Sunday, June 15, 2008

Learning portals for on-demand learning

It is very important for individuals to have efficient timely access to learning content when and in the amount they desire.

Efficient access can be provided via profile driven learning portals. Based on a provided and learner customizable profile, the portal can insure that the learner is exposed to learning that others in the field, or with similar profiles, have consider highly relevant. By appropriate pooling of content the portal can serve the targeted needs of the learner while also increase efficiency and learner satisfaction. At the same time, the portal can provide strong search capabilities of internal and external content that the learner can access if the provided links in the custom portal do not meet the learners needs.

Additional efficiency can be accomplished by providing links to the learning portal from an number of enterprise applications. That way, the learner is reminded of the availability of these resources and efficiently linked to them right from the application where the need was made apparent to the learner. The referring application can also be provided to the personalized portal so that options can be provided that will fit the context of a learner's job, for example.

While the portal should make pull content easily accessible, the portal should also provide access to push content. Based on the needs of the organization this push content should be presented to the learner in order to meet goals such as compliance and other such top-down issues.

One useful item to be considered by the portal's learner profile should be the nature of the work. This can then affect the amount to push vs. pull content presented by the portal. Learners from knowledge intensive jobs can be presented with more flexibility while individuals from labor intensive jobs can be presented with more directive learning. Or as is the case in the medical portal I worked in recently, the portal made a distinction between practicing doctors and residents.

The goal should be to simplify access to learning in order to gained efficiency. The challenge to most is how to build these portals. Vendors are still struggling to cope with the higher degree of sophistication of these learning engines.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

E-Learning, Web 2.0, and on-demend learning.

Web 2.0 is here and e-learning is having to change accordingly. Many wonder about how these changes affect the pushed learning approaches.

Pushed learning worked as follows: the institution decided on what a learning needed to access, went to the LMS, found the specific course, and took the course. In contrast, in the world of Web 2.0/web services, the learner seeks what he needs, when he needs it.

There are two areas of change taking place. First, is how the portals that lead to e-learning are having to change. For example, the old face of the LMS is having to accommodate on-demand learning. Second, is how e-learning itself is changing to accommodate Web 2.0 technologies to make e-learning a dynamic, living, competitive tool.

Let's start by saying that the fact that you will incorporate Web 2.0 approaches does not mean you need to totally do away with the push e-learning. Whether by demand of HR is a corporate setting or the administration in an educational setting, you will have to preserve push learning. The good news is that you can do that while moving to Web 2.0 and on-demand learning.

This discussion will be undertaken in the following weeks and months in this blog, however, here are some of the big strokes to follow as you move from the old to embrace the new.

1.Take advantage of the push content you already have. If its was build in Learning Objects you have a good start as you can make each LO searchable though appropriate meta tagging.

2.Develop a plan to meta tag your content and incorporate a robust search so the user can find and access those LOs and other content easily.

3.Make it possible for the user to either take the original push LO sequence or create a learning plan of their own by selecting his/her own content from the searches mentioned above

4.Add Web 2.0 tehnology like blogs, wikis, and messaging to your system, even associate some with your LOs or allow the users to do so.

5.Don't expect all this will happen overnight this is an evolutionary and revolutionary process.

More to come on this blog.
Contributors welcome!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Course Design and Content Organization: A Psychological Perspective

New Paper:
The effectiveness of learning materials is guided by three principal factors: comprehension, retention, and recollection. At the same time each of these factors is affected by sub-factors including the structure of learning materials. Atul Singh addresses those structures to helps us understand the relationship between learning objects, learning effectiveness, and learning psychology.

Go to Atul's article

Learning Objects articles

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Podcasting tools... free or very inexpensive!

Everyone seems to be talking about MP3's and Podcasting. You might have wanted to venture but were afraid of adding yet another bill, worry no longer. There are two services you can use, one for free and another very inexpensive. They both provide recording via the web and telephone, posting your podcasts to your web site, and access to podcasting communities.

These services are excellent ways to get started for those that heard about Podcasting but have not join this latest trend. Both services are easy to use and with plenty of new users coming on board you will not feel like an odd ball if you don't know how to use a feature.

So if you have something valuable to share, or just want your nonsense to be heard, try the links below. Hopefully after your initial trial you will find ways to apply this to your e-learning. Podcasting has good potential to complement other online educational delivery.

Odeo: a free audio podcasting service.

Audioblog: an inexpensive audio podcasting service (also offers video during its beta stage only.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Initial satisfacion vs. end results in e-learning.

Designing e-learning interfaces is always a challenge. Users seems to dislike long scrolling pages as much as they do large chunks of text. They also seems to want access to the content in a flexible learner centered manner. Yet, studies seem to indicate that users do not perform well when given a chance to rearrange and resize screens at will (see study quoted at the end of this posting).

The results from that study seem to have been confirmed by products created by this author where screen resizing was available but hardly ever used by users. Also parallel paths to content were said to be preferred but users seemed to often follow established sequences after searching for desired topics.

Another set of issues was found when providing bookmarking, note taking, and highlighting capabilities. While product designers asked for full featured note taking, with storage, note searching, and color coding, most users seem to have used the notes only in their basic form.

In conclusion, when designing e-learning products, start with the basic functionality. Test it with users and add enhancements only if used often and fully. Remember added functionality often results in an increased learning curve for the user. Also remember that as was found in the 2004 study quoted below, “satisfaction and user performance do not always correlate” as learners preformed better with interfaces that they stated were less desirable. It is not inconceivable that you will have to weigh whether you are shooting for initial perceived satisfaction or end goal achievement and results oriented satisfaction.

When it comes to paths to content, do provide a stated clear path, but do complement it with searching and the ability to jump forward and back without losing track of the reference to the suggested sequence. Remember learners that do start with independent tailoring often rejoin the suggested sequences.

A comparison of parallelism in interface design for computer-based learning environments, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, Vol. 20, No. 5, October, pp. 360–367

Computer mediated vs. Face to Face, what's best?

Those involved in the delivery of e-learning, including this author, have claimed that computer-mediated-communication (CMC) and face-to-face (F2F) interaction are equivalent. This author was involved in the accreditation of the first program approved by the Middle States Association for delivery entirely online and proving the equivalent outcomes was part of that initial process. However, one instance can be an aberration and its important to continue to corroborate the findings.

A 2005 study (see reference below) has confirmed what we had stated to Middle States a decade earlier. Outcomes can indeed be equivalent even though more research needs to be performed to assess issues of greater score variance in the CMC case which appears to be due to prior acquaintance with the technology.

It was positive that many CMC learners noted that “this experience enhanced their communication skills, increased their awareness of technological challenges facing computer-mediated teams, and provided valuable experience for future job opportunities in industry.” While this is not the original intent or course objective it is a significant bonus derived from computer mediated learning and for this reason I encourage learners to participate in at least one e-learning course or training.


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Information Literacy / Big6

Big6, and approach to teach information literacy developed by Mike Eisenberg and Bob Berkowitz, has become a widely used approach to teaching, especially in the area of information technology. The benefit of Big6 is that it focuses the learner on steps designed to bring efficiency and effectiveness to the learning process, especially Internet based information gathering. All to often people Google without a plan ending up overwhelmed with information. Big6 provides the process to build-in critical thinking and resulting effectiveness.

Big6 steps (from

1. Task Definition
1.1 Define the information problem
1.2 Identify information needed

2. Information Seeking Strategies
2.1 Determine all possible sources
2.2 Select the best sources

3. Location and Access
3.1 Locate sources (intellectually and physically)
3.2 Find information within sources

4. Use of Information
4.1 Engage (e.g., read, hear, view, touch)
4.2 Extract relevant information

5. Synthesis
5.1 Organize from multiple sources
5.2 Present the information

6.1 Judge the product (effectiveness)
6.2 Judge the process (efficiency

Here are some resources you might be interested in:
Big6 for the Internet:

General Big6 information and useful links:

A form for students to keep track of the Big6 progress:

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Free LMS access

I usually stay away from things that might sound like a promotion of a private business but in this case an exception is warranted. The reason for this exception is that there are few places where someone can try out teaching online and getting to understand and LMS.

If you've never taught online and want to try it before committing to a large job at your institution, try This outfit provides you free access to their LMS. An excellent chance to try things at no cost to you. Try teaching something, get feedback and improve your online teaching skills at no cost. Later, once you have polished your online teaching skills, you can even try making a few bucks.

Update 6/08: Nuvvo has been shut down due to upgrades but go to

Saturday, March 11, 2006

G1:1 and $100 dollar computers, a world of opportunity!

The time when entire segments of the world's population could be ignored has passed. It is not only morally right to address the problems of the underpriviledged but the smart thing to do from the health, economic, and environmental point of view. There are now several proposals to address educational issues of the less afluent by using e-learning.

The G1:1 (Globally, one computer for one person) is one project focusing on providing information and educational access to via the internet. You can learn more about this iniciative by going to

In addition, the Media Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the World Bank, the United Nations, and corporate investors, will move to provide a $100 laptop to millions of school age children in developing countries. These inexpensive computers will not be sold, but will be distributed to schools though governmental organizations. You can learn more at the following sites:

E-Learning Africa

MIT Media Lab

Keep an eye on these initiatives. They have the potential to open a world of opportunity to millions!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Rapid E-Learning online symposium

E-learning is increasingly popular, however, the cost of developing it has kept many away, as a result, the concept of Rapid E-Learning was born. This week the E-Learning Guild is holding an online symposium on Rapid E-Learning. Some of the speakers include well known e-learning author, Michael Allen but the practitioners/presenters are the force behind the success of the symposium. In the 90 we needed E-evangelizing; today we need E-productivity.

You will find the session schedule here. You can click on each session to find more about the presenter, and see an abstract including the objectives of the presentation.

While all the sessions I participated in today were good, the effect of the suggested practices on Rapid E-Learning appear to vary broadly. Still, the session make us think and hopefully that will be the key to each one increasing the production speed in ways appropriate for each organization. The key is that Rapid E-Learning should not be less quality e-learning!

Join in if you still can or see if you can get access to the recordings. All sessions are online and recorded (audio and slides).

The Guild’s URL is

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

M-Learning and sales

M-Learning seems to be the new buzz. Here is an article that addresses it and points some nice uses of the technology. Some of what is described, however, is the delivery of information on demand rather than education yet, m-learning has great potential to serve educational, training, and information needs.

A course (traditional or online) can be extended into the field of practice. Through m-leaning one can appeal to different learning modalities, provide motivation, provide varied experiences as methods of reinforcement, and increasing relevance to the learner. These are powerful enhancements to the traditional learning modes.

Issues that still remain to be addresses are the cost of extra development needed to add m-learning to the educational or training mix; measures of effectiveness, and uptake by end users.

This ASTD article will get you thinking about the possible uses of m-learning to your organization.

Optimizing Your Sales Workforce through Mobile Learning

Friday, April 22, 2005

Hype or truth about the iPod as a learning tool?

Recently there have been a number of articles and blog postings about how great the iPod is as a learning tool. Most of this was triggered by Apple’s own statements. But is it true or just hype?

What does the iPod offer me as a student? It offers me the ability to record lectures, class discussion and my own comments or speech/presentation delivery practice. It also enables me to load things (photos and data) to it for me to read or take from school or the training site to my home. Finally, it keep me n schedule.

Could I have done the above in the pre-iPod era? Yes. The iPod in that sense has added little. So then, what has the iPod added? It has added convenience. No longer do I have to use cassette tapes winding and re-winding, or for those that aren’t that old, you no longer have to worry about handing MDs.

The iPod is not so much about something new. It’s about making what we could do much more practical. This is not an inconsequential thing! People are much more likely to record others or themselves now than they were in the pre-iPod era. They’ll do that not only because the iPod is handy but because it’s easy to use and, it’s cool! This is what makes it powerful.

For e-learning the iPod can be an important tool as we can do Podcasting or simply add MP3s to our instruction that can be downloaded to be listed to on the way to work, for example. The iPod or other MP3 players can become efficiency tools for e-learning. They are not a drastic breakthrough but a valuable addition.

Comments on the creative use of iPods or MP3 players in e-learning are welcome!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Cases are powerful e-learning tools

Cases are commonly used in traditional education. In medical school they see them as they do hospital rounds, in law school they study from them extensively, and in training it’s common to use cases in built simulations. We, however, don’t see them used enough in e-learning and when we do, we do not take full advantage of the capabilities of the online medium.

Taking advantage of the medium does not mean using complex technology or large amounts of bandwidth. One takes advantage of the online medium when the user can interact effortlessly and is able to make decisions that affect the outcome of the case.

For example, I have worked on medical online cases. The learner is presented with a patient complaint, the learner can then inquire about the patients health, social, and family histories. The learner can follow up by referring the patient, performing tests (blood, scans, etc.). Then the learner is provided feedback not only of the test and consultation results but also the relevance of the test performed. This is followed the ability to select a diagnosis and once that is correctly done the learner can determine the treatment.

The above is done successfully with html and some java script. In the near future we will switch to flash. The point is, cases and be very effectively carried out with the technology we have at hand.

Why are they successful learning tools? Because they keep us engaged, involved in an interactive exchange, and thinking creatively to resolve the problems. In addition the resemblance of cases with real world situations keep us motivated as we truly feel we are preparing to confront our future challenges.

If as an educator you have not used cases do take time to consider using them, you will be glad you did.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

What is Podcasting and can I used it in education and training?

Podcasting consist of the use of audio over the internet. The term comes from the iPOD and broadcasting but it can be done with any MP3 player. It is fairly easy to do podcasting and it enables users to not just listen to audio while at their computers, a capability we all had for some time, but it also enables download and payback in MP3 players and iPODs.

Why is podcasting important in e-learning? Simply because it is one more form of media to use. This can be used to enhance what is already delivered online, for example. Not only will the leaner read your web pages, interact with software or simulation online, watch streaming video, exchange posts with classmates, and go to live chat, but now they will also carry your comments or lessons on their iPod or MP3 player. This provides grater time exposure to your content and reinforces what was learned by other means or provides significant learning in auditory learners.

In certain training situations an audio guide of how to do a certain task could be provided. This would enable the learner to play the steps while performing a job, for example, extending the learning into performance support.

Think creatively, podcasting has huge potential for e-learning and e-training.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Power Point for E-Learning: a faster way to deliver it

PowerPoint is a good tool for e-learning. In an earlier post in this Blog we provide links to a tutorial for learning how to make interactive PowerPoint presentations. While those presentations are nice PowerPoint has the drawback of producing large files difficult to deliver online but there are solutions.

1. You can transform your PowerPoint presentations to Flash. In this way you can deliver it as more efficiently. You can even divide large presentations into several smaller Flash movies that are linked. In this way each one doesn’t take so much time to download. Computers will need the Flash player.

2 You can use Impatica which compresses PowerPoint presentations by 90%. Impatica allows for presentations to have images, video, and audio. You can see samples of the presentations delivered via Impatica a their web site. Computers will need to be Java enabled to play Impatica files.