12.10.2004

eLearning Methodology

In Search of a Better Definition discusses the meaning of e-learning; while The Growth of eLearning discusses the four fuels of elearning:
  • Technology (means)
  • Learning Methodology (means)
  • Acquire new skills and knowledge (consequence)
  • Access information (consequence)
The first means and main delivery mechanism of elearning, technology, was also discussed in the last post. This post will discuss the second means of eleaning -- Learning Methodology. A learning methodology is a set of procedures composed of methods, principles, and rules for enhancing individual capacity and performance. When most people think of developing elearning, they think of the technology and content. However, this can normally only bring about knowledge, which is important, but learning often needs to go one further step -- performance. And this normally requires that a skill be mastered by the learner. While there are a number of means of achieving this, I have described one option in a Learning Framework, which builds on the four main design architectures of:
  • Receptive: absorbing information
  • Directive: frequent responses coupled with feedback (behavioral roots)
  • Guided Discovery: active constructive process mediated by problem solving
  • Exploratory: finding and processing information
The four architectures help us to learn by various experiences:
  • Absorb (read, hear, feel)
  • Do (activity)
  • Interact (socialize)
  • Reflection (Dewey, 1933)
The main strength of elearning is its ability to send information, thus its main architecture often turns out to be Receptive in nature. This post is a good example in that it sends text and images for the reader to absorb. The second strength of eLearning is its ability to allow us to interact which each other. Thus, we can get feedback from peers (Directive), we can discuss concepts with others (Exploratory), and we can have directed conferences to solve problems (Guided Discovery). For example, this blog has a URL to click on below this post that allows one to post comments so that a discussion can occur. One can also start a discussion group on Yahoo!. Through the use of Flash, html forms, and PowerPoint, one can also develop programs that allow one to interact. For examples, see: The various designs shown above will allow the further growth of elearning.

11.16.2004

The Growth of eLearning

In a recent blog, I wrote how elearning has the two aspects of means & consequence that uses innovative technologies and learning models (the means) to transform the way individuals and organizations acquire new skills and knowledge and access information (the consequence). Note that I slightly change the last part of this definition from the original post. It is important to understand this concept if you want to play a part, or at least a meaningful part in elearning's growth, which according to IDC, should look similar to this:
When elearning first arrived on the scene, it was hyped to grow at a phenomenal rate: The next big killer application for the Internet is going to be education. Education over the Internet is going to be so big it is going to make email usage look like a rounding error. - John Chambers , president and CEO of Cisco Systems (2000). Now it has enjoyed a modest growth rate so far, but nowhere near the growth that was first hyped. Thus, it is kind of refreshing to see IDC's modest growth prediction, although it still might be slightly on the high side. And this growth rate is going to be fueled by four things:
  • Technology (means)
  • Learning Methodology (means)
  • Acquire new skills and knowledge (consequence)
  • Access information (consequence).

Technology

Until recently, most of the discussions on elearning were about the technology aspects. For example, elearning is about learning anything, anyplace, at anytime. Yet it is just about impossible to get very deep into a topic when you are consistently interrupted by phones and co-workers. In addition, elearning is normally done at a computer, which of course does not go everywhere. However, with wireless (m-learning) and iPods, this is starting to change. Thus, there are basically three technologies at the moment that will help with elearning's growth:

Broadband

The Gilder Paradigm (Wired, 4.12 - Dec 1996) reports that in the future, if the law of thrift in the current paradigm is waste watts and transistors, the law of thrift in the new paradigm will be waste bandwidth and save watts. That is, if bandwidth is free, you get a completely different computer architecture and information economy. While other futurist simply tell about the future, George Gilder (Wired 4.03 - Mar 1996) gives us the nuts and bolts about the future. Cheap, unlimited bandwidth is not yet reality, however, when it does arrive, it will give an extremely big boost to elearning. Much of the elearning programs developed today are text-based adaptations due to the extra bandwidth required to carry multimedia programs. Learners do not enjoy looking at an hourglass while waiting for downloads of huge video and audio clips. Thus, faster connections will mean that we will be able to add the correct instructional methods to support the learning

Mobile

As wirless and WiFi networking is becoming more popular, mlearning will boost the feasibility of learning anyplace and anytime (as long as you can get away from those pesky interruptions).

Podcasting

Right now, most people vision elearning as sitting in front of a computer, yet if we change that scenario slightly to listening to a ipod, that is, rather than downloading music, you download some verbal information and perhaps some pictures, then e-learning starts to expand... Podcasting works similar to a desktop aggregator, in that you subscribe to a set of feeds, and then view the new stuff from all of the feeds together, or each feed separately. Podcasting has one major difference -- instead of reading the new content on a computer screen, you listen to the new content on an iPod or iPod-like device. Think of your iPod as having a set of subscriptions that are checked regularly for updates. For a list of some of the podcasts now available, see podcasts.

Fuel for Growth

The technology aspect of the internet provided the first means for the beginning of elearning. And by growing it through cheap broadband, mlearning, and podcasting, we further fuel its growth. This is the first of a four-part series on the growth of elearning. The second means of fueling the growth of elearning via "learning methods" will be discussed in the next blog. Skills & knowledge and accessing information will then follow.

11.08.2004

e-Learning: In Search of a Better Definition

One of the first definitions for e-learning is ASTD's, who define it as covering a wide set of applications and processes, such as Web-based learning, computer-based learning, virtual classrooms, and digital collaboration. It includes the delivery of content via Internet, intranet/extranet (LAN/WAN), audio- and videotape, satellite broadcast, interactive TV, and CD-ROM. ASTD's definition is somewhat different in that it basically defines anything that is electronic (electronic learning) as e-learning. On the other hand, Marc Rosenberg confines it to the internet in his book, e-Learning: Strategies for Delivering Knowledge in the Digital Age (2001): e-Learning refers to the use of internet technologies to deliver a broad array of solutions that enhance knowledge and performance. It is based upon three fundamental criteria:
  1. It is networked
  2. It is delivered to the end-user via a computer using standard internet technology
  3. It focuses on the broadest view of learning.
In a May 2003 article on CLO, Organizing Enterprise-Wide E-Learning and Human Capital Management, e-learning is defined as including not only Internet-published courseware, but also the tools for managing, modularizing and handling the following:
  • Different kinds of content and learning objects (including both electronic and non-electronic forms, and even traditional classroom instruction).
  • Just-in-time and asynchronous learning, such as virtual labs, virtual classrooms and collaborative work spaces.
  • Simulations, document repositories and publishing programs.
  • Tools for prescribing learning, managing development pathways and goals and handling e-commerce and financial transactions related to learning.
  • The utilities and capabilities for supporting informal learning, mentoring, communities of practice and other "non-training" interventions.
In other words, e-learning does everything in the corporate world but training! The author misses the mark on this one as a major part of "e-learning" is of course "learning." However, there are two parts to learning, just as there are in performance. Gilbert said that performance has two aspects: behavior being the means and its consequence being the end (1998). Learning is similar in that it also has two aspects: training or teaching being the means and its consequence being the end. Now the training or teaching may be self-taught, accidental, informal, or purposeful, however, there is a means and the consequence is learning. In a recent new article, IBM tackles learning in the workplace (Nov 8, 2004), Victor Jeurissen, global practice leader for IBM Management Development Solutions, defines e-learning as, "the use of innovative technologies and learning models to transform the way individuals and organisations acquire new skills and access knowledge." He further defines learning as �a collaboration of information, interaction, collaboration and in-person." IBM's definition is the most interesting and promising in that it also refers to the two aspects of learning -- "innovative technologies and learning models" to provide the means, with the consequence being "acquiring new skills and access knowledge." The "means" provide the learner experience of absorbing (reading, seeing, etc.) doing (activity), interacting (with people), and reflecting (connecting the new learnings with previous learnings). And so that the right skills and knowledge are learned (consequence of training/teaching), rather it be face-to-face or over the internet, requires design and development:

Further information on the above chart may be found at: Learning Framework. The reason that we have to design and develop for the "right skills and knowledge" is that we are accountable to the organization for spending resources wisely. In the IBM article, Victor Jeurissen further remarks that, "75% of CEOs think employee education is the most critical success factor relative to other people issues. Learning directly supports the top agenda of CEOs, business groups and customer responsiveness." This of course takes us to the analysis of learning: the study we do in order to figure out what to do. Analysis allows us to directly make a positive impact upon the business or organization so that we do indeed support the CEO, various business groups, and customer responsiveness. For more information on analysis, see Needs Analysis. By viewing e-learning and learning as having two aspects, we can better define learning's role in the organization. Comments welcomed.

11.04.2004

Developing Content to Deliver Results

Developing high-value content that advances your business strategy and tactics presents two key challenges. The first challenge is to determine what existing content provides the greatest value and, just as important, what does not provide value. The second challenge is to determine what content doesn’t exist, but should. To identify and better manage content, use a methodology that shows a “system” view of a process. This provides you with a structure to track the assignment and refinement of content requirements throughout the process model. You need at least three views of a process: an outline view, an activity detail view and a sub-activity/sibling view. View 1: Modeling the Process Modeling, or outlining a process is straightforward. You break down or decompose activities into greater and greater detail (“process” is merely a label for the highest level of collected activities). Think of it as a table of contents that becomes increasingly detailed. This can be captured as a flow chart (as in Figure 1), as an indented hierarchy like a Windows file structure or in a spreadsheet or in Microsoft Project, which allows you collapse sub-activities (tasks) so they are easier to manage visually.

10.30.2004

Horizontal Leadership: Bridging the Information Gap

During Objective Peach, Lt. Col. Ernest "Rock" Marcone, a battalion commander with the 69th Armor of the Third Infantry Division, was starved for information about Iraqi troop movements and as he said in the Technology Review article, "I would argue that I was the intelligence-gathering device for my higher headquarters."

10.28.2004

'Knowledge discovery' could speed creation of new products

John Anderton: "I need your help. You contain information. I need to know how to get at it."

In the recent science-fiction thriller "Minority Report," Tom Cruise plays Detective John Anderton who solves future crimes by being immersed in a "data cave," where he rapidly accesses all the relevant information about the identity, location and associates of the potential victim. A team at PurdueUniversity is currently developing a similar "data-rich" environment for scientific discovery that uses high-performance computing and artificial intelligence software to display information and interact with researchers in the language of their specific disciplines. "If you were a chemist, you could walk right up to this display and move molecules and atoms around to see how the changes would affect a formulation or a material's properties," said James Caruthers, a professor of chemical engineering at Purdue. The method represents a fundamental shift from more conventional techniques in computer-aided scientific discovery. "Most current approaches to computer-aided discovery center on mining data in a process that assumes there is a nugget of gold that needs to be found in a sea of irrelevant information," Caruthers said. "This data-mining approach is appropriate for some scientific discovery problems, but scientific understanding often proceeds through a different method, a 'knowledge discovery' approach. "Instead of mining for a nugget of gold, knowledge discovery is more like sifting through a warehouse filled with small gears, levers, etc., none of which is particularly valuable by itself. After appropriate assembly, however, a Rolex watch emerges from the disparate parts." A team of researchers at Purdue led by Caruthers is developing a computer environment that allows experts to talk naturally in their specific scientific language. That way, the researchers don't have to deal with computerese and can take full advantage of the most advanced visualization capabilities to become more engaged in the scientific discovery process, Caruthers said. Such a system could become crucial for enabling scientists to deal with the recent explosion of data now available to them. The source of this flood of data is "high-throughput" experimentation, in which hundreds or thousands of experiments are conducted simultaneously in tiny vessels that are sometimes as small as a few human hairs. Having so much information presents a challenge: it is difficult for researchers to find what they are looking for within this huge sea of data.

Drowning in data, yet starved of information - Ruth Stanat in The Intelligent Organization

"You run the risk of drowning in data," said W. Nicholas Delgass, a Purdue professor of chemical engineering. "What you really want is knowledge, not data." Purdue researchers believe they have a solution to the problem. They are developing a method to extract knowledge from data, promising to speed up the process of discovery in many areas of research, including work aimed at creating new drugs, fuel additives, catalysts and rubber compounds. The method, called discovery informatics, enables researchers to test new theories on the fly and literally see how well their concepts might work in real time via a three-dimensional display, said Venkat Venkatasubramanian, another professor of chemical engineering working to develop the new system. Discovery informatics depends on a two-part repeating cycle made up of a "forward model" and an "inverse process" and two types of artificial intelligence software: hybrid neural networks and genetic algorithms. The forward model combines fundamental knowledge and rules of thumb with neural networks � software that mimics how the human brain thinks � to tell researchers how a particular material will perform. The inverse process is just the opposite: Researchers enter the properties they are looking for, and the system gives them a molecular structure or formulation that will likely have those properties. The inverse process cannot begin until the forward model is completed because the former depends on information in the model.

Anxiety good for memory recall, bad for complex problem solving

Students, keep this in mind before that next major exam: Pre-test jitters make it easier to recall memorized facts, but that stress also makes it tough to solve more complex problems. Researchers at Ohio State University gave a battery of simple cognitive tests to 19 first-year medical students one to two days before a regular classroom exam -- a period when they would be highly stressed. Students were also given a similar battery of tests a week after the exam, when things were less hectic. This is closely related to the Yerkes-Dodson law -- A certain amount of arousal (in this case anxiety) can be a motivator toward change (with change in this case being learning). But too much or too little anxiety or arousal works against the learner. You want some mid-level of arousal to provide the motivation to change (learn). This is because too little arousal has an inert affect on the learner, while too much has a hyper affect. There are optimal levels of arousal for each task to be learned. The optimal level of arousal is:
  • higher for tasks requiring endurance and persistence
  • lower for more difficult or intellectually (cognitive) tasks
For more information, see arousal

10.25.2004

Somewhere in Florida, 25,000 disembodied rat neurons are thinking about flying an F-22

Researchers at the University of Florida have created a neural network made up of 25,000 disembodied rat neurons and hooked it up to a flight simulator on a desktop computer. The neurons, which are growing on top of a multi-electrode array (MEA), are fed information about the simulated F-22's horizontal and vertical movements by stimulating the electrodes, causing them to fire in patterns that are then used to control the aircraft. "It's as if the neurons control the stick in the aircraft, they can move it back and forth and left and right," says UF professor Thomas DeMarse. The cellsrapidly begin to re-establish connectivity within a few hours of being placed on the MEA. These arrays can both record and stimulate the action potentials of neurons near each electrode (electrical signals between neurons) as they communicate within these dense networks.

CLO Dashboard Puts Learning Executives in the Driver's Seat

CLO Dashboard, a strategic reporting and decision-making system for chief learning officers, learning managers and executives, has is now in Beta production by Zeroed-In Technologies announces its flagship product. CLO Dashboard is built on a corporate performance management framework and is tailored to the learning industry with predefined Key Performance Indicators (KPI) including learning efficiency, learning effectiveness, compliance and readiness. The main page of the dashboard shows a series of odometer-style gauges for each indicator and its supported goal. Executives can drill down to reveal underlying objectives, key measures, historical and projected trends, and comparative industry benchmarks. The system also keeps track of strategic learning projects by monitoring timelines, resources, and key milestones. A recent USA TODAY Gallup Poll of U.S.executives cited more than 60 percent of their time is spent on strategic thinking and planning, and the planning of measurement and monitoring activities. "Chief learning officers must continually show the value of learning to the enterprise. Planning and measuring their strategy are crucial but time-consuming," says Chris Moore, president of Zeroed-In. "CLO Dashboard accelerates that effort and gives learning executives a single place to monitor all key learning indicators, and the business intelligence they need to make timely decisions to support or counteract trends." CLO Dashboard is 100% web-based and interfaces with other systems using Extensible Markup Language (XML) and Web Services. The system will provide built-in connectors to leading learning platforms including THINQ, Pathlore, EEDO, and Questionmark.

10.24.2004

Workforce Planning in Complex Organizations

In 2000, the Acquisition Workforce 2005 Task Force of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) called for the development and implementation of needs-based human resource performance plans for Department of Defense (DoD) civilian acquisition workforces. The greater need for workforce planning is expected to arise from an unusually heavy workforce turnover, itself due to a large number of expected retirements among older employees in a workforce that has not hired younger new workers in recent years, as well as from an expected transformation in acquisition products and methods in coming years. Workforce planning helps to ensure that an organization has the right mix of education, experience, etc. of personnel to advance its functional and organizational objectives. To succeed, workforce planning should answer questions regarding desired workforce characteristics now and in the future, and how organizational practices are helping maintain or develop these characteristics. Among elements needed to make workforce planning successful are active executive and line manager participation, accurate and relevant data, and sophisticated workload and inventory projection models.

Bricks & Clicks

Investors who bought the bubble-era hype about "anywhere, anytime" learning that it would quickly put an end to education as we know it lost tens of millions in the dot-com crash. A key reason -- they wildly underestimated the cost and difficulty of delivering quality E-courses. Yet now that so many hard lessons have been learned, a more subtle but perhaps just as significant shift is well underway. Even as enrollment in online distance programs nears 1 million and grows by more than 20 percent a year, according to Boston research firm Eduventures, the much bigger audience turns out to be right in the classroom building. As colleges and high schools embrace "bricks and clicks" instruction some of it in class, some of it on the Web many experts see a future in which there's no longer a divide but a spectrum: Some classes will never hold a face-to-face meeting, some will meet once a week or once a month and interact electronically the rest of the time, and some will carry on the old-fashioned way. "E-learning is going to disappear as a [distinct] concept," predicts Matthew Pittinsky, chairman of Blackboard Inc., whose course-management and other software served 15,000 students in 1998 and six years later reaches 12 million in 50 countries. Allison Rossett: "E-Learning gurus Elliot Maisie and Brandon Hall recognize the many options and encourages combined systems, which they call 'brick and click,' or 'blended.'" She continues, "But what would those combinations look like? How much brick and how much click? How do performances and need data transfer into those decisions? Will the issue be brick-ness verses click-ness or the strategies used within the particular delivery systems, a point of view that harkens back to Clark's (1983) work on strategies and media. His strong case focused attention on learning strategies over any particular medium." -- from Allison Rossett and Kendra Sheldon (2001). Beyond the Podium (2001) pp. 281-282.

9.26.2004

How Much Information Do You Need Anyway?

If You Build It, Will They Come? At Microsoft's CEO Summit in May, the software giant's own CEO, Steve Ballmer, spoke passionately about the importance of having "digital dashboards": real-time desktop displays of key performance indicators (KPIs) that show critical business ratios such as profit per sales employee per week, customer satisfaction in dispute resolution and the status of outstanding issues with major suppliers. In other words, indicators that CEOs deem critical to running the business. CEOs who really want to take advantage of digital technologies, Ballmer declared, should have their IT folks build them KPI dashboards, empowering them to monitor what matters. On a more personal note, Ballmer observed, KPI tracking has been essential to his transition to chief executive of the world's most profitable software company. For example, Ballmer's KPIs now focus as much on internal "talent tracking" as sales. But Microsoft's CEO was apparently not preaching to the converted. The reception to KPI executive dashboards could best be described more as polite curiosity than genuine interest.

E-Learning Ecosystems: The Future of Learning Technology

An ecosystem is an ecological community that, together with its environment, functions as a unit. Extending the definition to the e-learning environment, we can define an e-learning ecosystem as the learning community, together with the enterprise, united by a learning management system (LMS). If e-learning is truly to provide greater access to education and support educational programs that reflect broader strategic business goals, many believe that the e-learning industry must take the time now to learn key lessons from its early adopters.

'Wikis' Offer Knowledge-Sharing Online

Taran Rampersad didn't complain when he failed to find anything on his hometown in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Instead, he simply wrote his own entry for San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago. Wikipedia is unique for an encyclopedia because anybody can add, edit and even erase. And the Wikipedia is just one - albeit the best known - of a growing breed of Internet knowledge-sharing communities called Wikis.

Knowledge Management Verses Information Management

Denham Grey on knowledge and information. Much of what purports to be knowledge management is in reality information management. Just the other day I heard a rep selling scanners as a core KM technology, "essential for knowledge sharing," without which the organization was doomed to be bypassed by every other firm going down the knowledge track.

9.13.2004

What Steve Wozniak Learned From Failure

Failure is the rule rather than the exception, and every failure contains information. One of the most misleading lessons imparted by those who have reached their goal is that the ones who win are the ones who persevere. Not always. If you keep trying without learning why you failed, you'll probably fail again and again. Perseverance must be accompanied by the embrace of failure. Failure is what moves you forward. Listen to failure.

8.22.2004

Visualizing Mathematics

I just reviewed a book about learning and graphics -- Graphics for Learning by Ruth Colvin Clark and Chopeta Lyon. It turns out that MIT professor John Belcher and his fellow colleagues developed a Java applet that turns analytic vector functions into visual works of abstract art to help students better understand concepts like Vector Fields, Electrostatics, Magnetostatics, Faraday's Law, and Light. The course also offer a number of other good learning techniques, such as collaborative learning and extensive course notes with visualizations.

America's Changing Classrooms

CNN has a Special Report on America's Changing Classrooms. The main focus in on online education and charter schools. The presentation is quite good with such options as an educational time line and art gallery. Be sure to check it out!

8.01.2004

Be a King, Not a Joker

"There is too much focus today on IT governance—the reporting, quantifying and measuring of the IT organization's output—and not enough on IT leadership." Stop measuring performance and get something done. At times it seems we are much more interested in measurement, rather than improving the organization. Thus, Be a King, Not a Joker.

Lost in Translation

"Total knowledge transfer is impossible, in large part because knowledge is geographically sensitive." Although this article, Lost in Translation, from CIO magazine is about outsourcing, it has plenty of lessons for the succeful transfer of knowlege within an organization The successful transfer of knowledge to an offshore vendor everything from programming expertise to what users expect from a system can make or break a project. Here's what you need to know to do it right.

7.29.2004

Certifiably Trained

New article from Training magazine: Certifiably Trained Every company knows—or should know—that its human capital really is capital. Employees generate revenue when they deliver services properly or information correctly. Training is the obvious strategy that most companies employ to make sure that happens, but sometimes that's just not good enough. Certification is a process of separating those who are fully trained and competent from those who are not. It often consists of a set course of training, followed by a test or performance requirement. Employees who pass are then considered certified. The process of creating a certification program can be laborious, and not all companies take this route.

7.25.2004

The Future of Learning Technology

Today's top story is from Chief Learning Officer, The Future of Learning Technology.

We have yet to comprehend the impact of just-in-time access to information, applications, tools, learning and expertise within the work context as a powerful and productive alternative to just-in-case instruction.