I’m dreaming of an open learning content landscape

I’m still all fired up by the learning solution conference of last week. During one session we had to answer the question: “Where will you be in 5 years from now”. I will answer it in this post: so it is time for some daydreams.

For me personally I hope and expect that I will still be working at easygenerator. By then we are recognized as the best learning content platform in the world, we will have an active network of partners in 121 countries and we will have more end users than we can count. But probably you couldn’t care less.

What might be interesting to you is where our learning content will be and what will happen with it. Inspired by the learning landscape of Will Tallheimer I created a content landscape. This is how I dream that that landscape will look like in five years’ time.

Content landscapeOk, instead of easygenerator in the middle, it should have said ‘any content management or authoring system’, but it’s my dream so I can do what I want. Here are the details.

From the authoring tool (easygenerator) perspective
Content management and authoring tools are completely open, allowing authors to pull in information from anywhere and to publish to all kinds of systems. Easygenerator has no functionality to create images, flash or any other type of media content. There are great tools available that do just that. Easygenerator is the content integrator, enabling authors to gather, organize and publish all kinds of learning content and to create and maintain text in multiple languages. It supports open standards that enable you to connect to all kind of media on the web and any type of content that you have produced in any other tool. You can freely pull that information in, our push it out and it will work flawless in all systems on all platforms. Learning content is tagged for context, so it knows what is it about, for whom it is and when to show itself. Learning content is published in all kind of systems: Learning Managements Systems, Knowledge Management Systems, Social networks, internet, intranet and Electronic Performance systems. They closely work together in presenting relevant information in an active way to the learner precisely when he needs it.

From the author’s perspective
Authors will create learning material, harvesting all source materials from the web, gathering it from SME’s through social media, working together with designers, managers, SME’s, project managers. Content is re-used a lot and the structure of  courses is languages independent, so you can maintain courses in many languages with that one structure. Context is added in the form of meta data, most of the tags are generated automatically, some of them added by authors or by end users of the content. Authors have reports on the usage of courses and topics and the will get loads of user feed back (like/dislike and comments) they adjust the content based on this input. If they change anything, it is available to users within seconds.

From the learners perspective
A learner who has an question or a problem is supported because there is a lot of information available about him that creates a user context. Based on location, preferences, previous issues, education, function, current usage of systems a context is automatically defined. The content is also context aware. Whenever a user activates a help or learning system relevant information is automatically presented using filters that apply both contexts. Users can add to content or comment on content (based on rights and type of content) and indicate whether they like content or not.

Probably I can come up with a lot more, but you will hopefully get my drift.

Learning Solutions conference: the day after. #LS2011

What did I learn the last few days at the guild conference?

Learning is about people and not about tools
Sometimes we forget this, especially someone like me who works with a tool vendor. But of course it’s true, tools are the means and not the goal. But there is more than just that statement. Thanks to the keynote from John Medina I got a better understanding on how remembering (or forgetting) works. We need to take this into account, especially when we are creating courses that transfer knowledge. From Nancy Duarte I learned how to capture and convince people (I’m half way through her book now) and how powerful story telling is. Through the keynote from Michael Wesh I have learned how tools affect people, how they even will change culture, but also the power people have to use those tools to their advantage.

We need to connect learning to the workplace and everyday problems
I was already convinced of this, we need to bring learning to the workplace and real life to the classroom. The role of e-Learning and e-Learning professionals will change from creator to moderator and editor. In stead of working with one or two SME’s, you will have hundreds or thousands through all social media networks, inside and outside your organization. All you got to do is capture their knowledge and insights, structure it and give it back in such a way people can find it when they need it. I learned that there is already a learning framework that supports this (Tallheimer) and that we have the technical ability to make this happen (DITA and search engines).

Difference between the US and Europe
One of the things that struck me most is the difference between e-Learning in the US and Europe. I got the impression that most e-Learning is PowerPoint or PowerPoint like and that appearance is everything. The new facilities authoring systems offer have a lot to do with presentation, animations making it more appealing and more sexy. This is important in Europe too, but having a PowerPoint as e-Learning course is just not done. E-Learning in Europe tries to go more in-depth, things like adaptive learning are hot. It would be interesting to find out what is more effective the US or the European way.

Overall I got confirmation on my ideas where e-Learning will be going. In my ‘vision‘ post I  addressed a number of issues. I saw and heard all of them back in Orlando, except adaptive e-Learning. But I got more, my ideas are deepened and  enriched. And it has created more connection between them. I will have to adjust and expand my Output Learning theory. Coming from Europe it does take a lot of time and money to visit a conference like this. But it was worth every Dollar and every minute.

Where are the digital natives?
The only that surprised me in a negative way is the average age of the attendees, I believe it will be somewhere around 40. This means that we are discussing the future of e-Learning between digital immigrants. Where are the natives? Are only the Guild masters present at this conference and did they leave their apprentices at home? Or was this conference representative for the guild population? In that case there is work to do!

I am member of the e-Learning guild for three years now (quite passive). This was my first Guild conference. I must say that the Guild really honors its name. It surprised and impressed me how willing people were to make time for me and to share their knowledge and networks with me. For me as a Guild conference newbie this was incredibly helpful, I got in contact with more people than I ever hoped for. Great networking and a great conference. I’ll be back and I will play a more active role in the community.

More information
You can find more information on the conference at the site of the e-LearningGuild. Downloads of presentations are available too. Another great source of information on the conference is misadventuresinlearning, it’s a collection of posts and notes about the conference and specific sessions, do have a look.

Learning Solutions day 3: Saved the best for the last #LS2011

Today was incredible, my best conference day ever (and I have been to a few conferences). In the morning I attended 4 great sessions, the conference ended at noon. After that I walked to a mall and did some shopping. Back in the hotel I worked a bit and then got to spent some time at the pool, reading in Nancy Duarte’s book. Now I have just finished a great Japanese dinner (here in the hotel) and am sitting next to the pool under the palm trees. It’s a beautiful evening, still warm, a little breeze and a bird is feeding her two youngsters on the edge of the pool. I’m accompanied by my laptop, cigarettes and Starbucks coffee and I even have an internet connection! Live can’t get better than that, does it?

It’s time to recap the conference day. The first two days were mostly about networking, but today I was able to attend three sessions and the last keynote. And …… they all were great. I got so much information that I’m still processing, I will try to summarize it for you.

What will e-Learning look like in 5 years time?

We had an inspiring discussion on the future of e-Learning, despite the early hour (7.15!). It is difficult to capture this for you but the discussion had some interesting turns and twists. We talked about social media and how it will affect learning, we talked about how to bring learning closer to the workplace, we discussed whether or not the role of an e-Learning professional would change from a writer to somebody who moderates and gathers information and then will structure and republish it. We talked about motivation of learners (motivation has dropped because we institutionalized learning so much that it got detached from every day live). There was not one outcome. Some people believed that there is not much new at the horizon and they are a bit worried from all the distraction social media offers, others believed that there will be drastic changes. I believe for myself that social media and web 3.0 possibilities will rock our e-Learning world. We will switch more and more to just in time learning and the role of the worker/learner will change from passive to active, we will reconnect learning to real life problems. The worker/learner will decide what they want to learn, when they want to learn it and how they will do that.

I couldn’t help noticing that the average age of the participants was well over 40 (yes I’m 48 myself). This means we were discussing the future of e-Learning between digital immigrants and that disqualifies us in a way. We will not hold the future, the digital natives will. The most likely scenario probably is that the younger generation will just take over from us and organizes learning in their own digital native way. After all when it comes to computers and the web most of the learning community are still non native speakers.

Introducing DITA learning and training content specialization

The second session was a presentation on DITA, an XML architecture that gives semantic structure to your content. It originates from the world of technical documentation (IBM) but it was recently extended with learning specifications. It will allow you to structure, organize, reuse and deliver your content. I believe that this will impact our learning (and authoring) world heavily, it means that we will be able to make and maintain content in a more effective way. But maybe even more important it means that with the aid of DITA you can publish to all kind of systems. Not only LMS (in Scorm format), but also to online help, EPSS systems, knowledge management systems et cetera. That is exactly what I was looking for. On top of that comes that DITA will free the users of authoring systems from their vendor lock-in. If all authoring systems support DITA a user could switch to an other system and take his content with him. I do believe that is a good thing, despite the fact that I’m CEO of a vendor. It will boost competition and quality. We will certainly investigate when (not if!) we can implement DITA in easygenerator.

Strange enough this session was partly a sort of ‘deja vue’ for me. In the early nineties I worked at Informaat at a content management system for online help en technical documentation. We tried to structure the content in a semantic way, we even used the same terms like topic types and we had a lot of the topic types that are now in DITA. Of course we didn’t get that far and of course there is no connecting between to work we did back then and DITA now. But it is fun to see that an idea you worked on 20 years ago is now alive and available.

Time for coffee?

I’m afraid that this will be my longest post ever and I’m only half way, but bear on with me, the best part is still to come. I got myself a second round of Starbucks, maybe you should do the same.

Web 3.0 and why it is relevant to e-Learning

This session was another eye-opener for me. Web 1.0 was about publishing, content could be read and shared. Web 2.0 created the possibility to interact and made it a two-way street. Web 3.0 will add context to the web. Selecting information that is relevant for you based on all kind of information that is available. Information will start to present itself at the time you need it.

They presented a Zachman framework and a Learning Landscape by Will Thallheimer. I watched his video just now and it is a must see for everybody who works in corporate e-Learning.

And if that is not enough they connected these two to Ontologies, Taxonomies, Folksonomies and controled vocabularies. A lot of fancy words for structured tags that declare what content is about. And they connect this to search tools like Google search appliance and Microsoft Fast search server. And again this was something I was looking for. Two months ago I started up a LinkedIn group ‘e-Learning Piranhas‘. It’s about exchanging innovative ideas for e-Learning and creating partnerships that can realize them. We had an intensive discussion on meta data and how this can help us to connect e-Learning to the workplace, make it context aware. The outcome from that discussion was open. My conclusion was that we needed a mix of meta data and search engines and some other things, only I didn’t know what these other things where. These guys might well have created the fundamentals for a solution. I will need to let it sink in more and read more about it, but this was a very valuable session for me.

From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able

After these great sessions it was time to relax, so I went to the Grand Ballroom, found a good seat and was ready for some mild amusement bringing me to the end of the conference. Instead I got the best and most intriguing presentation of the conference. Michael Wesh presented it, he is an anthropologist and gives a very refreshing view on current developments.

He made clear that tools and media like the TV and the Web not only change the way we gather information, they change everything, from culture to love. He made a video on Web 2.0 in January 2007, it got over 10 million views, you need to see this.

Shortly after he made this video he changed to way he taught (he is a professor). He  switched from theory to real live problems, doing projects with his student that result in the following:

For me that really brought it home, in his presentation he touched on most issues I was thinking about during the conference and he ended with the connection between learning and real life problems. That is the essence behind my post on output learning I wrote a few weeks ago. A lot of things seem to come together. I have to think this over, tomorrow on the plane I will try to write a post on what I learned at this conference, right now I’m just mind boggled.

Other posts on LS2011: Day 1, Day 2, The day after

Learning Solutions conference day 2 #LS2011

OK, day 2 of the conference.

Key Note: Nancy Duarte: Resonate

Nancy is all about presentations, she has a company that does just that. One of the presentations she was behind was the Al Gore presentation ‘The inconvenient truth’. So she knows what she is talking about and she is a great presenter herself.

She wrote a new book called Resonate. The title is based upon a phenomenon in physics. You can vibrate an object without touching it. If you play a sound with a certain vibration frequency the material will respond to it. See the video with salt on a Chladni plate.

The idea is of course that you want your presentation to resonate your audience and change them. Nice metaphor. We got a copy of the book and I can really recommend it to you, very interesting stuff. The part that I found most interesting was that she found a certain pattern in excellent presentations. In her presentation she showed two: Steve Jobs presentation on the Iphone launch and Martin Luther Kings ‘I have a dream’ speech.

Nancy Duarte sparklineThe lower line refers to the current situation the ‘what is’, the upper line refers to the desired situation, the ‘What could be’. A good presentation starts in the here and now and then switches between what is and what could be and always end with the could be. She analysed it much deeper, interesting stuff. If you want to know more, read here book. There is a relevance to e-Learning content as well!


After this I met Joe Ganci, he is a real e-Learning veteran. He was kind enough to take an hour and a half walking me through the conference and expo and introducing me to lots of interesting people. Amazing that a guy like that wants to do that for me, incredible and priceless to me. I owe him big time. If you read this Joe, thanks again.

Panel discussion

The last general session of the day was an interesting panel, with 6 e-Learning guru’s. They each could speak their mind for 5 minutes. What I got from it was:

– We have to bring learning to the workplace
– It’s not about technology or rules but about people
– Role of e-Learning professionals will change from creator of content to moderator of content
– There is a big role for social media in learning
– It’s about opportunities not about perils.

That was it for the day. I have signed up with another dinner group, will be fun again I expect. Tomorrow the last (half) day of the conference.

Other posts on LS2011: Day 1, Day 3, The day after

Learning Solutions conference: cool Ipad app! #LS2011

I will be attending the eLearning Guild learning Solutions conference in Orlando next week. I will have a lot of appointments around the conference and look forward to the conference itself.

The conference is already of to a great start, thanks to their Ipad app (LSCon 2011). It gives you a complete overview of all sessions. It includes all presentations, speaker profiles, a twitter feed, info on exhibitors, maps of all session rooms et cetera. The only thing missing is an attendee list. The app works simple and offers great value even on my old fashioned Ipad 1.

The coolest thing is that you can create your personalized schedule. You go through a list with all sessions, view the description, info on the presenter and the slides for their presentation. With a click on a button you can add it to your schedule. I did this and added all interesting sessions. The result looks like this:

lscon Ipad app

It really works excellent, you just click on any interesting session and add it to your schedule. In the schedule you can click on a session and it will give you all available information on that session. As you can see in the image, I have yet to decide on the 3 o’clock sessions on Wednesday, I have three candidates. I will check their presentations and descriptions and then choose one. Great for selecting and you have your personal schedule for the conference at your fingertip. This is way better than struggling with a conference book, with no interaction and a lot of weight you have to carry. I really love it. It can’t compete with Flipboard yet, but it comes close. In the future I will only attend conferences that use this or a similar app.

Other posts on LS2011: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, The day after


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