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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