Online Learning -- Grab bag

I'm back in Berkeley after four days in La-la land. In spite of the heat and humidity, I love travel because it feeds my natural curiosity and being in a different place always sparks new ideas. This morning I'm cleaning the lint out of my mental belly button. A few observations and memes:

All the handouts!

Thank you, VNU, for posting handouts and presentations on your conference site. This selfless "best practice" helps our industry. Remember when you had to have the secret code to look at stuff like this?

Blended Training, the Conference

Wednesday morning Gloria annonced that henceforth, Training and Online Learing will be one co-located event. The next combo event takes place in spring in Atlanta. In the fall, a west coat event will take place at an as-yet undisclosed location. Declining attendance aside, a blended conference makes sense in a world of blended learningl

No more chrome

Cool is dead among buyers of corporate eLearning. I should have been more clear in my earlier post. Stephen Downes responded that cool will never be dead; I agree. It's apodictic. Bells and whistles were trendy a few years ago. Now pragmatic and practical -- no frills -- is what companies are looking for. Hearing this, I suggested to Macromedia that they rename Flash. The new name? Dull.

eLearning = This Old House

eLearning has entered the Home Depot stage. Do it yourself. Bring it inside. Spend no cash. Do it with duct tape. If there's sufficient demand, maybe I'll write a booklet on free-learning, e.g. eLearning on a shoestring. Expos give a warped sample of learning tools: you only see things that are sufficiently expensive to justify paying the fees to exhibit.

M-learning comes to the tiny screen

To everyone who disdains phone-learning or PDA-learning because the form factor is too small, get over it. Mobile devices no more have to carry all the content than computers had to mediate all eLearning. Phones may augment learning with tips, reminders, quizzes, and short reinforcers.

SCORM reborn

SCORM is no longer a dirty word. The new focus on making things work (and not screwing everybody up with endless revisions) is both credible and popular.

Learning moves

For more on the mobile scene, check out the CoLab's blog. PAN = Personal area network, which connects your phone, your PDA, your camera, your pager, your desktop, etc., keeping them all in sync. Instead of squinting at a tiny screen, you may be looking at the equivalent of a 16" monitor a few feet away which is being beamed to your retina from a pea-sized projector imbedded in your sunglasses.

The West is the best

Sometimes I feel like I'm living the technology diffusion curve. In my personal circle, more authors than nerds, everyone knows what a blog is. Tuesday I helped facilitate a session where nobody knew what a blog was. Some were intrigued and want to give it a try. Others choose to take only a sliver of the potential, e.g. "Blogs are diaries," and then make pronouncements, e.g. "Business doesn't need online diaries." As William Gibson has written, "The future has already arrived. It's just not evenly distributed yet."


Talk with a "virtual classroom" provider about Microsoft's repackaging of Placeware as a component of Office 2003, and you'll get an earfull. Remember Netscape and "We'll cut off their air supply?" This is sort of like the tailor who visited the Pope. ("Charlie, what was he like?" Charlie: "39 Regular.") I asked two fellows from Redmond about the issue. They couldn't even remember the name for neo-Placeware. "Office Meeting?"

Posted by Jay Cross at September 25, 2003 10:15 AM | TrackBack

"eLearning has entered the Home Depot stage. Do it yourself. Bring it inside. Spend no cash. Do it with duct tape."

Sure... everyone wants to do things with no cash right now (see your comment re: Cool is dead). And, yes, there's a lot that can be done with cheap or inexpensive tools.

But that doesn't change the fact that for most full learning initiatives you need professionals dedicated to doing the work of constructing the systems and supporting the development of learning programs that really work. Most companies can't afford to have a full team of dedicated, professional instructional designers, technologists and visionaries on their staff. That means that most shoestring approaches will fail.

Prediction... Home Depot approach and "bring it in" and "do it ourselves" will turn to "send it out" to outsourced experts, services and tools and the cycle will keep repeating...

Posted by: Gord Mackenzie at September 25, 2003 07:51 PM

Gord, do-it-yourself need not be shoestring, but I take your point: There is no free lunch.

Posted by: Jay at September 25, 2003 10:21 PM

I think the point is commoditization is key for mass market adoption below the "enterprise class". These cheaper DIY solutions -- cobbled together with affordable authoring, tracking and delivery tools -- may not possess everything the big "enterprise vendors" ship with their top-shelf offerings, but the 80-20 rule applies. Most SMB organizations don't need the feature set (or cost) of an enterprise class offering; they just need the basic tools to get the job done.

And to Gord's point, spend some of the money you save on the tools hiring the right people and/or outsiders to help make the content offerings top-shelf instead.

BTW, the link to the CoLab BLOG is not correct. Can you refresh that one for us?

Thanks...Robert ;?)

Posted by: Robert Gadd at September 27, 2003 05:48 AM

Damn. Shifting URLs. I've asked both the CoLab and VNU for the correct pointers to their stuff.

Posted by: Jay at September 27, 2003 08:41 PM

Coordinates for the M-Learning pages:
Tell them I sent you!

Posted by: Jay at September 27, 2003 08:46 PM

Online Learning handouts/presentations are at

Posted by: Jay at October 2, 2003 01:44 AM

Hi there Jay,

I enjoyed your "Irony" comment in your blog about Placeware aka what's-its-name. This is from my blog today, speaks to how roughly that transition may be going:

"Sorta learned with Tom Peters today"

Today I participated in a free webinar with Tom Peters on his new book. Well, sorta participated. It was a Placeware event, aka Microsoft Live Meeting. I have taken literally dozens of Placeware events in the past, and have found them to be excellent as far as how well the technology works and how well they are facilitated. But ever since they were acquired by Microsoft, the experiences haven't been so positive. Ok, I've only been to two since then, but they were both very messy with technical problems. They'd better sort this out soon, or they are going to slip from being my favourite such provider, so several pegs down the list!

Now that I have finished that rant, Tom Peters was fabulous (would have been even better if I could have seen the slides, and it hadn't started 25 minutes late!) (oops, I said I was through with the rant, forgot). Tom is always totally refreshing. There will be a recording of the event available in a day or so on Placeware, and the slides can be downloaded from the Tom Peters site.

There's a follow-up event on November 10th, which will mainly be a Tom Peters Q&A, I'm signed up (and hopefully Placeware/MS will get their ducks in a row by then).

Thought bubble: I wonder what Tom Peter's rant will be after such a technology disaster ? ;-)

Posted by: Roberta Westwood at October 16, 2003 12:36 AM

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