Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I'm honored...

Tony Karrer says I "exemplify smart blogging as a personal learning mechanism"... plus, he list some great blogs that I didn't know about, which will promptly go into my RSS reader.  The sad thing is, it's been a month and a half since my last post... and I actually got two response to my previous post, which I didn't know about.  The reason for the delay, is quite simply - work.  We're currently rolling out a big new program, with multiple course modules.  Actually, we had already finished it... but the boss didn't like them, and we had to re-make all of the modules.
In response to the comments from my last post (if anyone is still reading), I'm looking for stats to show my bosses that eLearning 2.0 (or whatever) is the way to go.  Maybe a study that shows how learning retention is increased when the student becomes a "creator" in the learning process. Or something else along those lines.  I wish I could be more specific, but the problem is - I'm not exactly sure what I'm looking for.  Since my last entry, I haven't really had a chance to even think about it again.
Well... time to get back to work.  And thanks to Tony Karrer for the mention!


Friday, January 12, 2007

Same Old Story

Learning Circuits has been following up on the question of "Quality vs. Speed". And of course, the true "answer" seems to be: quality should always be the best, whether the learning is developed quickly or slowly. You could spend a year creating an eLearning solution, and if it isn't effective, the fact that you spent a year on it won't mean anything. Conversely, if you create a solution in two days, and it works, the amount of time won't mean anything.

The one thing I've noticed, at least in the corporate world, is that when you do something fast and it's good, the next project is expected to be finished just as quickly and with the same quality. And many times, they expect it faster and better. Since I deal in the sales world, the measure of success really is quantity. How many calls have you made? How much did you bill this week? Did you bill more/less this quarter than last quarter? What can you do to get more clients next quarter?

However, this approach to eLearning is doomed to fail. It's true that I could output more modules... I could probably create a module a week, and to be honest, they'd look pretty good. When the VP goes through them, he'll think, "These are really nice-looking and they include all the information I want". But the student will probably get very little out of them. We do have testing at the end, and of course, people will pass the tests and move on... and it looks like we're successful. But I can guarantee, if I were to ask people a few months down the road what they remember, they'll more than likely say, "nothing". It can be disheartening from a teaching stand-point.

I had really hoped that this year, I could convince the higher-ups to re-evaluate the goals of our eLearning program, but sadly, that hasn't been the case. I pushed to create some genuine feedback for the modules, but the time it would take to implement that would take away from the bottom-line output.

What I think I need is some research. Sales people LOVE looking at demographics, and buying habits, and charts and graphs. I think I'm going to spend some of my breaks looking for eLearning research. Tony Karrer bought up the idea of blogs as a discussion tool... so on the off chance that someone besides me reads this --- does anyone have links to research done? Or charts or graphs? or anything?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Big Question - January 2007

It's been a while, but I figure I'd get back in the swing with the Learning Circuits blog's Big Question:

What are the trade offs between quality learning programs and rapid e-learning and how do you decide?

Since I've pretty much only done the "rapid" approach, it's tough to make the comparison. However, our company just recently launched a new online product (not e-learning related), and it's been a HUGE hit. I bring this up because they had been working on it for over 6 months, and went through many alpha and beta tests to make sure everything was great, prior to going live. When MY team has been tasked with an eLearning project, we might get a week or two... starting with nothing and ending with a finished product.

Currently, we've got five learning modules that need to be online by March 1st... which actually means a week before March 1st, so the higher-ups can approve them. My job is basically to make sure they're not TOTALLY boring... as there's no way I could brainstorm and implement anything great, cool, and engaging with just 1 and 1/2 weeks per module.

So I guess that's the real difference. Rapid development doesn't allow for "beta tests", or innovation. By the time I research some cool, new ActionScript class that will make the module interactive, it's time to move on to the next module.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Comic Book Training

In my previous post, I talked about doing some aspect of our training in comic book form... inspired by this post from Brent Schlenker.

Well, I did a rough draft, and I'm pretty happy with it. It's essentially a book of common mistakes sales people need to avoid. I'm including the cover, and one of the "blunders". Click the picture below to see:

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Back to old habits.

We've got a new course being developed, and it's going to include 6 small-ish Flash modules.  All of it due by December 15th.
With a little time, I'm sure we could brainstorm some great interactive ways to present the material, and try to do some really engaging training.  However, with such a quick deadline, it's all come down to "glorified PowerPoints" again.  It can be disheartening, especially when I've got tons of ideas floating around in my head, and I've read such interesting things on some other E-learning blogs.
I will say that this post from Brent Schlenker gave me a fun idea for one of the sections.  While I haven't found anything as cool as Comic Life for the PC, I did buy Comic Book Creator, the Marvel edition.  It's has some of the features of Comic Life.  One of the section in one of the modules is about common mistakes sales people make, and I'm going to turn each of those mistakes into a comic book page... then each Next Button click will zoom to a different panel on the page.  At the end of the mistake, the page will turn and show a different mistake, and zoom around again.  I think it'll be kind cool.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Challenge O' the day/week/months/year: More Posting

We recently got finished with our big, corporate-wide training course.  Unfortunately, the division we were creating it for had this artificial deadline and they wouldn't budge on it (even though, most of our holdups were because they missed their deadlines).  So we sent it out with NO testing or bug-checking outside of our own,  which is a huge mistake because we've got decent computers with all the right software -- most people in the "real" world aren't so fortunate.  Needless to say, we've been inundated with support/complaint calls since it went live.
Another problem, as I've posted about before, is the idea that we're forcing people to click through long and large file-sized sections... and not everyone in the company is on a blazing T-3 connection like we are.  I really hope people will learn from this... but I'm skeptical.
On a good note, I was able to implement some Flash technologies that I never used before.  Specifically, connecting to Web Services and using XML to create a randomized quiz.  I have had a few problems with the Web Service, but that's because our little web server got really overloaded with the initial onslaught of participants, and would create errors.  Nothing big, mind you, but there are a few people whose progress wasn't totally tracked.
My next desire is to learn about Flex and ActionScript 3.  Sometimes I feel like I'm just catching up to technology that was new 5 years ago... but I've just never had the time to spend with learning all the new stuff.  I got very good at Flash 5, but have grown very slowly since then.  Now that it looks like we'll have some downtime, I want to start with the absolute LATEST technology, and be on the cutting edge.  Knowing how the real world works though, I imagine we'll have another urgent project sprung on us, and my plans will be put on hold again.   I'll be starting to learn about AS3 in 2010.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Challenge O' the Day: Does my opinion count?

I've blogged about it already, but we're in the middle of a big project that's (hopefully) nearing completion.  My honest feeling about it though, is that it's a huge waste of time.  Not only that, it's a waste of a LOT of time.
Back when I first started, I thought my role in the division was to create effective, interactive training for the intranet.  Just like the our workshop trainers will get together and figure out ways to keep the students engaged in the class, it seemed like my job was to do the same but online.  A few years ago, I realized that really wasn't my function.  Basically, I take the words that are given me, make them look "pretty", and tweak it until my bosses are happy.  Almost never do I actually think about the training's effectiveness... I'm only worried about the higher-up's contentment.
As we near the end of this current course development, I'm struggling with the fact that nothing we're doing is going to help anyone learn anything.  Again a few years ago, I had brought up similar issues with my direct supervisor, but I was told, "I understand your concern, but we need to make sure [the head person] is pleased with it first".  That is TOTALLY anti-thetical to what I know about Learning.  And it bothers me that they DON'T take that approach to the in-person training... or to put it better, it bothers me that they don't treat ONLINE learning with the same attitude as they treat in-person training.
After going to the eLearn DevCon thing a couple of months ago, I almost feel bad for complaining.  So may of those people were struggling with even having funding for online training -- and we've got a whole department.  At the same time, it should ALL be about effective learning, and not our superior's "egos".  Unfortunately, as it stands, my opinion only really matters on minute issues.