The power of TinCan is slowly kicking in

It’s now three weeks after mlearncon and for me the power of project TinCan is still sinking in. At first I thought:’Cool now we can measure learning experiences outside an LMS, that’s pretty big!’. But now I’m more like: ‘Wow, learning experiences in social media, websites, intranets and apps all will be from now on the domain of (e-)Learning: That’s a land slide!’

I’m not kidding, I really believe that this is a revolution in the land of learning and development. Just think of it for a moment. You now can put learning in an app and measure the results. You can put learning content in in a website, an intranet, a CD-rom, a flash stick and still record the progress the learners has made.

This means that learning will be freed from the strict (SCORM) boundaries and this will change our world. If your authoring system or (L)CMS is smart enough you can do anything, anywhere, anytime and most importantly on any device! From now on BYOD (bring your own device) is really an option.

We need to rethink e-Learning as we know it. We now have the opportunity to integrate e-Learning with performance support, learning on the job, job and task aids, learning nuggets and whatever forms and shapes you can come up.

For me as CEO of easygenerator it is not the question whether or not to implement TinCan, but the question is how to support a whole new paradigm of learning. Not only will e-Learning break free from the LMS, it will break free from the constraints of a course. I know what I will be doing this summer; figuring out what this really means to the future of learning and trying to come up with didactical concepts to back this up. The future has started now!

How to keep formal e-Learning relevant

We all know that e-learning is changing, we all know that our learners have changed. The rise of the internet, social media and mobile devices have changed our world. It turned out that it is much easier for a learner to adapt to these changes than for a e-Learning manager or developer. Over the past 16 months I have written all kind of post researching this change. I was recently asked to present on this subject in a webinar. In my preparation I went through all the posts and was for the first time able to merge them in a coherent way. I wanted to share this presentation with you.

Additional information on a lot of the subjects that are in the presentation I wrote about earlier. These post contain a lot of links to other resources on the internet on these subjects:

•Output management
•Agile development for Software, and for e-Learning
•Learning metaphors, learning maps
•Outcome learning (series of posts)

You can attend the webinar if you like (Wednesday February 15th 2012 10.00 am and 2.00 pm EST). See for details the site of Interactive Advantage.

Context, Context, Context will make e-Learning work! #LCBQ May

The question at the Learning circuits blog in May is:

How do we need to change in what we do in order to address learning/performance needs that are on-demand?

My answer is context, context, context!

I think that we as e-Learning professionals should change our game drastically. Our innovation lacks behind if we compare it to the development of the internet. Internet 1.0 was about publishing content (online brochures), 2.0 is about interaction (social media), 3.0 will be about context (pushing information to you based on a profile). E-Learning 1.0 was about creating courses (now wrapped in Scorm), 2.0 is collaborative learning (Moodle, Wiki’s, Fora), 3.0 must be about context.

I know that a lot of e-Learning professionals are dedicated to innovation. But the majority of the content is still a PowerPoint like page turner, made more attractive by the use of video, interaction and flash animations. But in fact they are still very 1.0, still a course. I see some 2.0 solutions and hardly any 3.0 initiatives.

It’s not that courses have completely lost their value, but they can only have value as a part of an effective e-Learning solution. We need to create 2.0 and 3.0 solutions where a course might play a role instead of creating just courses. In the Netherlands a lot of e-Learning content companies are going through difficult times and I believe that the focus on courses is the main reason and I believe that context is the solution.

Context when working
A LMS is the electronic counterpart of a class room. As in a class room the worker is locked-in, and so is the content. It’s an artificial environment that in certain cases will serve it’s purpose, but in most cases it won’t. The LMS is our (learning professionals) context, it’s not the context of the learner. The learners context is his workplace. We need to give him the information in that context. Connect to on-line help systems, task support systems, intranet solutions. Plug-in to your internal corporate social media, play an active role in them, seed and harvest information through them. We need to offer the worker a service in his working context, not just courses in a LMS.

Context when publishing
The facilities to deliver information on demand are growing rapidly. By building profiles of your users and monitoring their context (what are they doing and where are they doing that) you will be able to present relevant information on demand (or even push it to them without demand). We need to give context to our e-learning content in order to make it smart so it knows when, how and where to present itself.

Context when creating e-Learning
The context of an e-Learning author when creating e-Learning is often the knowledge or skills he needs to transfer. And that’s wrong. Knowledge and skills are means not goals, the goal is to support the worker and make him more productive. We need to learn the context the workers are operating in and we must ask ourselfs how we can support them, then and there. Not only do we need to involve SME’s in the learning development but also SMN’s (subject matter newbees) to understand what they need. We need to cross the save borders of learning and cross over to other fields like EPSS and even change management. Just as a course might be a part of an e-learning solution, e-Learning is a part of the solution to support the worker. We are part of a bigger context.

I believe that this is the time to grab new opportunities, leave our comfort zone and get out there. We need to make e-Learning more effective and we need to make e-Learning work!

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 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


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