AG08 Day 3

The last day of the eLearning Guild Annual Gathering was only a half day, but my brain was ready for a little rest.

Amazingly, for the third day in a row I made it to one of the 7:15 Breakfast Bytes (only a few minutes late). The speaker for the one I wanted to go to didn’t show, so I went to “Is SCORM worth it?” No one came up with a conclusive answer, but the discussion was lively and engaging. In general people seem frustrated by SCORM’s limitations and problems, but understand the need for a cross-vendor standard. My opinion is that SCORM has a place, but not for all training. Probably not even for very much training.

Stefan Sagmeister delivered the keynote based on his book “Things I have learned in my life so far”. The talk had nothing to do with eLearning, but was the best keynote of the conference. He showed some of his recent work which is based on ideas from the book. There’s a companion web site at where you can contribute lessons you’ve learned.

After that I listened to David Metcalf talk about design for m-Learning. m-Learning design is really about information design for the platform you are targeting. You have to take the device into account. He gave examples from sales, service, and process training from different companies that used a variety of mobile devices. He also showed a couple of impressive educational examples including

I ended the conference with “What not to design: Visual makeovers for eLearning Content” presented by Donna Safo. I wasn’t able to attend the entire session because I had to leave for the airport, but what I saw was useful. What I got from the session is that the visual design of your eLearning matters. If it looks bad, people will be distracted and have a hard time focusing on the learning. Donna went over some basic design principles that can help even the most graphically challenged (like me). I stayed long enough to learn about alignment, repetition, and contrast. Her examples were simple and clear and I felt I learned something useful in the short time I attended. I wish I could have stayed for the entire presentation.

That ends my short series on AG08. I’m looking forward to DevLearn in November and will make every effort to attend the entire conference this year. As I write this I realize I have a bunch of links to go through, and share. As I do, I’m going to add them to and tag them AG08. If you do the same thing we’ll have a comprehensive catalog of all the links.

AG08 Day 2

I’m a little more rested today, and only slightly lagging from the time zone shift.

I started off again with a Breakfast Byte, this time on Decision Support strategies present by Janet Emery. Wow, that was the right way to start my day. Janet is absolutely brilliant (she’s won multiple awards from ASTD and ISPI) and I’m surprised I haven’t heard of her before. She has a ton of experience working with call centers and improving performance of agents. What I learned from her is that we should provide support tools first and think about formal training second. In other words, use basic Human Performance Technology strategies to get people to perform. Those strategies may not include training. Early in my career I was fully indoctrinated into HPT. Janet reminded me of what should be my primary objective – find the best solution to improve performance. Train less, support more. I could do a lengthy blog post on just this session. It was so good I went to round table discussion she did later in the day just to hear it again.

After that was the keynote by John Patrick. Like yesterday, Clark Quinn provides a great summary. I do want to highlight one thing John said – America’s large telephone companies are the biggest threat to the Internet. They avoid competition and have an army of lobbyist making sure congress keeps it that way. Think about it. What has your ISP done for you? If network connectivity doesn’t get better and come up to the level in other countries (Europe, Japan, Korea for example) how will that impact your eLearning?

Next I attended a session on the future of SCORM. First of all, hats off to Rovy Brannon for being brave enough to come talk about SCORM. Many people have a love/hate relationship with SCORM and a few vented frustrations which Rovy handled graciously. Bottom line, SCORM is moving from an ADL standard to an IEEE standard, which should help improve the standard and make updates faster and more reliable. The new organization taking it on is LETSI. And the cross-domain scripting issue is not being fixed in SCORM 2004 4th Edition (due sometime in the not too distant future.)

After lunch I went to “I’m Busy Enough…What Do I Need a Second Life For?” mostly because Angela White (who I met at the conference) was so enthusiastic about Second Life. I went in as a skeptic and left intrigued. It does have applications in the learning space, but probably not in my organization. Alan Levine from NMC presented the session and “demystified” Second Life for me. I’ve heard of it, but never tried it. I have enough ways to kill time as it is, but I will be trying it out soon. I think it has a lot of potential.

The last session I attended was “The Great ILS Challenge”. (ILS = Immersive Learning Simulation = Serious Game) The three panelist (Alan Levine, Jan Cannon-Bowers, and Kevin Corti) were presented a scenario and had to give a short presentation on their solution. Each had a completely different solution to the same problem, but all used games or virtual worlds as the main delivery tool. What struck me was not the technology or platform each came up with, but that they all had such different ideas. My take away was that every learning problem has multiple solutions, each of which may work as well as the others. We just have to think creatively to come up with them.

Like yesterday I ended the day with a group dinner, this time with a different group that included Brent Schlenker from the eLearning Guild. Again, this was probably the high point of the day – just talking casually about learning and technology and social networking and whatever. The online contacts I’ve made blogging have turned into real world contacts and greatly enhanced my experience at this conference.

ELearning Guild AG08 Day 1

What a long and inspiring day it’s been. Being a solo elearning and training developer it has been great to just talk with people about eLearning. The community here is second only to the caliber of the presentations. The eLearning Guild did a fabulous job picking the sessions for this year’s event. I’ve had to make some tough choices about which sessions to attend. A lot of people are blogging the event. You can find many posts here.

Setting an eLearning Strategy

After a day of travel to get here, I started AG08 at 7:15 with this “Breakfast Byte” facilitated by Clark Quinn. Half the reason I choose this particular session was because of Clark Quinn, but equally because my company is trying to figure out how to best use eLearning. I’m happy to say I’m not the only one, but also surprised that getting eLearning started is such an issue for so many. After more than a decade of the Internet, eLearning should be run-of-the-mill. Even with robust tools we still struggle with the basics (like management and IT buy-in).

Keynote Presentation

Next I was off to the keynote by Keith Sawyer. Clark Quinn already blogged about it and has a cool map of the talk, so you can read more about the keynote on his blog. While I enjoyed the presentation, I wasn’t blown away. It was well worth the time and Keith had a lot to offer the eLearning community.

Positioning Your Career in Social Networking and Collaborative Learning

Ray E. Jiménez, Ph.D. started by saying as of today, the LMS is obsolete. He also gave us several new job titles like Collaborative Learning Anthropologist. His point was that social networking is all about people, not about technologies. You need to know about people; you have to understand the nature of your organization and how people behave. His blog is if you’d like to read more of his work. He definitely made me think about the skills I need to develop. Technology changes rapidly and tools become obsolete, but people are always going to be social animals.

Learning 2.0: Harnessing the Potential of Contextual Informal Learning

I attended this session because informal learning is the most obvious buzzword currently being used. I also think it holds the future of eLearning. Maybe with mobile tools the buzzword is gaining momentum. Janhavi Padture presented some good information on why informal learning is so important, most notably that 70% of learning is informal. She then showed us FlockPod by Harbinger. FlockPod is a tool that adds social networking functions to learning content using an floating toolbar that sits in front of the browser window. Conceptually, I think it’s a cool idea. I’m not sure I like the implementation, but I did get a lot of food for thought.

E-Learning 2.0: Dynamic, web-based Technologies Enable Personalized Learning on Demand

This presentation covered a lot tools and introduced a lot of concepts that I was already familiar with, but a surprising number of people weren’t. Web 2.0 is old news to me, so I’m surprised when people haven’t heard of Facebook or Twitter. Nevertheless, the session showed how Web 2.0 can be used in learning. I really enjoyed this session. One thing Mr. Shaw said that stuck with is that Elearning 2.0 is, to a certain extent, dependent on Web 2.0 adoption in the enterprise. That seems obvious now, but struck me because it makes so much sense. If your organization is resistant to using the tools or IT won’t support them, their use in learning will be severely limited.

Feeding your Inner Power Learner! Learning to Leverage RSS

I ended the day with this presentation by Brent Schlenker. Again, I was looking at more informal learning tools. Brent did an excellent job of explaining and demonstrating how RSS works. Again I was surprised that more people didn’t know more about it. One of Brent’s points was that if we want to use these new tools (like RSS) to deliver content we need to first use them for ourselves. He encouraged everyone to get a Google account and start using Google Reader, or another reader. I recommend Google Reader. We absolutely have to use new technologies as consumers before we use them as content creators. I took eLearning courses before I developed them. It just makes sense.

That was it for formal sessions. It was a lot for one day. I think the highlight was actually dinner. I connected with B.J. Schone and a group of eight others and went out to eat and talk. We all are one person development shops (except B.J., but he was until recently). Just talking with others about eLearning or family or whatever was the perfect way to end the day. Thanks to everyone.

Now, I need to sleep. More tomorrow.