rotational assignments, fast tracking, retention for strategic talent, partnering with business groups on critical projects, and global exposure.

We have all heard the jokes about the lawyer who died without leaving a will, or the shoemaker's children going barefoot. So maybe it is time for the doctor to heal thyself.

Tuesday, July 10

Choosing Tools - Big Question for July

As compared to ten years ago when there were roughly four major authoring tools, today there are a large number of different tools and different approaches to creating content. You can use standard authoring tools, rapid development tools, LCMS, simulation development tools, HTML editors, Wikis, and many others including a vast array of media creation solutions. And to make matters more difficult seems to be a constant flood of new tools. We literally have 100s of choices.

So, this month, The Big Question is...

Choosing Tools?

Please answer this question by posting to your own blog or commenting on this post.
(For further help in how to participate via blog posts, see the side bar.)

Points to Consider:
  • How does the eLearning design process need to change to accomodate such a wide variety of tools?
  • How does the tool selection process need to change?
  • What should learning professionals do to stay up-to-speed? Do they need to learn new tools constantly? Can they stick with a few tools?
  • Will this trend continue? If so, then what does that imply for us?

Cathy Moore
Making Change
Elearning examples are here!
Jeff Cobb
Mission to Learn
E-learning Tools and Strategy
Claudia Escribano
Too Many Tools?
Karl Kapp
Kapp Notes
Design Day and the ASTD Big Question for July
Janet Clarey
Janet Clarey, Brandon Hall Research
Choosing Tools
Quintus Joubert
eLearning Blog
eLearning tool selection


Sunday, July 1

Capability-Based Content

Stephen Lahanas recently started a new topic on the Learning Circuits Blog Discussion Wiki. His topic is Capability-Based Content which he describes as:

Capability based content is developed specifically with capability assimilation as its primary expectation outcome. This directly contradicts the majority of learning content developed today using traditional assessment-based outcome paradigms. Capability-based content represents both a pedagogy as well as methodology for content development.

Not only would Stephen like to discuss this topic with others on the LCB Discussion Wiki, he's looking to get some help in building out a model and examples which can be operationalized to drive the development of capability-based content.
If you're curious and/or would like to help Stephen with this project, check out the capability-based content page on the LCB Discussion Wiki.
Remember, the LCB Discussion Wiki is available to any member of the LCB community who wishes to us it to raise a topic for discussion with the community. Just create a page, add your topic and you're off and running. Please also drop me a note using the form on the FAQ page so I can help you make sure your page is formatted correctly and a notice, like this one, gets posted to LCB to let everyone know your page exists.

Monday, June 4

Big Question for June - Where are the Examples of eLearning?

One of the things that has always been somewhat surprising to me is that there seem to be relatively few examples of different kinds of eLearning available out there. So, this month I wanted to ask a slightly different kind of question that hopefully can produce something of value.

The Big Question is...

Where are the Examples of eLearning?

Please answer this question by posting to your own blog or commenting on this post.
(For further help in how to participate via blog posts, see the side bar.)

Points to Consider:
  • Please point us to all sorts of examples.
  • Good examples, bad examples are welcome.
  • Please give us a few thoughts of why you think this is an example that we should give some attention.

Val Evans Social Software Research Knowledge Sharing Case Studies 16-Jul-2007 13:25:50
Val Evans Social Software Research Teaching and Learning Case Studies 16-Jul-2007 13:20:36
e-Learning Tyro e-Learning Tyro e-Learning Demos 28-Jun-2007 23:29:45
Claudia Escribano LifeLongLearningLab Examples of E-Learning 27-Jun-2007 19:17:02
Gabe Anderson Articulate - Word of Mouth Blog Where are Examples of eLearning? Lots Right Here! 26-Jun-2007 11:30:51
Dave Lee eelearning exemplary elearning solutions 14-Jun-2007 13:43:59
Dave Lee eelearning what is a "good example"? 13-Jun-2007 00:00:00
Adele Lim learning & development LCB Big Q for June: Eg of e-Learning 11-Jun-2007 03:17:57
Tony Whittingham Fantastic Resources for Students The Power of Three 11-Jun-2007 02:37:24
Quintus Joubert eLearning Blog Where are the Examples of eLearning? 11-Jun-2007 12:50:52
Peter Isackson Learning Circuits Blog Example of eLearning 09-Jun-2007 10:33:33
Kevin Vaughan Flexible Learning Network Designing e-learning 09-Jun-2007 08:34:26
Karl M. Kapp Kapp Notes Show Me the Examples! ASTD Big Question for June 07-Jun-2007 14:41:56
Mark Frank Learning in Context Two examples of elearning 07-Jun-2007 02:26:24
Tony Karrer eLearning Technology Creating a Blog in Blogger 07-Jun-2007 07:04:40
Piotr elearning-20 Best Examples of eLearning 05-Jun-2007 11:06:22
Clark Aldrich Clark Aldrich's Blog: The Elements of Interactivity [Examples] of simulations: a dynamic list of entries with playable examples 05-Jun-2007 08:33:21

Friday, May 25

My conversation with academics

Phd: I heard you think you have a great program.

Me: I do. I have this great program to develop people.

PhD: Why is it so good?

Me: Because it makes people more productive in the workplace.

PhD: So it's vocational? That's not really my thing.

Me: No, it's around leadership.

PhD.: If it is about doing anything work-related, it is by definition vocational.

Me: Well, you could use it to lead in a non-profit organization. Or a lab. Or run a university.

PhD: Well, I guess THAT wouldn't be vocational. What theories of leadership and education are you using?

Me: I can dig some up, but more importantly, I have stacks of results.

PhD: I like theories a lot more. Besides, why should I trust your results? You are a vendor.

Me: Because all of the research was done by third parties.

PhD: Sure, but the research was done by someone.

Me: Ah, yes.

PhD: And that person was no doubt proud of their results.

Me: I guess.

PhD: Well, those people were all bias towards success. Research invalid. QED.

Me: Ah, okay.

PhD: You are thinking about this all wrong. What you need is a firm foundation of theory. Either use an existing theory, or pose a question, and then find the evidence to support it or refute it.

Me: Why?

PhD: That will increase your chances of success.

Me: But I already have success!

PhD: But not repeatable success. Your type of success requires people who care about the results. Your programs require ownership.

Me: I guess...

Phd: But if you build an academic case, then the results just happen, even if no one cares. It's like physcis.

Me: Do your projects work?

PhD: Hardly ever. But that's the best part. First, it's not my fault, it's the theories'. Second, obviously, we feedback that knowledge of failure into the process, and refine our knowledge base. We end up with better theories, not just one off successes.

Me: Hmmm.

PhD: You just don't get it, do you? Where's another PhD? They get it.

Friday, May 11

Dear Hollywood (a heads up from the training world),

Dear Hollywood,

I bring you tidings from the Corporate training world. I hope you are doing well, and am looking forward to your summer fare.

I just have two pieces of bad news for you, and as a friend, I thought I would break it to you directly. Here is the first: your movies are just too long.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Hot Fuzz: 2 hr. 1 min.
  • Spiderman 3: 2 hr. 20 min
  • Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest: 2 hr. 20 min

Plus, when you add driving, parking, and previews, we are talking about a 3 to 4 hour commitment or longer. Who are you trying to kid? WAKE UP!

I can tell as a fact that no one has 3 hours anymore. No one. It is IMPOSSIBLE to find 3 hours in people's schedules. People are just too busy.

Learn from me. If I propose any program, I make sure it takes less than 30 minutes, and maybe even less than 15 minutes of a person's time. My motto is deliver a bit of information exactly when they need it and move on. My ultimate goal is to be a faint, useful smell wafting through the corridors. That is, after all, the easiest conversation to have with my business colleagues.

Now granted, that means I can't actually develop any new capabilities. But I can, using this "wafting" strategy, get enough funds to scrape together program pilots, as long as I only put one group through it of less than twenty people. I know, I know, you are producing blockbusters, and I am facing another budget cut. But that's just because your audiences don't get the new realities, and mine do.

I just thought of another great example. YouTube is doing so well because it provides short movies. My IT people tell me that employees entertain themselves for hours at work watching these clips and.. (oh, wait. Never mind. Bad example.)

The second piece of bad news is actually worse. Your movies take too long to produce. Two years? You have got to be kidding me. Ask any "expert" from the training world (and we have a lot of them). THERE IS NO WAY OF PREDICTING THINGS that far in advance. We have to react constantly. Wait... hold on.... THERE! Everything changed. Did you feel it? Entire social orders were up ended. Old models fell apart. Things change every second. The fact that you actually think you can know what people will like and need two years from now if frankly, a little embarrassing. (And the best part is, "embracing" constant change really means that you always have an excuse for not doing anything very well. Why research anything when you can "gut check?" Why design a program when you can just use Google? Why take responsibility or ownership at all?)

So, I thought I would give you the two pieces of bad news, and please accept my deep, deep condolences. And, of yeah, my resume.


The Training Community

Tuesday, May 8

My ode to PowerPoint

Regarding the Big Question, I love PowerPoint to create graphics and present findings. What is great about them is that I can first play with them for a while to get them right, then embed them in Word documents, where they are small from a size perspective, remain editable, but also print (and translate to Acrobat) incredibly well because the programs still recognize the text in them. Given that the value that I often provide to clients is create fabulous IP, this is critical. Here are some public examples of PowerPoints I have created, and please click to enlarge.

Monday, May 7

Big Question - PowerPoint

Due to some new research, the appropriate use of PowerPoint is again a topic of discussion. I went back to look at different opinions expressed in the past, and I'm not sure that there's much consensus on whether we should use PowerPoint, how to use it appropriately, when it makes sense or when it doesn't and why.

So, this month, The Big Question is...

PowerPoint - What is Appropriate, When and Why?

Please answer this question by posting to your own blog or commenting on this post.
(For further help in how to participate via blog posts, see the side bar.)

Points to Consider:

As you write your answer, please consider some of the following aspects:

  • How should you use PowerPoint differently for different kinds of presentations?
  • Are there times when PowerPoint (or slides in general) are just wrong to use? Conversely, are there times when it's wrong not to use slides?
  • Are reinforcing bullet points (in text) good in some context? What governs their use?
  • Is there research that supports any of these opinions or is it based on our beliefs having sat through good and bad presentations?
  • If you find good resources on this topic, please tag them in with lcbPowerPoint. You can find tagged pages at:
  • Examples of bad slides and improved versions for particular kinds of presentations would be fantastic to see?

Claudia Escribano LifeLongLearningLab A Big Question on PowerPoint 30-May-2007 20:58:36

Tom Crawford thcrawford PowerPoint - What is Appropriate, When and Why? 30-May-2007 07:52:35

Wendy in-the-middle-of-the-curve More Thoughts on PowerPoint 16-May-2007 15:44:51

Dave Lee eelearning there they go with the powerpoint thing, again! 16-May-2007 00:00:00

LCB Learning Circuits Blog Big Question - PowerPoint 14-May-2007 09:44:15

Jim MacLennan cazh1: on Business, Information, and Technology Five Under-Emphasized PowerPoint Best Practices 13-May-2007 12:38:56

Keith Peter PowerPoint Big Question 12-May-2007 02:59:43

Jacob McNulty Revolutions What’s the Point of Power Point? Or…what’s the Power? 15-May-2007 14:30:15

Shilpa Patwardhan Closed World Presentation Tool? Yes. Teaching Tool? No. 11-May-2007 06:46:18

Geetha Krishnan Simply Speaking Making Presentations 11-May-2007 06:25:10

Dave F. Dave's Whiteboard The power's in the point 10-May-2007 20:48:29

Tony Karrer eLearning Technology PowerPoint - A Question 10-May-2007 15:05:59

Gary Hegenbart eLearning Development News The Value of PowerPoint 10-May-2007 12:51:52

Giulia Calfapietro La Community di LTEver P.P.: What is Appropriate? 10-May-2007 12:17:55

Giulia Calfapietro La Community di LTEver Power Point: What is appropriate? 10-May-2007 12:12:28

Giulia Calfapietro La Community di LTEver Power Point: What is Appropriate, when and why? 10-May-2007 12:10:35

Lanny Arvan Lanny on Learning Technology PowerPoint - Again 10-May-2007 11:45:11

Gabe Anderson Articulate - Word of Mouth Blog 7 Quick Tips for Spicing up Your PowerPoint Design 11-May-2007 09:27:38

Dennis McDonald All Kind Food PowerPoint: The Tool People Love to Hate 11-May-2007 03:31:14

Clive Shepherd Clive on Learning The Big Question: PowerPoint 11-May-2007 01:49:31

TATA INTERACTIVE SYSTEMS TIS Corporate Blog Evil Tools or Evil Uses? 10-May-2007 06:29:07

Karl Kapp Kapp Notes Avoiding Death by PowerPoint 09-May-2007 19:53:55

Wendy in-the-middle-of-the-curve PowerPoint - My Thoughts 09-May-2007 13:40:43

Clark Quinn Learnlets PowerPoint, evil or just a tool? 08-May-2007 09:18:16

Owen Ferguson Learning and Development PowerPoint - What is Appropriate, When and Why? 09-May-2007 08:25:26

Tony Karrer eLearning Technology PowerPoint - Seth's Booklet 08-May-2007 17:05:11

Dennis McDonald All Kind Food Using a Blog for a "Web 2.0" Presentation instead of PowerPoint 08-May-2007 10:45:19

Guy W Wallace The Pursuing Performance Blog The Big Question is... 08-May-2007 07:38:52

Tony Karrer eLearning Technology PowerPoint Preparation is Good 08-May-2007 07:17:18

Jay Cross Internet Time Blog The Big PowerPoint Question 07-May-2007 21:21:14

Mitch Owen Lead2020 Powerpoint: Should you use it? 07-May-2007 19:24:27

Karyn Romeis Karyn's blog This month's big question: PowerPoint 08-May-2007 03:57:23

Mark Frank Learning in Context PowerPoint 09-May-2007 04:40:08

Dennis Coxe Sailing by the Sound Cognitive Load and PowerPoint 08-May-2007 11:57:36

Tony Karrer eLearning Technology Background Reading - Use of PowerPoint 07-May-2007 08:39:55

Thursday, May 3

The New Hierarchy: First, learning to BE; second, learning to DO; and only then, learning to KNOW

I had a high school teacher who observed that the male students seemed to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to be male students, and the female students seemed to spend a lot of time trying figure out how to get male students.

As I work with companies implementing both social networking and simulation technology, I have observed a new hierarchy of needs.

1. Learning to Be

People strive to know who they are. What do they like to do, and what do they hate to do? With whom are they most comfortable, or motivated, or depressed? Who are their role models? How can they get satisfaction and sustainability out of life? What are their priorities? What is a good day and what is a bad day? Where do they fall on the issues of the day? Is it better to be directive or participative?

As people figure this out, they want to test this new personality out on the world. They make comments online, and post pictures. They speak up at meetings. They give suggestions and then orders of their co-workers, friends, and subordinates. They strive understanding and validation.

To a large degree, this has been the drive of much of social networking and web 2.0, as well as pop culture, and "Cosmo" and self-tests. People today strive for self definition increasingly globally, not just defining themselves by where they live, where they work, or as a friend or enemy of the next door neighbor.

2. Learning to Do

People then want to have a impact on the flow of their world - to change the course of activity in a positive way because of what they do.

This is where the big skills, such as leadership, stewardship, project management, and innovation come in. This is where people put forth some blood, sweat, and tears, and experience ownership

This is where simulations play a critical role. Immersive learning simulations, especially practiceware, have the ability to give people ten years of distilled experience in 15 hours.

Sims develop an awareness of the all-critical "active knoweldge" trinity of:

  • actions;
  • results; and
  • the hidden system that too often counter-intuitively connect the two.

3. Learning to Know

At this point comes the learning to know. This might be cultural literacy/history, or organizational history, or trivia. This is where we try to make sense of the world we inherited - to piece together the giant puzzle. This is where books and the History Channel become so interesting. It is around this third category that academics has built both their curricula and their research process, one of the reasons I have so little hope for the role of Ph.d dominated Foundations to add significantly to the first two.

I say again that what we teach is limited by what we can teach. The exciting thing about this new media order is that we have more power at our fingertips for development than ever before.

Sunday, April 29

Happy Anniversary!

I've been having some connection challenges the past few days, so I'm almost belated with this post but not quite - I've still got an hour until midnight here on the US Pacific Coast.

Five years ago, today - April 29, 2002, Jay Cross made the first official post to Learning Circuits Blog.

Welcome to the Learning Circuits Blog!

A blog (short for web-log) lets you post a few sentences -- you don't have to puff up an observation into an article to post it. Blogs are spontaneous and informal. Also, there's no delay between writing an item and posting it on the web. A group of us are experimenting here, dropping thought-fragments and opinions into our group blog. If we're successful, you'll begin coming to the Learning Circuits Blog for late-breaking news.

For more about blogs, here's the article about learning blogs that appeared in Learning Circuits last week.

I'll ask our initial bloggers to begin by telling us who they are, what interests them, and their URLs.

The list of Jay's friends who joined him on his experiment with a new technology included Clark Aldrich, Peter Isackson, Tom Barron, Kevin Wheeler, Ellen Wagner, Clark Quinn, and Margaret Driscoll.  Both Clarks, Peter and Jay are still consistent contributors to Learning Circuits Blog five years later. 

LCB was an outgrowth of Jay's person website and blog efforts.  He linked up with ASTD's Learning Circuits Magazine to experiment with a new technology.  LCB's affiliation with Learning Circuits continues to this day.  It's been a unique relationship as we draw upon each other's connections and knowledge but ASTD has allowed LCB 100% freedom in editorial direction - allowing it to truly be a blog.

LCB has seen some lean times and some great successes.  Sam Adkins' We Are the Problem:  We're Selling Snake Oil post on November 17, 2003 rocked the elearning world.  It drew 60 comments when LCB had been averaging just over 2 per post at that point.  

In January of 2005, it was my great fortune to have Jay ask me to take over the reins of  Learning Circuits Blog.  It's been great experience thus far and only promises to be just as stimulating and exciting as we move forward.

We will begin our 6th year of publishing thought provoking content on the internet by trying to expand on the success of the feature Tony Karrer guided into existence last October - The Big Question.  With The Big Question, we found a way to involve more of our community and make LCB a dynamic hub of networked activity.  It's been exciting to see over 60 learning professionals step forward and publish posts as part of The Big Question in our first 7 months of the feature.  The conversations have been stimulating and authentic.

You'll read in the next few days how we're planning to change LCB and how you can help.  By 2012 and our tenth anniversary, LCB will be radically different than it is today, just as those first few posts seem archaic in light of today's blogosphere.

But then it wouldn't be true to the experimental nature of LCB's birth if we didn't pursue change, now would it?

Thank you to everyone who's been a part of the first five years of Learning Circuits Blog!

Dave, your humble blogmeister

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Wednesday, April 18

Training as Tic Tacs or Warm Tea

How often have you been in a situation where the training was absolutely wrong for the participant?

I don't mean wrong as in, person will never use these skills, or wrong as in, person should be out selling instead of being in a formal learning program, or wrong as in, this is a very basic program for a very senior person, but wrong as in if a person applies the skills, they will do much worse at their job?

This might be because the program was not fully tested, or the wrong skills for the person.

If the answer is no, that training has never been harmful, then is the corollary true: that training can't do much good? Is training just warm tea and tic tacs to make participants a little better?

I look for evidence that training is getting stronger. Paradoxically, the thing that will be most convincing is a story of a training program actually being disasterously harmful.

Tuesday, April 17

Get to know Lucinda Roy

How many of you knew Lucinda Roy? (I didn’t). How many of you know her now? Probably a lot more.

Our educational institutions were already in a deep crisis and didn’t need a mass killing to help sort things out. But in the midst of a senseless, heart-breaking and deeply troubling tragedy, Lucinda Roy, black, British and a successful writer is the “professor” who out of concern volunteered to handle Cho Seung-Hui face to face in an attempt to penetrate his shell.

Her heroism, which unfortunately took her only as far as the system would allow (raising major questions and boding ill for the future) is matched by her wisdom concerning the use of technology. I refer all of you to this delightful interview about technology in education:

Here are just a few of the key points:

One thing I've learned from this online interaction is that the ways in which we speak to each other [online] are very different from the way we would speak if we were face to face. Students working online are often much more informal early in the semester. Most teachers who love tutorials really love online interaction if it's designed well. You can have the kinds of dialogue you would not normally have in a public space.

We can all draw our own conclusions (and probably already have) about the value of informality!

You cannot learn to write unless you write. When the only channel of communication you have is the online channel, it is amazing how much people will write.

Expression and output are the principal means of learning, not listening and taking notes.

If you have a class of 300 to 400, you cannot teach well using all this interactive technology unless you are also going to build in some personal support behind it. You cannot imagine that you can answer all those queries well and improve the quality of education if you're the only person doing it. It's very frustrating. We do need to think about how anyone experimenting with this new environment has the kind of personnel support that they need. I don't think we do very well at it.

It’s all about organization and responsibility in encouraging and orientating dialogue.

I throw in the next point because I thought it culturally significant and worth reflecting on. Why doesn’t education help us to see what we ingest?

One of the things I see is people selecting from this menu in the cafeteria and making a plate that's so ugly, you really wouldn't want to eat it.

The last one I think no one has any trouble recognizing.

It's confusing also because there are a lot of people suddenly involved in the education process who have their own agendas. Some are from the corporate world and really want to push a particular kind of software as the answer to everything.

Read the interview. And be like me: try to find out more about this amazing woman!

P.S. The interview dates from 1998. She was a pioneer.

Monday, April 16

A lecture format that a sim-person could love

I travel all over the world presenting research and ideas on simulations (typically to a larger group, before working more closely with a smaller group). But I am constantly stuck with the same conundrum - how do you capture the spirit of simulations while presenting material?

(And just to say, I am no Thiagi. I cannot engage and delight anywhere near his level, if at all).

I was at the Army War College on Friday, and tried something for the first time that was really great. I loaded up a copy of my wiki-like blog on each of the student computers. I gave them free permission to unabashedly explore the material while I was talking.

I told them they could go straight to the sim Examples (everything in [brackets] took them to real, outside examples), if they wanted. Or they could explore theory and concepts. They could even drift off to tangential areas like Social Networking.

When I was talking, probably a third didn't hear a word I said - they were off exploring THE SAME MATERIAL, but in a self-directed and more open-ended way. Probably a third did what I would have done - drifted back and forth. And a third actually listened to me.

Clearly, this is a work in progress. But it felt like a major step, at least in my own view of what formal learning can and should be.

Thursday, April 12

Are "inspirational stories" the crack cocaine of our industry?

I have an unpopular suggestion for rebooting the formal learning industries. Let's put a one-year ban on "inspirational stories."

You know what I am talking about: these are the pithy, well rehearsed, well honed, fiction-presented-as-truth stories by "experts/gurus." In these stories, a variation of the hero's journey, an unlikely person is given a daunting task. They are first overcome by the weight of the responsibility, but then rise to the occasion, apply cleverness and fortitude, and end up with a surprising result. They are as accurate to reality as Frank Miller's Spartan story of "300."

Conferences and executive programs are chock full of "inspirational stories." And don't get me wrong - I love them. They are intellectually delightful concoctions, the equivalent of a buttery croissant with fresh preserves - so unbelievably tasty going down, and yet so useless to the system craving nourishment. They make us feel good and full of hope for just long enough to fill out the speaker survey.

I noted in 1999 that corporations were making e-learning content decisions based on bulk (the more courses, with a lower cost-per-course, the better). Then, in 2002, the same corporations complained that e-learning was vacuous. D'oh!

Likewise, we are currently demanding, through buying their books and praising their speeches, some of the smartest people in business to constantly take real-world anecdotes, fluff them up with some best practices, toss in some faux humility, hone their structure and humor in their delivery, and create a steady stream of "inspirational stories." Then we complain when organizations, after digesting a diet of this white bread from both conferences and management training programs, don't do anything different. Double d'oh!

There seems to a group of "story-fanatics" that fit mostly the same, general description.

  • About 45 to 60
  • Love story-telling, and may have studied it, or theater, as a major.
  • Fascinated by the "hero-journey."
  • Don't play computer games or engage in social networking, or have minimally so they can say they have.
  • Adore the medium of video, the constructs of cinema, and, if pushed, will reluctantly agree to the effectiveness of a branching story type of simulation.
  • View the story as the most effective form of learning.
  • Have reams of studies at their fingertips to "validate" their passion.

I am more excited and intrigued by the double aspect of user participation and non-linear content as the cornerstones of effective content. Perhaps the most pithy research for the first, user participation and activity, not just exposure, is cognitively necessary for learning, comes from an old study:

In a famous experiment, Held and Hein (1963) exposed two kittens to nearly identical visual information. This was done by placing one of the kittens (the passive kitten) in a little gondola, and linking it up to a harness worn by the other (active) kitten so that as the active kitten moved about and explored its environment, the passive kitten was moved in exactly the same manner. The result was that only the active kitten developed normal depth perception. The passive kitten, even though its sensory input was nearly identical, did not. (

Stories are always a good start. They are critical for building caring. We are as genetically predispositioned to listening to good stories as seeking fire and shelter. But they are just a first, tiny step, the appetizers to real learning's main course.

So, let's go a year without any inspirational stories. Let's push ourselves as the formal learning industries to give up our golden crutch. Let's carefully study the works of people like Thiagi.

There are some people who just can't imagine a learning program without a steady stream of inspirational stories. To these, this very post will get their blood pumping with righteous anger. I have, in their view of the world, slapped my white glove across their face. It is these addicts that most of all need to go without, if only for 12 months.