2012 in retrospective: top 10 posts

It is the time of the year to look back and to make plans for the new year. In this post I will have a look at 2012 based on the top 10 post of this blog. The top 10 is:

  1. A new metaphor for e-Learning
  2. Food for thought: 50 Educational thinkers
  3. Why Easygenerator will launch a free edition of her authoring software
  4. A new metaphor for e-Learning: learning maps
  5. Agile E-Learning development
  6. Day 2 mobile learning conference #MLearncon: Trends day
  7. How to keep formal e-Learning relevant
  8. New SCORM standard: I (Actor/Agent) Did (Verb) This (Activity) #TinCanApi
  9. Blackboard buys Moodle partners: open source?
  10. (New) e-Learning metaphors: cased based learning


There are three post in this list (on 1, 4 and 10) about a new metaphor for eLearning. A generic one, one on learning maps and one on cased based learning. I do believe that this is a topic that will be big in 2013 as well. We need to find more effective ways to present our learning content to our learners and that means we have to move away from the current ‘book’ and ‘slide show’ metaphors.

50 educational thinkers. A real great series of posts by Donald Clark. I learned a lot, not only by his selection of thinkers but also by his great summaries of their central thoughts.

The launch of our free edition was big for easygenerator (number 3). A new step in easygenerators endeavor to change e-Learning. We are now live with the free edition for two months and are now approaching the 1500 users mark in over 80 countries. That is something that exceeded expectations. Will be interesting to see what will happen in 2013.

Agile e-Learning development. I’m happy that this post is in the top 10. I think the waterfall model and ADDIE have to many limitations. I believe a better way is the agile approach that comes from software development. An other interesting development here is Michael Allens SAM, an agile methodology for eLearning development. On his corporate blog is an interview with him on SAM. We need to move away from ADDIE and SAM might be the way.

My post from the mobile eLearning conference on trends also made the top 10. Well mobile (both smart phones and tablets) is a game changing trend by itself and that day at MLearncon was a very educational day for me. Also the first post where I used my mind map notes. In 2013 there will be a lot more on mobile and on mind maps.

How to keep formal learning relevant. Our world is changing and we have to change too to keep relevant. This is a trend that will be even bigger in 2013, TinCan wil come and will really be a game changer: I can’t wait. Both subjects are in the top 10.

The post on Blackboard is a representative of another trend: consolidation. We will see match more take overs in 2013, Not always for the best, but it will happen more and more, it is a sign that our industry is growing up.

I’m happy to see that this blog is growing (almost 250% up in comparison to 2011) although that is not my goal. My blog remains mainly a place for me to put done notes and thoughts, but it is nice that people appreciate this. I wish you all the best for 2013 it will be an exiting year for everybody in the e-Learning community and I will keep writing about it.

Blogging about #DevLearn

I will be leaving for Las Vegas in less than one hour, visiting the eLearning Guilds annual conference. I will try to post a daily blog about my findings. I’m really looking forward to it, last year was great. Great keynotes, interesting concurrent sessions, lots of good conversations and contact and the official launch of easygenerator in the United States. This year looks very promising, I like the line up, attendance will be at a new record (approaching the 2000) and we will launch our free edition. Enough to look forward to.

Some figures
As I said attendance will be close to 2000, but there are more interesting figures to share with you:

10.580 – 6573
The number of kilometers/miles I will travel in the next 21 hours.

6/43 – 28/82
The temperature in the Netherlands (Celcius/Fahrenheid) and the temperature in Las Vegas. From drizzling rain and wind to Las Vegas sunshine!

Easygenerator’s booth number at the expo, please come and check us out.

The number of my concurrent session on Business objectives and Learning Objectives. (Wednesday @ 1.15 PM)

The time (AM) I will present the free edition of easygenerator at the Management Exchange Stage. I will present both on Wednesday and Thursday.

559 – 48
The number of users of our free edition (559) and the number of countries it is being used (48). We are very happy with this numbers. We quietly pre-launched our free edition prior to DevLearn to make sure we could build it up slowly and monitor it closely, in order to ensure a perfect authoring environment. But having 559 users in 48 countries in three weeks time, is clearly beyond our expectations.

Enough numbers, my next post will contain more content and stories and less figures.

Social networks

Social networks  are becoming more and more and important part of every day life for me.  Probably nothing special, I’m not really an early adapter when it comes to this.  But it is really becoming a main stream thing. I’m using several tools at this moment. At Stoas we have an Sakai environment to support our projects, we use a wiki and a blog to log all our technical data, I use Twitter (a little).  At Stoas we use Yammer (an incompany Twitter),  I use Moodle to take part in discussions of the Moodle partner network, I write this blog and I use Linked in. And most important customers are starting to ask serious questions about this theme and we are doing some interesting projects using Moodle/Mahara/Elgg.

One of the most important networks for me is LinkedIn. It is really beginning to pay of.  I’m using it to:

  1. Have one central point with all my information
    I have a background in content management, I want to store information once and Use it many times. My about Kasper page in this blog only contains a link to my LinkedIn page.
  2. Get introduced to people I want to meet.
    If I’m looking for someone there is usually somebody in my network who is connected to the solution.
  3. Find people to work for us
    We recently posted for the first time a job on linked in (Interim IT manager), I got over 100  responses and more important we found the right guy.

But I’m a true believer of blended solutions, so my conference phone, WebEx meetings, Skype and DimDim sessions and face to face meetings are still a very important part of my tool set. I don’t think that will ever change.

QMlive: The way software should be

One of the roles I have at Stoas is the role of Product manager for Questionmark Perception.  I have that role since I started working for Stoas, three years ago. John Kleeman started Questionmark some 20 years ago, building the first version at his kitchen table. John by the way is one of the most special people I know and someone I greatly admire. Over the past twenty years Perception grew out into the world leading software for assessments. I don’t know the exact numbers but they are quite impressive. Stoas is representing Questionmark in the Netherlands for more than 10 years and we have over a 100 customers using Perception intensively. It is our most important product, both in number of customers, sold services and overall revenues.

Questionmark is a ‘standard’ software company building proprietary software. We had version 4.2 in 2007, 4.3 in 2008 and version 5 in 2010. The software is improving with each version. Version 5 for example is a complete rebuild of the delivery part of the software (their crown jewel) but …. it took them three years. I understand that, you have all kind of legacy systems, installed bases, tons of software code to rewrite et cetera. But it is the old kind of software development. Let’s say it isn’t an agile approach. But Questionmark is learning and changing. An example of that is their new service for Subject Matter Experts (SME). It is called Questionmark Live! and it’s a light webbased tool to develop questions, aiming at subject matter experts and I became a fan instantly.

QMlive authoring process

Why is it so special?

Questionmark appointed a new guy (Jim Farrel) and made him responsible for QMlive  and gave him a small team of developers. They created rapidly the first version of  a simple authoring tool and put it live in April 2009 as a service for all Questionmark customers. Unlimited and for free! As a good cheap Dutchman that’s the first thing I like. If you have a support contract on the Perception software, you can use it. Even if you just have 5 licences for authors, you still have access for an unlimited number of QMlive authors.

It’s great software. Jim and his team are building beautiful software. The facilities they have created for versioning and sharing are excellent, exactly what I wanted them to be, and maybe even more important it has a really great and intuitive interface. Anybody can create and share question with no training at all!

It’s fast and agile. Jim and his team are constantly updating and expanding the software. On average there is an update every two weeks. They can do that because all the software is on Questionmark servers. Not only are they adding new features but they are listening very closely to the user demands and giving them what they ask for.

It’s multilingual. They created a facility to translate the tool online. I am the volunteer for the Dutch translation. If they put a new version live on Friday, I will translate that on Saturday and it will be instantly available in Dutch. Of course sometimes I mistype a word or make an other mistake. But then I will get an email from a customer and  I can change it on the fly. I like this way of working.

It’s very successful. Our customers like it. We started in April 2009 with no users at all, in September we had 560 unique Dutch visitors creating 5000 questions. In January we had over 1500 unique Dutch visitors, creating over 13.000 questions.  This is an average of 15 users per customer! Incredible numbers and great fun that you can monitor the success in this way. By the way, this makes the Netherlands the second largest user of this service worldwide, only the preceded by the United States. That makes me proud as a Dutch fan.

It is the future. Software like this and the way it is created and offered will be the future. I complement Eric Shepherd and his team for having and following this vision. It will ensure that Stoas will still be a proud Questionmark partner in ten years time.

Curious? You can test this software yourselve, ask for a demo account. Just click here for more info.

Output management

I am writing  a series of post on my professional foundations both for (e)learning  and managing. This is the second blog in that series and it is about  ‘output management’, my management foundation.

In 1998/1999 I followed a training called SVO (an abbreviation for – in Dutch- Steering of change in organisations) at SIOO in the Netherlands. I took away a lot from that course. For example I still have an ‘Action learning group’ that originated from that training. This training transformed me from a consultant into a manager. It was composed of ten three-day sessions in a far to expensive hotel.  Each session was managed by our course manager (Jaap Boonstra, now dean at SIOO) and there was a ‘special guest’, somebody from the field of (change) management.

One of the guest teachers was Filip vandenDriesche. He is the author of the book ‘Leidinggeven zonder bevelen’ , that translates as ‘Leading without commanding’,  it was originally published under the title ‘De input- output manager’.

This book became my management bible. I will explain why. The following picture shows an important concept of the book:

Image form ‘De input- output manager, Filip VandenDriessche.

There are two contradicting pyramids. The “management funnel”  and the “conflict pyramid’. Both cover to three stages (strategic, tactical and operational). On the strategic level (problem and goal) the chances of conflict are small, but if you have a conflict it runs deep! On a tactical level (criteria) the chances of conflict are increasing but on a operational level the chances on a conflict are the biggest. Therefore Filip concludes the following: A manager should be authoritarian on the strategic and tactical level. But on an operational level manager should accept any solution that meets his criteria. In other words keep away from the ‘how’.

Of course there’s more to it, a shared vision is a prerequisite and the person(s) who will create the solution must acknowledge the problem. Pilip has a very simple strategy for that, he calls it ‘how to sell a monkey’. If you have a problem as a manager, then the monkey is ‘on your shoulder’.  You need to get the monkey on the shoulder of your coworker. Just take the following steps:

1. Confront the person with irrefutable examples.

2. State that this isn’t acceptable,

3. Ask the opinion of your coworker and wait.

If the coworker acknowledges your opinion you can actually feel the monkey jump from your shoulder and land on his. This last picture sums it all up.

Image form ‘De input- output manager, Filip VandenDriessche.

For me his book was the most practical management book I have ever read, I can recommend it to everyone. I contacted Filip before writing this blog, he told me that a translation in English  will be available in the next few months. He will publish this on his website: www.outputmanager.be

The most beautiful office in the world!

This week I visited Giunti Labs, we represent them in the Netherlands and Belgium.  They have beautiful products (LearnExact, Hive, EPMS) but their office is even more beautiful and the location is spectacular.

We flew from Eindhoven to Pisa. From there we took the train to Sestri Levante where the office is located. On our way to Sestri Levante we made a stop in Varnazza, one of the 5 villages of cinque terra. Of course it was of season so all restaurants and bars were closed.

We managed to buy a slize of pizza and a beautiful wine. We had our late lunch outside on the town square/harbour. That’s my idea of teambuilding and really not a bad way to spent a sunday afternoon. I had been here before but of season with 4 colleagues is a different experience, I can recommend it to every one.

After this you know that this had to be the highlight of the trip. But then we arrived in Sestri Levante, an other beautiful  town. The town is located ad the Mediterranean Sea and has two bays: Baia delle Favole, (Bay of the Fables), and Baia del Silenzio, the (Bay of Silence). The bay of silence is famous because Marconi did his first Morse experiments from this bay.

In the middle is the oldest part of Sestri Levante  located on a peninsula, with the bays on each side. This images was actually our view from the hotel we stayed in (Vis a Vis). The Giunti Office is located on the peninsula at the bay of silence, and they have the most beautiful building.  It is an old  monestery.


Not bad at all, and quite different from our own office.

Oh, by the way. We met great people,  had an excellent sales training, got some ideas that will probably will change Stoas forever. But I might write about that later. For now I just want to thank Carin, Federico, Fabrizio and all the others for a great and inspiring visit.


Learning landscape, learning framework

I want to write a series of post on my professional foundations both for (e)learning  and managing. This blog is about the foundation we have at Stoas for our learning solutions. Another blog will be about ‘output management’, my management foundation. There will be probably be some more.

One of my tasks at Stoas is to create and maintain a learning framework. Stoas is a leading supplier of learning tools in the Netherlands, with tools like Questionmark Perception and Blackboard. We want to move from a supplier role to a role where we are a learning solution partner.  In order to do that we need to create learning solutions that are based on a coherent framework; solutions often consist of more than one tool.

In order to get away from the ICT perspective we first came up with a Learning landscape; an image of the learning process. As a matter of fact there are two processes; Learning and the development of (e)learning materials.

After that all we need to do was to select the correct tools and connect the tools using standards.

Learning landscape

Learning framework

As you can see Stoas doesn’t have specific tools for managing and planning. Tools like Sumtotal, Plateau and Saba. These tools are more about managing the process and data and not about actual learning. We decided that that is not what we are best in, therefore we don’t sell these tools.

We want to be able to realize learning solutions based on  proprietary software,  on open source software or of a mix of both.

We are constantly evaluating the tools in our framework, this leads to changes. Stoas was a Sakai partner, but we were not successful in selling and implementing it, so we decided to stop with Sakai. We added Mahara to our framework and  became the official Mahara partner for the Netherlands. At this moment we are looking into tools like ELGG and Dimdim. We might add  them to our framework.

There is a lot to be said about this framework. Does it make sense, is it complete, is it logical? Who has another (better) framework?  What are the differences in a framework for educational institutions and corporations? How does this framework really connects to the workplace (through EPSS?). How does it relate to life long learning? I hope to get some responses on these issues. If people are interested we might start a discussion group on this topic.

Change to learn

I have changed the title of my blog from ‘kasperspiro’s Blog’ to ‘Change to learn’. Of course I should have done that when or even before I wrote my first blog, but it is not unusual for me to act before I think.  I wrote the blog before I knew what I was going to blog about.

Learning and Changing are the most important ingredients of my education and of my working live. First I was a teacher, later I became a (change) manager. It took me a while to discover that learning and changing are the flip sides of the same coin. True learning always invokes change, and true change always invokes learning. That’s why I love being a manager at a changing e-learning company.

Of course it depends on how you define learning. For me transfer of knowledge does not define learning, but a change in behaviour does. I believe that in order to change and really learn people have to be ‘forced’ in new and different circumstances and experiences in order to break through their normal behaviour and really learn and change.

I also believe in the expression ‘standstill is regression’ (Or ‘movement is progress’) and I apply this to my work. I constantly try to implement all sorts of interventions in order to force people to change and learn (I’m not sure that I would be happy with myself as a my line manager).

I regard myself as a change manager, even in my regular work at Stoas as a line manager. I find my work as a line and product manager important, but it is all an ‘excuse’ to play a role in the changes that are taking place at Stoas. Changing and improving the solutions we offer to our customers and the way we offer and create them. The ultimate goal is to make Stoas into a permanent changing and learning organisation. I suppose that the bottom line is that I’m learning and changing all the time, I hope this makes me a Learning Manager.

My first blog

My first blog, to be honest  it’s more of an experiment than an actual blog. I’m very curious to see how long it takes before anyone picks this up. It’s like spreading a ridiculous gossip in your village and see how long it takes for you self to hear it back

I’m working in the field of E-learning. I’m ‘Manager Learning Technology’ at Stoas (See my Linkedin profile for more details). We are trying to build a consistent learning framework so that we can create working learning solutions for our customers. Therefore I visited last week the online Educa in Berlin, it was my first visit.

At Stoas I’m responsible for partner relations and selecting new partners and products, so this was more or less home for me, almost everybody was there. Very convenient to catch up live instead of through a conference call, Skype session or web ex meeting.

We are the Moodle partner in the Netherlands and we had an Moodle stand with the European Moodle partners. Therefore we stayed in the same hotel as the Moodle partners and it was the first time I met Martin Dougiamas, the founding father of Moodle (the number 1 CMS in the world). I must say it was a pleasure. Seldom I met someone who was as influential and modest as he is, great guy.

Meeting Martin was one of the highlights of the conference, but there where some downers too. I saw too many bad presentations. Maybe we have to ban PowerPoint from these gatherings, I think it would improve the quality. My most interesting session was an unconference led by Jay Cross, I think that says enough…..

If anyone reads this post, I might post another sometime


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