#DevLearn retrospective: Start dreaming about the future of eLearning


This year more than ever DevLearn addressed the future of eLearning. The message from the keynote by John Landau was that imagination precedes the technique. The stories in movies like Titanic and Avatar were impossible to realize with the techniques available at the time the stories were written. So they created the techniques in order to be able to create the movies. Our current situation is reverse. Thanks to the TinCan API (now renamed into ‘experience API’) the technique is ahead of us (learning developers and vendors). Instead of us challenging the technique, the technique is challenging us. There was another keynote by Allisone Levine at DevLearn. She draws all kind of lessons from her experiences as an adventurer. Unfortunately I was in meetings during her presentation. I stepped in for 5 minutes and heard her say: “Fear is ok. It’s normal. Complacency will kill you. You can’t afford to do nothing in an environment that is rapidly changing.” It applies to us. Our environment is rapidly changing and we need to step up to the challenge and we can’t afford to wait and see. (By the way in the back-channel I found a post by Tracy Parish who has captured a whole bunch of great lessons from that keynote.)

So what to do? It will be a mutual challenge for the people who are developing this standard, for vendors and for eLearning developers. Let’s take a closer look at our challenge.

Our challengers

I took this Photo at the TinCan panel session at DevLearn. The guy sitting on the left is Aron Silvers from ADL. He is the driving force behind the experience API. The third guy is Mike Rustici from Rustici software (the company behind Scorm cloud) the company that developed the TinCan API. They are the ones challenging us. What they did is in principle very simple. They changed the standard from a tracking and tracing system (Scorm) into a learning experience facilitator. All we need to do is to figure out what that means.

The vendors
It is time for the vendors to step up to the challenge and develop solutions that will unleash the power of TinCan for you. It is not about implementing TinCan as an extra publish option; enabling tracking and tracing via a new standard is the easy part. No, we need to facilitate new forms of eLearning where you can include real live activities into your eLearning. We need to come up with forms where learning is centered around experiences instead of  information transfer. It is about connecting learning to the workplace, combining informal and formal learning and all that stuff we have been talking about for years but could never really do in a Scorm course. Another big thing is feedback. TinCan will inform your course on what people are doing and your learning needs to be able to respond to that. The tracking will change in a feed back mechanism that you can use to offer proper learning experiences, real adaptive learning based on real life outcomes. Will this happen in an LMS, in an formal course, or somewhere else? It will probably be a combination of all three. And the truth is that I don’t have the answer. We do have some ideas but we know we can’t figure this out without our partners and the users of our authoring tool.

We are aware of the fact that we as a vendor should engage our users more and start joining forces with them. And we will. A small example is the feedback button we build in, in the latest edition of easygenerator. Any user can click on it and can come up with a suggestion or an idea. All ideas will go direct to our product owner who is responsible for the product development. We will to do more like organizing a series of webinars to discuss the effect of TinCan for eLearning development and open up a community. We plan to have support for TinCan in easygenerator in February and the great thing is, we don’t have a clue how it will look and what it will enable. I’m looking forward to this process and you are all invited to join in.

From eLearning developer to Learning experience director
So what do you need to do? Just follow the advice from John Landau and start dreaming and follow the advice from Allison Levine and start acting. Dream about what it would mean if you can include real life activities (of any kind and in every place) into your learning, what you could do if you can respond to the outcome of these learning experiences from your learner and figure out a first step. Make sure that your vendor enables you, by telling them what you need. Our (vendors and eLearning developers) mutual goal is to come up with so many new ideas that we make guys like Aron and Mike sweat in order to catch up with us.

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