June 30, 2004

Mutlimedia Learning

Here's yet another effective form of learning.


I am thirty pounds overweight and must exercise at leasst 30 minutes a day to work off the fat.

I can transfer MP3 sounds files downloaded from the 'net via the USB port on my computer.

This tiny $80 device can record or play two hours of voice.

Yesterday I downloaded a variety of high-tech intereviews by Doug Kaye. Later, I trudged up a steep hil while listening to interviews with Chris Perillo, Steve Gilmour, and Craig Newmark. Forty-five minutes later, I had completed the day's exercise and learned a lot more about sydication, the Microsoft/Sun deal, and forming social networks. I had also completed the day's exercise.

Hearing a recorded voice has more impact than reading the same message. Talk about a cheap delivery system. Give everyone one of the gizmos and load if up with need-to-know information.

It my case, this is an example of mutlitasking that works.

Posted by Jay Cross at 03:56 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 28, 2004

Nonverbal impact?

Sahib Spiderman. Maish points to this example of extreme localization. To the right is Indian Spiderman..

I was never a Spiderman fan. Superman and Batman were in vogue when I read comic books. Recently, Spidey has been popping up on my radar. Only yesterday, Boing-Boing pointed to Spiderman satire. [Refresh the page when you get there for a rotation of 20 strips.]

I'm losing my hearing. It's not like someone turned down the volume knob on my ears. No, it's more like the sliders on my mental audio mixer are set to drop out a few frequencies. A sound in an otherwise quiet room is crystal clear but a voice in a crowded room fades into the generalized noise. This got me to thinking about nonverbal communication and the oft-quoted finding that most of what's communicated in conversation does come through our ears.

Professor Albert Mehrabian has pioneered the understanding of communications since the 1960's. Aside from his many and various other fascinating works, Mehrabian established this classic statistic for the effectiveness of spoken communications:

* 7% of meaning is in the words that are spoken.
* 38% of meaning is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said).
* 55% of meaning is in facial expression.

"Mehrabian's research involved spoken communications. Transferring the model indiscriminately to written or telephone communications is not reliable, except to say that without the opportunity for visual signs, there is likely to be even more potential for confused understanding and inferred meanings." Mehrabian's site is worth a look, too.

Thinking back on the findings that people tend to treat computers as if they were people, I began to wonder if an avatar can communicate nonverbally.

Spiderman is clearly a poor choice because he rarely changes expression; I'm not even sure he has lips.

Better pick some more expressive figures. Have them all say the same thing and see if the impact of the message differs....

Are the messages equally compelling? Believable?

Does the "speaker" influence your evaluation of the content? Do you feel one communicates better than the other?

Leave a comment if you think there's anything to this.

Top 10 Tips for Nonverbal Communication

Excellent communication skills are the key to success in your personal and professional life. Research shows that nonverbal communication is actually more important than verbal communication. Here are the top 10 tips for using nonverbal communication to improve your relationships.

1. 'Dance' with the nonverbal signals being sent your way on a moment-to-moment basis.

Stop and ask the other person what their nonverbal behavior means if you are uncertain about it. It is more effective to be 'in the moment,' tuning in to your audience, than to drone on with what you were trying to say.

2. Use the tonality of your voice the way that a musician uses an instrument.

When you are expressing love you can speak in soft, lilting tones. When someone is crying you can speak with a 'crying' sound in your voice. When you are setting limits on a toddler's behavior you can use a tone of authority and firmness.

3. Soak in the hugs that others give to you.

Many people have difficulty being 'present' in the moment to truly receive the affection that comes with a hug. You probably need to be hugged more than you are being hugged, so why resist?

4. Express gratitude to your audience when they are being attentive and responsive.

The encouragement could increase the level of attentiveness and responsiveness, making it a more enjoyable experience for you and for them.

5. Use good eye contact.

Many people stop using eye contact when they are speaking about their successes due to fear or embarrassment. Others stop using eye contact when they are talking about painful things.

6. Stop what you were doing when your listeners look glassy-eyed or bored.

Take ownership and responsibility for the situation by saying, "I must be 'off' tonight because I'm not getting that 'you're interesting' look." Change something drastically about what you were doing.

7. Tune in to the 'metacommunication' that is going on at a given moment.

Metacommunication involves noticing the larger context of communication. It can be helpful to tune in to the larger context when there is a sense of being provoked by what a speaker is saying. For example, you might ask yourself, "Why is my teenager telling me that he is going to pierce his tongue? Is he telling me to test me or to take a risk of being open with me?"

8. When you are confronting someone who you are in a close relationship with, reach out to take their hand in both of yours.

This kind of gesture will communicate that you want the difficult words that you are sharing to increase your intimacy rather than to put a wedge in it. A caring gesture during a confrontation can assist the other person in hearing you instead of defending themselves.

9. Notice the effect that your words have on others.

Do they cause life or dampen life? With practice, your 'radar' will improve and you will immediately know the effect that you are having on others.

10. Hug others as if you were St. Peter greeting newcomers at the Pearly Gates.

Leo Buscaglia was on to something. Dr. Buscaglia, the famous educator known as Dr. Hug, made it part of his lectures to hug any members of the audience who would line up for the embrace.

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June 21, 2004

Don't Lose a Common Sense: LISTEN

When Jennifer Hoffman asked me to record a few thoughts from Training Directors Forum on a tiny RadioShack IC recorder, it struck me as kind of hokey but since I'm always open to experimentation, I recorded a blurb.

"Listen, learn, change"
David Gergen

Someone responded yesterday, so I trekked over to InSync Center to post a reply. Once there, I saw a few friends' faces and felt obligated to hear what they had to say. When I heard Lance, Ghenno, Marc, Saul, Harvey, and others giving their extended sound-bites, it triggered their larger messages. It helped to have their photo alongside, tool

As I upgrade the Workflow Institute site, I plan to add some soundbites you can call up with a button. Jennifer's done a great job of making this easy to use. I suggest you take a look.

Meanwhile, on the screen, this message just arrived in my gmail box:

Dear Sir

I Durga doing research in e-learning standards relationship and its role.

So I am conducting survey on this area. Here I attached my survey form. I will be happy if you could give me your opinion. I look forward to a favorable reply.

Please send my form by email or Fax.

A year ago, I would have opened the attachment and answered this chap's questions. Not now. For all I know, this is a virus-bomb being lobbed inside my firewall from a spoofed address. A wolf in sheep's clothing.

A pity this crap is so commonplace.

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June 13, 2004

Repetition, reverb, and echoes

It's Sunday morning and I've giving myself the luxury of interspersing web crawling with work. I just landed on Robin Good's Online Collaboration news page.

Robin filters, reviews, and points to noteworthy items on the web. His interests and mine dovetail, so I can spend beaucoup time sifting through what's here. For example:

  • Group Collaboration Vs. Individual Achievers = 1-0 Wired
    "The evidence is clear: groups - whether top executives evaluating a potential acquisition or sales reps and engineers analyzing a new product - will consistently make better decisions than an individual. Companies have spent too long coddling the special few. It's time for them to start figuring out how they're going to tap the wisdom of the many."

  • Small Technologies Loosely Joined. The Small Technologies Loosely Joined presentation is a complementary and fascinating participatory online event, focusing our attention on the emerging use of readily available, mostly free, discrete sets of "small" and "loosely joined" technologies - weblogs, wikis, instant messaging, audio video conferencing tools.

    There's the start of a great debate over centralization vs decentralization. The decentralists picture their position as:

  • The Individual Is The Epicenter Of The New Media Revolution is a theme with which I could not agree more.

    How's this for a self-referential play-within-a-play? "Individuals, the future "newsmasters" and "digital information librarians" will
    be the ones that will elect themselves to become active filters and aggregators
    of the increasingly vast amounts of information becoming available online.
    Without them, you would be either submerged or you would have to surrender to the poor, superficial and frequently manipulated reporting available through
    mainstream media channels only. Individuals are also the new sustainable artists of tomorrow.

So much great information, so little time.

But that's not what I intended to ponder and write about this morning. Robin's Online Collaboration blog also lists this pointer:

    Collaboration Technologies Empower The Enterprise Jay Cross shares his original live presentation at the ASTD Conference. The presentation containing his original audio and all of the accompanying slides gives an extraordinary overview of just some of the critical issues relevant to effective collaboration inside the enterprise, while exemplifying in very simple words how the greater facility of communicating and sharing in groups can so dramatically enhance the work and the results we are to obtain with it. Jay covers RSS, information overload, blogs, wikis, social networking and much, much more. In his familiar, uncontrived and direct tone, he breezes through an interesting and textured panorama of skills and technologies no organization can afford to do without. Highly recommended. (1:06' Breeze streaming format).

(Thanks, Robin!)

When I posted my presentation to the Web, I mentioned it on thisblog. In typical blog fashion, that entry has scrolled off the page. For visibility, that's worse than being "below the fold" on the front page of the paper. Off the page means Lost in Space.

As anyone who has run an ad campaign knows, nothing really happens until the ad is repeated again and again, sinking into the buyer's consciousness. Imagine the multiplier effect of hitting a diverse group of readers again and again that this post is out there for free viewing. Maybe I'll put a pop-up box of faves on the front page to give the good stuff longer tenure there. While I enjoy creating new stuff, the 80/20 rule tells me there's more payback from seeking exposure from what's already here.

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June 07, 2004

More TDF04

The Wild Horse Pass Resort is a classy operation. The help smiles and says hello in the hallways. The towels are full-sized and plush. The fake boulders in the lobby have fake petroglyphs.

Saguaro cactus ribs are built into the gigantic Native American fetishes on the ceilings. The morning OJ is served in handsome wine glasses. But (there’s always a “but”)…there is no Wi-Fi in the conference rooms. So I’m writing this on the fly and will periodically go back to the lobby to upload.

Saul Carliner is exhorting people to take some of the empty seats at the front of the room, saying that it has been proven that people in the front of the room learn more. Saul’s hosting this event, the 20th annual TDF.

Research Results You Can Use

Brenda Sugrue, ASTD’s research director, challenges each of us to jot down a research question as a warm-up for her presentation on Benchmarking. Benchmarking is the ultimate performance improvement strategy. Benchmarking research can focus on expenditures, cost/hour, outsourcing, etc., across companies, award winners, profit leaders, etc.

    Sample question: How large should the annual training budget be?

    Issues: “Dirty data.” 50% of that submitted to ASTD is rejected.

    Brenda displayed data on training budget as a percent of payroll and per employee. The mean % of payroll is 3.6% but the variance is wide. The mean budget is $1626 per employee, averaging $231 to $4,970.

    This is interesting but doesn’t tell that much. It doesn’t address the organizations’ strategy, correlation to results, spending patterns, a training industry value chain, a more sophisticated diagram.

    ASTD has discontinued its former benchmarking service. The new Benchmarking Forum is asking new questions and developing a Benchmarking Performance Scorecard. It will evolve into an online performance support tool.

Jim L’Allier, CLO of Thompson NETg, is preparing to talk about the impact of various combinations of learning methods. Jim’s framework is Kirkpatrick Levels (agh) and blended/unblended. He just about lost me until he said the measure of evaluation was ability to use the skill (completing a spreadsheet).

    The instructor-led blend cut the time to complete the task in half. However, the non-blend option did not include the opportunity to use the software. More meaningfully, there was no significant different between ILT, text, and sim. Blended learning is not about blended media. It’s about how the media is designed to be used. The important factors are job-specific scenarios, realistic job problems, competencies linked to the learner’s job. The questions to ask are:

  • Does the instruction contain job-specific scenarios?
  • Are the scenarios realistic?
  • Are the competencies being taught linked to the worker’s job?
  • Is the learner given opportunity to practice?
  • Does the learner received corrective feedback?

27% of the population of the U.S. are boomers (born 1946-1964). We have an aging population. Life expectancy is up nearly 10 years in the past fifty years.

Time to consider retention, succession planning, mentoring programs, knowledge capture, KM, training burden, for in seven years, the boomer begin to drop out of the workforce.

Let’s see now. We have all these wise people about to leave the workforce. Why don’t we redefine their roles where we can continue to tap into their strengths, their knowledge, and their judgment? Instead of putting oldsters out to pasture, make them into coaches, mentors, and high-level help desks. I think the training community continues to draw too tight a boundary around their turf.

Once upon a time, fulltime employees were the only beneficiaries of training. Then we began to add subcontractors and part-timers. Then partners and distributors came on board. Now we talk of training everyone in the value chain, from suppliers to customers. It’s about time to add corporate alumni to training’s charter.

Sam Adkins gave a presentation on the latest in learning technology.

  • Benjamin Bloom found out long ago that tutored students learn as much as the top 2% of classroom students. New work finds that cognitive tutors produce even better results!

  • Enterprise application training (SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft, etc.) has accounted for 55% - 65% of all corporate training, but several years from now it will be dead, replaced by the smart single business interface.

  • 17% of the American workforce is actively disengaged from work.

  • Business process design is indistinguishable from Instructional Design.

IBM’s Nancy Deviney gave the lunchtime keynote on The Future of Learning. You’ve heard my thoughts on IBM’s learning strategy before. In sum, it’s great.

James Sharpe and Andy Sadler showed a variety of integrated tools for supporting informal, unstructured learning. The demo was compelling because it dealt with realistic examples (figuring out an Excel spreadsheet rather than trying to boil the ocean). Within an on demand workplace, Jim and Andy built a course, enrolled in a class, located experts, set up an emeeting, and more. Guidance was built right in every step of the way.

Posted by Jay Cross at 04:10 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Training Directors Forum 2004

Training Directors Forum kicked off this evening at the five-star Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa outside of Phoenix. We're in the middle of an Indian Native American Reservation in the Sonora Desert. This enables the hotel to run a casino which is (thankfully) located away from the resort proper. I hitched a ride in with Marc Rosenberg. It's so pleasant to hop into a car with the air conditioning on full blast when it's 100 degrees outside." border="0">

TDF attendance is up 9% over last year. The evening reception was a chance to catch up with old friends and make new acquaintances. (Note to ASTD: The bar here was free. After what you pay to attend one of these events, the cash bar thing is insulting. It's nickel and diming your best customers.) Many familiar faces: IBM's Margaret Driscoll, Nokia's Andreas Forsberg, Julie Groshens (who's training to run a marathon!), Deborah Stone (we go back decades), Saul Carliner (who kicks this thing off tomorrow morning), Lance Dublin, Phil Jones (who has his heart in this business, as do a lot of the former Lakewooders), Ghenno Senbetta, Fred Posar, Leah Nelson (great smile!), Brenda Sugrue, and many others.

I remember reading Robert Cialdini's book Influence when it was published. Click, whirr, act as if you are a robot. The concept has legs. Bob is presenting here. We talked about Influence, its longevity and rebirth, and his current projects. He's focused on time, specifically, what moments have the most impact. One of his latest experiments was testing which environmental-friendly cards in hotels ("Don't replace the sheets") were most effective. The winner: "Most people do this...."

Richard Leider challenged us to think about "What makes you get up in the morning?" He's spent his time on earth as a "student of the second half of life." Most of us were clearly in the second half; those in the first half were probably in the pool, dancing, getting new tatoos, or doing things that defy description in a professional blog.

Richard has asked many oldsters what they'd do differently if they could relive their experiences. They tell him:

  1. More itme for reflection. Grow whole, not old. Come closer to the magic of the fire. Stare into the flame. Join the village elders in the front row.
  2. Courage. Take more risks in work and love. "What do you intend to do in your wild and crazy life?"
  3. Purpose. Everyone wants to make a difference, to leave a dent in the world.
Be authentic. Find your calling: give your gifts away. Passion. Values. Find a calling, not a job.

Great grounding talk. I asked Richard if he knew the Fritz Perls remark that at the end of his life, he didn't want to be saved. He wanted to be spent.

The gang from Enspire Learning, demonstrating what it's like to work in a start up. I remember these folks from when it was six guys in a house in Austin. Bjorn tells me they now number more than 20 and are hitting the targets in their original business plan in spite of the recession. Enspire creates cool simulations.

Jack Phillips and I talked for 90 minutes about ROI, values, lifestyle, the future, and more. The power of face-to-face: i now respect a fellow I'd previously classified as focused entirely on yesterday's news. Jack's a delightful fellow and has his head screwed on right.

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June 04, 2004

ASTD 2004 Leftovers

This is the fourth in a series of reports on ASTD 2004.

"Profits, like oxygen, are necessary for life, but you don't live to breathe." Arie de Geus

Pat Galaghan charms the crowd at the Canadian Embassy by offering her thanks in both English and French.

Telling Ain't Training is the ASTD Press best seller of all time. (7,500 copies)

Words I heard over and over again: Perform, organization/individual, leadership, change, engagement.

Leverage positive energy for change.

Gloria Gery: "It's a Rubik's Cube sort of problem but you have to solve it in a short time."

Grand Canyon University, "Arizona's only private, Judeo-Christian, liberal arts university," is renaming its business school "The Ken Blanchard School of Business." I imagine a zany curriculum of The One Minute Manager, Gung Ho!, Raving Fans!, Whale Done!, and Full Steam Ahead! Perhaps students will earn an MBA! degree.

Sam Adkins: "Service-oriented architecture is the end of software as we know it."

Sam also suggested we check out www.alicebot.org, and that soon led me to the Prosthetic Head.

DDI's Periodic Table,
a well-executed concept.
(Click for humongous view.)

Washington has the most beautiful Metro in the land.

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June 01, 2004

Mintzberg & Cooperider

This is the second in a series of reports on the 2004 ASTD Conference.

Henry Mintzberg

Henry Mintzberg is a professor of management at McGill, well known for his books and articles (Here is his 23-page CV.) He earned both his PhD and his MS in Management from MIT's Sloan School of Managmenet. His appearance at ASTD coincided with the publication of his new book, Managers, Not MBAs.

Professor Mintzberg's website describes the message of the new book like this:

Henry Mintzberg believes that both management and management education are deeply troubled, but that neither can be changed without changing the other.

Mintzberg asserts that conventional MBA classrooms overemphasize the science of management while ignoring its art and denigrating its craft, leaving a distorted impression of its practice. We need to get back to a more engaging style of management, to build stronger organizations, not bloated share prices. This calls for another approach to management education, whereby practicing mangers learn from their own experience. We need to build the art and the craft back into management education, and into management itself.

Mintzberg examines what is wrong with our current system. Conventional MBA programs are mostly for young people with little or no experience. These are the wrong people. Programs to train them emphasize analysis and technique. These are the wrong ways. They leave graduates with the false impression that they have been trained as managers, which has had a corrupting effect on the practice of management as well as on our organizations and societies. These are the wrong consequences.

Mintzberg describes a very different approach to management education, which encourages practicing mangers to learn from their own experience. No one can create a manager in a classroom. But existing managers can significantly improve their practice in a thoughtful classroom that makes use of that experience.

I caught up with Professor Mintzberg at a press briefing and also at an event at the Canadian Embassy. Henry is an entertaining speaker, although I sense that his compelling soundbites cover up some rather weak arguments in favor of his view of management. (Disclosure: I have yet to read more than the introduction to his book.)

"Take away the dollars, and you'll find there aren't many leaders left."

"Management and business schools are 'off the rails.'"

"Shareholder value is another term for corporate irresponsibility."

MBAs need to "do a better job, not get a better job."

"You cannot measure what people learn. Attempts to measure learning are a monumental waste of time."

In the press briefing, Henry said that as a starting point, he'd reviewed the performance of top grads from Harvard Business School. Only five out of nineteen had a clean record. The losers included Frank Lorenzo, who personally destroyed more than one airline! HBS does not teach management. It teaches only business functions. The students are youngsters. Business is taught as if it were engineering.

Explaining that I would soon be returning to Harvard Business School for my MBA class reunion, I asked for clarification, since I didn't want to mislead my classmates when I gave them the news. Some have said that if you housed HBS's entering MBA class in a large motel in the middle of Kansas, they'd come out a couple of years later having learned most of what they would have had they stayed in Boston. I wondered whether Henry's findings were the result of the admissions policy or the schooling. After all, Henry had said the schooling was largely ineffective.

Reflecting on this exchange later in the day, I couldn't reconcile Henry's ability to judge Harvard from observing a few dozen graduates with his statement that you cannot measure what people learn.

Before the press briefing ended, Mintzberg said that the primary utility of laptops among students was email, not assisting learning.


Henry and I met the next day at a buffet table at a reception at the Canadian Embassy. I'll admit that I baited him. He had complained that MBAs don't learn management. I pointed out that is was he who had a Master of Science in Management and a PhD from a School of Management. My Masters is in Business Administration; it was awarded by the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration. Wasn't he attacking the wrong school?

The day before, the subject of Harvard's case method had come up. I said that I didn't think any program should slavishly commit to a single method of instruction. In fact, my reaction to the case method had been to develop the first business curriculum for the University of Phoenix. "The University of Phoenix? Is that Thunderbird?" he asked. No, it's a different operation. "What is the University of Phoenix?" I explained that it was the largest accredited, for-profit university in the world, with an enrollment of 125,000. Its students are working adults who average 34 years of age. 36% of them are enrolled in undergraduate management programs; 20% are taking graduate management courses.

At this point, I was called away to the podium to give the opening remarks. When I returned, I couldn't find the professor. I hoped to find out how someone can study management education for decades, conclude that it's wasted on the young and learned through practice, and not know of the University of Phoenix.


David Cooperider

Lest you this I'm just in a nasty mood, let me say that I was really looking forward to meeting Case Western's David Cooperider, and I was not disappointed. David is the father of "Appreciative Inquiry," or "AI" as it is called by its adherents.

Cooperider's core message is to lead from positive emotions and strength, not negativity and problems. As Peter Drucker told him, "The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths, making our weaknsses irrelevant."

Just as Marty Seligman's positive psychology focuses on individual happiness in lieu of mental illness, AI builds on achievements, opportunities, innovations, tacit wisdom, vital traditions, social capital and business strengths, not problems. Cooperider contends that organizations move in the direction of what they study. Focus on problems and that's what you'll get ("Deficit Change Theory").

Change begins in the imagination of the creative mind. Before reading about Appeciative Inquiry, I billed myself as a problem-solver. Since then, I've converted into an opportunity maximizer.

We must learn to scale wholeness, to ask what's possible rather than what's wrong, and to move from systems thinking to systems living.

While the AI methodology sounds touchy-feely, the results are real. One organization's recent AI Summit focused on:

  • Customer retention
  • Market share growth
  • Exploiting market position
  • Entry into adjacent markets
  • New lines of business

Who's doing AI? Blue Cross, BBC, Boeing, Bristol Myers Squibb, British AIrways, BP, British Telecom, Cap Gemini, GE Capital, GlaxoSmithKline, John Deere, Roadway...

Soren Kaplan is working to support AI with Icohere. David said the potential "sends chills up his spine."

David concluded with two of my favorite Einstein quotations:

"No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. We must learn to see the world anew."

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."


Visit the AI website

T - 20 minutes, Thursday morning.
Will anyone fill the chairs at Jay's session?
FInd out in the next installment.

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May 14, 2004

The shortest presentation on metrics you will ever hear

If you're concerned about demonstrating the value of learning, I suggest you check out the Learning Economics Group. This is hot. HP's Tom Hill reports that 70 people have signed up in the past six weeks.

Yesterday morning's meeting featured a presentation by HP Senior Human Performance Consultant Daniel Blair. It was a good session, with several dozen of us paying homage to informal learning, ambient learning, taking a portfolio view, causal chain analysis, intangibles, and more.

The group is to be applauded in their search for the value of learning. I found myself agreeing with a lot of what was being said. In my usual style, I noted that my thinking was not clouded by a PhD in Economics, which appeared to be the dominant degree in the group.

The toughest nut we'll have to crack is the impact of outside events. So many efforts at measuring intangibles oversimplify the environment, suggesting models like this:

That's not the world I live in. Mine's a little more unruly:

I volunteered to speak at a future meeting, prompting Tom Hill to inquire about my presentation last week in Canada. I plucked out the prime slides, recorded an overview, and posted it on the web. At twelve minutes, this is the shrotest presentation on metrics you'll ever hear.

Posted by Jay Cross at 05:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 24, 2004

The Best Things in Life Are Free

Final Jeopardy: Its objective is to provide practical information about how to use eLearning. It’s free. 30,000 people read it every month in the course of 80,000 visits. Its archives boast 300 substantive articles and a 100 product reviews on eLearning. Its many contributors are an influential community of practice. Sites in 65 countries link to its glossary. It has never spent a dime on advertising.

What is it? You have thirty seconds to write down your answer.

It’s Learning Circuits, the online magazine “all about eLearning.” I remember talking with Tom Barron, the founding editor, in late 1999 when he and ASTD’s Pat Galagan were preparing to launch Learning Circuits. ASTD had been publishing a print magazine, Technical Training for years, but on-line delivery was the obvious wave of the future, and Pat decided it was time for ASTD to, ahem, eat its own cooking.

Last week I called Ryann Ellis and Eva Kaplan-Leiserson to find out what goes on behind the scenes and what might explain Learning Circuits’ stunning success. (Disclosure: Learning Circuits has published several of my articles, and I manage the Learning Circuits blog. I am a fan.)

My curiosity had been aroused when I read “You may be surprised to learn that Learning Circuits is produced by only two people.” Those two people are Ryann Ellis and Eva Kaplan-Leiserson. Ryann, now in her tenth year with ASTD, started with T+D magazine and worked on ASTD’s Web team before becoming Learning Circuits editor in February 2001. Eva joined T+D as associate editor four years ago when her dot-com melted down and spends about a third of her time on Learning Circuits. While not involved in day-to-day operations, Paul Harris built the often-quoted news area of Learning Circuits and recently handed the news chores to Ryann so he could start writing case studies. (An unbiased case study is hard to find.)

I asked Ryann and Eva what stories were their favorites. After their courteous assertion “Yours, of course,” they returned to reality and identified:

  • Sam Adkins is the most interesting. “He blows me away even though I only understand half of it.”
  • Clark Aldrich and Tom Barron wrote a powerful series on customer-focused eLearning early on, before others were thinking that way.
  • Paul Harris has written some great ones, for example his article on outsourcing last June.
  • In the Fundamentals series, Making Peace with eLearning was cool, suggesting yoga as a means to escape the inevitable frustrations of eLearning.
  • Also, though she was too gracious to bring it up, Eva’s two-part series on We-learning, has popped up all over the blogosphere.

Like all of us who survived the dot-com bubble, Learning Circuits has evolved with the times. For the first year, new stories appeared once a month, much like a print magazine. Now new material is added weekly. The site has been redesigned every year to improve navigation, accommodate new features, and keep a contemporary look. In early 2002, Learning Circuits was the first eLearning publication to publish a companion blog.

The content, mostly contributed by a loyal following of volunteers, is compelling. On the web, it’s rare when a reader stays more than five minutes; on Learning Circuits, the average stay is 15 minutes!

In late 2000, few people had a grasp of the terminology of eLearning, anything from asynchronous to zipfile, so Eva led a band of volunteers who created what is probably the best glossary of eLearning terms on the web.

From the outset, Learning Circuits has strived to be very practical with “Five things you need to do to set this up or buy that or include in your RFP.” If you have some practical wisdom to share, email it to Ryann; the readership is insatiable.

In addition to the articles, case studies, news, and glossary, Learning Circuits has:

  • The Learning Circuits blog kicked off in April 2002 with commentary from Peter Isackson, Tom Barron, Clark Quinn, Bill Horton, Kevin Wheeler, Margaret Driscoll, Allison Rossett, Richard Clark, and Jay Cross. This was before most people had ever heard the word blog.
  • Answer geeks. ASTD members-only service. The Best of Q&A appear later as a column.
  • Many readers are working on their second generation of eLearning. They are beyond the basics, so Learning Circuits just started running OpEd pieces that are more theoretical and reflective than its traditional how-to stories.
  • A couple of months back, ASTD opened up searchable discussion boards. They will be adding additional features like polling. Ryann and Eva report there’s “tons of activity.”
  • Product reviews and demos. Not just a link to a vendor webpage. Eva checks out what’s being offered to make certain it’s worth your time. Often vendors assemble a special package for Learning Circuits readers.
  • Quarterly Trends column. Coming soon. Eva’s working on it.

Learning Circuit’s objective is to provide practical information about how to use eLearning to everyone, not just ASTD members. Ryann and Eva are educating the market. They are making the world of eLearning a less scary place. By the way, in addition to soliciting and editing articles, Ryann also personally does the layout and coding for Learning Circuits.

I know what you’re thinking: What can I do to help Ryann and Eva progress with Learning Circuits? I’ll offer a few suggestions:

  • Since Learning Circuits lives by viral marketing, tell a friend.
  • Share your experience; send in a story to [email protected]
  • Drop a note to Pat Galaghan to tell her how much you appreciate Ryann & Eva's work on Learning Circuits.

Posted by Jay Cross at 07:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 19, 2004

OpEd: ROI vs. Metrics

Learning Circuits just published my article, ROI vs. Metrics, which I thought was just telling it like it is, but editor Ryann Ellis considered sufficiently controversial to make it the first OpEd piece they've ever run.

What's controversial with this?

ROI is often a mask for uncertainty or an attempt to quantify cost-benefit with accounting principles that don't count people as assets. I contend that the business return on an e-learning investment should be so obvious that you can figure it out on the back of a napkin. Traditionally, executives assume training has little or no impact on revenue, so they measure training benefits in terms of cost savings. This works against e-learning, in which increases in top-line revenue generally exceed reduced expenses by a wide margin. Enter metrics.

I don't understand how anyone could disagree when I write

Present-day accounting is an anachronism. In a nutshell, the basic problem is that intangibles are valued at zero. Vast areas of human productivity--ideas, abilities, experience, insight, esprit de corps, and motivation--lie outside the the purist's field of vision.

A friend of mine read the article, came to this site, and plunked down $250 for the latest version of Metrics. If his $250 subscription to Metrics helps him justify his $500,000 eLearning budget, it's cheap at the price. If his newfound attitude improves his career options, that's icing on the cake.

The next version, Metrics 2.0, will be a great improvement, but it's not out yet. Here's a piece from the introduction:


Last year at TechLearn I promised to send several people my thoughts on measuring the value of learning investments. On the flight home, I assembled a batch of white papers, interviews, and articles I’d written over the past few years and was surprised to find I’d come up with 90 pages! This was more like a book than a sheaf of white papers.

Why had I written so much on learning metrics and ROI? Frustration. I’ve been in the training business for nearly thirty years, but before that I had been a systems analyst and market research director and I’d earned an MBA. I cut my teeth selling loan officer training to major banks. That requires real what's-in-it-for-me ROI. It pained me to go to conferences like TechLearn and Training and ASTD, only to hear the same worthless claptrap about Level 1 and Level 2 and ROI. Many of the “experts” got their expertise from textbooks rather than the real world. This made me angry. I wrote to expose the charlatans.

Metrics 1.0 & 1.1

Metrics 1.0 was little more than the white papers and articles put in a logical sequence. I slapped on a table of contents and inserted transitions. I sent copies to two dozen friends in the business for advice and comment.

I love books. Several rooms of my house are lined with bookcases. Last year I donated eight cartons of books to the library to clear some shelf space. Already, the gaps have filled in, and the shelves are packed. Nevertheless, I chose to make Metrics an eBook rather than a printed one. Our understanding of how to measure value is in flux; printed books become dated so quickly. I also figured that if I responded to readers’ questions and advice, the work would always be getting better. So Metrics 1.1 was issued as an eBook – and I promised purchasers they would receive the next version as well as this one.

Metrics 1.2 & 1.3

Metrics 1.2 was considerably tighter. I incorporated a mind map to introduce the subject and a simple flowchart for carrying out the full cycle of the Metrics process. I corrected glitches readers had pointed out. Version 1.3 was a minor upgrade, mainly error correction. Several readers pointed out weak spots in the manuscript. They wanted a more direct, forceful, organized presentation. They also asked me to spend less time trashing the current situation and more time on what to do next. To get Metrics into distribution, I offered it to charter subscribers for a mere $25.

Few readers actually gave much feedback but one individual made up for the silence of the rest. The GAP’s Dave Lee went beyond the call of duty. Dave’s background in publishing, experience in accounting, and current work in eLearning make him the ideal critic. Dave is a major influence on the improvements you’ll see in version 2.0. He offered suggestions on overall organization. He convinced me to take a more positive attitude, for example, telling me, “Jay, I’m not sure what accountant ran over your puppy when you were young, but you really don’t need the strawman of 'accountants are out to get us' to make your argument.”

Metrics 1.3 is the current version. People who purchase it will receive Metrics 2.0 when it is ready. The charter subscription period is over. The price of Metrics 1.3+2.0 is $250.

Metrics 2.0

Metrics 2.0 is a total reorganization and rewrite of the original material. It focuses on what to do and why in lieu of me bitching about the ramblings of false prophets. I’ve chopped superfluous material and added more explanatory text. I expect the final Metrics 2.0 to be ready in a couple of months.

People tell me they buy Metrics because they have an immediate need. They’re in budget trouble; their management just doesn’t get it; the big boss wants to see the numbers. In all likelihood they already know part of the material and have come to me to fill gaps or help them polish their approach. This latest version of Metrics begins with a roadmap of what’s to come. The map will guide you to the chapters that contain what you most need to know. I’ve relegated more philosophical issues to the back of the book.

Making the business case involves a lot more than doing the math. You have to understand the business. This takes credibility with managers outside of the training function. You must, as SumTotal president Kevin Oakes recently wrote in T+D (2004), “earn a seat at the table.” My goal is to help you get there and to be invited back again and again. It's probably a better job than the one you have now.

April 2004

More about Metrics
Posted by Jay Cross at 06:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 02, 2004


Concentrated wisdom from Serendip at Bryn Maur.

I believe that education must be conceived as a continuing reconstruction of experience, that the process and the goal of education are the same thing.

I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.

-- John Dewey, My Pedagogic Creed

The teacher is not only a communicator but a model. To communicate knowledge and to provide a model of competence, the teacher must be free to teach and learn

-- Jerome Bruner, The Process of Education

We think we learn from teachers, and we sometimes do. But the teachers are not always to be found in school, or in great laboratories. Sometimes what we learn depends on our own powers of insight. Moreover, our teachers may be hidden, even the greatest teacher.

-- Loren Eiseley, "The Hidden Teacher" in The Star Thrower

A manual? Give me a break! Let me get in there and muck around and try various things and see what happens.

-- John Seely Brown, "Learning, Working, and Playing in the Digital Age"

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 29, 2004

SumTotal savings

Here's an answer for the critics who questioned how the Click2Learn/Docent combo was going to cut costs while moving forward.

SumTotal to invest $8 mn over 2 yrs

The company expects to move customer and technical support and engineering work fully to India.

SumTotal plans to increase headcount

HYDERABAD: SumTotal Systems Inc., the new entity created by the merger of Docent and Click2learn, plans to increase headcount in Hyderabad centre from 90 to 160, though at the global level it will go down from 470 to 400 (excluding Hyderabad additions) by the time restructuring is complete. Investment in Indian operations is also likely to be about $3 million in the next 12 months, according to Sudheer Koneru, Senior Vice-President, International Operations.

SumTotal Sets $3 M Aside For Hyderabad Development Centre

HYDERABAD: SumTotal Systems Inc, the newly-formed merged entity of Docent Inc and Click2learn, is planning to make its Indian development centre as the hub for products, services and research and development for its global operations. With a combined cash reserve of over $40 million in hand due to the merger, SumTotal has proposed an investment of $3 million in the Indian development centre over a period of 12 months, said Sudheer Koneru, senior vice-president, international operations of SumTotal Systems Inc.

Announcing the completion of merger of both the companies here, Mr Koneru said following the merger, SumTotal will end up saving $15 million annually, with a combined turnover of $60 million. The company, which has its largest manpower at the Hyderabad development centre, will add another 30 professionals basically for research and development and product engineering work, Mr Koneru said. He added, “We see the development centre emerging as a hub for our research and development, products engineering and solutions.”

Following this development, the R&D centre of Click2Learn, will now broaden its work and include the Docent product line. This will also increase the number of techies based in the Hyderabad centre from the current 130 to about 160 and expand the maintenance work for the two companies.

The investment of about $ 8 million would cover both the working expenses and capex in the company centre based in Hyderabad.

Uncomfortable? Get used to it. Business is global. This is good business practice.


From ZDNet

Tech Update Software Infrastructure

Gartner CEO to CIOs: Embrace offshoring or else

By David Berlind
March 29, 2004

San Diego, CA -- "Rather than waste precious energy on a fruitless effort to preserve the economic structure of the past, we need to embrace, control, and ultimately own the changes that are underway. To survive the offshoring threat, IT leaders must present themselves as an outsourcing authority that their company can't do without."

That advice was delivered by Gartner Group CEO Michael Fleisher to a roomful of IT executives here at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2004.

Fleisher admonished IT executives who have been resisting the "unquestionable" benefits of outsourcing. Fleisher's warning was subtle but unmistakable: Not only IT's rank-and-file jobs are at risk; even IT leaders could be out of their jobs if they aren't looked upon within their organizations as the go-to people on outsourcing.

Fleisher acknowledged that outsourcing, and particularly offshoring, would be a very painful experience for those IT professionals whose jobs face elimination, but he offered little if any practical wisdom on how to deal with the trend. "I don't for a minute want to minimize the pain involved to individuals in this transition," Fleisher said. "The government has an important role in helping our citizens make this transition as quickly and painlessly as possible through education and retraining."

It's an open secret that Gartner reads Internet Time Blog, but this time they beat me to the punch by twelve hours.

Many of the IT jobs being outsourced today are destined to be wiped out by the efficiencies of Service Oriented Architecture in the next few years anyway. Gartner's Fleisher warns CIOs to take control of outsourcing rather than fight a losing battle against it. Otherwise they'll have to deal with the unruly consequences, much as they did when the obvious benefits of unauthrorized PCs forced centralized IT departments to adopt client/server architecture.

Fleisher identified four major factors that are going to reorganize the world of work:

  • secure broadband wireless
  • always-on/always-connected devices
  • easy access to vast amounts of very reliable and very cheap computing power
  • service-oriented architectures that make application development cheaper and faster.

The Workflow Institute was delighted to note that Fleisher did not mention worker empowerment, learning, culture, job enrichment, community, teamwork, or any other human factors, assuring us that we'll have plenty to do amid the evolution to the new way of doing business.

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 26, 2004

Training transfer to the job.

Have you heard -- or used -- these stats?

"Only 10% of training transfers to the job."

"Only 10% of the investment in training
actually transfers to the job."

"Although $100 billion is spent on
training each year, only 10%
of these expenditures
result in transfer to the job."

Rather than accept stuff like this, Will Thalheimer responds, "Says who?" You see, Will takes a scientific approach to learning. His workshops are fascinating because he describes experiments, not theory. (No, he doesn't pay me to say this.)

A Pennsylvanian named Robert Fitzpatrick nailed the source of the 10% bunkum above. Here's the story.

If you're a contrarian like me, you'll enjoy Will's site.

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 21, 2004

People, a good investment

Laurie Bassi is a rare individual. Research convinced her that companies that invest in their people just had to do better than penny-pinchers that cut training and payroll the moment the economy sours. She invested in a portfolio of stocks of companies that invest heavily in their people. The returns are "in line with a growing body of empirical research showing that organizations that make extraordinary investments in people often enjoy extraordinary performance on a variety of indicators, including shareholder return."

March 2004

How's Your Return on People?

Companies that invest in employee development can outperform the market. Just ask their shareholders.

by Laurie Bassi and Daniel McMurrer

"Managers are always claiming, “People are our most important asset.” But deep down, they can’t shake the feeling that employees are costs. Big costs. And they treat them that way. Quarterly earnings off? Cut the perks, rein in training, and downsize. This strategy may increase earnings in the short term, but it’s myopic. Recent studies suggest that layoffs actually destroy shareholder value. And our research shows that treating employees like the assets they are—by investing in their development—boosts returns over the long term."

"For years now, our research has measured the effect of spending on employee education and training—a “cost” that is buried in general and administrative expenses—on the stock prices of 575 publicly traded firms."

Every year for three years, Laurie and Daniel selected a portfolio of 20 to 40 companies that spent at least twice as much as their peers to develop their human resources. In 2003, these heavy investors in human resources outperformed the S&P by 17% to 35%.

Laurie Bassi ([email protected]) is the chairwoman and Daniel McMurrer ([email protected]) is the chief research officer at Knowledge Asset Management, a money management firm in Bethesda, Maryland.

Posted by Jay Cross at 05:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 10, 2004

ISPI and Metrics

Measurement Counts! Metrics, ROI, and Accomplishments (the missing element)

A recent publication, Metrics, by Jay Cross of the Internet Time Group, presents an opportunity to comment on some current issues in measurement and evaluation. The author, who happens to be an old friend, is an entertaining and wide-ranging thinker (some might say Renaissance Man), and his book is noteworthy in part because of its unconventional form: a constantly updated eBook available for purchase online. Jay’s history in financial services, training, marketing, and a whole host of cerebral pursuits has left him most recently in the world of e-Learning, where he has become something of a pundit.

While I don’t agree with everything in Metrics, I recommend it because it’s a quick and enjoyable read, because it contains valuable references and links, and mostly because it challenges us to think outside many of the current ruts in measurement and evaluation.

Things I Like about Metrics
Here are some of Jay’s key points along with my comments:

  • “Metrics are measurements that matter.” With this sentence, he challenges us to measure results that our clients agree are important and to look for large valuable improvements. He adds, “Don’t fritter away time on the small stuff.”

  • “Start with business problems and work backwards.” He later adds that we should “focus on process not on behavior.” These comments point in the direction of our best strategy for measuring the right things, following Thomas F. Gilbert’s dictum to identify accomplishments, the outputs of processes or of individual jobs that contribute value toward business results. Behavior costs money while accomplishments have value. Following the path from business results back through measured accomplishments will lead to the behavior and improvement strategies that produce worthwhile organizational outcomes.

  • “Forget measurement of value based on cost savings!” As an e-Learning strategy consultant, Jay has probably tired of cost justifications based on saving travel time and expenses. It is critically important that we find ways to use our technologies and interventions to improve outcomes, not simply reduce costs for the same (often mediocre) outcomes.

  • “Time matters.” Whether we’re speaking of time to perform (fluency, productivity), time to achieve benchmark performance (ramp-up), or results over time (revenues, profits), we cannot ignore the time dimension in either our measurement of learning and performance during training or our measurement of desired business results.

  • “Gather baseline data.” While it is easy to interpret this statement as simply that we need a “before” measure to evaluate the worth of our “after” results, the “line” in baseline is very important. To clearly understand the effects of our interventions, we must view current performance in the context of measured levels, trends, and bounce (or variability) over time. We need a series of counts (per minute, per day, per week, or per month) to establish a true baseline so that we can tell whether our interventions or ongoing efforts are changing trends, levels, and/or the “bounce” (variability) of measured outcomes.

  • “You must be able to relate your decisions and choices to the profitability of your organization.” While much of Jay’s discussion focuses on what I call “validation data”—measurement to justify expenditures by showing that programs work—the best measurement systems support ongoing decision-making. This is why I recommend ongoing measurement as feedback to performers and decision-makers, and why I like Timm Esque’s book, Making An Impact, so much.

  • Jay disagrees with much of the current thinking about ROI, suggesting that his book can save you the cost of an ROI workshop. Whether or not this is true, managers would certainly prefer to see how your program improves their specific outcomes beyond a general payback ratio or cost justification. And since some current-day ROI “methods” use subjective estimates of payback rather than direct results measures, we need to question in detail many ROI claims before we accept them.

Things I Don’t Like So Much About Metrics
Lest you think I’m giving my friend a free pass, let me make a few comments about shortcomings.

  • The second half of the book is mostly a justification for e-Learning, something I would have preferred left to a few pages. I recognize that Jay makes his living in this field, but it would be more helpful if the book addressed the general case with a broader set of examples. Moreover, it is inconceivable that even the best e-Learning program will produce optimal results without efforts to improve other factors in a performance system, including expectations, feedback, tools, resources, consequences, and selection.

  • Jay does not discuss what’s a good measure and what’s not. For example, he mentions the limitations of test results as metrics but does not explain that percentage correct is not a measure of performance because it is a dimensionless quantity from which we cannot determine either the count of behavior or accomplishments nor the time required to complete them. He does not point out that the best metrics count things in absolute units (dollars, widgets, gallons, etc.) rather than rating them on subjective scales. Careful application of all his recommendations can still yield meaningless measurement if we fail to adhere to this basic principle.

  • Jay speaks of using both “subjective and objective” data. For me, the term “subjective” means open to wide interpretation or idiosyncratic. What I think he means by “subjective” is measurement of opinion or preference, which can be very objective if we refrain from applying “voodoo math” by summarizing numbers on rating scales of subjective impressions to produce “average” ratings. It is not subjective to say that “20 people out of 45 rated the program as very good and 10 said it was poor”—a quantitative measure of personal opinion that can be safely manipulated within the rules of arithmetic.

I suggest you read Metrics yourself, and discuss it vigorously with your colleagues and clients. I am sure you will find it both entertaining and illuminating.

Dr. Carl Binder is a Senior Partner at Binder Riha Associates, a consulting firm that helps clients improve processes, performance, and behavior to deliver measurable results. He may be reached at [email protected]. For additional articles, visit http://www.binder-riha.com/publications.htm.

Posted by Jay Cross at 07:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

my test page

Yesterday I followed a link from cogdogblog to a presentation in Breeze by Alan Levin, D'Arcy Norman, and Brian Lamb that showed the power of RSS in education. The presentation is worth watching simply as a model for rapid-fire, low-cost, yet compelling development. But in my case, the content was quite useful as well.

The Maricopa reference page, RSS Feeds via JavaScript, showed me enough to begin including RSS feeds in my webpages.

Check out my test page to see the most recent posts to a dozen favorite blogs.

Admittedly, I'm a newbie. (I think Stephen has been doing this since the beginning of time.) The page takes forever to load -- so I think I'll move the underlying scripts to my own server. Also, it doesn't look like the items automatically refresh.

If you're an RSS afficianado who owes me one or wants to top off her/his karma account, I wouldn't mind receiving some advice on this.

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 09, 2004

Ted Nelson, way out

Like the fish that is unaware of water, Ted Nelson says computer users are blind to the 2D tyranny of paper. Herewith, a few excerpts from his thought-provoking paper....

Theodor Holm Nelson
Keio University and University of Southampton

The world you are brought up in has the seeming of reality; it can take decades to unlearn. "Growing up" means in part finding out what's behind the false assumptions and misrepresentations of everyday life, so that at last you understand what's really happening and what the well-mannered pleasantries really mean and don't. But must our computer tools also be such a masquerade to be unlearned?

The usual story about Xerox PARC, that they were trying to make the computer understandable to the average man, was a crock. They imitated paper and familiar office machines because that was what the Xerox executives could understand. Xerox was a paper-walloping company, and all other concepts had to be ironed onto paper, like toner, to be even visible in their paper paradigm.

There are still millions of people who believe that the Macintosh represents creative liberation. For this astounding propagandistic achievement we can thank the Regis McKenna public relations company, which sold the Macintosh to the world (in the famous 1984 video commercial and after) as smashing the prison of the PC. In fact the Macintosh was a newly-designed prison-a-go-go. And that prison's architecture has been devotedly copied to Microsoft Windows in remarkable detail.

Today's arbitrarily constructed computer world is also based on paper simulation, or WYSIWYG. That's where we're stuck in the current model, where most software seems to be mapped to paper. ("WYSIWYG" generally means "What You See is What You Get"-- meaning what you get *when you print it OUT*). In other words, paper is the flat heart of most of today's software concepts.

This too was a key legacy of Xerox PARC. The PARC guys got a lot of points with Xerox management by making the "electronic document" MIMIC PAPER-- rather than extending it outward to include and show all the connections, possibilities, variations, parentheses, conditionals that are really there in the mind of the author or the speaker; rather than presenting all the details that the reporter faces before cooking them down.

One result is office software that's incredibly clumsy, with slow, pedestrian operations. Think how long it takes to open and name a file and a new directory. Whereas video-game software is lithe, quick, vivid.

Why is this?

Very simple. Guys who design video games *love to play video games*. Whereas nobody who designs office software seems to care about using it, let alone hopes to use it at warp speed.

Even stranger is the "browser" concept. Think of it-- a serial view of a parallel universe! Trying to comprehend the large-scale structure of connected Web pages is like trying to look at the night sky (at least, in places that stars are still visible) through a soda straw.

Finally, we must overcome the tyranny of the file-- meaning stuck lumps with final names. While files are necessary at some level, users don't need to see them, and much less need to give their projects unchanging names and locations. Human creativity is fluid, overlapping, intercombining, and many creative projects overflow their banks time and again.

Computers aping paper, corporate learning aping school, popular songs aping wisdom:

When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it's a wonder I can think at all."
Posted by Jay Cross at 09:10 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 06, 2004

Edubabble from Ontario

My co-conspirator at the Workflow Institute, Sam Adkins, sent me a delicious link to the Organization for Quality Education, a group of Ontario citizens up in arms over the poor quality of their public schools. Nothing is funnier than the truth.

OQE logo

Let's start with a few definitions of education buzzwords.

Buzzword: Research has shown...
What parents THINK it means: It's proven.
What it REALLY means: Other people say so, too.

Buzzword: Child-centered
What parents THINK it means: Your child is of greatest concern
What it REALLY means: Your child does what he wants to do

Buzzword: No memorization
What parents THINK it means: No boring stuff
What it REALLY means: We don't teach facts

Buzzword: High-order thinking
What parents THINK it means: Thinking
What it REALLY means: Lost in the fog

Buzzword: Brain-based learning
What parents THINK it means: Science teaches a lot about learning
What it REALLY means: I believe in feng-shui, too

Buzzword: Discovery learning
What parents THINK it means: It's fun to learn
What it REALLY means: Kids will spend a week learning what lively, engaged instruction could teach in a day

Buzzword: We don't "teach to the test"
What parents THINK it means: No drills just for the sake of passing some test
What it REALLY means: We don't like being told what to cover in class

Buzzword: Education theorists
What parents THINK it means: Deep thinkers about education issues
What it REALLY means: People who spout opinions without any supporting data

Buzzword: Education researchers
What parents THINK it means: People who analyze data about what actually works
What it REALLY means: People who summarize the view of the theorists

OQE logo

That was just a warm-up. What is a quality education? How can you judge? You look to your customers.

    A quality education system produces students with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, and work habits needed to become productive, fulfilled citizens. It provides clear goals, high standards, good teachers and a well-organized curriculum.

    Much of what is wrong with Ontario education today is the result of the system's clinging to an outdated concept of quality. Over the past 30 years, organizations in the private sector - and now increasingly in the public sector - have come to the realization that quality can no longer be patronizingly defined by the providers of goods and services. Today, quality means meeting or exceeding the expectations of customers. In other words, something isn't good quality unless the customer says it is.

    So what are the customers of Ontario's schools saying? The employers and post-secondary educators, the school system's most obvious customers, are its most vocal and consistent critics. Meanwhile, parents line up overnight to enroll their children in academy schools where high academic and behavioural standards prevail, in stark contrast to the laissez-faire attitudes in most schools. Much like sixties Detroit automotive engineers who largely ignored the requests from motorists for smaller, fuel-efficient cars, the education system dismisses these criticisms as coming from people unqualified to determine what constitutes quality education.

    Modern quality is about outputs, not inputs. Yet status quo educators define quality primarily in terms of inputs to the education system, such as funding levels, class size, and teacher certification. The effects of these inputs on learning outcomes, however, are anything but clear. Studies in some jurisdictions, for example, have found that the more school boards spend, the worse students learn!

OQE logo

Meanings are important. I maintain a glossary at Internet Time, one of about five edutech glossaries on the net that aren't simply copies of someone else's glossary. OQE offers a glossary for debunking edubabble. It's extremely thought-provoking. The definitions come from The Schools We Need & Why We Don’t Have Them by E.D. Hirsch.

    metacognitive skills = A term that, like “constructivism,” has a legitimate technical but an illegitimate nontechnical meaning. The illegitimate, broader application of the term identifies it with “accessing skills,” “critical-thinking skills,” “problem-solving skills,” and other expressions of the anti-knowledge tool conception of education.

    multiple intelligences = ...Despite the fact that schools are not competent to classify and rank children on these highly speculative psychological measures, the concept had become highly popular, probably because it fits in with the already popular notions of “individual differences,” “individual learning styles,” “self-paced learning,” and so on, not to mention its appeal to our benign hope for all children that that will be good at doing something and happy doing it. The distinguished psychologist George A. Miller has said that Gardner’s specific classifications are “almost certainly wrong.”

    portfolio assessment = A phrase for a version of performance-based assessment. In portfolio assessment, students preserve in a portfolio all of some of their productions during the course of the semester or year. At the end of the time period, students are graded for the totality of their production. It is a device that has long been used for the teaching of writing and painting. But there its utility ceases. It has proven to be virtually useless for large-scale, high-stake testing.

OQE logo

I'm writing this as I explore the site. I was going along with Hirsch for the first few definitions but now I am beginning to suspect that he's an extremist. His message is that students need to master basic skills and learn facts with rigor. Only then will they be able to develop (Hirsch hates this term violently) "critical thinking skills." But Hirsch seems to win his arguments by setting up strawmen and then knocking them down.

Admittedly, my expertise is in adult performance, not childhood education, but I'm too big a fan of learning by doing to throw it out the window just because some teachers don't set it up right or some students don't join in. Hirsch says learning by doing is "a phrase once used to characterize the progressivist movement but little used today, possibly because the formulation has been the object of much criticism and even ridicule." He continues on, saying "The idea behind it resembles the real-life activities for which the particular learning is preparing the student. It is claimed that the best form of learning is that which best allows the student to learn in the natural, apprentice-like way in which humans have always learned."

So far, this sounds pretty good to me, but not to Hirsch, who writes, "By performing 'holistic' activities, the student, it is claimed, will reliably discover the needed learnings. This is an attractive doctrine, but it is also a highly theoretical one that has proved to be false. The value of such a method depends on its actual effectiveness. If by 'effective', one means that all students learn reliably and efficiently by this method, then the theory has been entirely discredited in comparative studies. Both recent history of American education and controlled observations have shown that learning by doing and its adaptations are among the least effective pedagogies available to the teacher."

I disagree. Situated learning -- doing the work rather than learning about the work -- is often the best way to learn. By "effective," I don't mean something works for all students, just that it's a winner for some of them. Of course learning by doing in the real world requires leaving the artificial reality inside the protective walls of schools.

I'd hoped to win one for the Republic of Berkeley, debunking public education, but I end up admitting that schooling is a supremely complicated area and that (Are you ready for this?) I don't have a clue as to how to fix it. It's late. I was looking for black and white; I found shades of gray. This is a provocative site, well worth visiting.

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:33 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 04, 2004

Speaking of timing...

I went to my DSL provider's site because they've imposed some limit on the number of recipients allowed per email, and I wanted to get some information. (The only inbound information I ever receive from these guys is a bill.) Their site appears to be five years out of date. Must be one of those artifacts from the phone monopogy culture of days gone by.

Windows 98 and your Pacific Bell Internet Services Account

Pacific Bell Internet Services recognizes that many of our customers have converted to this new operating system. The following information is provided as a resource to help prevent problems while using our software with Windows 98.

Pacific Bell Internet Services is now providing software that is compatible with Windows 98. This is a very specific package, and needs to be used exclusively with Windows 98.

I'm in the midst of doing taxes. I once had a securities account with Bache, before they merged with Halsey Stuart Shields and were acquired by Prudential, becoming Prudential-Bache and then Prudential Securities before being acquired by Wachovia recently. Lord, but I detest banks. Here's one more reason:

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Chuck Fred is author of Breakaway. Here's my Amazon review:

If you only have time for one book this year, read this one. September 21, 2002 Reviewer: Jay Cross, Berkeley, CA USA

What has really changed in our world in the last two decades? Time has sped up and surpassed all the other busienss variables in importance. These days time is more important than money.

To win in business, you must break away from the pack and stay ahead by serving your customers extraordinarily well. "Speed-to-proficiency is more than a theoretical advantage; it is the most devastating competitive weapon in a world where the competitive forces of scale, automation, and capital are subordinate to the power of a proficient work force."

I enjoyed this book, right from the first sentence -- "This book is designed for the business reader, to be read in the time it takes to fly from Chicago to San Francisco or Denver to Miami." Breakaway is an easy read with a vital message. Read it.

Chuck and I talked this afternoon about the continuing lack of discipline in measuring the impact of corporate learning. That's the topic of my Metrics, my strongest statement yet that "training metrics" are a fantasy. The appropriate metrics for training are business metrics.

Chuck and I are both obsessed with time. Chuck's a former competitive runner and the "breakaway" of his book's title is that point when the winners pull ahead of the also-rans. It worked for Jesse Owens and it works for Wal*Mart. The name of this site is a reflection of my view of time. Time has become the prime business metric. How soon can our team reach proficiency? How can we get there faster? How can we stay ahead of the game? How can we speed things up? How soon will we be ready to execute?

The genesis of Chuck's book was interviews with 300 CEOs. He promised them absolute confidentiality in return for their candor. He maintains these relationships to this day.

Late last year, Chuck asked the CEOs about their levels of confidence in the ROI presentations made in suport of training expenditures. Specifically, he asked about purchases of off-the-shelf courseware, training technology & infrastructure, and training-related advisory services.

Nine out of ten CEOs said they had no confidence in the ROI of training as presented to them. You can reach Chuck at Breakaway Group.

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March 01, 2004



Thank you for Metrics. I read it immediately. (Most of what I needed anyway, which was a lot)

I was able to compose a draft Revenue Model for E Learning Enterprise justification because your knowledge, references, links and other insights were there when I needed them. I will be discussing the metrics on Wednesday to determine the level of acceptance of my projections.

The metrics included estimated comparative costs of conventional training to E learning, lost opportunity costs, profit loss, turnover savings, and increased revenue due to decrease in job analysis error rate.

I don?t know where this is going, but the potential could be groundbreaking for solutions to problems in the industry under study.

Your approach to ?get real? terminology regarding the important items to measure for training effect is refreshing and entertaining.

I have been in the training, and performance change, business for more years than I would like to admit. However, these days are encouraging, because we are being invited to leave the laboratory of the ?fuzzy? and enter the arena of investments that matter.


Frank Murphy

EQUIFOCUS offers training consultation, E Learning content development, and outsource services that improve performance for Equipment Manufacturers and supporting Service organizations.

Metrics is an eBook because it's continually updated. Buy a copy today. You can download the current version immediately. When the next edition is ready, I'll send you a copy of that as well.

Metrics shows you how to calculate ROI, but that's the tip of the iceberg. More important is understanding how business executives make decisions, how to describe "soft" benefits in monetary terms, how to sell your ideas, and how to perform a meaningful cost/benefit analysis. Here's a map of the topics covered:

"Can't imagine anything I'd add or change ... for anyone looking for a real understanding of ROI,as well as various ways to calculate their return, this is the best A-Z guide I have read. And you hit the nail on the head ... it's ultimately about performance and the cost of improving performance."

David Grebow
Chief Learning Officer
Trinity Learning

Metrics, by Jay Cross.
100 pages, $250.

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February 26, 2004

Social software & learning

This morning the Emergent Learning Forum met in Menlo Park to ponder the convergence of learning and social software. Since most learning is informal, and most informal learning is person-to-person, how can leveraging one's ability to network with others do anything but make for better learning? The sum is greater than the parts.


Altus Learning Systems captured the entire event on video and will sync it with the slides, so I won't go into detail here, so much as give the 10,000' view.

Watch for the blow-by-blow at the Emergent Learning website.

Spoke's Andy Halliday gave us the lay of the land. In the network at left, the colors dots are nodes. The connections between them are arcs. The entire diagram is a graph. Degrees of separation are the number of hops from one node to another. (The top right green node is three degrees of separation from the bottom left red node.)

Social network analysis can show you the shape of a network. For example, on the battlefield you could map the radio communication among a group of tanks and figure out which is in control; that's the one you take out.

Spoke is based on private information and self-determination. Otherwise, many business people would never participate. Unlike on Friendster, where participants share personal information to attract dates, a sales person is extremely protective of contacts.

Privacy concerns are another issue. In the U.S., if someone hands you a business card, you feel free to share that information with others. In the EU, it's against the law to share that information!


Anita Lo told us about how Intel selected and implemented an expert locator system. Anita joined us from Folsom, hence the photo of "the speaker."

She related how Intel captures and re-uses actionable knowledge. One of our members noted how rare it is to see an engineering group thoroughly plan its in-house marketing as part of implementation.


Traditional Knowledge Management follows a publishing model, said David Gilmour, CEO of Tacit Knowledge Systems, and that's tough to implement. By the time you design a new structure, the business has already changed again. Relying on users to update their own profiles is iffy, and the least likely to comply are the very movers and shakers you'd want to have involved. Then there's the fiction that everyone's ready to share information equally, when in fact it's a loaded political, selective, cultural situation that's anything but equal.

David recommends a brokerage model. Tacit repurposes information that's already available (such as email and presentations) to mine the relationships and expertise held by each user. At first this smacks of spyware; in reality it's the opposite. Tacit provides pointers to people who are in the know. It never reveals the source information. Management can't see who's taking advantage of the system.

This approach works because the system does most of the work. Users don't have to re-enter or code information. Categories are self-organizing. (Preparing and maintaining taxonomies is a pain.) Participants can opt out entirely or category-by-category. The benefit of pinpointing who else is working on the areas that interest you can be enormous. One pharma client found that lengthy experiements they were preparing to do had already been done in their European operation. This alone pays for the system.

Alex Gault, Small World Ventures and a director of Emergent Learning Forum, announced a membership directory and networking initiative he has negotiated for the Forum. Scott McNealy calls this "eating your own dog food;" I prefer to think of it as "drinking your own champagne." Spoke is going to set up a voluntary network for members of Emergent Learning Forum. It will be a free benefit to members. We hope to spark formation of a global community of practice. This will roll out in April. If you want to participate, please join the Emergent Learning Forum. It's still free.

Keep up with Alex's blog, Collaboration Café.
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February 23, 2004

The tools shape the worker

From Networking, Knowledge & the Digital Age, interesting twists on how the Internet is shaping social norms.

Thanks for the pointer, Seb.

When I heard this on NPR this evening while driving to the Chinese squid market, I was hoping for second-source confirmation. Eschaton provided it:

WASHINGTON - Education Secretary Rod Paige called the nation's largest teachers union a "terrorist organization" during a private White House meeting with governors on Monday.

Democratic and Republican governors confirmed Paige's remarks about the National Education Association.

"These were the words, 'The NEA is a terrorist organization,' " said Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle of Wisconsin.


He was implying that the NEA has not been one of the organizations that has been working with the administration to try to solve 'No Child Left Behind,' " he said.

Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican, said of Paige's comments: "Somebody asked him about the NEA's role and he offered his perspective on it."

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February 22, 2004

Edinburgh -- finale

An overlong interview with the press kept me from participating in the afternoon's concurrent sessions. It would have been a tough choice: I'd gotten to know Don Norris, Jon Mason, and Alan Smith throughout the conference and here they were, all speaking at the same time.

I spent a while visiting Space Unlimited, a series of hands-on exhibits constructed by a group of teenagers who had spent months exploring eLearning and the future of school.

Most of what they had created was admirable and refreshing. Their exhibits lauded discovery learning, experimentation, self-expression, freedom of choice, and fun while learning. Some of their concepts were naive, for instance the fear that eLearning would be bad for the economy because of all those out-of-work teachers.

Film of student sacking a superfluous teacher

The "digital natives" gave the penultimate presentation of the conference. Ten of them took the stage and acted out their messages, something no “grown-up” had even considered. Instead of showing a PowerPoint slide about learning styles, they asked everyone to complete a personal Learning Styles Inventory.

In a truly lovely moment, a female student gripped the podium and surveyed the audience with a schoolmarm’s critical gaze. Someone in the audience snickered. “You there, what’s so funny?” she growled. That drew laughter. She shushed us with a penetrating frown of disapproval. Learning through intimidation. Remember it?

For the finale, a panel of experts took the stage to answer audience questions.

Among the opinions expressed:

  • Regarding learning objects, we must be careful not to over-engineer once again.
  • Regarding global acceptance of eLearning, do we have what it takes to offer true choice? Yes, at least we have enough to begin the expedition.
  • We talked a lot about learners as consumers but we need scaffolding. Unlimited choice of diet leads to obesity.
  • Workflow Learning and business process modeling bring a compelling vision
  • Barriers to eLearning parallel those to traditional learning, e.g. “not enough time”
  • Demand-driven learning works; supply-driven learning fosters resistance.
  • Courses are dead, to be replaced by informal learning and communities of practice.

Four years ago, eLearning was sufficiently new that conferences convened an eLearning community of practice. We discovered what worked and shared it with each other. It was exciting to be among the enthusiasts and cognoscenti.

eLearning has become much too broad an endeavor to be a single practice. Some conferences are how-to events for neophytes. Others are guilds for experienced practitioners. And events like eLearnInternational push the boundaries of eLearning, learning culture, the future of learning, and the linkage of learning to other major forces in the world.

Mark Bell closes the event.

Back at the Sheraton Grand, several hundred people in formal dress were milling about. The Institute of Chartered Bankers.

A group of us headed out to Bar Roma for a final meal together.

Jonathan Star and Charlie Stuart

Don Norris

David Wilkinson

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February 21, 2004

Edinburgh -- Etienne Wenger

Etienne Wenger is a social learning theorist who cut his teeth at the Institute for Research on Learning. He is best known for popularizing the concept of communities of practice. His presentation spoke to me deeply.

Communities of practice are not new. The earliest version may have been cavemen sitting around a fire talking about the best way to hunt bears. That’s the way “communities” work: practitioners in a field or practice come together to share, nurture, and validate tricks of the trade. Apprentices have always done this. Sometimes we mistakenly thought most of the learning was going on between master and apprentice. In fact, most apprentices probably learn more from one another.

Question: What does a flower know about being a flower? And what does a computer know about being a flower? Stumped? That’s because neither flowers nor computers are members of the human community, and it’s community that harbors knowledge.

A friend of Etienne is a wine professional. Describing a wine, the friend said it was “purple in the nose.” This meant absolutely nothing to Etienne, because he is not a member of the wine-tasting community.

Now imagine the wine-tasting friend is with his fellow wine tasters. He discerns a new element in the wine which he describes as a convergence of fire and gravity. If others in the group buy in, the fire & gravity meme is legitimized. Here we have the two primary aspects of any community: participation and reification.

By the way, the concept of community is value-neutral. The word community has a warm and fuzzy feel to it, but we’re talking about groups that can impede progress, engage in group think, or neglect their responsibilities to the larger organization. I recall being shut out of a community of instructional designers because I was perceived as a business man, not a designer.

Now let’s think about how eLearning might be a transformative force. Learning in a community involves answering four questions:

• Identity: Who are we becoming?
• Meaning: What is our experience?
• Practice: What are we doing?
• Community: Where do we belong?

Learning by sharing knowledge in a community leads to what Etienne calls the “horizontalization” of learning. In school or workshops, the learning relationship is vertical: there’s a provider on top and a recipient. In a horizontal community, peers learn from one another.

First generation knowledge management failed because it was top down. (Identify the critical knowledge and stuff it in a content management system. Nobody took ownership because no community embodied the knowledge. Now that we appreciate that knowledge lives in communities, we can facilitate KM by nurturing their development. Etienne quotes Pasteur, saying “Chance favors those who are prepared.”

Etienne suggests scrapping our industrial model of training and the notions that go with it. Learning will become an internal part of live itself. Teaching will fade in importance. Progress along a trajectory of development will replace skills training.

The three aspects of social learning are the Domain, the Practice, and the Community. What, how, and who.

Related links: What is Knowledge, Building Community, and Informal Learning.

Googling out these references to past entries here, I found that I'd already recorded many of the concepts Etienne presented in Edinburgh. No matter. It took an hour of live presentation for them to take hold in a transformative way.

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Edinburgh -- Dinner

That Wednesday evening, a piper led us to a marvelous dinner party hosted by Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Wild rabbit terrine. Angus beef. Chocolate tart. Between Eilif Trondsen and me sat a community organizer from Barra.

Barra? It’s an island north of Inverness with 1,000 inhabitants. Most of the male residents fish for a living. Young people leave the island to complete their educations. Most do not come back. The organizer was exploring whether eLearning could prepare people for productive work on Barra, in order to save the island from depopulation.

Castle on Isle of Barra

Etienne Wenger and Jane Massy

After the meal, John Simonet provided the evening’s entertainment. He said people sometimes remarked on his strange name. John. He asked a teacher he was speaking with, “What do you teach?” “Bastards,” came the reply. He found this a bit strong, coming from a nun. Later… Know how to remember your anniversary? Forget it once. To the founder of NewMindsets, “Are you Welsh, Gareth, or did your parents just have a sense of humor?”

My guess would be that dinner table conversation was the richest source of learning for our community the first day.

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Edinburgh -- Plenary

The day before, the plenary session speaker’s father had died. The Conference organizers drafted me to take his place. Serendipity strikes again! I’d assembled an hour’s worth of material and my first assignment had been to talk for only half an hour. Now I had a full hour and the entire audience.

I noted that lots of learning comes in the wrong size containers. Sometimes what you’re after is a few pages in a book or ten minutes wrapped in a lengthy course. This coaxes curriculum designers to pad out learning experiences into bigger packages. Often the author or designer imposes a false logic to make everything in the box a logical whole. I explained that we were going to change that this afternoon. Sequence often makes no difference. It’s chrome and fins.

Was everyone familiar with memes? A meme is an idea so hot that it propagates like virus. I showed a menu of a dozen memes.

“Pick a number,” I asked the audience.

These are all familiar topics to people familiar with my work. I'll give a summary paragraph or two on each topic and a link to more information on it.

1. The Birth of eLearning
In fall 1999, the dot-com era was in full swing, twenty-somethings were driving Ferraris and guzzling fine wine, Moore’s Law was Silicon Valley’s religion, and people began to talk of eLearning, an attempt to share the halo of eBusiness and eCommerce. Venture capitalists swarmed into eLearning, hoping to cash in on a Learning Revolution to eclipse the Industrial Revolution.

People are not widgets, certain aspects of learning cannot be automated, and first-generation eLearning was largely a failure.

5. Blended.
Blended is a term much in favor among those who originally defined eLearning as training by computer alone. When that didn’t work, they coupled online learning and face-to-face workshops. An extensive course would contain numerous slices of on, off, on, off, on, off, etc.

The on/off approach is absurdly limiting. Shouldn’t we always make available the best tool for the job? My eLearning palette includes collaboration, knowledge bases, simulation, just-in-time support, communities of practice, blogs, industry news, and more.

6. The Blogosphere
Blogs (short for web logs) are another symbol of the increasing importance of the individual over the institution. By and large, blogs are person websites characterized by:

• Frequent, often daily entries.
• Chronological sequence, latest entries first.
• Single author, speaking informally.
• Links to favorite blogs of others.
• Ability to comment on entries.
• Searchable archive of all previous entries.

Five million people blog. They are individuals, hobbyists, teenaged girls, geeks, authors, reporters, Howard Dean, corporations, political rebels, newspapers, and more. We looked at a few of the previous week’s entries on my blog at www.internettime.com. There was an explanation of Mobile Learning, photos of the Royal Mile, and a photo of shrink-wrapped haggis on the shelf at Safeway.

Imagine the power of easy-to-use, searchable blogs behind an organization’s firewall. Blogging is not for everyone and it raises questions of privacy and individual freedom, but if only a handful of people wrote insider blogs, it would provide so much information on the “shadow organization” – how things really work.

2. Hunt the Elephant
I had a CEO who admonished the staff to “hunt the elephant.” Don’t be distracted by chattering monkeys or jungle drums. Focus on what you came to do.

Soon after the term eLearning came into vogue, people began saying it’s not the “e” that’s important, it’s the learning. I don’t think they went far enough. It’s not the learning that’s important, it’s the action that comes after the learning. Executives look for one thing: execution. We need to talk with them about performance, about getting the job done, about hunting the elephant.

11. Bad Stuff
Poor design is at fault for some of the failure of first-generation eLearning to meet expectation. My first example showed a simple definition that had been tricked out as a page in a book, accompanied by an on-screen magnifying glass to make it legible. We also looked at an exercise where one learned proper casual attire by dressing a cut-out doll.

Finally, we tried a lesson in business etiquette. Which is the proper choice of things to say to your host following lunch?

    a. “My bass was great. How was your chicken?” b. “Mind if I finish off your chicken?” c. “Nothing like a fine Single Malt Scotch to finish off a meal, eh?”

Most of us had learned the night before that the correct answer is “c.”

We need to treat learners as customers and to avoid shoveling this sort of claptrap in their direction.

4. Emergent Learning
Our world is becoming more complex, a tsunami of information is on the horizon, and we’re expected to do more and more in less time. We have little choice but to reconceptualize our roles as workers and learners.

    “All the world's a stage And all the men and women merely players”

In bygone times, workers memorized their lines and followed the script. Today’s workers are improv players, making up their lines in response to the immediate situation.

3. Phase change

In 1999, the major justification for adopting eLearning was reduced costs. (Fewer airplane tickets, fewer salaries, and other one-time gains.) Then line managers bought into eLearning as a vehicle to prepare people to meet short-term goals. (Faster product rollouts, more informed sales people.) And now some senior executives think eLearning transformational. eLearning is a prerequisite of doing business in real time. Learning has become competitive advantage.

8. EAI
EAI stands for Enterprise Application Integration.

Thirty years ago, the prevailing wisdom was that business was made up of a variety of semi-autonomous parts: marketing, sales, manufacturing, logistics, finance, distribution, and so on. A hillside of silos. Then came Michael Porter who preached that all the parts were linked together in a “value chain.”

Enterprise software began to forge the links among disparate functions. And now Web Services are linking everything together, leading to an end-state where a corporation’s entire workflow is monitored and managed by one piece of software.

9. Workflow Learning
Imagine the worker in the turbulent white water of workflow. She receives guidance through contextual collaboration in the form of portals, IM, chat, blogs, web conferencing, workflow simulations, and smart knowledgebases. She is connected to the real-time workflow via business process models, social networks, expertise mining, personalization engines, and performance analytics.

Learning comes in real-time, right-sized chunks.

7. Visual Learning, also here.
Learning without pictures is half-brained. Paperback books have changed very little in the last 500 years. Words cannot do justice to the power of visual imagery, so let’s look at some pictures to learn from.

10. Networks & learning
This is the age of networks. We are enmeshed in information networks, social networks, financial networks, communications networks, the Internet, and more. Our bodies and brains are networks.

I define learning as the ability to prosper in the communities that matter to you. Our prevailing views of learning are colored by our shared experience of schooling. Might we be more open to thinking about learning as a network phenomenon? Learning means making better connections.

12. Brand
A brand is a promise to customers that converts a commodity into something so desirable that people we pay extra for it. If we seek to sell learning to workers, doesn’t it make sense to brand it? What promise are you making to your prospects? If your learning programs were an automobile, what brand would it be?

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February 20, 2004


Once again, I am aloft, this time flying from Scotland back to San Francisco after spending a couple of days pondering the future of eLearning.

I’ve been talking about how time is speeding up for the past few days and this morning I experienced it. I’d turned in quite late. I awoke to my wake-up call at 5:00 am. Then I rolled over to catch a few more winks before getting out of bed. I took a look at my watch and was horrified to see that it was 6:20 am. At 6:30, I was in an Austin taxi hurtling to the airport. Luckily, Edinburgh airport is small. I made my 7:25 flight with time to spare.

The second eLearnInternational Conference kicked off the morning of February 18th at the Edinburgh Conference and Exhibition Center. A BBC journalist introduced the event and The “Edinburgh Scenarios,” four alternative visions of eLearning ten years hence, that would be a springboard to our thinking for our discussions over the next two days.

Scottish Enterprise, which convened the event and would like to see Scotland become an eLearning powerhouse, unintentionally provided a delightful contrast of old and new with the first two speakers.

First up, a professor of moral philosophy from the University of Aberdeen demonstrated why the traditional academic model must change or die. Legitimizing his authority by noting his chair at the University had existed for 510 years, he lectured us through a series of questions that insulted our intelligence. Had we considered the anticipated outcome of this eLearning business? What is the purpose of it all? Mustn’t it be useful or valuable? Can one really expect to receive a quality learning experience via computer? After all, his own attempts to put his material into a learning management system had failed. Did we appreciate that learning is more than serving up content? Finally, some things, for example the ATM and the cell phone, don’t require any training. This erudite fellow was talking through his hat, so wedded to the way things were done on campus that he could only see eLearning as an inferior version of the real stuff that had stood the test of time. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

I asked the professor a few questions. eLearning is not all or nothing. Shouldn’t we look at how technology can improve the traditional, no-tech solution? In that not every learn can come to the campus, wasn’t eLearning better than nothing? And did he really think that designers of eLearning were unaware of constructivism and that learning is a process? My questions rambled because I found fault with nearly everything this scholar had told us, and it was hard to know where to begin. I never got around to banks weaning customers from human tellers by training them to use ATMs. The prof must have a simpler cell phone than I; I have yet to learn how to use most of my phone’s features.

Remember the scene in the Woody Allen film where a pompous Columbia professor is trying to impress his date with his interpretation of the work of Marshal McLuhan? From behind a poster, Woody pulls out Marshal McLuhan himself, who tells the professor, “You know nothing of my work….”

Don Clark, CEO of the largest eLearning firm in the U.K., provided just such a moment with his common-sense, crystal-clear description of the future of learning. If we lived in a world with no schools, what would we build in their place? Would we rebuild rural, medieval colleges? Don showed photographs of his twin boys learning. These “digital natives” are autonomous learners. They learn from the Internet. Drawing on frameworks obtained from computer games, they ask their father about military strategy. Imagine, ten-year olds talking strategy. The twins do not have the patience to abide with the stand-and-talk model of teaching. Lecture is such an ineffective medium for learning.

Don Clark

What is a university, anyway? The Internet offers more information resources than any university library. The faculty comes and goes. The students are booted out when their time is up. What remains? In this age of digital abundance, the university is no more than a brand.

Learning has been a form of punishment, and it’s time to end schooling’s two thousand years of slavery. Huzzah! That gave us plenty to talk about amongst ourselves during the ensuing coffee break. Most people went easier on the professor than I. No one appeared to disagree with Don.

The next activity was three concurrent sessions, one for corporations, another for government, and one for NGOs. I attended the corporate session led by Martyn Sloman. Martyn directs learning research for CIPD, the U.K. equivalent of ASTD.

Martyn explained that training and learning are different things. Training is an activity you do to people in hopes that they will learn. Learning is a much broader activity performed by learners themselves. Most learning is informal. For example, you learn how to fiddle your expenses without benefit of taking a course on the subject.

PowerPoint. How many in the audience use PowerPoint at least once a month? (Most of us.) How many learned it by attending a course? (1 person) How many learned via eLearning? (2) How many learned through trial and error and/or asking people for help? (45) This is a typical finding.

Links from Martyn:


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February 16, 2004


Last week I concluded a presentation at TechKnowledge by reminding people, "Don't forget to turn in your Level 1 assessments."

Presenters at conferences get to see one thing participants don’t: the Evaluations. Having read more than a thousand of these quick-and-dirty assessments, I’ve concluded that most evals tell more about the evaluator than about the presenter.

Some people show their inner schoolmarm by critiquing form rather than substance. Yes, I know I should alternate colors on my flipcharts, and I understand you lowered my grade for my own good. Uh, thanks. Guess I had other things on my mind.

Others are extremely cynical. On the issue of whether our four panelists improperly promoted their wares, one participant wrote “You must be joking!” In our case, we had studiously avoided even a hint of impropriety. Neither I nor my colleagues even told people what we did. You hear what you expect to hear.

At training conferences, lots of participants come to be trained. They want things spelled out clearly. They expect to receive “the school solution.” They consider ambiguity a sin. I wish they’d come to learn. Then we could co-create some new ideas. Be positive; you might hear something you like.

And then there’s the matter of handouts. I invariably make improvements to a presentation the night before. I find a better way to express an idea or a local angle. Apparently, some in the audience would prefer that I not improve the presentation because it means the handout doesn’t synchronize perfectly with the words on screen.

At a recent event, five of us spoke in the course of 90 minutes. Among other things, participants were asked to rate our appropriateness, adherence to the written description, clarity, and the quality of delivery of each speaker. On the rating scale, “5” was tops and “1” was awful.

What are the odds that someone really found everything awful? Several people responded 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1. Conversely, wasn’t there some room for improvement? Lots of people rated us 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5. Hardly anyone rated any item 2 or 3. I guess we had a room full of extremists. This provides no guidance to anyone.

Let me offer a few suggestions on getting the most from conference sessions.

  1. Come to the session as a learner, not an evaluator. Let go. Be open. Forget that you know more about presentation skills than the presenter. You’re here to learn, not to coach the presenter.
  2. Don’t assume the presenter is only out for his or her own interests. Some of us are “paying back” for the help they’ve received from others. Many of us are really trying to make the world a better place. Remember, speakers at breakout sessions don't getting paid to do this.
  3. Nothing in this world is certain. Few things beyond second grade can be nailed down with three bullet points. Pat answers are usually wrong answers. Furthermore, uncertainty engages the mind. You want to learn? Expect to leave your comfort zone.
  4. Regarding handouts, Emerson pegged it with, “Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
  5. If you want to give the presenter meaningful feedback, put it in words. Multiple choice items convey scant information.
  6. If you attend sessions to learn, evaluate your own performance. Were you attentive? Did you try to link the speaker’s ideas with your professional challenges? Did you take meaningful notes? Did you learn enough to justify investing your time? Is this the optimal mode for you to learn?

When Lance Dublin and I were making many joint presentations at the time our book came out, we marveled at people who rated us sub-par, but stayed with it for an hour or more. (There’s always at least one character who would have criticized Abe Lincoln at Gettysburg for speaking too long.) We started telling people that if they weren’t getting something out of our session, please leave. We didn’t want their ratings to ruin our averages.

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February 12, 2004

Virtual Clark Aldrich

Harvey Singh had to pinch-hit for Clark Aldrich on our panel on the future of learning. Harvey did great. But Clark, this could have been you in this photo instead of Harvey:

Clark did send along these photos of hundreds of NCOs, soon to be heading back to Iraq, doing the Virtual Leader simulation.

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TechKnowledge '04 -- Day Three

By the third day of an event like this, some participants are zombies; others are off to Disneyland (soon to be ComcastLand). This time they missed some great insights.

ASTD chair Pat Crull took the stage to introduce Qualcomm's Tamar Elkeles who was going to tell us about The Wireless Future and the Impact on Learning. Yawn. I expected a pitch about Kyocera phones. Or how people who refuse to read for very long on a 17" monitor are going to learn to love reading on a 2"x2" screen on a PDA. I've heard it and I figured I could wait until this stuff came of age.

Tamar took the stage and began to talk about "learning on the move." She told us how you can already use your phone as a voice-activated remote control for both your garage door and your television set. You can download a ring-tone that is an inaudible mosquito repellent. For $10 a month, SPRINT will let you watch CNBC and sports by phone.

Tamar's presentation

Consider how phones are woven into our lives. Ring! Ring! Ring! You feel compelled to pick it up to answer. Cell phones are a relatively new innovation yet they've become indispensible. Losing your phone is like losing an appendage to your body.

The Europeans are investing € 4,5 million in wireless illiteracy training for the homeless. Why? They may not have a home, but they surely have a wireless device. Gallo uses wireless phone learning to bring merchants up to speed on new products; at least they won't be interrupted by phone calls.

Pilot programs are investigating blends, discovery learning (museums), interpretation (info), and more. About then it hit me. My concept of "phone" had become obsolete.

A dozen years ago, speakers describing how gradual change can sneak up on you would recount a story of frogs and water on the stove. The legend said that it you pitched a frog in boiling water, he'd hop right out. However, if you put the frog in tepid water and heated it to a boil, the frog wouldn't sense what was happening and you'd end up with boiled frog. In my case, the phone had almost reached the boiling point before I woke up to the fact that we're no longer talking about Ma Bell's phones. Today's devices are not the same species as the phones I grew up with. (When I was a little boy growing up in Hope, Arkansas, our phone number was "2"; our town wasn't wired for dial phones at the time.)

It's the old saw that you can't learn what you already know. I was two years late appreciating the real value of storytelling because I thought I already knew most of what there was to know on the subject. Then I finally read Stephen Denning's The Springboard and discovered an entire new landscape. Ah, co-creation. Now I see why stories are great (your mind makes up its own stories in reaction to those of others).

I'd have caught on to M-Learning sooner if instead of phones and PDAs, the enthusiasts described the hardware as learning gizmos or TriCorders. That would have kept me from blocking out the potential with limitations that are no longer there, some kind of learned helplessness.

IBM's executive for M-learning, Christopher von Koschembahr, climbed to the podium to describe a scenario out of Sam Adkins' and my workflow learning playbook. Over the past ten years, the back-end of business computing has consolidated to the point that a mobile learner can connect into the central nervous system of the enterprise. (Chris's wording was much more elegant but I hope you get the idea nonetheless.)

The thought is that the only slack time available for learning comes in small chunks. You have ten minutes waiting in line? Pull out your learning gizmo and catch up:

Tamar came back on to tell us it's time to work on our M-Strategies. It doesn't cost anything to begin, it rides on infrastructure we've already built, and the time is now.

Lance Dublin, the impresario of TechKnowledge '04, came back on to thank everyone who helped put the event together. I found this event very worthwhile. I was happy to get the feeling that America is finally coming out of the economic dark ages of the last couple of years.


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February 11, 2004

TechKnowledge '04, Day Two

Welcome, Dan, Fred, Beatrice, Amanda, and Elizabeth, who attended this evening's sessions on Blogs & Learning at TechKnowledge.


 Josh Bersin

My second morning of TechKnowledge began with a panel of vendors of LMS and eLearning platforms addressing “Where are they going?” Panelists were Jason Averbook (PeopleSoft), Ed Cohen (Plateau), Lenny Greenberg (Pathlore), Malcolm Hobbs ( Saba ), and Jim Federico (Click2Learn). Moderator Josh Bersin (Bersin & Associates) pulled these nuggets of wisdom and rules of thumb from the panelists:

  • For every $1 you spend on LMS software, expect to spend three or four times more for implementation.
  • 5% to 15% of your cost will be for integration.
  • LMS no longer run in silos. One provider says nine out of ten installs link to HR or financial systems.
  • Jason: You cannot integrate at the business product level.
  • Ed: That's a myth. The LMS can be the hub.
  • It's not going to be a single-vendor world. (I thought of a Ferrari, with body by Bertone, Pirelli tires, Bosch ignition, Dell'orto carburetor, and so on.)
  • PeopleSoft receives 30,500 RFPs a year.
  • You've got a choice with enterprise software. You can customize the software to your processes (paying through the nose for customization and shutting off your upgrade path) or conforming to the best practices imbedded in the software.
  • A quarter of the audience had more than one LMS.
  • Important in the 3-5 year future: enterprise wide performance culture, adoption of industry best practices, total cost of ownership, plug—and-play enterprise software, integration of learning and work, workflow-based learning.


Next I visited a panel of buyers. Steve Teal (Bristol Myers Squibb), Dan Henry (Bank One), and Keith Irwin (Wells Fargo), egged on by moderator Sam Herring (LGuide), told stories of the “Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”

Lessons include:

  • Be sure who owns the intellectual capital.
  • Determine your requirements before calling in the vendors. The devil's in the details.
  • “Will the vendors come in to you?” “Too often.” One fellow no longer returns phone calls. Advice: don't call them in until you've defined what you want.
  • What if the vendor doesn't follow your RFP process? Watch out. One buyer received 200 pp. of boilerplate ahead of the answers to his questions. How they answer the RFP indicates what they'll be like later on. Eliminate them from consideration.
  • The RFI is educational; the RFP comes after defining your requirements.
  • When choosing an advisor, pick a “partner” who is independent. Lots of great people are available.
  • Research? One person suggested Brandon Hall. Another said the information he received from Brandon was inaccurate and out of date. LGuide used to date-stamp its reports since inaccuracies are often attributable to the age of the report.
  • Watch out for two similar-sounding but very different terms. Configurable means you can flip a few switches to change things to your liking. Customization is recoding – and you will pay for it.
  • Translation: “We can do that” = “Pull out your pocketbook.”
  • Would you buy version 1.0? No.
  • Sign a prenup setting grounds for a no-fault divorce in case of irreconcilable differences.
  • Next was my panel with Ellen Wagner, Harvey Singh, and Dexter Fletcher, orchestrated by Brenda Sugrue. We covered a lot of ground but that will wait for another day; I'm a bit tired.

Next was my panel with Ellen Wagner, Harvey Singh, and Dexter Fletcher, orchestrated by Brenda Sugrue. We covered a lot of ground but that will wait for another day; I'm a bit tired. (My photos of Ellen and Brenda did not turn out.)

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February 10, 2004

ASTD TechKnowledge 04 #1

ASTD TechKnowledge '04

Battlefield Report

ASTD COO/CIO Tony Bingham opened the TechKnowledge conference at the Anaheim Marriott this morning with an arresting slide that announced, "Technology is Dead." Then he announced that this was a quote from Larry Ellison, just crazy Larry spouting off again. (Tony presiding signaled the fact that ASTD has yet to seat a new president.) Tony warned us away from pertrusive (pervasive+intrusive) apps.

Michael Rogers, a "practical futurist" from the Washington Post gave us his thoughts on what's next. Kids think the classified ads in the newspaper are dumb; why wouldn't you search for precisely what you're after online? Why pay for a dozen songs on a CD rather than buy the songs you really want one at a time? The next gen expects to have its media customized: TiVo is replacing "appointment viewning."

With MyWashingtonPost, they invested $1 million, but consumers did little beyond customizing their movie schedules. Personalization must be implicit, like Amazon, the result of smart software watching my behavior and accommodating my needs.

People today want to be doing things. They want control. They want tools. Along with the book review, add a button for buying the book.

The browser's fading away in favor of Internet-aware apps.

Wired kids, e.g. in Finland, make fluid plans. "Let's all go to the pizza place now." You can show up in person or virtually (text messaging is as good as being there.)

Ease of use should mean "Easy to Use." Steve Jobs announced the Mac in 1984, saying that Apple was making the computer as easy to use as the telephone. Now our telephones are getting as hard to use as our computers!

The "guru problem" crops up when an expert has a vested interest in keeping his "secret knowledge" secret, i.e. making himself indispensable.

On my first cruise of the four-aisle exhibition, I found a few new items:

Hatsize supplements a web conferencing tool (e.g. Interwise, Centra, WebEx, etc.) with administrative control. For example, Hatsize will set up all the computers with the software and configuration to participate in an eLearning course. Say the course takes a break. Hatsize can return everyone's computers to their last state when learners return.

Pixion is a conference server. One wonders how many of these the world needs. Unlike most of what's out there, you can buy Pixion as either a hosted solution or to run on your own servers. Written in java, Pixion is natively multiplatform (unlike MS Live Meeting.)

TalentSmart is an online interview that assesses your EQ (emotional intelligence) from asking 28 questions. This creates scores long four dimensions: self awareness, self management, social awareness, and relationship management. Then you're reinforced with action plans, goal tracking, sharing results with your boss, and more. They tell me Goldman Sachs has purchased 3,500 units. Unit cost is $29.95. Workshops, workbooks, etc., are extra-cost items. It's an interesting concept; I can't tell whether it's going to change the world. Experience will tell.

Plateau's Ed Cohen considerately warned me away from his wildly popular session on LMS as too elementary. I walked across the hall and caught Kevin Oakes's presentation on getting "A Seat at the Table." This was Credibility-Building 101. From what I've seen in California companies, I agree with Kevin 100%. Being invited into the executive conversation is not an entitlement; it's something you earn by thinking and expressing yourself like a business person.

Kevin quoted Pat Galaghan, who was sitting directly behind me, telling of an audience member who bolted when Pat brought up the bottom line. "I didn't get into training and development to worry about the bottom line."

I was happy to finally meet T+D's Eva Kaplan-Leiserson f2f. She has just had published a couple of items on social software, good roundups of an exploding area of interest. I invited her to join our next Emergent Learning Forum, which will focus on the nexus of social software and corporate learning.

I expect to be writing more about this. For now, I'll offer Kevin's summary:

  1. Skip the rhetoric. (Normal people don't talk about pedagogy.)
  2. Understand the business and speak in those terms.
  3. Act, don't just "align."
  4. Use technology for a purpose.
  5. Focus on results. = bottom line.

Totally nutty, the organization of this event. In late afternoon, I wanted to hear Thiagi talking about games and sims. And Sam Adkins, on workflow learning. And Bob Mosher, now with Microsoft. And IBM's Tony O'Driscoll on "challenging conventional wisdom." I ended up in Jack Phillips' session on ROI. (Why schedule all the hot speakers for the same slot?)

Jack's emphasis on results is right-on and his lilting Southern drawl is ideal for putting across a no-nonsense message.

I don't agree with Jack's characterization of intangibles as things that can't or shouldn't be converted to numeric data. Those who read me here know that I consider intangibles such as know-how, competence, and relationship capital more important than physical assets. Geez, I also find that, even thought it's intangible, "opportunity cost" -- the value of what people would have been doing with their time were they not learning -- is often the largest cost of any learning.

ASTD has to think this event a success. They're larger than last year; the expo hall is filling out. The breakout speakers are good. Attendance is up, not down.

Some of the cognoscenti complain that the participants are two or three years off the pace. This is what happens when a technology becomes mainstream.

As I found at my first TechKnowledge event in Vegas a couple of years ago, conferences like this truly serve the membership. It's not cutting edge. It's tried and true.

From my motel, Katella Blvd & DisneyLand

Time for bed. Zzzzzzzzzzzz.......

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 05, 2004

Recent Presentations

You may have noticed that I've been giving Macromedia Breeze a workout. I'm honored they chose me to give the first two sessions in their inaugural webinar series. Five hundred people signed up for Sam's and my presentation today, although of course nowhere near that many followed through. The etiquette in signing up for webinars is undefined; suffice it to say that registering for an online event is closer to highlighting a show you want to watch in the t.v. listings than to accepting an invitation to a wedding reception.

I'll post the URL to Sam's and my gig as soon as I can lay my hands on it. In the meantime, here are a couple for your listening pleasure. Please leave a comment telling us what you think of Breeze as a delivery medium.

The Edinburgh Scenarios, 34 minutes, Jonathan Star and Jay Cross

    GBN's Jonathan Star and Internet Time Group's Jay Cross discuss the state of eLearning ten years hence.

New Directions, 17 minutes, Jay Cross

    Jay discusses emergent learning and the Emergent Learning Forum

I've said this before but I'll say it again: PowerPoint presentations without narration or notes are about as useful for learning as a Rorschach test. The interpretation tells you more about the reader than about what the author had in mind. Wordless PowerPoint decks are cop-outs, e.g. "I missed the meeting but I looked through the PowerPoints." You betcha.

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January 28, 2004

Yin and Yang of home computer maintenance

The Dark Side

When I participate in events at L. A. 's Staples Convention Center, I forego the expensive hotels in favor of staying with Patsy. Not that Patsy and I have a thing going; she runs a delightful bed and breakfast half a mile from the Convention Center.

Half a dozen years ago, graffiti appeared on walls and sidewalks in Patsy's neighborhood with a vengeance. She and others vowed not to buckle under. As soon as a graffito appeared, Patsy's SWAT Team painted over it. Armed with buckets of paint, they prowled the streets at three in the morning. Within six months, the vandals moved on, doubtless to a more complacent, less proud neighborhood.

This morning I could identify with Patsy. My inbox was host to hundreds of virtus-laden email bombs. Made for the quaint old days when viruses came in twos and threes, Norton Anti-Virus couldn't handle the situation. After answering "Yes" forty or fifty times to Norton's repeated questioning about whether I wanted to Quaranteen the offending email, I gave up.

I went to my server and deleted page after page of email with subjects like "Test" and "Hello."

In a more just world, the virus vandals would feel a little pain whenever I delete their garbage. I'd like to experience the hard-won satisfaction of Patsy's group, driving the jerks out of my space.

In the meanwhile, I wish Norton Anti-Virus would let me check a box once and for all time signifying that, "No, I never want to open virus-laden Spam."

Now it's as if the local police were to show up at my door every time they catch a criminal to tell me, "Look at what we did for you." Norton's bargain is, "I'll quaranteen your virus in exchange for my pop-up."

The Light Side

Monday night my blogs began to act strangely. I was unable to post an entry. This morning, after 90 minutes of getting through the email-ffiti, an email from Stephen Downes alerted me that the comment function on my blogs was down.

When I tried to post an entry, I got this in return: "Can't open file: 'mt_trackback.MYI'. (errno: 145)" I turned to the Moveable Type Support Forum, dreading a day of geeking through code in languages I don't understand. Could I run "phpAdmin"? Yes, it turned out I could. Soon, all my raw MySQL files were on the screen. A couple of keystrokes could banish years of entries into the aether. At this level, you work without a net. I put a checkmark next to the offending file and clicked "Repair." Everything works again! This is great. Wonderful. Something works!! On the first time!!! I walked the line and didn't fall. I don't need no stinking net!!!! Huzzah!!!!!


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January 26, 2004


Check out ADL's elearnopaedia. Lotsa links.

Initially I was miffed because I couldn't find my site. Then I turned to "Favorites," a select list of nine. Two are ADL's own sites. Another two are Marcia and Wayne's Learnativity in duplicate (and try Ageless Learner if you want to keep up with Marcia, who, not content with just writing a book, has two books coming out). Learning Circuits is a great choice but for some reason they are down today. Thiagi's site is always gamey; I mean about games. TechForum is represented with a lame events calendar which lists only their own (Go to Learning Circuits or eLearning Centre for a complete calendar). The glossary, curiously, is Australian; e-boolabong? e-digeradoo? And that leaves...ta-da...Internet Time Blog.

There's a lot more here than Favorites, so I'll want to poke around before giving the elearnopaedia anything but high marks for effort. A couple of areas for improvement:

  • It would certainly be helpful to have a way for readers to rate the resources. Think of the time you'd save by cherry-picking and reading only the top articles.
  • My site has more than 25 papers and published articles I've written and a dozen presentations, many available with narration. I maintain an extensive link list and special sections on workflow learning, visual learning, ROI, design, etc. Yet most link lists don't do deep linking. My 500 MB of material gets the same signpost as a three-page vendor site of unoriginal material. I don't mean to whine; I get visitors by the boatload but I do find that many link listers do their readers a disservice by not giving a very full picture of what's out there.

    Another example just came to mind. Have you ever visited the archives of Stephen Downes' site? It's awesome. Click one of these links

Another plus for ADL. They at least try to provide descriptions with links. Another reason I like eLearning Centre is that Jane Knight not only provides descriptions, she also tells what's good and what's not.

Posted by Jay Cross at 04:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 25, 2004

Use your head!

Brains and Brawn, One and the Same


Published: January 25, 2004

Researchers in Germany report that the brain is similar to muscles in that if you exercise, it will grow:

In a study conducted by Dr. Arne May and colleagues at the University of Regensburg in Germany, people who spent three months learning to juggle showed enlargement of certain areas in the cerebral cortex, the thin sheet of nerve cells on the brain's surface where most higher thought processes seem to be handled. They were then asked to quit juggling completely, and three months later the enlarged areas of the cortex had started to shrink.


Both studies show how malleable the brain is under training, a finding already hinted at by the brain's own internal representation, or mapping, of body parts. In monkeys trained to use their fingertips for some task, the areas of the brain devoted to mapping the fingertips will enlarge, suggesting that the brain's various maps of the body are "plastic," in the parlance of neurology, not hard-wired.

Since they can't observe what's going on at the cellular level, the scientists don't know if the new weight is due to new cells or new connections. The people the Times spoke with think it's the connections. There are plenty of them:

The brain has about 100 billion neurons, each of which makes on average 1,000 connections with others, for some 100 trillion interconnections in all, none of them color coded. Learning to juggle, or navigate London streets, must involve a horrendous rewiring job. But the brain's electricians seem to know what they are doing, and no doubt it's good to keep them exercised.

Prediction: This finding will appear in Training, T+D, and the other vehicles of the training industry's popular press with the fervor of The National Enquirer reporting Michael Jackson's affair with Liz Taylor.

Does reading garbage, memorizing the ball scores, looking at porn, and watching Harry Potter movies a dozen times make one's brain heavier? Just thinking about that makes it hard for me to hold my head up.

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 23, 2004

eLearning Forum & 2014

Another reason to come to eLearning Forum this Tuesday:

Door prizes!

You must register by this evening!

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 21, 2004

Copernic Summarizer & ROI

At Winterfest RSS this morning, Bob Scoble talked of blowing people's minds by showing how he can keep up with 1,200 blogs in an hour a day. (RSS lets you read the headlines and drill down only when an item is of interest.) I'm applying similar logic to reading from dead trees (AKA paper).

I have a dozen white papers I'd like to read in the next couple of days. Well, "read" isn't quite the rigth word. I want to extract and retain any new information from them that ties into my current quests.

  1. First I would like to assess which papers are worthwhile putting some time into and which are not.
  2. Some chunks of the remaining papers will be more worthwhile than others. I'd like to be able to focus on the high-return sections and breeze through the rest rapidly.
  3. My days are full. When I'm not reading for pleasure, I want to read as quickly as I can while still retaining the message.

Copernic Summarizer is going to enable me to do all that and more.

As they say on the Copernic website,

Make the most of your reading time This easy-to-use summarizing software dramatically increases your productivity and efficiency by creating concise summaries of any document or Web page so you spend considerably less time reading without missing any important information.

I turned Copernic loose on Workflow Leaning, 285 pages (124,000 words) of technical matter and explanations. Minutes later I had a 1000-word summary. Click of a button and I had a 250-word summary. Click, a 100-word summary.

Each summary is a selection of representative sentences. Reading the summary tells you what you want to take the time to read the old-fashioned way. There's some sort of artificial intelligence doing a good job behind the scenes here; the summaries make for great reading.

It's hard to believe technology like this is available, especially with a price tag of only $60. You can try a full-featured 30-day demo for free.

Seeing is believing, so up ahead, I'll show you a few summaries of my eBook, Metrics. Who knows but what you'll see enough to make you want to order the full version of Metrics. For the price of Copernic, you could buy two copies and have enough left over for a cup of coffee and an hour of online wireless time at Starbuck's.

Here is Metrics in 100 words:

    In either case, you need to convert the return to profit, or profit contribution.

    At a breakout session at TechLearn several years ago, I could hardly sit still while a researcher told four dozen training managers how to use ROI to sell their programs.

    You want to build a set of shared assumptions and a logic train that translates training activities to business results.

    The vice president of operations and technology training told us how she drummed up management support of eLearning.

    When you add up the cost of development, salaries of people out of the field for training, and implementation cost, your "all-in" cost for the project, soup-to-nuts, is $1 million.

Here is Metrics in 250 words:

    In either case, you need to convert the return to profit, or profit contribution.

    At a breakout session at TechLearn several years ago, I could hardly sit still while a researcher told four dozen training managers how to use ROI to sell their programs.

    You want to build a set of shared assumptions and a logic train that translates training activities to business results.

    The vice president of operations and technology training told us how she drummed up management support of eLearning.

    "Investment" is what you pay to achieve the return.

    When you add up the cost of development, salaries of people out of the field for training, and implementation cost, your "all-in" cost for the project, soup-to-nuts, is $1 million.

    If you're growing into a new area of capability, you may spend half your time learning.

    "People engaged in learning and creating the future together can move beyond the old structure, strategy, and systems philosophy of running the business.

    International Data Corporation studied the buying behavior of corporate and IT training managers and concluded that, "ROI will no longer be measured in 'savings' or 'reduced cost of training.'" Instead, attention will be directed to "measurable changes to business metrics resulting from training investments.

    Until you know what an individual manager is trying to accomplish, you can't talk to them about potential results.

    This eLearning infrastructure would give Charlie a platform for broadcasting and reinforcing his message about transforming our organization.

    A Fortune 50 company used eLearning, knowledge management, and collaboration to bring new-hire sales people up to speed in six months instead of fifteen.

Finally, here is Metrics in 1,000 words:

    Few others were pointing out the absurdity of traditional accounting measures and the famous "four levels."

    In either case, you need to convert the return to profit, or profit contribution.

    Applying reasonable rules of thumb, the 15% increase in customer satisfaction could become $1.5 million in profit.

    When you talk with an executive, you need to talk about execution.

    At a breakout session at TechLearn several years ago, I could hardly sit still while a researcher told four dozen training managers how to use ROI to sell their programs.

    You want to build a set of shared assumptions and a logic train that translates training activities to business results.

    The vice president of operations and technology training told us how she drummed up management support of eLearning.

    The CIO of the bank and other top managers have dubbed her "e-Laura" and use chance encounters for updates on the bank's eLearning progress.

    For example, if Chevron-Texaco's accountants uncover a $32,000 error in the sales department's expense budget, they don't make Chevron-Texaco note the error in its annual report.

    A very conservative businessperson values these as "soft" benefits and doesn't factor them into ROI calculations.

    In sum, following accounting conventions to the letter can lead to making the wrong decision.

    "Investment" is what you pay to achieve the return.

    When you add up the cost of development, salaries of people out of the field for training, and implementation cost, your "all-in" cost for the project, soup-to-nuts, is $1 million.

    If you're growing into a new area of capability, you may spend half your time learning.

    "People engaged in learning and creating the future together can move beyond the old structure, strategy, and systems philosophy of running the business.

    Training has earned a bad reputation in executive management.

    Join me for a fresh look at ROI in the information age.

    International Data Corporation studied the buying behavior of corporate and IT training managers and concluded that, "ROI will no longer be measured in 'savings' or 'reduced cost of training.'" Instead, attention will be directed to "measurable changes to business metrics resulting from training investments.

    Until you know what an individual manager is trying to accomplish, you can't talk to them about potential results.

    When you're working with the right client, measuring results is not difficult.

    Accounting conventions play a major role in ruining numbers' reputation.

    "Good Heavens, this effort is going to cost us $8 million and change.

    This eLearning infrastructure would give Charlie a platform for broadcasting and reinforcing his message about transforming our organization.

    A Fortune 50 company used eLearning, knowledge management, and collaboration to bring new-hire sales people up to speed in six months instead of fifteen.

    Throughout most of 2000, SmartForce was among my marketing clients.

    SmartForce ran off the rails -- It's a complicated story -- but accelerating employee time-to-performance remains one of the biggest paybacks of any investment in corporate learning.

    Accelerate the development of the direct sales force.

    HP VARs who participate in eLearning build better customer relationships and make more sales.

    Schwab and others provide user-friendly, high-quality, and effective learning tools on their Web sites, thereby creating more knowledgeable investors and increasing the likelihood that they will become long-term customers.

    The cost of implementing eLearning throughout an organization the size of Widgetware (not just for the sales force) would be approximately $1 million.

    Dell didn't get to be the number one computer company in the United States by ignoring customers' needs.

    "Why would a world-class company offer anything but world-class learning opportunities to help its customers get the most out of their computers?"

    IC Growth has developed models and formulas that link intellectual capital management to economic profit.

    Business looks and feels radically different from in your father's day, and it's changing so fast you will hardly recognize it a decade hence.

    Accounting -- a system of assumptions and conventions for identifying, measuring, recording, and communicating economic information.

    Unlike the cost of an asset, the cost of an expense does not provide a future benefit to the business.

    In this case, the roi du soleil.

    In Fall 2000, a panel of ROI gurus joined in conversation about the state of ROI calculations today, what needs to be measured, and the ROI of eLearning.

    Welcome to today's roundtable on return on investment, part of our series on Making eLearning Work for You.

    If people want to know more about what we're discussing today, they should read Ed's Running Training Like a Business and Jack's Return on Investment in Training and Performance Improvement Programs.

    I spent most of my career on the customer side of the equation, so I come at this from the point of view of having been a customer of training providers for many, many years.

    All the business people I know want to take the time to understand the return on the investments they're making.

    To make a credible ROI argument, you have to start before any intervention takes place.

    Because otherwise it's like the cartoon where Charlie Brown shoots an arrow and then goes and draws the target around it.

    Personalization, where learning is tailored to my style, what I need to know, and where I can test out of things I already know, saves time and makes it interesting.

    Most business and university executives know better than to base strategic decisions on a two-decimal-point difference in ROI figures.

    But they insist on ROI and other metrics as a form of business discipline to get myopic unit managers to consider the mission of the overall organization, not just the operations of their own department.

    This is bound to be a challenging transition because many training professionals need additional skills to assume the new role, upper level executives need see learning as a strategic asset, and there need to be examples that demonstrate this new role and its benefits.

    Where infrastructure investment is concerned, as is the case of many of the initial costs associated with eLearning (including training a first generation of trainers and administrators), this should be obvious.

Copernic, where were you when I was in college?

Posted by Jay Cross at 06:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 20, 2004

The future of eLearning -- this Tuesday

Today I met with Jonathan Star at Global Business Network to refine our presentation at this Tuesday's session of the eLearning Forum. Our theme is the Edinburgh Scenarios, the ten-year scenario learning exercise being funded by Scottish Enterprise.

For information on our public session at Microsoft's Silicon Valley Conference Center in Mountain View, see the eLearning Forum website.

To participate from afar, sign up to attend over the 'net, courtesy of Interwise.

As I was printing a few pages about the Edinburgh Scenarios, I got a new warning message, words that tell me we already live in "The Age of the Smart Machiine."

Posted by Jay Cross at 07:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 14, 2004

Presentation: trends in collaboration

Here is the presentation that kicked off the Collaborative Learning 04 conference. It's 25 minutes but you can pick and choose what you want to see. This is recorded in Macromedia Breeze; the live recording didn't turn out that well.

After listening, please leave a comment below. Thanks.

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January 03, 2004

The Edinburgh Scenarios

Please join the discussion of how eLearning will evolve over the next ten years.

Brief Project Overview

Explanation of the Project

The scenarios:

Join the threaded discussion on the Edinburgh Scenarios

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What's Next?

What's Next? is a compendium of thoughts from fifty illustrious members of the Global Business Network. Their thoughts dwell on the world ten years from now, the same timeframe as the Edinburgh Scenarios.

If you're not familiar with GBN, just reading the membership list will be a treat. Where else are you going to find the likes of William Gibson, Laurie Anderson, Jaron Lanier, Eric Drexler, Doug Engelbart, Stewart Brand, Danny Hillis, Bill Joy, Michael Porter, Clay Shirky, and Michael Murphy in one place?

At the heart of scenario thinking is the importance of challenging our own assumptions about the present and the future by seeking out different, provocative, even unorthodox perspectives from “remarkable people.” This term, coined by philosopher G.I. Gurdjieff, described “someone who stands out from those around him by the resourcefulness of his mind and knows how to be restrained in the manifestations which proceed from his nature, at the same time conducting himself justly and tolerantly toward the weakness of others” (Meetings with Remarkable Men).

GBN’s president Eamonn Kelly sets up the interviews by making a convincing argument that complex times call for deeper understanding to underpin our decision-making. "This in turn, is key to gaining adaptive advantage: the ability to anticipate and sense change, and the capacity to respond quickly and coherently."

Everywhere I turn recently, I find myself tripping over complex adaptive systems. Business flows, everything is connected, we don't see the whole picture, surprises are on the way. I'm tempering my view several months back that the "science of complexity" is simply another way of saying "You don't get it." Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah-nyah.

The "new terrain" posited by What's Next? is composed of these categories, which also organize the chapters of the book:

    • Cutures & Socities
    • Values & Belief Systems
    • Civilzation & Infrastructure
    • Environment & Sustainability
    • Technology
    • Science
    • Economics & Finance
    • Geopolitics & Governance

Constructed largely of 500-word quotes from GBN members, What's Next? is perfect bathroom reading. Unless I succomb to diarrhea, I won't finish reading it until mid-month.

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January 02, 2004

The old in-and-out

Surfing around to see where other people are at, I stumbled into the site of Epic and this absolutely wonderful list from Donald Clark. Not only do I heartily agree with his list, I was able to do so in about 15 seconds. Pure essence.

OUT: attendance IN: attainment

OUT: tyranny of time
IN: in your own time

OUT: single dominant form of delivery
IN: blended learning

OUT: collection
IN: connection

OUT: content
IN: context

OUT: duplication
IN: sharing

OUT: digital divide
IN: digital abundance

OUT: behaviorism
IN: motivation

OUT: offline assessment
IN: online assessment

I have yet to meet Donald Clark, but I like a man who speaks his mind:

As the hype gives way to a more sensible form of market growth, several myths have been scotched:

1. Learning Management Systems (LMS) are a necessary condition for success
2. Standards will lead to a 'tipping' point
3. Reusable learning objects will allow 'lego brick' rebuilds of courses

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January 01, 2004

Scenario Learning (2)

Scottish Enterprise has enlisted a gaggle of gurus, Global Business Network, and various professors and school children to specuate on the shape of eLearning ten years hence. I feel so fortunate. Just as my prognostications for this year are petering out (See below), I've been invited to join this project and present findings at eLearninternational in Edinburgh next month. I plan to spend the coming month living in the future.

Why don't you join me? No, silly, not in Edinburgh. I mean online. There's a discussion starting up on the Learning Circuits Blog. A discussion board just popped up here.

Collaborative Learning: Put Energy into E-Learning Conference takes place January 13-15 on the net. I'm giving the keynote at 8:30 am on Jan. 13th on the topic of (surprise!) The Future of eLearning. The event is great if you're interested in Collaborative Learning. Admission is only $199. However, as a speaker, I get 10 free passes. I'll give passes to the first 10 people who email me, giving their first and last names, and email address. Dont tarry, because I am supposed to turn in the names by January 5.

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Scenario Learning

In November 1998, I gave a presentation on Learning in 2004 at TechLearn. At the time, 2004 seemed so far away that far-out predictions went unquestioned. Predictions can go astray, I pointed out, quoting:

    H.L. Menken, "For every complex problem, there is a solution that is concise, clear, simple and wrong."

    Decca Records in 1962, "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." (Rejecting the Beatles.)

    Jay Cross in 1986: "I think I'll pass." (To then start-up Cisco Systems.)

I described the Scenario Learning I was doing, and my online vehicle, the "Internet Time Machine." (I couldn't stomach the term Scenario Planning. I wasn't planning anything. I was learning about the future.) Michael Porter had said, "Scenarios aim to stretch thinking about the future and widen the range of alternatives considered." That's more what I was after.

I spent six months talking with people, devouring books, and surfing the web. The future became clear. Training was going to follow the same path as e-commerce -- and for the same reasons.

Web services were an obvious direction we were headed:

Some of my predictions were a bit optimistic. (I've been expecting cheap wall-mountable TV for the last 35 years.)

My "vital questions" from five years ago remain unanswered.

Only one of my possiblities for the web has come to pass, and it's pretty primitive.

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Whole systems for whole persons

Whole Systems for Whole Persons, The Future of Executive Development Jay Ogilvy, a co-founder of the Global Business Netowrk is a wonderful one-pager on what's wrong with executive development programs and what to do about it.

    Most current programs for executive development are deficient in three respects: First, they fail to see things whole, in systemic, inter-dependent terms. Second, they fail to treat their students as whole persons with minds, bodies, and emotions. Third, they fail to treat their students as if they will have both careers and a life. This article treats each of these deficiencies in turn.

Isn't this the truth?

    Trouble is, when it comes to doing business in the real world, you don’t find the economy located on one block and the politics on another, or markets in one place, logistics in another. In the business world of today and tomorrow, whole systems, rich with interdependencies, confront strategist and marketer alike.

Ogilvy addresses executive education. This enables him to keep down the word-count. After all, most of us are familiar with the structure (and foibles) of MBA programs. Reflecting on it (I've just read Ogilvy's piece three times) makes me wonder if this is not appropriate for all business training:

    All three of these recommendations for the future of executive development—a new emphasis on whole systems, whole persons, and whole lives—are within reach. The tools are available and the need is real. Whether business schools and executive development programs rise to the occasion is largely a question of will and leadership. If we accept the challenge, both our businesses and our lives will be the better for it.
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December 27, 2003

Metrics (excerpt)

Metrics: Measurements that Matter

These are excerpts from Metrics, an eBook available in the store.
Four years ago I attended a how-to-ROI presentation at a major eLearning event and found it so misleading that I began writing about how companies really evaluate project potential and after-the-fact results. Requests for my old articles and white papers still pour in.

Learning about ROI seems to be enjoying a renaissance in the training industry. Workshops and certificate programs abound. However, the courses I've looked at teach things that no business manager would buy. Here, let me tell you why I feel that way.

Metrics are broader than ROI

Metrics are measurements that matter. The Industrial Age is over. Measures that fail to account for intangibles are misleading.

Decision-makers use metrics to

  • choose the best course of action
  • supplement gut feel with a framework of logic
  • assess project failure or success
  • monitor progress
  • uncover ways to make improvements
  • divine ways to do better next time
  • focus attention on profitable activities

Metrics are in the eye of the beholder. They are not simply the application of a rote formula or accounting rule. They are subject to interpretation. This is what makes metrics worthy of discussion.

Training jargon doesn't play well in the executive suite, so you need to express yourself and position what you bring to the table in business terms.


If only I had $10 for every time I've heard training managers lament that they can't separate out the impact of the training from everything else that was going on. Some suggest that certain employees go untrained to provide a control group. (Forget it; the Hawthorne effect* would skew the results.)

*In a classic experiment in the 30s at Western Electric's Hawthorne Works, researchers found that workers were more productive when they cut the lights up. Also, when they cut the lights down! Conclusion: Workers are more productive if you pay attention to them. Placebos work.

Why would you want a control group anyway? Business is not precise. Deciding whether to invest in more training or increasing bonuses is not some physics experiment requiring 6-place accuracy. Consider John Wanamaker's regret, "I know only half my advertising is effective. If I only knew which half." Wanamaker didn't become a department store mogul by cutting his ads; he did what his gut told him to do.

Who decides whether an iffy investment, like Wanamaker's ads or your training program, is worthwhile? Your sponsor. The sponsor is the person who most strongly influences the decision on how to spend the money. The sponsor is your client. The sponsor decides what markers constitute proof.

The Performance Agreement

You've got to describe the linkage of your initiative and business results quantitatively, using assumptions your sponsor will buy into. You must be explicit about the what-if's. Do this in writing, as a "Performance Agreement" that:

  • Provides a shared understanding of the problem to be solved
  • Describes what you intend to provide in its solution
  • Estimates the expected increase in profit and the step to get there
  • Sets out a way to assess whether the goal was accomplished or not
  • Lays the foundation for solving the next problem

The Agreement also shows that you understand the business and that you're on the same page as your sponsor.

Fortune Favors the Bold

Before you get too far into metrics, ask yourself, "Does it matter?"

One of the few aspects of accounting that I like is The Principle of Materiality. This principle says that if it doesn't matter, don't worry about it.

For example, if Chevron-Texaco?s accountants uncover a $32,000 error in the sales department?s expense budget, they don't make Chevron-Texaco note the error in its annual report. Chevron rakes in $100 billion a year. $32,000 is a drop in the bucket; it's immaterial. Now then, if the accountants find a $32,000 discrepancy in your personal expense report, that's material. Send us a postcard from the slammer.

You can?t measure everything. Therefore, you should seek to measure important things. Let everything else coast. Don't fritter away time on the small stuff.

Time Matters

While training directors may have different objectives from CEOs, everyone in today's business world shares one need: they want it all now. Benefits you don't see for two years are hardly benefits at all. Given enough time, a million monkeys at a million terminals could develop your entire curriculum, with Flash animations and a repository of SCORM-compliant objects. Nobody's got time to wait.

An appropriate metric for most eLearning is time-to-proficiency. How long will it take until your people are performing competently? By competent, I mean able to meet or exceed the expectations of customers, be they internal or external to the organization.

Traditional ROI

ROI is often a mask for uncertainty or an attempt to quantify cost/benefit with accounting principles that don't count people as assets. The business return on eLearning investment should be so obvious that you can figure it out on the back of a napkin.

Traditionally, executives assume training has little or no impact on revenue, so they measure training benefits in terms of cost savings. This works against eLearning, where increases in top-line revenue generally exceed reduced expenses by a wide margin.

ROI is relative

ROI or cost/benefit analysis is relative, not some absolute value like the speed of light used to be. Where you stand depends upon where you sit. CEOs don't care about learning objects or LMS. Line managers focus on the performance of their unit, not the overall corporation. Training directors don't allocate resources to business transformation. One size does not fit all.

Beware of bad numbers

Present-day accounting is an anachronism. Invented half a millennium ago to maintain accurate shipping records, double-entry bookkeeping helped Venice dominate its part of the world. Formal accounting worked well when you could go out to the warehouse to count your assets. In the information age, it's an inappropriate yardstick for measuring anything. Most assets drive home every night.

In a nutshell, the basic problem is that accounting recognizes nothing but physical entities. Intangibles are valued at zero. Vast areas of human productivity -- ideas, abilities, experience, insight, esprit de corps, and motivation -- lie outside the auditor's field of vision.

The largest cost of all is foregone opportunity.

Again and again, I've found the largest overall cost of any corporate learning endeavor is the cost of people's time. I'm not talking about salaries and benefits; I refer to the value they would have created had they not been tied up in training. Opportunity cost per hour is not a fixed amount. A salesperson's time during working hours in peak buying season is worth much more than the same individual's time after closing time in non-peak season. eLearning often enables the employee to shift learning to those non-peak hours.

There's more.

I could go on for another ninety pages. In fact, I do just that in a newly published eBook titled Metrics.

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December 23, 2003

Top Trends for 2004

Top Ten Trends for 2004

It's All About Productivity Now. Dramatic Productivity Gains from New Technology Dominate the Landscape.

By Sam S. Adkins, Senior Director of Technology Analysis, Workflow Institute

Customarily, the Workflow Institute distributes reports and updates only to members. This one's on us, to celebrate our debut. This is our abbreviated forecast. For the full version, go here

  1. 2004 will define XML and Web Services. Companies that have Web Services strategies now are well positioned to tap into the second wave. The first wave was dominated by integration. The second wave will be dominated by productivity gains achieved by using Web Services to automate tasks, save time and increase output with fewer resources. Medium-sized and small businesses will be able to afford the new services previously available only to enterprise companies.

  2. Enterprise Application Integration accelerates. EAI absorbs several distinct product categories. Knowledge Management gets completely absorbed as a technology by Enterprise Content Management and Enterprise Integration Management technology.

  3. Productivity gains from new mobile technology explode. Primarily in the healthcare and field service industries, the productivity gains using mobile technology will be dramatic. The initial productivity gains from initial deployments in 2003 have been impressive and have sparked a brush fire of adoption as customers adopt the technology to increase productivity and decrease costs. In the healthcare industry, the technology is eliminating a spectrum of medical errors such as diagnosis, medication and prescription errors.

  4. Real-time Managed Collaboration and Workflow Automation start to converge. The convergence of collaboration and workflow begins to dominate corporate and government business practices. Once highly unstructured and completely unmanaged, new collaboration technology will harness Instant Messaging, Web-conferencing and application sharing.

  5. The broad adoption phase of Workflow Learning begins. The early adopter concept phase is over. Workforce Optimization, Automated Performance Management, Workflow Learning and Workflow Analytics merge. Workflow automation dominates the Enterprise Application Integration conversation. The convergence of managed collaboration injects immediate productivity gains. Informal Learning dominated by real-time contextual Workflow Learning becomes the overwhelming focus of corporate workforce development initiatives.

  6. Simulation reaches adolescence and identity crisis phase. The proliferation of simulation technologies continues in several distinct technology sectors including business process management, workflow modeling, gaming, educational publishing, military training, product lifecycle management and business intelligence analytics. Cost-effective, low bandwidth virtual reality technologies will explode as massively distributed multi-player gaming grows exponentially across the planet. Interactive Flash and video on smartphones and tablet PCs become common.

  7. Social Network Analysis Technology is commandeered for productivity. Business2.0 identified Social Network Analysis as the technology of the year for 2003. In 2004, it will become apparent that the technology can be harnessed to improve productivity and cut costs. Automated expertise mining and presence awareness will converge with the technology. In this case, it won't be the technology itself that makes the difference. As an enabling technology it will provide expertise maps with live human experts lighting up the switchboard of the network. Human expertise will shine.

  8. The battle for the single business process interface intensifies. There is a fierce battle being fought by several major vendors now vying for the new single business process interface. Each sector and industry leader has a different approach. Enterprise Content Management vendors are advocating "content-based applications".

  9. Agent-based technologies dominate the entire spectrum of technology innovation. Intelligent and smart software will grow in prominence. It will be identified as the ONLY way to offset the Information Tsunami crisis that is approaching the business world. Self-healing networks, autonomous computing, predictive software, adaptive workflows, vigilant security software and self-assembly chip technology will become common.

  10. The Information Tsunami becomes the top business challenge driving technology innovation. Information is doubling every 18 months and the growth rate is accelerating. The wave cannot be stopped so it has to be conquered. Technology, particularly agent-based software, is the only alternative. Time will become the metric that dominates all automation technology.

For a more comprehensive version of our predictions, go here
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December 14, 2003

Don't pass it along

At a think tank session at eLearning Producer last month, Will Thalheimer displayed this well-known graph...

      ...and then documented the fact that it is total fabrication. Fiction. The stuff of urban legend.

Will heads up Work-Learning Research. Here's what he's found on tattered history of this bogus graph.

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December 11, 2003

Ich bin ein Berliner

Peter Isackson attended Beverly Hill High, graduated from Oxford, and has lived in Paris for decades. He is president of Didaxis, a European culture consulting and instructional design firm. (Disclosure: I am on the Board of Didaxis.) Peter introduced me to Online Educa several years ago, and I've enjoyed presenting there. This year I couldn't make it back to Berlin, so I asked Peter to take notes. Peter is thorough. He sent 5,000 words. Because it's important that Americans understand the shifting European situation and vice-versa, I'm going to post Peter's entire report below.


about this time every year!

Report from Online Educa Berlin, Dec. 3 to 5, 2003

By Peter Isackson, Didaxis, Paris

Let me be brutal. Online Educa Berlin, which has just finished, is an interesting conference, offering a rich and diversified panorama of what people are actually doing with eLearning. But more than that, it’s now an essential one for those of us here in Europe and probably for a lot of others around the world. Though a long-standing member of the Advisory Committee, I have no vested interest in the event, and admit that this year, for the first time, I thought I could live without what had become a pre-Christmas ritual and duty. I agreed only at the last minute to chair one of the parallel sessions. And although I still think a number of significant (and less significant) things can be done to improve the overall quality and pertinence of the conference, if I’m to judge by the comments of the participants and my own renewed impressions, I have to congratulate the organizers on their impeccable performance.

Online Educa is an immensely successful conference, having grown from a level of participation of roughly 300 to the 1,428 who attended this year, which is already a whopping 300 more than a year ago. As a regular since its launch in 1995, for the first time I suffered from agoraphobia. Most of time, I truly and disconcertingly felt lost in the crowd, although it was the same environment (Berlin’s Intercontinental Hotel) where for years I had the feeling of being a member of a family, albeit a visibly growing one. I had the impression this time that some of the brothers and sisters had disappeared (which may be the result of fabulous success --- making such events superfluous for them -- or frustrating failure, making them unaffordable or inappropriate). But who were all these new cousins? One answer was given immediately by the organisation: the Dutch had replaced the Finns as the most populous delegation. But they weren’t alone. The invasion – unlike that of Iraq – was the result of a much wider coalition, with representatives from 68 countries.

Once a marginal event in a marginal field, Online Educa took on significance in its early years as a magnet for Europeans working in fields related to eLearning. It created its niche as an annual platform for largely informal and intellectual, non-commercial exchange among Europeans (principally) but served also as a link with the rest of the world, including the U.S. It catered to a deep need in Europe for colleagues in the same field but of different nationalities to mix, mingle and share. The initial sponsoring partners were the European telecom giants, especially Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom, who in 1995 hoped to pump prime the nascent telecommunications for education and training market (as a segment of the huge future e-commerce market) and at the same time were preparing a Franco-German marriage that never took place.

Online Educa’s spirit of open exchange among trainers, university staff and small producers of both eLearning content and tools produced a number of practical consequences, some of them to do with business, others with technology and yet others with pure pedagogy. In the period roughly from 1995 (its inception) to 1998 the presentations were largely dominated by announcements of what I prefer to call “pro-active eLearning policies” (quite often programs to be implemented locally with a varying degree of imminence) and speculation about or attempts to predict the future, i.e. “what we think it will be like when people starting using networked technology for training and how committed we are to achieving this”. Today, only the big IT vendors (Microsoft, IBM, Cisco, Sun, who have taken over after the telecom providers’ vanishing act following the bursting of the dotcom bubble in 2000) are left to paint the eternally rosy picture of what our future based on integrated enterprise systems will be like, a future that will be delivered thanks to the massive adoption of the technology they have developed to meet our present and future needs, which of course they’ve also taken the immense trouble to identity for us.

Standing room only for the plenary session

As a measure of how far we have come while things remain, in other respects, essentially the same, I remember that in 1995 the only significant commercial online training service being proposed was Berlitz for language learning (which has since been abandoned), whereas Microsoft was busy impressing a receptive public with its outstanding new platform for a virtual university, Blackbird, thanks to a seductive, graphic PowerPoint pitch with more bells and whistles than usual. Never heard of Blackbird? Nobody at Microsoft seems to remember it either. But at a time when Bill Gates was struggling to take a still ambiguous position on the emergence of the Web (“are browsers necessary, and if they are, how do we establish a monopoly?”), his company was occupying the terrain and scaring away the opposition with its educational vapourware delivered in the form of a PowerPoint presentation and well-placed press releases. Microsoft’s position as platinum sponsor this year of Online Educa is linked to its launch of another educational killer application, Class Server. In keeping with the trend to tone down of hype and reassure (rather than aggressively attack) markets, Class Server appears to be a real product, this time addressed principally to secondary schools, reflecting Microsoft’s strategy – already perfected in the street corner drug-dealing industry -- that it’s best to pull the new generations into the fold as early as possible.

The key themes in 2003

In the beginning of Online Educa, when eLearning was still a dream in the mind of the European Commissioner of Education and the World Wide Web was itself little more than a whimpering newborn, a serious confusion existed between distance learning defined as “telecommunications enabled education and training” and its offline cousins, CBT and multimedia. This confusion has only recently disappeared as the Internet has become democratised in Europe and the all-purpose notion of blended learning, with its miraculous healing powers, has been received as an article of faith amongst cutting edge educational theologians. While the background issues of organization and methods for universities and enterprises still attract the bulk of the presenters’ attention, several new themes have recently come to the fore and are likely to have more impact in the years to come. The ones that struck me this year were: flexibility, quality, culture and rich media.


This theme reflects a number of complementary strategic orientations and embraces notions such as change management, blended learning and contextually appropriate learning “in the face of changing learner requirements” (to quote Ashish Basu, president of NIIT, India). Basu claims to be describing “third generation” eLearning, somewhere beyond time and space, but not quite the Twilight Zone. This correlates strongly with the “just for me” principle announced with great fanfare already a year ago by IBM in its role of prophet of the future, always ready to push a catchy new slogan in the belief it will stimulate desire for a new generation of integrated enterprise solutions.

In practice, the concept as described by Ashish Basu seems slightly more human – and therefore possibly less efficient, but considerably more likely as a standard scenario -- than IBM’s vision of embedded learning that embraces both “just in time” and “just for me”… but also “just for everyone else in the team”, since my personal experience of data gathering and production, furthered by my instantly perfected presentation performance (formatting the raw data) is automatically fed back into the system. Richard Straub (IBM Europe) promises just such a perfectly calibrated solution to the hurried and harried sales consultant eager to convey instant, perfectly structured knowledge to his prospect in the interest of signing a major deal faster than the competition. (What happens when the competition buys into the same technology and catches up will only be answered at a future conference as IBM can be counted on to deliver another generation of tools for competitive advantage).

Richard Straub: the future according to IBM

Basu sees the flexibility and adaptability of the system in terms of strong and sophisticated development methodology complemented by what he calls a “layered help desk”, where actual people with different levels of qualification handle the inevitable demands on the system. These people will continue to be instrumental in ensuring that the content is not only just in time, but also dynamic, adapting to the unknown or at least unanticipated (because he quite rightly recognizes that we can never anticipate all the critical features of context). Another aspect of Basu’s pragmatism is reflected in his conviction that with the right methodology and philosophy, time to market (and therefore cost) can be significantly reduced. He didn’t fail to mention that this is particularly true when the production takes place in India!

The reasoning developed by both Basu and Straub reflects a new awareness that now seems pervasive: change, in the Heraclitan world of the information society, is the key to everything. The world and the economy aren’t just global; they’re dynamic. Flux rules. Here are a few examples of the kind of reasoning we hear:

  • Learning is change.
  • Adopting new forms of learning requires managing change with the objective of implementing change (we used to manage change with the aim of keeping things the way they were!)
  • Business is always changing so how we do business must keep changing.
  • Content must change as fast as it is created to keep up with business.
  • Our values (i.e. beliefs about what eLearning is and what it can do) change as we progressively discover what those values are!
  • Another key notion we’re beginning to hear is the need to “capture” knowledge. It actually dates back to the first expert systems in the 80s, but now we see it as being automatically convertible into content, taggable and therefore reusable as a learning object in a new context.

The best news of all, according to Basu, is that dynamic content costs only a tenth of the price of stable content (CBT, WBT).


The concern with quality reflects the budding maturity of the field. The first wave of experimentation not only produced results that are a challenge to interpret, but has also come up flush against the critical problem of standards, linked in turn to the definition of the criteria to be used for the choice of tools. (The trend seems to be away from one size fits all to the notion of something for everyone, but probably not the same thing). As far as quality itself is concerned, we find ourselves once again in the world of speculation about future intentions and trends. One of the speakers (Claudio Dondi) describes a major, well-funded effort to define quality in eLearning and establish the essential criteria. He notes as the aim of the project -- with which SAP, Sun and Accenture are associated as well as European consultants and think tanks – “to establish a European eLearning Quality Forum” at some point in the future. These experts and consultants appear to be both humble and non-directive: they’re not going to tell us what to do but create a space in which we can discuss it. This is one way of recognizing that there are, as of yet, no visible landmarks. It’s worth remembering, however, that when navigating in uncharted territories characterized by a dearth of landmarks, there’s always the danger of hallucinating them. But with considerable humility, everyone seems to recognize we’re not even there yet.

This isn’t to say that a lot of detailed work hasn’t already been done and that we aren’t already in the phase of experimenting new ideas to see whether they may (or may not) apply. There were twelve presentations on the topic of quality, most of them outlining their approach to the question, which usually reflects the collaborative strategies shared among a number of committed partners. Europe is manifestly ready to fund projects on this theme because there’s the feeling that it may possibly have long term industrial and economic consequences. Getting people to agree on quality criteria (whether applicable or not to real situations) is one way of stimulating a new industry: the different actors can be expected to align their strategies on those criteria, which makes marketing and internal selling much easier. This of course introduces the complementary theme of standards, which curiously wasn’t given any prominent importance as a specific theme in this year’s conference.


The question of standards did make an appearance (curiously) within the realm of culture, a session officially dedicated to two complementary themes: localization and intercultural learning issues. Eric Duval, president of the Ariadne Foundation and technical editor of IEEE learning object metadata standards made some pertinent observations about the state of play in the realm of standards and the link with transcultural concerns.

Culture, like change, appears to have become something of a buzzword in the industry, and is used for various purposes and sometimes cross-purposes. The awareness of issues having to do with culture appeared throughout the conference, with the leadoff by one keynote speaker (Francesco Miggiani, Italy) who spoke on the theme of the Cultural Dimensions of Change, essentially summing up received wisdom on how to run eLearning as a change management project. Culture in this context was corporate culture but implicitly included notions of learning culture that a number of other speakers also developed, often in relation to trainer behavior, institutional behavior and plans to train trainers and initiate learners into new methodologies.

The localisation/intercultural session I ran focused on a range of questions from best practice in localisation (Alistair Kerr, Ireland) to cross-cultural collaborative experiences. The session raised a number of what I would call existential questions (i.e. sources of hidden anguish) related to globalisation and the status of cultures, generational behavior patterns and even peace on earth, good will to men. I expect many of these deeper questions to take on further importance over the coming years:

  • The role of English (and US culture) and/or other languages in globalized eLearning.
  • The question of whether learning can meaningfully be globalized (an existential one if ever there was one).
  • Flexible strategies for localization (moving further and further away from the notion of mere translation).
  • The expectations and behavior of learners of different national or regional origin and the link to learning styles.
  • Methodologies (flexible, if possible) to deal with learning across cultures and regions.
  • Superficial vs. deep cultural differences (the theme of a presentation given by Patrick Dunn, UK).
  • The pace of the type of cultural change that will lead to the acceptance and assimilation of eLearning (I had the occasion to cite what I consider to be the law of the 10 year cycle for the complete assimilation of a new role for a technological component, using the example of the introduction of the PC into corporate environments in the 80s).
  • The cultural implications and impact of media and particularly rich media as a bi-directional means of transmission and expression.
  • Techniques for managing cultural, multicultural, cross-cultural and intercultural issues within the learning context and the impact on trainers, their role and competencies.
  • The impact of standards on culture and culture on standards.

Rich media

A majority of the participants at Online Educa seem to be working on the production and implementation of eLearning. Those who are looking for ways of surpassing the current limits of eLearning tend to manifest an interest in vocal and visual media as a way of extending the scope and interest of what has been essentially an illustrated text-based medium. There is the realization that if learning output is confined to the text medium (supplemented by replies to multiple choice questions), the desired outcomes of learning (behavior, discourse and in some sense, being) will remain underdeveloped as well as being impossible to assess. It also means that eLearning will be confined to a class of people with a somewhat sophisticated level of literacy.

Rich media provides a means of diversifying the contents we provide, giving them more depth and making them more dynamic. Significantly, those who appear to be the most interested in its future see it as a way of diversifying learner output as well. It will empower learners and probably turn out to be instrumental in stimulating motivation.

Rich media has suddenly become a popular theme at Online Educa. It is quite naturally linked to the idea of mobile technology, possibly because companies such as Ericsson (who were present) are looking in that direction. Vendors such as Macromedia (a sponsor of Online Educa and publisher of Contribute) and Wimba (a supplier of user-friendly compressed and streamed audio for asynchronous and synchronous use) are beginning to have an impact on the marketplace, offering the means not only to author with a wider range of media, but also to allow learners to produce their own documents and communicate them back to the server with disconcerting ease.

In the session on culture the question of the impact of rich media was raised not only in the framework of the democratisation of eLearning (extending the possibilities of communication between cultures), but also as a factor of acceleration in the evolution of a global eLearning culture that accommodates the widest variety of national, regional and linguistic cultures. Related to this, of course, is the service it will render in language learning and sensitisation to a diversity of foreign languages (and their cultures).

Two other significant themes

In contrast to previous conferences, the 2003 conference revealed two other tendencies I consider to be significant: the engagement of traditional publishers and, for almost everyone, a certain clear-headed honesty and frankness that hasn’t always been the dominant feature in this business.


It’s remarkable to discover that an increasing number of European educational publishers in their specific national markets have moved towards a standard policy of complementing their hardcopy publications with an electronic supplement. This is moving increasingly towards sophisticated forms of eLearning and is beginning to have an impact on teachers, who suddenly find themselves with something to work with and build on. As a one-time multimedia publisher and partner of several established publishers, I’ve followed the trend in Europe over the last ten years and done my best to accelerate it (mostly in vain). The publishers have been coming to see what was going on for the past five years. Now they’ve begun to report back on what they’re actually doing and how they expect it to grow. It’s ironic that most of them remained observers as McGraw-Hill, Pearsons, Vivendi and a few others made the big speculative bets (hoping for a quasi-monopoly on a gold mine) and then as the big players pulled out, came forward to address a local (not a global) marketplace whose rules and habits they were more aware of. Their thorough engagement is also linked to the structure of European national educational marketplaces, which the global players will always having difficulty addressing.


Few speakers hesitated to point out the difficulties encountered and the challenges they face in pursuing their training, teaching, development and research. The purely optimistic, utopian discourse that has been so characteristic of the eLearning community is now reserved to the diehard “solution” vendors. In her keynote address, Brenda Gourley, Vice Chancellor of the UK’s Open University set the tone, by stating that all was not well in the state of eLearning.

Few people find themselves in a position to say, simply, “we’ve implemented it and it works”. It may well be the characteristic of a maturing marketplace that reports of difficulty and failure become far more interesting than success stories. Freud himself said that there were three impossible professions: pedagogy, politics and psychoanalysis (all beginning with a p). If someone actually found the silver bullet, perhaps we would all be so bored -- having nothing to say -- we would stop thinking about the issues altogether, ensuring that pedagogy would become a dead science, like astrology.

If the prevailing angst is any indication, that day seems a long way away. The honesty of the participants was both refreshing and stimulating. Even the World Bank (represented by Hans Fraeters), once a proud beacon of eLearning in a benighted world (some would say this is a replica of the Bank’s political and economic behavior in the world), demonstrated outstanding humility and a concentration on the very challenging issues for which no simple solution has yet been found. It made you believe that the world is a less grim place than certain powerful politicians seem intent on making it.

The question of language

There was another phenomenon that struck me, as an expert in the field of language and culture, a phenomenon which somehow seemed less apparent when the conference was still an intimate place. Few conferences exhibit the contrast and diversity of cultures present at Online Educa. Listening to speakers from more and more diverse horizons brought home to me the central paradox of the new global culture that uses English as its lingua franca. The paradox concerns the acceptance of the practical need to be fluent in English and the discouraging failure to cultivate elementary communication skills. The issue is very much a European issue, but it’s also a global one.

The most German (or Prussian!) of German cities, Berlin obviously speaks German. Its historical isolation after World War II meant that even West Berlin was less exposed to English than most of West Germany. From the beginning, Online Educa chose English, not as a second language, but as the unique language of the conference. This may explain why the French were so slow in coming: they tend to fear environments where their language isn’t put on an equal footing with others and where they might be expected at all times to flow with the English stream. (French representation has doubled in the last year, but is still well below the other major nations of Europe).

Online Educa demonstrates the vehicular role of English, but also highlights the dangers. Although English is the standard second language for 90% of the population who have a chance to study a foreign language and is recognized as the best way to get by from country to country, Europe as a whole still doesn’t possess a true English speaking culture. The reasons for this are probably both political and cultural. The British failed to impose their particular model, possibly because they’ve always been shy of Europe and even today regressively cling to English-speaking empires of the past (their own) or the future (that of Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld). Eurospeak (a nebulous style of English prevalent at the European Commission in Brussels) is a curious mix of American and British models filtered through the phonological systems of each native language. Eurocrats (the officials who work for the Commission) spend 80% of their time speaking English and therefore are generally what one would call “fluent”. But theirs is a very odd form of fluency. Eurospeakers, almost as a duty, appear to make a conscious effort to convey their national origin through their accent, rather than adapting it to the range of styles available in the language. I can only speculate on the possible causes and see these two as primary:

  1. Rather than being seen as a barrier to optimal communication, accent is for most non-native English speaking Europeans a badge of national identity, as visible as the name badges they wear at a conference. This theory would correctly reflect the loose federalism of the European Union.
  2. Possibly because of a lack of cultural specificity (English being an international language, neither American, British, Australian, South African, etc.), there’s no positive model for rhetoric in English. Foreign speakers of International English have therefore implicitly created an all-purpose model: the fact-aligning monotone drone, with most of the phonemes and the little intonation that they dare to use borrowed from their mother tongue.

It’s difficult to imagine a greater obstacle to empathetic listening. In contrast, the native speakers use their rhetorical baggage to push their wares, develop their ideas and create an image of being more commercial.

I ended up asking myself, is the European neglect of communication skills a reflection of a conscious refusal of what’s perceived as American insincerity, the disingenuousness we associate with talented snake-oil vendors? Is it at the same time a refusal of the British style of sophisticated understatement that always seems to imply a form of cultural superiority, the arrogant heritage of the Empire? Or is it simply a reflection of the fact that most training and educational professionals see their profession as still concerned only with the transmission of knowledge, not of the culture (values, behavior, communion) in which knowledge is a mere technical component?

There is a movement towards stronger communication skills and it seems to me most of the presentations in the parallel sessions these days are more engaging than they were several years ago. The organisation has made a point of trying to ensure the quality of the speakers as communicators, however strong their scientific credentials may be. It’s a pity that, for political reasons, it hasn’t always been possible to do so with the keynote speakers, many of whom are chosen largely on the basis of their role as representatives of public bodies (national or European). Still, my feeling is that Europe and the rest of the world ought to make a serious effort in developing its own public rhetoric in international English, a rhetoric that need not be specifically beholden to either the U.S. or British models. Some excellent models for “non-national” English exist and, though diverse and variable, I believe they should be promoted.


In spite of a relatively slow start, eLearning may well have achieved a deeper commitment on the part of active professionals here in Europe than in the U.S., with a correspondingly higher degree of intellectual investment. This is counterbalanced by a significantly weaker effort in sales and marketing, complicated of course by the language problem. But that doesn’t explain everything. Most of the big suppliers and vendors are still American. They’re the ones with the massive promotional budgets. They were there in force, with no European companies in the same league. Online Educa’s sponsors over the past few years have been IBM, Sun and Cisco, and this year Microsoft took the lead position, possibly because the wise men of Redmond saw Online Educa as an opportunity to put Class Server on the map in Europe.

One reassuring element for me was what I might be tempted to call – speaking very subjectively -- the “redemption” of Online Educa, which I had begun to feel was in danger of selling its Faustian soul to its corporate sponsors, the ransom of its success and continued growth. The organisation has done an admirable job of reconciling the aggressive presence of the big name IT vendors with the moral and intellectual force wielded by the wide range of participants mostly from European institutions and enterprises, most of them engaged professionals. Indifferent to the vendors’ relentless marketing, the European worker bees have continued to build together and now buzz with an increasingly common – if, alas, still rather monotone – language full of hope and bonhomie, complemented by a certain professional intensity and a growing sense of commercial reality.

Left in the background were other more dramatic global questions that I know worried the organization earlier in the year, particularly related to the issue of European-U.S. cooperation, something that’s perceived as increasingly necessary for success in the transition towards a productive e-culture. Could this be a metaphor for the current global political predicament? If in politics the reconciliation of the U.S. and “old Europe” (essentially Germany and France) hasn’t yet been accomplished for reasons everyone has an opinion about, Online Educa demonstrates that there may well be a more solid ground for understanding and mutual achievement within the eLearning profession itself and across all continents. Let’s hope everyone can learn from it.

Peter Isackson

Paris, December 2003

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December 09, 2003

Connections: The Impact of Schooling

December 2003 - Jay Cross

Your 16-year-old daughter says she’s going to take sex education at school and you’re relieved, but she tells you she plans to participate in sex training and you’re unnerved. Why? Because outside of education, you learn by doing things.

Small wonder that executives hear the word “learning,” think “schooling” and conclude “not enough payback.” Executives respond better to “execution.”

Everything is connected. Each of us is enmeshed in innumerable networks. You’re linked to telephone networks, satellite networks, cable feeds, power grids, ATM networks, the banking system, the Web, intranets, extranets and networks that are local, wide, wireless, secure, virtual and peer-to-peer.

Social networks interconnect us in families, circles of friends, neighborhood groups, professional associations, task teams, business webs, value nets, user groups, flash mobs, gangs, political groups, scout troops, bridge clubs, 12-step groups and alumni associations.

Human beings are networks. Scientists are still conceptualizing the human protocol stack, but they affirm that our personal neural intranets share a common topology with those of chimps and other animals. Once again, everything’s connected. Learning is a whole-body experience.

Moore’s Law doubles computing power every 18 months, bandwidth doubles twice as fast, and connections grow exponentially with each node. Interconnections beget complexity, so we have no concept of what’s ahead.

Six years ago, Intel CEO Craig Barrett said, “We’re racing down the highway at 150 mph, and we know there’s a brick wall up ahead, but we don’t know where.” We still don’t know where that wall is, but today the car would be hurtling along at 1,800 mph.

Change is racing along so fast that the old learn-in-advance methods are no longer sufficient. While network infrastructure is evolving exponentially, we humans have been poking along. Because of the slow pace of evolution, most human wetware is running obsolete code or struggling with a beta edition. We’ve got to reinvent ourselves and get back on the fast track.

In a world where we don’t know what’s coming next, what constitutes good learning? We’re in whitewater now, and smooth-water sailing rules no longer apply. In whitewater, successful learning means moving the boat downstream without being dumped, preferably with style. In life, successful learning means prospering with people and in networks that matter, preferably enjoying the relationships and knowledge.

Learning is that which enables you to participate successfully in life, at work and in the groups that matter to you. Learners go with the flow. Taking advantage of the double meaning of “network,” to learn is to optimize one’s networks.

The concept that learning is making good connections frees us to think about learning without the chimera of boring classrooms, irrelevant content and ineffective schooling. Instead, the network model lets us take a dispassionate look at our systems while examining nodes and connections, seeking interoperability, boosting the signal-to-noise ratio, building robust topologies, balancing the load and focusing on process improvement.

Does looking at learning as networking take humans out of the picture? Quite the opposite.

Most learning is informal; a network approach makes it easier, more productive and more memorable to meet, share and collaborate. Emotional intelligence promotes interoperability with others. Expert locators connect you to the person with the right answer. Imagine focusing the hive mind that emerges in massive multiplayer games on business. Smart systems will prescribe the apt way to demonstrate a procedure, help make a decision or provide a service, or transform an individual’s self-image. Networks will serve us instead of the other way around.

For tech networks, foundation meta-processing skills will foster the growth of self-determined learning. Personal knowledge management systems will store memories and facilitate rapid knowledge sharing across one’s network. Alter-ego agents will seek out and present us with a balance of normal alerts and fringy out-of-the-box wake-up calls.

It beats schooling.

Jay Cross is CEO of eLearningForum, founder of Internet Time Group and a fellow of meta-learninglab.com. For more information, e-mail Jay at [email protected]

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December 04, 2003

Life and death simulations

This just arrived from Mark Rosenberg:

    "I just came from the 25th annual Interservice/Industry Training Simulation & Education Conference, this week in Orlando. Over 10,000 military, DoD and civilian contractors all focused on one thing… simulations. Unbelievable simulations! Combat simulators of all kinds. The realism is striking.

    The exhibt floor was jammed with a multitude of vendors simulating everything from firing shoulder launched missles, to jet trainers, to house-to-house combat. Most of the vendors work exclusively for military clients and there was only one company I recognized from the more generic training venues (Click2Learn).

    Anyone who thinks simulation can't teach should spend an hour at a show like this. The opportunities are everywhere. All it takes is money (in the $$millions). A real eye opener.

The Ultimate Video Game!

You won't see one of these at ASTD!

Unbelieveable realisim (and unbelieveably expensive)!

Jet trainer landing simulation…crashing is no problem!

You might want to visit Marc's site if you're not familiar with his work.

Slogan on I/ITSEC's homepage: "Enhancing Warfighter Performance Through Advanced Learning Technology."

(Don't tell my neighbors in Berkeley I'm visiting this. It's much more respectable to tour porn sites.)

from I/ITSEC's site:


    The Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) promotes cooperation among the Armed Services, Industry, Academia and various Government agencies in pursuit of improved training and education programs, identification of common training issues and development of multiservice programs.

    Initiated in 1966 as the Naval Training Device Center/Industry Conference, the conference has evolved and expanded through increased participation by the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Industry.

    In 1979 it became known as the Interservice/Industry Training Equipment Conference. The Services have steadily evolved toward a total systems philosophy in the acquisition of training equipment and training delivery systems.

    In 1986 the Conference name was further refined to the Interservice/Industry Training Systems Conference (I/ITSEC) to recognize the increased importance of Manpower, Personnel, and Training aspects in the systems acquisition process.

    In 1992 the name was further changed to the Interservice/Industry Training Systems and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) to reflect the consolidation of the Manpower and Training Committee (MTC) and the Technology and Innovations in Training and Education (TITE) Conference with I/ITSEC. This change emphasizes the importance of education and the man-machine interface in meeting force-training requirements through simulation training.

    In 1997, to reflect continued growth and changes in the industry, the conference name was refined to the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC).

Remember the Viet-Nam Rag? Country Joe lives right down the hill.

    Come on Wall Street, don't you slow.
    Man, it's war a go-go.
    There's plenty good money to be made
    by supplyin' the Army with the tools of the trade.

Gimme a F.....

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December 03, 2003

Monitor Group Thoughts

Serendipity! Ain't it grand?

I was just following up on an email from Jon Levy announcing that he's left HBS publishing to join Monitor Group. That rings a bell. Oh, sure, they're the guys who bought Global Business Network. I used to follow GBN's booklist suggestions religiously when Stewart Brand was choosing the tomes. It was so brilliant to send your customers books. Cheaper than brochures and so much more meaningful. Astute marketing.

This evening, I happened upon the Ideas section of Monitor's site. There's great stuff here. Click on the topics in the left column. I enjoyed reading Learning, Ecommerce, Management, Marketing, Strategy, and Technology.

Giving away ideas. It's akin to sending out books. It's the old "an informed customer is a better customer" strategy. Educating people to buy. Win-win-win. It will never go out of style.

Continuing my explorations, although I should either be in bed or vacuuming, I happened upon the current GBN Book Club site. Treasure Trove! A wonderful way to riff through ideas and pick what to explore more deeply.

When I attended college, back in the days when owning a typewriter made you high-tech, I was proud of my collection of time-saving paperback summaries like 100 American Plays or my mastery of the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature, the touchstone for locating reviews of books assigned for reading, written at the time the books were published. It's so easy now, just mousing one's way through the great ideas. Kids, when I was your age, I used to walk five miles through the snow just to get to the school bus. Now the Internet dumps it in your lap. (Well, perhaps I'm exaggerating a little. About the snow and the miles. Maybe it was bicycling a mile on the asphalt to school. Whatever. It was more arduous than your childhood, I assure you.)

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Brain dead learning

People who complain about having too much information miss the flip side: If you're looking for an example of something, you don't have to wait very long.

David Grebow and I were chatting this afternoon about Sam Adkins' post on the Learning Circuits blog, the one that starts out saying training doesn't work, eLearning doesn't work, and KM doesn't work.

I was comtemplating the 80% of training that misses the mark. At that moment, an example pops up on my screen. This one's so bad I recalled GEN Frank Anderson's advice at TechLearn, "If you're riding a dead horse, dismount."

As if by magic, a dead horse appeared:

What's wrong with this? Multiple choice is not a great way to teach history. The Shakespeare 'toon takes at least five times as long to ask a question as you'd spend to read it. The cuteness wears off in a minute or two. You need to download a 7.5 MB Flash ap just for the demo; imagine the length of a course! Only a complete fool would find this compelling; they'd learn more watching television.

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November 27, 2003


Rebecca Stromeyer tells me this will be the biggest Online Educa to-date, with 1500 delegates from 66 countries when it kicks off next week in Berlin.

If you're in Mitteleuropa, you can still register. Unfortunately, I'm going to miss Online Educa this year, after thoroughly enjoying the mix of academics and corporate types in 2001 and 2002.

Christmas Markt on the Ku'Damm in 2001

The toy department at KaDeWe

The Brandenburg Gate last year

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Serendipitous learning

The Japanese maples are the only trees showing fall colors in this speck of Mediterranean climate on the shores of San Francisco Bay. Our weather confuses the plants into blooming and shedding leaves one species at a time. Transitions are slower here than environments with more extreme seasonal patterns.

It's Thanksgiving morning, the wind is blowing leaves from those Japanese maples around the yard, and somewhere down below in the People's Republic of Berkeley, students or aging hippies are probably protesting Puritan brutality toward Native Americans at the first Thanksgiving. The pesky Europeans never paid for what they got! Who's the savage, the generous host or the ungrateful interloper? But I digress....

After taking a few photographs of leaves to get my priorities straight, I set out to do some shotgun learning. No, I'm not going after the squirrels, raccoons, and skunks that live in the back yard. Rather, I'm hopping onto the net to sift through items in some favorite hangouts just to see what's out there today. It's more edgy and less predictable than reading the New York Times.

I opened Stephen's Edu_RSS Feed. After a few items in German (too early in the morning for that) I came to a link mentioning The Web: Design for Active Learning. "This handbook will present the idea of interactivity as it applies to a cohesive design including high interface, content, and instructional design." This took me to the Carving Code blog, and that linked me to George Siemens'eLearngspace blog. Eventually I got to the original article, a piece by Katy Campbell, who's with Academic Technologies for Learning at the University of Alberta.

I got lucky. The Web: Design for Active Learning turned out to be exactly the puzzle piece I needed to add to my growing framework for Instructional Artistry.

You've heard it said that "You make your own luck." It's related to "Fortune favors the bold," Virgil's maxim that you've got to try hard to get anywhere. My pathway down the web was not entirely random, even though the result was unexpected.

For years I've maintained a list of links to favorite hangouts, the eLearning Jump Page. Stephen's Edu_RSS heads the list of Top eLearning Reference Sources. Stephen and I have met. We often read one another's work. I haven't met the author of Carving Code F2F, but I respect what I've read there in the past. I've been tracking George Siemens' work since his blog first appeared. George has addressed the eLearning Forum via Interwise. I'm delighted with the interview with me that George posted this time last year.

We who share our thoughts online, driven more by personal interest than commercial reward, are a loosely-knit Community of Practice. People ask where I find the time to blog. I explain that this is the way I think. It doesn't take much extra time to divert a few sentences into blog. That trail of words and images becomes a lure to people on paths that parallel mine.

I'm thankful to have a medium for starting conversations on things that interest me.

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November 25, 2003

Instructional Artistry

Most of the time, I read Maish Nichani's elearningpost for pointers to other people's stuff. Today I was impressed by his eloquence in describing his own learning at the BodyWorlds exhibit:

    But even with the explicit exhibits and the information cards, I would not have captured the entire essence of some exhibits if I did not happen to listen in to a doctor explaining the exhibits to his girlfriend. I found his explanations so interesting that I took his route and followed him till he became conscious of my omnipresence.

    Instruction and experience seem to take different routes in explaining. The informality of experience just seems to explain things a lot better, and at a higher plane too. We can call it the power of the narrative or it just could be that we humans (me at least) are hardwired to make sense of the informal. We are sense-making creatures and thus thrive on fuzzy conditions that force us to make sense of the situation. Maybe that's why we consider the formal to be mundane.

Maish's observation crystallizes an important factor in learning informally: fuzziness. This is akin to what lends a story impact -- enough left out that the listener's mind can create its own story, a joint effort of making meaning in a shared space. "I enjoyed the book more than the movie because the colors were better."

While old-school instructional design purists busy themselves with structuring learning, I seem to be working to dismember it. This lends new meaning to "back to the basics." Once again, the honest, friendly voice of The Cluetrain Manifesto trumps officialdom and hype.

Maybe it's time to counter the supposed efficiency of Human Performance Technology (HPT) with the effectiveness of informal learning head-on. ISPI describes HPT as "the systematic and systemic identification and removal of barriers to individual and organizational performance."

ISPI tells us to:

  • Be systematic in the assessment of the need or opportunity.
  • Be systematic in the analysis of the work and workplace to identify the cause or factors that limit performance.
  • Be systematic in the design of the solution or specification of the requirements of the solution.
  • Be systematic in the development of all or some of the solution and its elements.
  • Be systematic in the implementation of the solution.
  • Be systematic in the evaluation of the process and the results.

In my intellectual adolescence, I always took systematic to be a good thing. Now I have my doubts. The dictionary defines systematic as

    methodical; formed with regular connection and adaptation or subordination of parts to each other, and to the design of the whole; as, a systematic arrangement of plants or animals; a systematic course of study


    marked by thoroughness and regularity

Roget's entry on systematic lists "Arranged or proceeding in a set, systematized pattern: methodic, methodical, orderly, regular, systematical." Makes me think of McDonald's hamburgers.

If embracing HPT reduces design to things that are orderly and regular, I wouldn't embrace it. Nor would Edison, Galileo, Monet, Shakespeare, Bohr, Coltrane, Picasso, or Scott Adams.

Maish has kickstarted my thinking about replacing instructional design (which is really instructional engineering) with something entirely different: Instructional Artistry.

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November 24, 2003

Essential KM

Denham Grey has written a wonderful synopsis of lessons learned with knowledge management. He absolutely nails it. With no puffery. A must-read. Sample:

    We need to focus here!, is a common cry so please take your pick:, customer insights, solutions to common problems, mapping what we know, building yellowpages, inventory [intellectual, human, structural, customer] capital, building relationships, capturing product knowledge, monitoring competitors, mining transactions, capturing web behavior.

    Aha said the sage, what you need is balance, a bit here and some from there so: Start small, grab the low hanging fruits, avoid enterprise wide technology solutions, culture an ecology of communities, encourage an informal idea market, work on hiring profiles, start new web forums that cut across silos, play with language, cultivate the emergent activists, encourage boundary spanners, staunch the IC outflow through professional networks by listening to frustrations, always watch the outfield, make business intelligence & customer knowledge everyones job, listen to newbies, kill loosers fast......

    OK test yourself:

    * Do we really recognize and value knowledge creation (innovation)?
    * Do we reward learning (even when it comes from failure?)
    * Do we match quality talent with quality ideas even when they are not our own?
    * Do we cultivate relationships and show empathy for intellectual diversity?
    * Do we encourage deep dialog and creative abrasion
    * Can we discover, share and use key business rules?

Denham and I have yet to meet, but he's my primary source of KM wisdom. Go read the rest of his article; it's all precious.

Thanks, Maish, for pointing this one out.

From the "About Me" section of Denham's blog,

    Favorites: Verna Allee has written the top book on knowledge management IMO called 'Knowledge Evolution', while Marc Demarest holds my best spot for an article titled "Understanding Knowledge Management". My best link for learning is: New Conversations About Learning

Incidentally, Denham's "About Me" is the first resume page I've seen that doesn't list its subject's name. Extreme modesty?

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November 23, 2003

EdBlogger reflections

I spent five or six hours today at O.J. Simpson's alma mater, Galileo High School in San Francisco, taking part in the first EdBlogger conference. Half the crowd was blogging the event live and chatting online and sometimes just reading their email.

I was the lone corporate guy (or maybe one of only two) amid a crowd of 40 ed bloggers. Just about everyone else had a cute little Apple laptop in front of them.

A few of the things that caught my ear:

    Learning objects. (This is a sentence; read objects as a verb.)

    Relationships are tough to put in a repository.

    The RIAA gets in the way of spontaneous access.

    What's the defining characteristics of a blog? New stuff on top, according to some.

    The atomic unit of a site is the page; the atomic unit of a blog is the posting; the atomic unit of a wiki is a change.

    More easily recognized in the schools than in business: phobia about writing in public.

    One participant introduced himself as "sys admin and principal."

Patrick Delaney, host & ringmaster

My BOF (birds of a feather) session drifted into talk about Wikis:

    The social context makes it or breaks it.

    Wikis first dealt with a project on pattern langauge in software. Many entries argued a position: "This is how it should be." The Wiki-words (links) were nouns. I wonder what a verb-word only Wiki would look like.

    Most Wikis are short-lived. The passion dies.

    "Wiki gardeners" tidy up unruly entries.

    (Jay:) Participants rarely seem to violate the trust implicit in giving them control over making/changing entries.

(Jay:) To encourage comments on ed-blogs, shouldn't commentary be graded?

The BOF continued down to Ghiradelli, with lunch at McCormick & Kuleto's. It was a beautiful day.

    Blog fodder -- ask five questions, show everyone's responses.

    Web culture in conflict with community-controlled school culture.

    What nurtures blogging? (1) Repression (So Polish girls blog about sex; boys in Iran talk politics.) and (2) No street life (As in frigid Finland or blazingly hot Sinapore).

    Social engineering, a future problem. One fellow's son receives spoofed messages from "teacher." Justin Hall's tales of sexual awakening -- without forewarning his partners -- could grow.

    Freedom. Not clear about student blogs and politics.

Dan Mitchell & Will Richardson

Back at Galileo, memes from panels:

    The Browser metaphor reinforces the concept of passive consumption.

    If blogs are digital paper in a binder, Wikis are erasable white boards.

    One great aspect of blogs is that you can review things that are still works in program.

    IT is so primitive now. Imagine if you had to call the Help Desk to use the toilet. Whoops, we have a toilet paper read error. Let me put you on hold....

Will RIchardson

Tim Lauer

Karen Claxton

Chris Kelly & Paul Allison

Phil Wolf

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November 20, 2003

November 2003 eLearning Forum

This is an interim report on the November meeting of eLearning Forum. Our webmaster and CTO is busy building simulations for a client so I'm sharing some of the proceedings for those of you who are curious about what went on. Altus Corp recorded lots of the session; in a while you'll be able to listen in on your iPod.

We met at the Silicon Valley World Internet Center, which is housed in Leland Stanford's former winery. The Center is a warm, inviting space -- perfect for the think tank sessions that are held there and the eLearning Forum's session on where we're headed in the future.

The overarching theme of our first afternoon meeting was June 2005. What do we see up ahead? There are three aspects to this, and hence three parts to our session.

  • eLearning. What are the major trends in eLearning? What should be the scope of eLearning? We began wrapping our minds around the state of eLearning 18 months from now. Four members of the Forum led 15-minute, concurrent breakout sessions, which we repeated twice. Then we regrouped to discuss what had popped up on our radar.
  • eLeanring Forum. What should we be? How much should we grapple with? Alison Armstrong highlighted strategic issues the Board has been discussing. We encouraged members to pass along their thoughts to eLearning Forum's directors to be addressed at the next session.
  • Each of us. Where do each of us want to be 18 months out? What are our passions? Network with others to make connections to take us forward.

I'll continue this in the Continue... section for the benefit of the bandwidth-impaired.

Jay and World Internet Center CEO Susan Duggan

(Click for fullsize image)

Kevin Wheeler

Global Learning Resources

Clark Quinn

Ottersuft Labs

Soren Kaplan


Michael Carter

Jay Cross

Internet Time Group

What are the boundaries of what we seek to do?

Alison Armstrong

eLF Board

Should we drop "eLearning" from our name? Should we double in size? Provide more online activities? What do you think?

Richard Clark, Next Question


Simulation rules.
Replicable processes.
Informal learning.
Network effects.
Cost/benefit choices.
In vino veritas.

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

eLearning in survival mode

Repositioning eLearning

On the first day of eLearning Guild's eLearning Producer conference, Damien Faughan, Charles Schwab's Director of Infrastructure & Technology, gave a presentation on eLearning in the Post 'New Economy' Business Climate: How to Successfully Re-position eLearning.

Most people who make presentations describe a world without flaws. Everything works, everyone's simpatico, it's smooth sailing, objectives are met, and the boss is happy. Back in the real world, we've endured a lengthy recession, layoffs, disenchantment with anything dot.com-ish, and retrenching. Damien Faughan is the first person I've heard tell the truth about what should happen to eLearning in an economic downturn. I'm a Schwab customer and I respect them even more because they have folks like this fellow who faces reality and makes good decisions in response to a rapidly changing business climate.

What to do with eLearning when the economy heads south

Damien spoke about the preoccupation with 'cool' technology that puts coolness ahead of business benefits.  This "technolust" has manifested itself in the appearance of every kind of eLearning product -- few of which really served a real business purpose.  At the end of the day, all learning needs to be strategic and transformational, learner-centered and focused on contributing to the business.

Lessons Learned

What differentiated this presentation was the candor with which presenter extracted lessons learned from real life.  Learning professionals need to think like business people when business conditions change.  We can't remain married to learning solutions when business environment changes.    

Among the lessons:

  • Compulsory eLearning (Financial Services is heavily regulated) works but not without intervention -- so you have to create a lot more "instructional hooks" and a robust LMS.
  • Open catalogs of generic courses will bomb, consistent with ASTD research; very few eligible employees sign up for open catalog offerings (the exception being technology employees)
  • When eLearning courses are elective, drop-out rates are high.
  • Workers ask for classes and don't always see online learning as a preferred learning medium (i.e. there's a gap between what learners want and what they get).  We have to help learners understand how they learn.


Many things have changed:

  • Consolidation.  Business units can no longer afford to replicate corporate wide learning offerings -- it's too expensive, it's disconnected and ultimately confuses the learner when each business unit has its own brand.
  • Blended learning is the way to go.  Standalone eLearning products are too risky.
  • Even in a large company, one LMS should be sufficient -- it's rare that a business unit has a specific learning need that requires a LMS!  Many large companies have consolidated LMS's as the technology has matured.
  • The Corporate University is not very effective for business learning in an eLearning world.  Adult learning requires a more robust paradigm.
  • Learning needs to be transparen - i.e. not dependent on an organization or an activity, but a process built into many different systems and environments.
  • LCMS technology is still primitive. RLOs require a really sophisticated training organization. Usually they don't work. Having purchased and installed an LCMS it's authoring rules proved way too complex to ever support rapid instructional design and development.
  • Last year Damien went home from eLearning Guild event a zealot for Reusable Learning Objects. After two-three months, most of the zeal evaporated as the reality hit home: (1) RLO's is a difficult concept to sell (b) complex object models can really slow development and (c) the technology is not available to really support this work.  So, RLO's are simply not worth the time/effort.
  • In development, less 'design' and more templates. Templates are the way to go--but may make creative design talent feel underutilized.

Executive management should be engaged as sponsors of learning initiatives. They need to understand the role of learning and the appropriate use of various learning modalities. One of the ways this is accomplished is to create a Learning & Development Committee or a Curriculum Council comprised of executives who review and sponsors each new initiative.

A new vision

The learning/eLearning function must focus on:

  • Facilitating learning
  • Leveraging business connections
  • Being strategic (transformational)
  • Understanding the business and the appetite for different learning modalities
  • Connecting eLearning and performance
  • Working with HR
  • Marrying eLearning to innovation
  • Articulating the relationship between business drivers and learning products/offerings

In the past, T&D employees needed to be able to deliver stand-up classes, manage vendors, design, assess & evaluate. The new vision requires new skills, such as:

  • Business analysis
  • Relationship management
  • Writing and information design
  • Content development
  • Managing high-profile business sponsors
  • Outsourcing management
  • Change management

 Recap of How/What to Reposition

  • Involve senior business leaders
  • Focus on strategic/transformational products
  • Be clear about business drivers
  • Focus on blended solutions
  • Dump poor solutions (LCMS, catalogs, etc)
  • Reinforce the link with performance
  • Build your advocate network (e.g. HR, etc)
  • Review and upgrade skillsets
  • Forget about confusing ROI models
  • Implement standards where they make sense
Posted by Jay Cross at 12:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 19, 2003

Whither eLearning?

The MASIE Center has just released:

Making Sense of Learning Specifications & Standards:
A Decision Maker's Guide to their Adoption

(2nd edition)

Eighty-two pages of cogent explanations, history, processes, and reference sources. This is one of those reference works, like a good dictionary, that you need at your fingertips for answering questions about standards you may be a little fuzzy on.

I do take issue with the report's "simple working definition of the term e-Learning" as:

    "learning or training that is prepared, delivered, or managed using a variety of learning technologies and which be deployed either locally or globally."

Isn't all learning or training is prepared, delivered, and managed using some learning technology? And deployed either locally or globally? By this definition, wouldn't the scrolls in the ancient library at Alexandria be eLearning?

At last night's eLearning Forum we talked about what we wanted to be known as. eLearning is divisive and carries too much bad baggage. We want to embrace KM, collaboration, simulation, and other things that don't fall neatly into the eLearning category. Our mission statement was projected on an erasable white board in the front of the room. Richard Clark walked up and crossed out the "e." I crossed out the "learning" and wrote in Doing. Someone suggested "Distributed Learning," but that doesn't capture it for me.

This is all sort of ho-hum compared to the response to Sam Adkin's post on Learning Circuits blog, We are the problem. We are selling Snake Oil. Sam begins by saying:

    I read these long tortuous posts bewailing the malaise of our educational systems. The problem is not "out there". We are the problem. We are selling snake oil. We now have ample data to show that:

    Training does not work.

    eLearning does not work.

    Blending Learning does not work.

    Knowledge Management does not work.

    Yet we collectively reify our denial and project the root of the problem out to an external institutional framework. We are the source of the problem because we are selling snake oil. It doesn't work but there is still plenty of money in it.

In a little over two days, thirty-five people have replied, generally with well-reasoned analyses. Is this the gunshot to kick off the new learning revolution?

My only comment thus far: You want to make an omelet, you break a few eggs.

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:01 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 17, 2003


eLearning Forum meets tomorrow afternoon at the Stanford Barn to talk about what's coming down in the next 18 months and what we plan to do about it. We've also put aside more than an hour for personal networking, lubricated with free-flowing two-buck Chuck.

I'm one of five concurrent opening acts. To put PowerPoint behind us, we asked Michael Carter, Soren Kaplan, Clark Quinn, and Kevin Wheeler to send in a single PowerPoint slide. We will blow these up to 3' x 2' at Kinko's and put on the equivalent of an academic poster session.

What talking points would you list if you were doing this?

Here are mine:

Click image for fullsize (50K) image

The fields I expect to be plowing 1½ years hence are the impact of web standards, contextual collaboration, and what to do about this nearly universal phenomenon:

Posted by Jay Cross at 01:56 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 12, 2003

eLearning Producer

Today I joined more than three hundred people at the Parc 55 Hotel in San Francisco for the first day of eLearning Guild's eLearning Producer. It was more than worth the time. Unlike the BS-laden events, David Holcombe and Heidi Fisk keep this event grounded in reality.

Will Thalheimer led a down-to-earth but eye-opening presentation on what works in eLearning. Properly applying spacing, repetition, and feedback can double eLearning's result and efficiency. (I'll fill in the details after I absorb more of the lessons -- and get some sleep.) Deloitte's Harold Cypress described the development and rollout of a simulation/coaching/teamwork situation to help thousands of professions learn complex methodologies. Damien Faughnan gave a cautionary tale of lessons learned at Charles Schwab.

Bill Horton and yours truly

Doug Upchurch, opening keynote

Will Thalheimer

Harold Cypress, Deloitte

Schwab's Damien Faughnan

Kit & Bill Horton, Patti Shank

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 11, 2003


An information and idea service
of VNU Business Media
Tuesday, November 11, 2003

    Online Learning News and Reviews has learned that the reader who recommended KnowledgeNet's products in the last issue of Online Learning News and Reviews ("Migrating to the Web," October 28, 2003) is actually the company?s field marketing manager. Therefore, the reader's recommendation may be biased.

FREE Webcasts of popular conference sessions from Training
magazine's Online Learning 2003 Conference and Expo, held
September 22 to 24 in Los Angeles, are now available online at
http://www.vnulearning.com/freesessions.htm .

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November 08, 2003

Peering into the crystal ball

At TechLearn, Mark Oehlert presented his findings on The Future of eLearning Models and the Language We Use to Describe Them. Mark calls it like he (and I) sees it. This is a perceptive, on-target summary of where eLearning is headed. Mark's key findings:

  • While a more expansive definition of e-learning has been much discussed, requirements are now emerging that seek to make real some of those ideas (e.g. performance support, augmented reality, on-demand personalized instruction).
  • While cultural change continues to be cited as one of the main hurdles to successful implementation of e-learning, no e-learning vendors seem to be packaging change management with their products.
  • M-learning continues to gain buzz and momentum
  • Economic models for selling e-learning will have to shift away from ‘catalog’ shopping to a service-oriented model.
  • Gaming and simulation are poised to make huge impacts in this market space.
  • Copyright and other legal issues pose potentially great problems for the future of e-learning.
  • The ‘course’, as a meaningful unit of instruction, may well be doomed.
  • The cell phone is almost universally considered a learning device.
  • A continuation of the move toward “pay as you go” could actually allow smaller shops to get up and competing by providing lower barriers to entry.
  • Globalization is forcing a hard focus on US-centric practices and content

Here's Mark's Power Point. The William Gibson quote is absolutely brilliant and will eventually show up on my Time page

Mark interviewed Stephen Downes at length. You must read his unexpurgated version to get the full flavor of the exchange. Stephen:

    We need to stop thinking of online content as analogous to things. That’s the beginning and the end of it. Even if the language of ‘things’ is more suited to both contemporary academic discourse and commercial discourse, the reality is that when you find yourself immersed on an online environment it becomes evident and apparent that online content is much more like a stream than a collection of objects. That’s why I use analogies like the electrical system or the water system, and not (as Elliott does) analogies like bookstores or warehouses.


    At this point in history we not only have much greater powers of communication and expression than ever before, we also have access to greater riches than ever before. But there is a sense that we are at a peak, and with shortages in raw materials looming, there is a retrenchment happening, a vigorous conflict over the control of ideas, over the control of resources, and in the end, over control of people.

Clearly Canadian, Stephen gives his view of cultural imperialism:

    is the worldwide export of American culture, usually draped in the clothing of values and ideals. Many writers have remarked on this and so I don't need to go into a lot of detail: this not merely the export of McDonalds and everything it represents (wage-labour, corporate subservience, fast food production, massive advertising, and more) and Mickey Mouse (Scrooge style capitalism, greed, individualism and more) but also the twin towers of individualism and capitalism (and yes, I did use the analogy deliberately). These are wrapped in a dressing of 'freedom' and 'democracy', but these values are viewed very differently in the rest of the world. Americans, of course, are free to hold to these values, but those that must see them impregnating every book, movie, television show, and learning material (and also the IMF, WTO, and more) exported from the U.S. into the educational fabric must offer some form of resistance.

    Most of the world is far more communually oriented than the United States, far more than most Americans realize, and the political and social agenda that is offered under the banners of 'freedom' and 'democracy' are perceived, even in modern industrial democracies as Canada, as undermining hard-won social and cultural values. This is not merely a cultural facade; it will not be addressed by merely 'localizing' materials; it runs deeply into the selection and presentation of learning. Renaming the 'French and Indian War' to the term everyone else in the world uses, 'The Seven Years War', isn't just relabeling, it is a change of context, of protagonists, of history. Rewriting the history of the War of 1812 to reflect what actually happened, an opportunistic (because of the Napoleonic wars) American invasion of Canada that was rebuffed by a rag-tag army of First Nations (ie., 'Indians') and militia volunteers, isn't just a case of rebranding.

The exchange between Mark and Stephen is a wonderful example of a new form of online learning: the email interview. Aside from baiting the U.S. right (Stephen would fit right in here in the People's Republic of Berkeley), Stephen makes some great observations -- and you must read them in his own words to grok the message.

    The learning environment merges with the work environment; each, in turn, an extension of the worker, who with a new capacity for empowerment and self-actualization increasingly enters relationships of mutual association with a corporate structure - it is a dynamic relationship, full of tacit assumptions and convenient fictions (the corporation promises security, which the employee knows is an outright lie; and conversely the employee promises loyalty, which the employer knows will last only as long as the good times do). Learning, then, becomes a tacit agreement between employee and employer, selected by the employee with an eye to personal empowerment and development, aided by the employer, with an eye to developing native talent in- house (if not, any more, specific skills).

Another gem is Daniel Schneider's Conception and implementation of rich pedagogical scenarios through collaborative portal sites, although as the title alone tips you off, this one's quite academic in tone. I have yet to make it through all 40 pages but the topic is intriguing:

    Often, one associates new rich and open pedagogies are with “learner-centered”. We believe that being “learner-centered” is not sufficient, since main-stream content-transmission- centered e-learning also rightly claims to be learner-centered, since students can look at contents and do exercises and tests at their own speed. Good learner-centered pedagogics may also be very teacher-centered, since the role of the teacher can become very complex and demanding. Let’s recall the three principle roles that we attribute to the teacher-designer of structured, but active, open and rich educational scenarios:
    • His role as a manger is to ensure productivity, i.e. that learners do things.
    • His role as a facilitator is the help them in their choices and to suggest resources and tools that will help them to solve problems and get tasks done.
    • His role as an orchestrator is to create “story-boards”, i.e. to break down projects into scenarios, and scenarios into phases. He also may decompose problems into manageable sub-problems or alternatively encourage and help students to do so themselves.

    It is very important to respect a principle of “harmony”, to find an equilibrium of different
    pedagogical strategies and tactics and not (and we insist on this) to be tempted by
    over-scripting. In our philosophy, a teacher should think of himself primarily as a “landscaper” who uses ICT to build places where learners can “sculpt” according to some rule and with as much help as appropriate. Because of their modular architecture, a well trained teacher can configure portals and its “tools” according to his own needs. He can also hunt down new modules. He can re-purpose tools, e.g. he could use quizzes which are normally used for assessment as discussion openers. He can also suggest to the increasing number of technical support people that can be found in the school system to develop new tools. Since this technology is focused on “orchestration” and not content delivery, we believe that it will spread in the nearer future with almost the same ease as web pages did, but it will bring new functionalities. Teachers should have control over their environment and they can share their experience within teacher portals using the same technology and both fit the C3MS philosophy.

    [C3MS = Community, Content and Collaboration Management Systems]

    Finally, C3MS may be a chance to promote the open and sharing “Internet
    Spirit” to education, which is threatened by the philosophy of the closed so-called “educational platforms”, e-learning systems or whatever are called today’s main stream systems sold without as much success as they claim to the educational system. According to
    our initial experience, and despite many difficulties - like administrative hurdles, the time
    it takes to accommodate new pedagogical strategies, the disputable ergonomics of some
    software that we will have to overcome - teachers who engaged themselves “love it” and
    their students too.

    (via EdTech Post)

    The Semantic Web, Syllogism, and Worldview by Clay Shirky.

      The W3C's Semantic Web project has been described in many ways over the last few years: an extension of the current web in which information is given well-defined meaning, a place where machines can analyze all the data on the Web, even a Web in which machine reasoning will be ubiquitous and devastatingly powerful. The problem with descriptions this general, however, is that they don't answer the obvious question: What is the Semantic Web good for?

      The simple answer is this: The Semantic Web is a machine for creating syllogisms. A syllogism is a form of logic, first described by Aristotle, where "...certain things being stated, something other than what is stated follows of necessity from their being so." [Organon]

      The canonical syllogism is:

      • Humans are mortal
      • Greeks are human
      • Therefore, Greeks are mortal

      with the third statement derived from the previous two.

      The Semantic Web specifies ways of exposing these kinds of assertions on the Web, so that third parties can combine them to discover things that are true but not specified directly. This is the promise of the Semantic Web -- it will improve all the areas of your life where you currently use syllogisms.

      Which is to say, almost nowhere.

    To which I say, damn, damn, damn. I drank the KoolAde when Tim Berners-Lee wrote about the Semantic Web in Scientific American. This was supposed to solve problems, not compound them.

      Despite their appealing simplicity, syllogisms don't work well in the real world, because most of the data we use is not amenable to such effortless recombination. As a result, the Semantic Web will not be very useful either.

      The people working on the Semantic Web greatly overestimate the value of deductive reasoning (a persistent theme in Artificial Intelligence projects generally.) The great popularizer of this error was Arthur Conan Doyle, whose Sherlock Holmes stories have done more damage to people's understanding of human intelligence than anyone other than Rene Descartes. Doyle has convinced generations of readers that what seriously smart people do when they think is to arrive at inevitable conclusions by linking antecedent facts. As Holmes famously put it "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

      This sentiment is attractive precisely because it describes a world simpler than our own. In the real world, we are usually operating with partial, inconclusive or context-sensitive information. When we have to make a decision based on this information, we guess, extrapolate, intuit, we do what we did last time, we do what we think our friends would do or what Jesus or Joan Jett would have done, we do all of those things and more, but we almost never use actual deductive logic.

    Shirky is great. Consider:

      ...the pattern for descriptions of the Semantic Web. First, take some well-known problem. Next, misconstrue it so that the hard part is made to seem trivial and the trivial part hard. Finally, congratulate yourself for solving the trivial part.

      ...After 50 years of work, the performance of machines designed to think about the world the way humans do has remained, to put it politely, sub-optimal. The Semantic Web sets out to address this by reversing the problem. Since it's hard to make machines think about the world, the new goal is to describe the world in ways that are easy for machines to think about.

      There is a list of technologies that are actually political philosophy masquerading as code, a list that includes Xanadu, Freenet, and now the Semantic Web. The Semantic Web's philosophical argument -- the world should make more sense than it does -- is hard to argue with. The Semantic Web, with its neat ontologies and its syllogistic logic, is a nice vision. However, like many visions that project future benefits but ignore present costs, it requires too much coordination and too much energy to effect in the real world, where deductive logic is less effective and shared worldview is harder to create than we often want to admit.

      Much of the proposed value of the Semantic Web is coming, but it is not coming because of the Semantic Web. The amount of meta-data we generate is increasing dramatically, and it is being exposed for consumption by machines as well as, or instead of, people. But it is being designed a bit at a time, out of self-interest and without regard for global ontology. It is also being adopted piecemeal, and it will bring with it with all the incompatibilities and complexities that implies. There are significant disadvantages to this process relative to the shining vision of the Semantic Web, but the big advantage of this bottom-up design and adoption is that it is actually working now.

    Bravo! Check his home page for more.

    Posted by Jay Cross at 10:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 06, 2003

TechLearn 2003 photos and finale


Soundbites from breakout sessions

Diane Hessan, Communispace: Don't ask what you can teach your customers; ask what you can learn from your customers.

Nancy DeViney, IBM. Learning has become mission critical. Learning must support overarching business goals. Learning is part of the overall package IBM offers. Strategy of future of learning at IBM: Customers demanding real-time, global, customer-focused situation.

Frank Anderson, DAU. Learning culture, imbedded, at point of use. Everything is changing these days. The issue is whether you're a facilitator of or an impediment to change.

Elliott Masie: Context management is going to be the largest major change to hit eLearning in the coming year.

On the state of the Learning Business

  • Learning tech is changing faster than its customers.
  • Must move from classroom to multiple channels. Nothing surprises me any more.
  • Business units are making more training decisions; training has sometimes been an impediment (says an audience poll).
  • Through 2007, 70% of the Federal workforce will become eligible for retirement.

Elliott says we've bought a lot of Learning Management Systems but haven't done that much Management of Learning.

Caveat: Get vendors to explain how people are going to become engaged. Diane has been building communities for five years. The first couple were a failure. It's not easy. If the vendor doesn't have a plan, get a new vendor.

Wayne Hodgins, on the future: Let's get small. Smallness is the way to get to uniqueness. Ultimate goal is personalized delivery to everyone on earth. 6.3 billion of us live on the planet, and we are more the same than we can to admit. It's possible to get "any" -- Any time, place, content -- but we haven't been able to spread it around. You want right time, right place, right content, not "any." Standardization leads to standardized uniqueness. Example -- Personalization by assembling many standard parts: Dell.

Phillip Dodds told me ADL CoLab's hidden secret is that they've achieved their mission. SCORM is nearly complete. The project is funded. Agencies are jumping on board.

Elliott stressed the importance of context, saying that if content is king, context is queen. His analogy is off. The age of kings is over; kings are mere figureheads. Also, kings can exist without queens, and vice-versa, but content cannot exist without context. In fact, content + context = learning. Jay's metaphor: Content is inside; context is outside; they are inseparable.

Consolidation continues. The acquisition of TEDS by Fidelity generated more intelligent discussion than the Click/Docent merger. And how about EMC buying Documentum?

Advanstar told me that LTI (neé eLearning) will stay in business but become a quarterly. Also, it will concentrate more on web content.

Elliott expects another merger before Christmas, and yet another by the end of the first quarter.

IBM unveiled its vision for the future of learning. (Press Release.) The gist is that push delivery is replacing pull delivery, in real time, as a component of work. IBM is more eloquent, saying, "Traditional learning tends to be a structured relationship between the instructor and the learner, with a prescribed curriculum. In the future, learners will be increasingly in charge of customizing their learning experiences. Advances in content and delivery technologies will enable learners to access relevant, compelling content and information from a variety of sources, offered on demand and whenever the learner needs or wants it."

I love this part: "IBM believes learning and work will be indistinguishable over time."

Nancy DeViney, general manager of IBM Learning Solutions, said "Learning in an on demand environment will be embedded into real-time work flows, enabling the productivity of individual employees and aligning employees and teams across a company's value chain for action on key business priorities." Wow. That's precisely the future Sam Adkins and I envision. It's reassuring to be in such august company.

Chris von Koschembahr, Big Blue's M-Learning exec, showed me a truly nifty mini-tablet PC. Compact enough to fit the hand -- or to prop up on the counter in a retail application. Wi-fi. Sleek. If IBM needs any product testers, I would love to get my hands on one of these beauties.



Tuesday night the entire conference moved to DinoLand. Unlike TechLearns past, where party food was "one ice-cream pop," Advanstar treated us to an all-you-can-eat buffet of grilled chicken, pulled pork, pad Thai, huge turkey drumsticks, and more. Fueled by an open bar, some daring souls boarded a rollercoaster. Most of us played whack-a-mole and other carnival games, winning plush dinosaurs and turtles.

Scooter, our DJ from years past, got nearly everyone dancing to often silly music.

Phase Change

1998 2003


It's the end of an era. The early TechLearn Conferences were like Woodstock , gatherings of true believers with smiles on their faces because they had seen the future. Training, coupled with the web, would save the world. We were filled with pronoia -- the delusion that the world was conspiring to help us.

Five years later, adios, Orlando . TechLearn feels more like the Bank Administration Institute's Retail Delivery Conference. Well, sort of. They don't have an enthusiastic, perceptive, big-hearted, and entertaining host like Elliott Masie. Conclusions from this year's event:

  • Corporate conversation assumes eLearning is there.
  • Learning can differentiate a business.
  • Readiness and response time are critical.
  • SCORM has by and large completed its mission.
  • Learning must support strategy.
  • Demand pull is replacing supply push.
  • The learner is central.

The best advice of the Conference came from DAU's Frank Anderson: "If you are riding a dead horse, dismount."

This is a work in progress. The continuation has photos of the event. If you don't have broadband and want to see them, click Continue reading... and go have a couple of cups of coffee while you wait.

Introduction by P.Point

Elliott arriving for Sunday Keynote on his Segway

with IBM's Nancy DeViney

Eileen Clegg recording the event in real time

DAU's Frank Anderson tries out the Segway

Pete Weaver. Working? No, listening to the ball game.

Time moves on. Last year Lance and I were signing books in this room.

Lance Dublin: "What part of everything don't you understand?"

Interwise pals

Two dozen simultaneous 20-minute sessions.
There's Unilever's Ron Edwards to the left.

DinoPark Party

Bully for brontosaurus

She won the watergun competition.

Nicole wins a stuffed animal for the little one.
I won two plush turtles which I gave to friends with kids.

Mark Oehlert and I doing the dueling cameras thing.

Self portrait

Seriously into Whack-a-Mole

I think some of these guys have been practicing all year for this.

Getting carried away with Scooter's music


The TechLearn kick-line getting ready for Radio City Music Hall next year:
Lance Dublin, Beth Thomas, Elliott Masie, Diane Hessan, and Nick Noyes.


And in conclusion

I am embarrassed to offer such fuzzy photos this year.
Wrong settings toward the end of the editing process.
I was going to delete this photo of Wayne Hodgins,
but then I thought to myself, Hold it! Wayne is fuzzy in person. What a likeness! :- )

Adios, Hotel Coronado.

And you thought I wouldn't post this didn't you?

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 04, 2003

TechLearn Monday

After an hour in the "Learning Showcase," AKA exhibit hall, about 1,000 of us trooped into a large conference room to hear Elliott's state of eLearning address. Nealy half the group is here for the first time. After a PointPoint-as-leader skit, Elliott cruised in on a Segway scooter. He's been providing training guidance to Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway. True story: When Bush fell off the Segway, it wasn't even on! He returned from a tennis match, saw the Segway, and hopped on. Duh! Asked, "Why didn't you keep him from falling?", a Secret Service agent responded, "Our job is to keep him alive, not to prevent embarrassing moments.

Elliott downloaded some meta-tagged, freestanding, for-fee music objects (i.e. iPod). Trends for 2004:

READINESS. Be prepared, especially for surprises. Be ready to hire, to change your business, or to go to market. LMS must trigger this.

INTEGRATION. With systems, world processes

WEB EXPERIENCE. "Google is the interface of the future."

NANO-LEARNING. web services, personalization. Wayne says the chunks will be so small that an assembly of them will look like a liquid.

COLLABORATION EVOLVING, more and more just-in-time, when you need it.

USABILTY FOR LEARNING. Gotta pay more attention to this.

NEGLECTED CLASSROOM. IBM update of Apple's Knowledge Navigator. Now the fantasy includes collaboration.


MARKETPLACE SHIFTS. Consolidation, technology groups, integrator groups, procurement models.

Content without context is drivel.
Expect to see another large merger by Christmas and other before the end of Q104.

Verizon wins an award for a cross-training program for managers. 40,000 managers had to be ready to do field work in case of a work stoppage. In 72 hours, they took a course that originally took 3 months and had been boiled down to 8 1/2 weeks.


Elliott on compelling content. Get a fast start, as in a game; just jump in. Create some stress. Reduce that is to be learned. Take what I need to learn, subtract what I know, subtract what I don't ned to know, subtract what I can find, and subtract what I need to know but not for a couple of weeks.

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November 02, 2003

TechLearn - Sunday

The new, lighter model Elliott Masie whizzing down the hall on his Segway.
Elliott & Cathy Masie heading to a session.
Companies with deep pockets.

Sunday midday I grabbed my TechLearn bag o' swag and headed over to Celebration for lunch.

Celebration is the Stepford town conceived, manicured, and controlled by Disney to the southeast of Disneyworld. It's beautiful but eerie.

I lunched on gazpacho and paella at the Columbia Restaurant, an ersatz-Cuban place. Lunch was a taste treat. Looking through the swag bag, I found almost nothing but ads.

This is the last TechLearn in Disneyland. The 2004 event will take place at the Marriott Marquis in New York.

There's no Learning & Training Innovations magazine in the bag, although LTImagazine.com is listed as an event sponsor. The last four pages of the show directory look suspiciously like magazine pages. Makes one wonder if another magazine has bit the dust.

Tonight's the opening reception and Elliott's keynote. Gotta run.

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October 31, 2003


Tomorrow I'm off to TechLearn in Orlando. Yes, I'll be taking pictures and blogging.

How long have I been making this annual pilgrimage to the kingdom of the mouse? Too long. If I'm not attentive, I go onto auto-pilot.

Kissimmee, with its sprawl of T-shirt shops, discount outlets, fast food joints, cheap motels, and pancake houses, laying in wait for wary Disneyworld turistas, is the state champion for tackiness, and given that this is Florida, that takes some doing. Not that I'm complaining. Kissimmee gave me my first time at the controls of an airboat, my first ride on a jet-ski, and my first glimpse of an alligator leaping 5' out of the water to snatch a chicken from a clothesline suspended over the water. I've had good $4 meals, 50-cent beers, and stayed in some fellow's condo for a week for free.

Just this evening, I went on the net to score my room for TechLearn, a "suite" with fridge, microwave, free phone calls, and a nearby lake for $23 a night. Outside the "Kingdom," there's still a near depression, and bargains abound.

Here are reports from TechLearns past. I'm about to finish an article for an academic journal -- 9,000 words and not yet finished -- and the annual migration to TechLearn is one of the rhythms of the piece.

    TechLearn '98

    TechLearn '99

    TechLearn 2000

    TechLearn 2001

    TechLearn 2002.

    This coming week, I'm looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones. Cathy and Elliott are masters at making people feel comfortable and gregarious.

    If you see me at TechLearn, please say hello. I'll be the guy in the zany Hawaiian shirt up near the front. Florida is so unreal for me, an adoptive Californian, that I get these Hunter-Thompsonesque urges to wear funny clothes, drive around in a convertible, and get out of control. I think it's something they put in the water.

    And if you're not here, watch this blog for gonzo journalism and highlights.

    Click for Lake Buena Vista, Florida Forecast

    Click bar for forecast.

    Last year

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Corante has a tasty, daily blog-piece called Brain Waves: neurons, bits, and genes. The author, "an evolutionary biologist, enterprise software marketer, and economic geographer," today discusses Neuromarketing to Your Mind.

    As neurotechnology advances and brain imaging technology becomes more precise, all aspects of business, including the art of marketing, will be reinvented.

    This week's NYTimes Magazine article There's a Sucker Born in Every Medial Prefrontal Cortex highlights how one neuromarketing firm, BrightHouse, is pushing the boundaries of understanding how and why people buy different products. As the article explains, "marketers in the United States spent more than $1 billion last year on focus groups, the results of which guided about $120 billion in advertising. But focus groups are plagued by a basic flaw of human psychology: people often do not know their own minds."

    Neuromarketing has a long road to travel though as neuroeconomist Kevin McCabe wisely suggests, "While the first step is to look for reward processing in the brain, it is not the last step since demand itself is an emergent mental construct involving cognition, emotion, and motivation."

The Sunday New York Times told of a neuroscientist who used brainscans to study the "Pepsi Challenge," where people prefer Pepsi in blind tastings but much prefer Coke when told what they're drinking. The scientist "demonstrated, with a fair degree of neuroscientific precision, the special power of Coke's brand to override our taste buds."

The Times describes the work of the BrightHouse Instittute, which is studying consumer reactions to products with cerebral MRIs:

    whenever a subject saw a product he had identified as one he truly loved -- something that might prompt him to say, ''That's just so me!'' -- his brain would show increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex.

    Kilts was excited, for he knew that this region of the brain is commonly associated with our sense of self. Patients with damage in this area of the brain, for instance, often undergo drastic changes in personality; in one famous case, a mild-mannered 19th-century railworker named Phineas Gage abruptly became belligerent after an accident that destroyed his medial prefrontal cortex. More recently, M.R.I. studies have found increased activity in this region when people are asked if adjectives like ''trustworthy'' or ''courageous'' apply to them. When the medial prefrontal cortex fires, your brain seems to be engaging, in some manner, with what sort of person you are. If it fires when you see a particular product, Kilts argues, it's most likely to be because the product clicks with your self-image.

In other words, we identify with our product choices:

    ''If you like Chevy trucks, it's because that has become the larger gestalt of who you self-attribute as,'' Kilts said, using psychology-speak. ''You're a Chevy guy.'' With the help of neuromarketers, he claims, companies can now know with certainty whether their products are making that special connection.

Big brother is not quite ready to come out of the closet on this stuff. The Times article, There's a Sucker Born in Every Medial Prefrontal Cortex, concludes that "The brain, critics point out, is still mostly an enigma; just because we can see neurons firing doesn't mean we always know what the mind is doing. For all their admirable successes, neuroscientists do not yet have an agreed-upon map of the brain."

There are lessons here for those of us who are trying to improve learning in organizations. Emotion trumps reason. Build your internal brand. If you have Pepsi-quality training, repackage it in Coke bottles. (It never hurts to improve the taste, too. Just don't call it "New Coke".)

Market your training. That's a central message of Lance Dublin's and my book.

A year after publication, people are still downloading our free Template for Developing an eLearning Implementation Action Plan, which walks you through the basic steps of creating an in-house eLearning marketing plan.

Learners are customers.

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October 27, 2003

Wake-up Call

David Grebow, saying what a lot of people feel on the Learning Circuits blog.

    Why not look for what will really work today? Why not finally get serious about workplace simulations, performance support, learning simulations, games that teach, storytelling, collaborative learning environments and more. Why not really start to build Learning Organizations that really help us learn what we need to know and do as go to work as adults in the workplace, and continue learning as we live to an ever older old age?

    Why do I feel like I cannot wake up, that I’m the only one screaming and listening to my own voice echo off the school walls, as the Hall Monitors race down the corridors of my mind, intent upon shutting me up, and quietly sending me away to some endless detention?

    Why are you all facing forward and being so quiet? Knock, knock. Anybody there on the other side of the glass?

Well, aren't you going to say something???

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Click2Docent, III

I am up to my ass in alligators at the moment, so I was going to leave further gossip about the Click2Learn/Docent merger to my friends and colleagues. Then I received a flock of emails about the merger this morning and felt compelled to express my somewhat contrarian viewpoint.

For background, check eLearning Guru Kevin Kruse, Bersin & Associates, Learning Circuits, Upgrade Program, Click2Learn's press release, Docent's FAQ, and the Saba letter which I said was "like a white tiger pouncing on an aging Las Vegas entertainer."

  • Don't confuse investment analysis with learning effectiveness. A Chief Learning Officer should be concerned with vendor viability, i.e. Is my vendor a long-term player? Aside from this issue, the random walk of the equities market is jostled by the economy, trade relations, currency trades, war, weather, and the short-term perceptions of investors who wouldn't recognize a trend in the learning industry if it hit them over the head.

  • Size doesn't matter. Contrary to what you read in your daily spam, size is largely irrelevant. All the LMS vendors Brandon Hall can count don't add up to a hill of beans compared to the Everest of Enterprise Applications vendors. The big will not eat the small; they will mate with them. Vendors who don't understand this suffer from corporate dyslexia: the inability to see the handwriting on the wall.

  • The "complete suite." Applications from multiple vendors are converging, with web services serving as the universal glue. In an interoperable world, it's an advantage not to license everything from a single vendor. The advantage of having one number to call when things go wrong is trivial compared to the risk of putting all of one's infrastructure eggs in the same basket.

  • Strength in numbers? Heaven knows, I'm not a finance guy, but I don't understand how savings from eliminating redundancies are going to offset the expenses of maintaining multiple platforms, developing a new offering, and launching a new brand in the marketplace. Of course, I still haven't figured out how a government can increase spending, fight a war, cut taxes, and come out whole either.

  • Four out of five mergers fail to meet expectations. 'nuff said.

Overall, make sure you know what you're trying to accomplish, and buy only what you need. And consider financier/philosopher Bernard Beruch?s advice: "Never follow the crowd."

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October 25, 2003

eLearning Forum at UC Berkeley



On Friday, October 24, 2003, eLearning Forum participated in the inaugural meeting of BLT at the University of California at Berkeley.

BLT stands for Berkeley Learning Technology. Its goal is to foster coorperation among the many learning tech projects on the U.C. Campus. BLT is a community of practice.

Alex Gault opened the session, introducing the Forum and calling for the audience to introduce themselves, too.

Every month, a member of eLearning Forum's Board takes on the role of meeting coordinator to oversee the entire production. The buck stops there.

We met in the charming Joseph Wood Krutch Theater on Cal's Clark Kerr Campus.

Jim Slotta organized the event and was master of ceremonies. Jim is director of TELS, a NSF-funded research consortium.

He explained that today's speakers represent three independent areas on campus, a mere sliver of what's going on at U.C. Berkeley in learning technology:

  1. Learning Content Collections
  2. Learning Content Application
  3. Learning Management Systems/Open Source

I've lived in Berkeley for twenty years but I'd never heard of most of the projects the panelists told us about.

Brandon Muramatsu , Digital Libraries Project, www.smete.org (Learning Content Collections)

Teaching and learning resources (e.g. a problem set). K-12 and university. Supports collaboration. May be resources from others, slightly modified in their re-use. SMETE = science, math, engineering, tech, and education. Focus on teaching and learning. Goal is to elevate social aspects of developing ?educational? digital libraries to the same level as technical ones. 9.25 million users. 42,000 online resources. Cooperation with Merlot, Math Forum, BioQUEST, etc., etc., etc.

Awards competition. www.needs.org/premier/ CD-ROMs are the big winners thus far. Challenges include identifying quality resources, integration of external collections, and social aspects. Teachers aren't accustomed to using materials developed by others.

Raymond Yee , interactive university project (Learning Content Collections)

The goal is to use technology to democratize the content and community of the campus by opening UC resources to the public, especially K12. There's a wealth of materials out there: California Digital Library, MIT OpenCourseWare, UT Austin Knowledge Gateway, UC Berkeley Interactive University, art museums, etc.

Better tools are needed. Now have data silos. Need interoperable content.

The goals are worthy but the approach strikes me as strong on content but weak on context. That's okay as long as the users provide the coaching, mentoring, instruction, and support. Wired magazine recently touted the MIT OpenCourseWare initiative, suggesting that students in remote developing countries would be learning the equivalent of an MIT degree by reading lecture notes. What a pipedream!

Mike Clancy , Computer Science Division (Learning Content Application)

Mike has taught programming at UC since '77. Skeptical about how technology can help us ? ?because I've seen a lot of screw-ups.? eLearning must include learning. Their direction has been to decrease lecture (passive learning) while increasing online labs (active learning). UC-WISE (Web-based Inquiry System for Engineering) delivers content, quizzes, etc. Mike poured all content and activities into the UC-WISE environment. Now includes gated collaborations and online note-taking.

Benefits of the ?e?. Convenience (online, tracking), new activities (collaboration, focused discussion), aids to autonomous learning (hints, interactive programming tasks), monitoring (in real time, which enables ?targeted tutoring?), more detailed picture of each student (misconceptions, coping), and convenient course revision. Everyone has to participate, not just the volunteers. There's so much more detail about students' learning; ?I feel like the first chemists to look through electron microscopes.?

This is blended learning. It supplements the traditional student/teacher relationship rather than replacing it.

Note to self: When I rant about university training, I need to remember people like Mike, who are making exactly the right moves. I wonder what the ratio of Mikes to old-time faculty is on campus.

Jim Slotta , Open Web Learning (OWL) (Learning Content Application).

What are the most effective designs for curriculum and assessments? How can instructors adopt innovative tech and pedagogical approaches?

The Web came along as the project began. Lots of great content but no scaffolding to help learners use them. Inquiry maps, cognitive guidance, meta-discussions, visualizations.

WISE on the web: curriculum map in left column. Content includes reference notes.

Theoretical frame: make ideas visible, learn from each other, accessible models, autonomous learners.

TELS is a new research center, funded only last month. TELS = Technology Enhanced Learning in Science.

In theory, this sounds right on the money. I hope TELS is a great success. Of course, as Yogi Berra says, "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is."

Turadg Aleahmad , technology architect, OWL for UC-WISE, describes ambitious web platform shared among many partner institutions. Open data models. Turadg's bandwidth is too high for note-takers. (Learning Content Application).

Fred Beshears , Education Technology Services (Learning Management Systems/Open Source)

ETS is developing scaleable learning management systems. 15 years ago, tech was a flea on the tail of the eLearning dog. Now tech is perhaps the tail itself.

Fred's the ?Learning Technology Scout.? He brings them back for the wagon masters to choose from. Standards are good, e.g. assembling components beats hand-hewn logs for your cabin.

Mara Hancock , Educational Technology Services (Learning Management Systems/Open Source)

ETS integrates tech and learning campus-wide. It even coordinates the activities of the campus radio station, KALX. Learning systems includes faculty development as well as learning tool development; multimedia services is a new addition.


  • From technology frill to critical teaching tools
  • From faculty do it yourself to a balance of faculty development and professional services
  • Open Source collaboration across institutions

Moving to single-system, open source LMS.

Professor Marcia Linn is a pioneer whose work was the genesis of many of the projects we heard about from the panel. She engaged the audience on three pieces of the learning technology puzzle:

  1. Instructors: Ego issue (tutor vs. performer). Changed role. Sharing content?
  2. Students: Accessibility. Tech can be motivational. Short-attention span theater.
  3. Technology: Fear. Interoperability. Hinders feeling of connectedness.

Our meeting got off to a late start -- a combination of introductions we hadn't planned for and some members getting lost on the way to the Clark Kerr Campus. Sandwiches arrived as we broke into groups to discuss each of the three areas, so discussions continued over lunch.

Neologism alert! WIKISTORM. (Like brainstorm, but on a wiki rather than in person). Coined by Jim Slotta.

Notes from the discussions and from the panelists will appear on the wiki set up for BLT.

Tata Interactive co-sponsored this event. During the break, Santosh Abraham and Veena Adiga showed samples of the simulations Tata has built for University of Phoenix.

Rick Huebsch, eLearning Forum's remote participant champion, brought several dozen people from all over the world into the session.

eLearning Forum is currently using remote meeting technology from Interwise. Participants described this event as flawless.

  If you're not familiar with wikis, you probably should be. Take a look at the Wikistorms from our session.
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October 23, 2003

Modern marketing

Here's an example of the cluetrain stopping at an unlikely spot.

Bob Scoble is using blogs to put a human face on Microsoft. Think that's impossible? Check this out.

    How to Hate Microsoft

    In all my travels throughout the blogosphere, I've met quite a few people who viscerally hate Microsoft. In fact, a few even admit it openly on their weblogs.
    So, I figure I'd write a guide called ?how to hate Microsoft.? The problem is, there are two types of people:

    1) Those who hate Microsoft.
    2) Those who hate Microsoft but want to see it improve.

    So, if you just plain old hate Microsoft, here's what to say:

    ?I hate Microsoft. Your monopoly is the only thing keeping you in business. You guys are unfair in business. You are weasels. Your software sucks. You smell. Anyone who works at Microsoft is a shill. Why do you keep bringing out software that infuriates me??

    If you hate Microsoft, but want us to improve, here's what to say:

    ?I hate Microsoft. Your monopoly is the only thing keeping you in business. You guys are unfair in business. You are weasels. Your software sucks. You smell. Anyone who works at Microsoft is a shill. Why do you keep bringing out software that infuriates me??

    Whoa, there's no difference between the two, right? Might look like it on the surface, but the person who wants us to improve will keep reading. After all, if you just hate Microsoft, why you reading a Longhorn blog?

    If you want us to improve, now we're getting someplace. Take a deep breath. Relax. Feel better?

    See, next week we're doing something different. We're asking you to help us improve Longhorn so it's an operating system that you can't hate.

    Why is this a massive change? Everytime we've released a version of Windows before we kept it secret. We made anyone who saw it sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement). Even many of those of you who signed NDAs weren't really given full access to the development teams and often if you were, it was too late to really help improve the product.

    Let me explain. I've only been a Microsoft employee for five months. Back in the good old days I was a beta tester. First with Windows 95 and NT, later with 98, ME, 2000, and XP.

    I never really got to work with the development teams while the software was in a ?pre-beta? state. I never had a weblog where I could tell them ?I hate the UI? years before the software will ship. Yeah, we had secret newsgroups back in the good old days. Some of us even got invited to meet with the development teams. But, never did Microsoft ask me to write on my public weblog all of its dirty laundry so that it could improve.

    Next week, that's exactly what we're asking for. Tear into Longhorn and tell us what you think. more.

Bob Scoble is hardly the sharpest knife in the drawer at Microsoft, but he's helping create a more friendly, personable side of the Evil Empire. This may be worth more to the future of the company than its tech trickes. Scoble's so honest, he's disarming. After the rants die down, people will respect Microsoft for this -- if they take the advice they're being offered.

That's just my opinion. I may be wrong.

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October 22, 2003

Saba takes the gloves off

Saba just pounced on the Click2Learn/Docent combination like a white tiger on an aging Las Vegas entertainer. An email to customers and prospects this morning says the merger offers nothing good to customers, prospects, managers, or investors. The only winners are greedy executives. If you agree with Saba, you'll see this as a new level of candor. If you favor the merger, this is a new low in mudslinging. Decide for yourself....

Dear Saba Friends,

We would like to take this opportunity to share our thoughts with you on a recent announcement in our market. On October 20th, Docent and Click2Learn announced a merger of the two companies. The new entity to be created will have a new name, which was not announced. Both companies claim that a "new" product platform will be developed and offered to the market sometime in the future.

At the same time they vowed to continue to support and maintain the two legacy product lines. The companies also said that they will achieve profitability while only cutting 20% of their expense base. These claims appear to be optimistic. They do not take into consideration the customer overlap and customer attrition that occurs in this type of merger.

The choice of these two companies to merge is a curious one, because it is their customers who seemingly will get the least benefit. Neither company has upgraded their core technology to a new platform and their products, sales organizations and market coverage are largely overlapping. Both Docent and Click2Learn customers are going to face some difficult decisions.

Who Benefits from this "Event"?
Typically, when a merger like this takes place the benefits are readily apparent. In analyzing the early information on the announcement, it is not clear who actually benefits.

Customers and prospects?
Given that the product road map and technology platforms are undefined and that cost cutting will occur, innovation and customer service will clearly suffer. New prospects will have to choose between two platforms nearing the end of their useful life on the promise of future innovation on a third platform.
Click2Learn appears to be taking the lead on product strategy, which is not surprising given that the product leaders at Docent left the company some time ago. For all practical purposes, the Docent product has been rendered obsolete. This organizational structure indicates a leaning toward Click2Learn's Microsoft-centric architecture. Neither company has an enterprise-class J2EE platform today, nor it does it appear that the new entity will head in that direction.


Both Docent and Click2Learn are unprofitable, with a combined loss of $4.1M in their most recent quarters. To make this merger worthwhile from a financial perspective, the combined entity will have to cut its costs dramatically. The companies have publicly admitted to a plan that involves cutting at least 20%. We believe that number is artificially low. They will have to do a substantial consolidation in sales, customer support and R & D.
Neither company gains an expanded market footprint from this merger. Both operate primarily in North America and have many of the same system integration and distribution partners. There is also a customer overlap that will limit future revenue growth.
The management teams are the most likely beneficiary of this merger — both from vesting of stock options and buyouts. Customers should look closely to see what benefits are being directed to the management team.

What does this mean to the industry?
In the short-term, this announcement will create confusion for individuals who have either recently made a purchase decision with either of these vendors or were considering either of these vendors for a planned purchase. Companies and partners dealing with Click2Learn or Docent should immediately question the vendors on the implications of this announcement and its impact upon product direction, product support, company leadership and viability.

On the positive side, there will be fewer vendors, further highlighting the value propositions for companies like Saba that have stayed focused on the long-term objectives. Now more than ever, organizations considering the purchase or expansion of an enterprise learning suite should carefully evaluate the strategy and motivation of their vendors. "Merger of Equals" transactions often result in lowered customer service and innovation. Mergers for the sole purpose of consolidating cash and buying customers are transparent to the market and the customers themselves. No decision maker wants to be in a situation where they have purchased a product line that is soon to be discontinued.

What does this mean for Saba and our customers?
We have always been focused on the long-term success of our customers. Four driving principles continue to define Saba's leadership position in this industry.

1. Customers' Success
Our commitment to customer satisfaction has never been stronger. Saba just completed highly successful user conferences in Chicago and Amsterdam where hundreds of our customers and partners continued to reiterate their support for Saba, enthusiasm about our product strategy and broad endorsement of our global presence and deployment capabilities. We have made continual and substantial enhancements to usability in each release of our product line and we have expanded our team of services professionals who are able to provide expertise that is specific to the industries where our customers are deploying
their solutions.

2. Product Leadership

Over the past two years, Saba has invested heavily in R&D to build and deliver the fully J2EE-compliant Saba 5 platform, continued to innovate on our 3.x platform, most recently with the delivery of Saba Enterprise Learning 3.5, expanded the Saba Enterprise Learning Suite with Saba Analytics, the market's most powerful learning analytics solution, and for the first time, expanded beyond our core learning market with Saba Enterprise Performance 5.0. As the only company to have delivered an integrated learning and performance offering on a J2EE platform, Saba is uniquely differentiated in our marketplace and continues to be the leading innovator in the Human Capital market.
3. Leading Delivery and Execution
In addition, Saba is the market leader in delivering business solutions among our competitors in North America and worldwide markets, including Europe, Asia Pacific and Japan. More and more of our customers choose Saba because of our unmatched ability to deliver and deploy enterprise-class solutions on a worldwide basis. None of these fundamental strengths are challenged, let alone addressed by this merger of second-tier players.
4. Industry Leading Vision
As a pioneer in enterprise learning, Saba continues to define the future direction of the industry. In our market, true business performance is driven through the intelligent integration of learning and performance and measured by industry-leading analytics solutions. This is a core part of our vision and it is the heart of our product platform.

Thank you for your continued support and interest. Please contact your local Saba representative if you have any questions or would like to share your perspective on this announcement.


The Saba Team

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October 20, 2003


Click2Learn and Docent are joining forces.

This message just arrived from Kevin Oakes, CEO of Click2Learn:

Congratulations, Kevin! And hats off to all my pals at Docent!

I'm much too tactful to comment on inter-faith marriages until after the reception, so Mazeltov! With rich uncles like Accenture, Deloitte, Exult, IBM, Microsoft, NEC, Primedia, Thomson Learning, and Paul Allen, this couple could go far.


Rather than the bride taking the groom's name, or vice-versa, this is a wonderful opportunity for both of the newlyweds to drop their dorky names. "Docent" reeks of academia and musty museums. "Click2Learn" has that old unblended, dot-com feel. Maybe rename the company "Aspen," move everything up to Washington State, and make a tree the logo.

About a dozen years ago, I arrived in the Sierra south of Lake Tahoe just as the aspens were turning from dark green to brilliant yellow. Walking in the hills next to Sorenson's Lodge, I was surrounded by white-barked trees that resembled surreal torches.

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eLearning at Cal Berkeley


eLearning Forum meets this Friday at Cal. Arrive a bit before 8:30 am for coffee and schmooze.

University of California, Berkeley has been a source of many landmark trends in technology and education. The university continues to be home to cutting-edge research and an incubator for innovation destined for commercial success -- particularly in learning and technology.

The October 24 meeting will offer an inside look at several high profile elearning projects at Berkeley. Join us as we discuss what the future of elearning in university, school, and corporate environments might look like.

Speakers will include:

We're meeting on the Clark Kerr Campus, a registered landmark south of the main campus.

Interwise will webcast the event.

More information at eLearningForum.com

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October 19, 2003

The eLearning Vendor's Dilemma

The Dilemma

The business section of today's New York Times has a pithy summary of Clayton Christensen's The Innovator's Dilemma.

Let's think about this in the context of the eLearning marketplace. Who are the senior players, those who've had the opportunity to get to version 3.0 and beyond? Off the top, I think of:

[Apologies to important players I've skipped for now.]

These companies are all working hard to deliver what their customers are asking for. In Christensen's view, this renders them vulnerable. This is inevitable.

The Solution

The only way to escape this vicious cycle is through "generating a consistent flow of disruptive innovations." That's the topic on Christensen's new book, The Innovator's Solution.

Remember, the dilemma comes about because a replacement technology slips in under the radar because the established players don't respect it as worthy.

You get the idea.

Any established vendor that doesn't nurture innovations that depart from the norm will be in decline within a few years. Set up a portfolio of skunk-works projects. Now. This takes more than thinking out of the box; it requires funding and setting up totally independent boxes to think in.

If Christensen's message in the eLearning context is unclear, wire three thousand dollars to Internet Time Group LLC. We'll join you for a day on the island of your choice to help you figure it out.

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October 17, 2003

Informal Learning: A Sound Investment

Chief Learning Officer magazine just arrived in the mail. I've become a semi-monthly columnist for CLO, and this marks my first appearance. The title of my column: effectivenss. Take that, you efficiency experts.

The article: Informal Learning: A Sound Investment Chief Learning Officer (2003). "Workers who know more get the most accomplished. People who are well connected make greater contributions. The workers who create the most value are those who know the right people, the right stuff, and the right things to do."

Other articles I've written.

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October 16, 2003

Simplify, simplify

It doesn't get much easier than this.

Macromedia has added a training module and a virtual classroom to its Breeze platform.

The live module is the equivalent of Centra or WebEx, including a webcam capability, application sharing, automatic capturing and publishing, and the usual controls. The training module adds course creation, learner registration, self-enrollment, quizzes and surveys, and tracking.

Add all this together and you get a hosted solution that includes a simple learning management system and requires no programming.

If I were short on time but had money in my pocket, I'd be tempted to implement an entire eLearning infrastructure on Breeze.

Caution: That's my enthusiasm for what's described at Macromedia's website. I don't know what Breeze costs or how well it scales, nor have I had the opportunity to kick the tires.

If their product is as good as their vision is clear, Macromedia is destined to become an eLearning powerhouse.

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KM World

Santa Clara, California. October 14, 2003. I took in this show the way people read wordy webpages. Quick skim. That leaves me with a few impressions which could be way off target. I am a learning and performance guy, not a knowledge guy.

Knowledge Maps for Communities of Practice

"For you guys, let me explain. This is a map." What followed was the standard presentation for Generic Corp. Analyze, plan, implement, assess... And a map gives you direction, a picture, access paths, etc. Zzzzzzzz....



Click for larger image

Very cool pattern analysis software that lets you pull data from D&B, Lexis-Nexis, patent databases, and other sources. Point, click, reform, analyze. This would be wonderful...if you've got many sources of information laying around. Developed for the intelligence community, Anacubis is no doubt a star at the CIA. I have to wonder how many corporate users really need something like this.

The exhibit floor did not excite. Fewer than three dozen exhibitors attended. Some of those were selling books and magazines. Several of the others couldn't tell me what they had to offer.

Inxight and Convera had cool, snappy technology. Useful, scalable organizing systems. Unstructured information management, automated categorization. Try their online demos.
HyperWave is like the Swiss Army "Champ" that has every blade you'll ever need
Winner, dumbest name contest.

I kept trying to ask this guy about his expert locator software but I couldn't get to him.

Pointing to experts is a worthy application -- just think of the time it can save. Some of the algorithms for identifying experts seemed a bit flaky to me.

Wherever the KM market is, this isn't it. Two years ago, 1600 people attended KM World. Last year is was 800. This year, KM World and Intranets 2003 were combined, so attendance figures are murky. Vendors told me lots of the people walking the aisles were consultants hungry to cut deals.
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October 14, 2003

Implementing eLearning Handout

Thank you for attending the "Implementing E-Learning" Web seminar.

Download the handout here.
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October 11, 2003


Pondering learning and why ambiguity is easier to mesh into one's worldview than dogma.

Start with a network of associated ideas in one's head.

Bombard with sensory inputs, a small fraction of which will make it through the individual's protective firewall.

The individual's unwitting internal translator reforms the surviving inputs into new entities. These link into the existing network of thoughts. Sometimes there's a delay factor, while the mind looks for the best fit. This occurs during reflection.

Some inputs are too large or rigid or alien to ever establish links, i.e. be learned.

Obviously, the learner plays a large role in what's learned. The richness of the pre-existing network, the nature of the firewall, the range of the internal translator, the effort devoted to reflection, and the desire to increase one's scope all impact how much one learns.

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October 10, 2003

Industrial-age schooling

Shikshantar has a provocative site I look forward to exploring. Example:

I love the fact that this is coming out of Udaipur. The global brain at work.

My subconscious mind (AKA "the boys in the back room") has been working on new visions of what it means to learn, a follow-on to my posting several months back that it's productive to look at learning as optimizing the connections of one's neural network (wetware).

The big ah-ha, which I attribute to the heretofore unhearalded hallucinogenic properties of summer truffles, is the important role of ambiguity in learning. Give me chunks of the story, somewhat fuzzy in meaning, and I can weave them into the internal narrative of my conscious thoughts. By contrast, give me unmalleable, absolute information, and unless my wetware is perfectly attuned to it, I may have a tough time accepting it into my worldview.

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October 07, 2003

Free Webinar Tomorrow

Free Webinar

Wednesday, October 8, 2003
2:00 pm Eastern/11:00 am Pacific

Jay Cross & Lance Dublin on
Implementing eLearning

The first twenty participants to sign in will receive a free copy of our book, Implementing eLearning.

Sign up here to join us for the hour-long conversation.

Download the handout.

Visit the Center for Implementation Excellence to get your free copy of the Template for Developing an eLearning Implementation Action Plan.

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September 29, 2003

No commodities

Lance Dublin and I are going to be giving a free webinar on change management and marketing of eLearning on Wednesday, October 8th, at 11:00 am Pacific time. (Sign up here.)

If you've heard Lance and me speak on these topics at a conference, this one's probably not worth your time -- only about 20% of the material will be new.

If you haven't heard (or read) our thoughts on these matters, by all means, tune in. Also, the following riff on marketing may interest you:

The J. Peterman Company uses compelling stories to create its brand. For example, Peterman starts with a plain (commodity) canvas shirt and adds value through this story:

How about this story about a suede jacket?

If your change management project or eLearning initiative doesn't have people clamoring to participate, maybe it's perceived as a commodity. Brand it! Perhaps what you need is a good story to buff up its image. Treat your learners as your customers. You've got to sell them what you have to offer.


Peterman has amply demonstrated that the story need not be true to deliver the message.

*Josef Kyselak was actually Western civilization's first street artist. To win a bet, he "tagged" every wall in his native Biedemeyer. The Sticker Nation website claims, "The cultural impact of Kyselak’s work was the genesis of an artistic tradition which continued and grew through the Mexican mural movement of the 1930s, the political scrawlings of the Hunagarian revolution in 1956, and the Situationist-influenced student uprisings in Paris, right up to the advent of turf graffiti in New York and Los Angeles in the 1970s."

Finally, a word of warning. A good story will not be sufficient to sell a poor product. (I sent back the shirt.)

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September 27, 2003

Tom Stewart speaks

Tom Stewart, author of Intellectual Capital and The Wealth of Knowledge, gave the ending keynote at Online Learning on Wednesday. Read his books; they are simply great. Among the one-liners and anecdotes from the stage:

As the inventor of bouillabaisse eLearning, I loved Tom's thought that "eLearning is the okra in the gumbo." (Meaning that it's a required item, not necessarily that it's slimey.)

Finally, Tom mentioned this great Spam:

This last piece is in preparation for tomorrow's How Berkeley Can You Be parade. (I am not making this up.) Last year...

Theoretical IQs:

091 George W. Bush (R)
098 George HW Bush (R)
105 Ronald Reagan (R)
121 Gerald Ford (R)
122 Dwight D. Eisenhower (R)
126 Lyndon B. Johnson (D)
132 Harry Truman (D)
147 Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)
155 Richard M. Nixon (R)
174 John F. Kennedy (D)
175 James E. Carter (D)
182 William J. Clinton (D)

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KM Cluster & Next Practices

In mid-September, I took part in an all-day symposium of the KM Cluster on Next Practices. This was a companion to the eLearning Forum meeting a week earlier.

When my turn to introduce myself came, I decided to do something radical, to tell the truth. Instead of the usual self-serving claptrap, I said I was there to reinforce the beliefs and suspicions I had coming in, that maybe I’d hear something that would change my orientation, but I rather doubted it.

Fast forward to 4:30 pm when I join Ross Dawson, Wayne Hodgins, and Tom Housel for a concluding panel discussion. Wayne said that he lived in the future, where objects had become so granular that they poured into the contours of need like a liquid. I said it was ironic to have my friend Wayne living in the future at the same time that I’m trying so hard to live in the now.

For me, the day confirmed that there’s no reason to treat KM and learning as separate disciplines. They are points on a continuum of things that make organizations effective. Was the simulation we’d gone through earlier in the day knowledge or learning? It simply doesn’t matter.

KM and learning haven’t converged because they have different DNA. Training is almost blue-collar; KM is nearly aristocratic. Learning is borne of training; it’s a staff function. Trainers rarely graduate to management (except of training). KM comes from strategy consultants, Harvard Business Review, and CEO conversations on the golf course. KM managers are on the fast track. Blue-bloods and blue-collars have a tough time understanding one another.

John Maloney, leader of KM Cluster, asked what participants should keep in mind when selling these ideas back at the office. My advice:

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September 25, 2003

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?"

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September 24, 2003

Context is important

This evening GeoLearning hosted a cocktail party for everyone. Free beer, wine, and nibbles. People swapped stories and networked. Thank you, GeoLearning – this was just what the doctor ordered. Mark Oehlert said manning the M-Learning booth, one of the most popular spots on the exhibit floor, felt like giving an eight-hour presentation. We were all ready to kick back and relax.

Fifteen or twenty minutes into the party, GeoLearning began a long, involved case study of their success with International Rectifier. The audience was oblivious. We kept talking. PowerPoints rolled. A voice droned in the background. No one paid attention.

Why does a learning company set itself up for failure like this? It makes one worry about their design skills.

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Answering vestigial questions

For the last couple of years, I’ve been collecting material for a mock proposal from Genericorp. This an outfit that lives to satisfy customer needs. They employ state-of-the-art, user-friendly systems to provide exemplary service on time and within budget. You get the idea: meaningless pap.

On Tuesday I attended the first fifteen minutes of what could become Genericorp’s eLearning presentation.

Well, duh!

I was singing this song five years ago, and it was old then.

Guess who gave this boring, useless, and content-free presentation. Was it:

□ Element K?
□ Centra?
□ SAP?
□ IBM?
□ Saba?

It was SAP.

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Rapid ascent, rapid fall

Four years ago at Online Learning ’99 in L.A., on my signal, Gloria Gery announced that CBT Systems was changing its name to SmartForce, the eLearning Company. We put up new logos up in CBT’s 10’x10’ booth and distributed bushels of brochures.

At Online Learning 2000 and 2001, SmartForce had a 20’x20’ booth manned by swarms of sales people. One year we invited everyone to a Little Richard concert. “World’s Largest eLearning Company,” read the banners.

At Online Learning 2002, the 20’x20’ booth was a deeper shade of red, and the logo had changed from SmartForce to SkillSoft. SmartForce stumbled in a down market, SkillSoft purchased the firm, headquarters moved from California to New Hampshire, and most of the management team was invited to walk the plank.

This year at Online Learning 2003, things had come full circle. SkillSoft had a 10’x10’ booth with one person on duty. Former SmartForce competitors like Element K, NETg, and Digital Think were nowhere to be seen.

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September 22, 2003

Online Learning 03 Monday

Gloria Gery is once again our interpreter and master of ceremonies.

RIchard Saul Wurman gave the keynote this morning. I'll let him speak for himself:

Saul looks for patterns to help us (him) understand. He's very into maps.

Michael Allen: "I love the potential for eLearning move than what we've been doing with it"

M-learning (mobile learning) is bigger than I'd realized. A panel walked us through a sea of pocket PCs, tablets, video players, smart phones, and more. Takeaways:

M-learning Drivers

Meta-message: It's not just PCs any more.

M-learning will force people to get their learning house in order: chunks, rapid delivery.

The air spotter in Afghanistan, calling in air power.

DoD Job Performance Tech Center in Alexandria

GPS+PDA= context-based learning

Personal area network.

More to come on hacking your car and hacking the establishment.

Visit http://collab.typepad.com/mlearning

Clark Aldrich's book is out! I'm waiting for Amazon to deliver my copy.

Hats off to Docent for the coolest exhibit: 3 heavy-duty motorcycles.

How bad is it?

In 2001, vendors had contracted for 80,000 ft2 of space
9/11 cancelled travel plans and only 40,000 ft2 showed up.
This year? About 12,500 sq ft2 total.

Over dinner, "Cool is dead." People are looking for the pragmatic and practical. I suggested Flash be renamed Dull.

Jacques told the story of watching a new learning program for pharma propogate around the world.

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September 21, 2003

VNU Supplier Summit

Los Angeles, Sunday, September 21, 2003

Clark Aldrich is so unassuming for a polymath. He analyzes, he writes articles, he speaks at conferences, his book just came out, he leads product development for a start-up, and today he was presenter and ring master of the Supplier Summit at Online Learning. Fifty to sixty vendors spent Sunday attending this full day of sessions on the state of eLearning, standards, the analyst viewpoint, the customer viewpoint, selling, the future of technology, and benchmarking.

Here are my rough notes from the day:

Standards Panel

Margaret Driscoll (IBM), Brian Taliesin (Microsoft), Wayne Hodgins (Autodesk), Clark Aldrich

Click for Clark's map of standards. It's big but meaty.

Wayne: SCORM 1.3 is the end of the line. There won’t be a 1.4 or a 2.0. ADL will focus on implementation, not churning out new models. The models themselves are becoming more modular. Metadata, API, packaging, sequencing are all different. Check out ADLnet.org.

Change? The Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines are breaking down their silos and cooperating.

Senior management is leery of standards because they’ve been burned before. Some turned proprietary, trapping those who adopted them; others are the lone ranger who doesn’t make it.

Who’s successful with this? Waffle, waffle, waffle. Open University in UK (1 million learning objects with 1 million students), EU Frameworks (5 year plans), ARIADNE (10 years).

Customers ask for SCORM compliance but don’t know why. 90% of military is not on SCORM. They don’t know what it is.

Wayne says to head off the roadblocks, simply say that compliance builds a bridge to future projects, some of which we may not even recognize yet.

Standards have zero impact on learning quality.

Clark: eLearning has been a manufacturing and distribution strategy. eLearning is to learning as fast food is to food. Quality has not been a driving force as yet. Wayne: Fast food meets the needs of certain groups, e.g. parents feeding the kids fifteen minutes before soccer practice. The solution should be defined by the problem.

Wayne: Identifier: unique identifier on everything, person, building, whatever. M for metadata. O for objects. (Problem has been trying to quantify the old monolithic models. Everything should be treated as an object.) T for taxonomy. O is for ontologies, relationship between the taxonomies.

Metadata, content packaging, sequencing, APIs, and (coming) QTI. (Questioning and testing interoperability.)

Collaboration issues. Go watch 14 year olds. Great eLearning but they don’t call it that

Competencies. Now monolithic and need to be broken down into skills, capabilities, etc.

RSS. Very good at metadata harvesting. HTML scraping (collecting metadata when it’s not there.) Aggregation.

Wayne: Everything that can be standardized should be.

Customer Panel

Judy Albers, Bank One

Gerry Lang, Microsoft

Steve Wright, Sprint University of Excellence

Judy: In an environment of cuts in IT, her eLearning is prospering. Reporting up and down the management hierarchy is key. Lots of turnover, hence lots of new hires (30% of all training). Acquisition management – making sure the LMS scales, important to get the cultural info as well as the operational.

Can’t get: integration experience. Getting proposals for parts of a solution, not the entire thing. Enterprise integration is breaking new ground. Moving to Websphere; again, the importance of reporting up and down the management hierarchy.

Want per-user licensing, not content library rental.

Little understanding of usability among vendors.

Gerry: bringing 41 different training organizations under one roof. Trying to be responsible for best practices, too.

Buyers don’t know what they want. Vendors don’t say “no” enough. Customers need advice, not yes men.

LMS are still selling version 1.0 and 2.0. Buyers don’t know what they want until they’ve bought the LMS.

Now in a company of 50,000 people, everybody’s an instructional designer.

Steve: It’s more important to provide the learning than to track it.

At Sprint, they try to meet with the internal customer in advance to define the ROI objectives. Now, instead of saying “We provided 32 million hours of training,” we can say “We boosted revenue by $9 million.” It’s given Steve more recognition and clout.

Analyst Panel

Stacy Marmolejo, VNU/Training

Michael Brennan, IDC

Adam Newman, Eduventures

Mike Flanagan, Lguide/Interpid

Brandon Hall

Stacy: Annual survey finds training revenue down $3 billion, from $53 billion. This is the first back-to-back decline in the 22 years. 17,000 companies have disappeared from the D&B list.

Michael: The future is rosy. Majority of eLearning adopters in first three years of the effort. Analytic tools are long-term, not immediate. Live training will be hot. Management ed is a big need. Because many have been burned, expect High Growth in service: infrastructure hosting,

Next four years, IDC sees services growing more rapidly that content or infrastructure.

Mike: If training is down $3 billion. Where did the money go? Part is falling headcount. Some of the training has migrated inside, the “do-it-yourself” meme. Some folks hire talent instead of training. Investments in low-to-no learning curve authoring tools, a trade-off people are willing to make. Tutorial or “simlet” builders, often software apps that convert to Flash. VW Beetle course architecture: easy to keep it on the road for a long time. The instructional design equivalent of duct tape.

Services, services, services. Vendors must assume the cost of the value discussion. (In order to break the commodity pricing cycle.) Practice what we preach: creating capability v. dependence. Rethink “quality” bells & whistles v. porridge.

Customers: don’t try to upsell me now. Give me something that just gets the job done.

Don’t be afraid to focus on learning as the core value proposition.

Brandon: Greatest growth potential – simulation tools and content. In services, implementation and integration are hot. Focus on initiatives to solve a particular business objective. Longer term, growth comes from human capital management = HR + learning + KM. At IBM they call it talent management. The distinctions now are a historic effect.

Training dollars are going mostly to salaries, traditional training, eLearning.Within eLearning, METAgroup breaks out the business as:

We’re back to a fundamental in this business: local relationships.

Adam: Content, Content, and More Content. (Content is more than content.) Not just about eLearning content anymore, rather where is the best content. Institutions spending more time developing the in-house content. Especially in this environment, search for

Develop a learning roadmap. What is your vision? Building partnerships, not one-time sales. Usability. Identify a core set of traveling partners. Share the itinerary and show customers how to make the journey.

Poor Adam, he’s pushing content, content, content, and everyone else is saying services, services, services. Then his summary of what’s required is a Roadmap. It certainly didn’t work for Israel and Palestine.

Important to think beyond current situation and reach out to CRM, ERP, etc. Don’t miss inking up with them.

Clark Aldrich

The Future of Technology

Hype Cycles

This was a great discussion, and the graphic tells 90% of the story. It’s a monster graphic. but well worth the time to study.

Chunks: sounds good, not happening many places

Blogging is in the theory stage. Clark asked me to describe blogging for the group. Millions of users but still a theory. Ditto Sam Adkins’ workflow based eLearning: all theory right now

Hype cycle is inevitable and painful. It’s almost a physical law.

Human capital management…in the theory stage.


Low-risk, well-defined. Four basic types:

Branching story:

Interactive spreadsheet model

Game-based simulation (not really a simulation)

Bryan Chapman

Benchmarking Your eLearning Products and Services

Number of eLearning players

Market Size (per META)

Competitive Analysis

Write down ten reasons why someone should buy your product or service? Your competition’s response to this?

$2 million "solution"

RFP requirements

Average price per seat of LMS



500 users




1st year




3 year license & maintenance





1ST year




3 year




Illogical variations in pricing

Cost of development for an hour-long course

$4,500 low end of range

$26,613 median

$80,000 high

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September 20, 2003

Online Learning 2003

I'll be in L.A. for the next four days, occasionally blogging events in real time.

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September 17, 2003


This morning I wrote about the ineffectiveness of schooling, saying "Small wonder that executives hear the word “learning,” think “schooling,” and conclude “not enough payback.” I no longer talk with executives about learning; they respond better to “execution.”

This evening the Web came along with proof: The annual review by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that the U.S. spent $10,240 per student from elementary school through college in 2000, the most of any of the 25 industrial countries reviewed. The results are shabby.

Education Secretary Rod Paige said the results "confirm that schools here have grown complacent, and that a new law tying federal spending to school performance will help." Rod is essentially saying that throwing money at the problem will help. Given that we're moving from the information age into the knowledge age, I'd rather see us dismantle our industrial age school system and build something that prepares students for tomorrow.

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September 12, 2003

eLearning Forum

Four score and one people attended today's eLearning Forum meeting on Virtual Teams and Collaboration at Cisco. A quarter of them attended via Interwise from such places as France, Canada, Tennessee, Ireland, Denmark, Switzerland, Nevada, New York, Finland, Missouri, Sri Lanka, and Australia. Even more gratifying is the fact that none of them dropped out during the three-hour session. We've been working toward this for several years. This is the first time we've made it through without one SNAFU or another.

Today's success is attributable to many factors, among them a dedicated remote participant champion (who worked his tail off preparing for today), great support from Interwise, a Cisco A/V tech who has meeting support down pat, a video cameraman who knew his stuff -- and the room, a sponsor at Cisco who worked behind the scenes to make sure all was in order, a program that demonstrated real solutions to real problems, and treating our remote attendees as fellow participants, not second-class citizens.

Using voice-over-IP, we webcast a three-hour meeting with two-way audio literally around the world with no phone bill. Once again we can dream of sharing advice on what works well with the rest of the world.

Eilif Trondsen opens today's meeting.

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September 10, 2003

Organizational Serendipity

This is the follow-up site for participants in today's dialogs on informal learning.

Caution: Some of this material is controversial.

Catalysts to the discussion


Emerging conclusions

I will post more after this afternoon's session.

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September 08, 2003

Social Network Analysis

Wednesday night is the inaugural meeting of the Institute for Social Network Analysis in the Economy at PARC in Palo Alto.

Naturally, I'll be there. SNA is at the core of informal and collaborative learning, two areas I'm focusing on.

We live in a world of networks, from networks of suppliers, to networks of computers; from networks of trading partners to networks of anti-globalization activists our connected world is linked like never before. Each instant more links are made through the Internet, cell phones, travel, trade pacts, markets and countless other ways. These networks can provide us with vital information and tremendous opportunities or they can become closed and stifle growth.

How do we know what the networks are? How do we know how they behave and interact with each other? When is a network a healthy beneficial one and when is it stifling and destructive? As networks have grown more complex, the tools job of analyzing them has grown more complex,. ISNAE exists to study these networks and use the knowledge to make a difference.

Mark Granovetter will be speaking Wednesday evening. Is that name familiar? Perhaps you read Linked. Mark is the fellow who discovered the strength of weak ties, e.g. you're more likely to find a job through a friend of a friend than through the friend itself. That's what this is all about:

>Special Insider Tip: They've sold out on dinners. Eat beforehand, and you're still welcome to join us. Your price: $20.

Register: http://www.isnae.org/viewevent.php?id=1

For more information, or to join ISNAE, contact: Don Steiny
([email protected]) or 831.471.1671.

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September 06, 2003

Personalized learning

Personalization is important

Did you ever read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People? Written in 1937, and still in print 15,000,000 copies later, How to… was the first people-skills book. “Deal with people so that they feel important and appreciated” is Carnegie’s timeless formula. “*Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

I contend that much of what passes for eLearning would benefit mightily from Carnegie’s advice.

Fifty years after Carnegie, Stan Davis coined the term mass customization to describe the ability to provide individualized services and goods with the efficiency of mass production. Mass customization was supposed to be one of the foundations of eLearning, but somehow it slipped through the cracks as vendors raced for quick fixes and quarterly revenue.

Up the revolution

Looking back with the wisdom of hindsight, I think first-generation eLearning ran off the tracks because investors thought the learning revolution would be a repeat of the industrial revolution. What VC wouldn’t fight for a piece of that action?

The industrial revolution succeeded because of the specialization of labor and the substitution of machines for labor; it took most of the people out of the equation. eLearning attempted to do the same thing. In the early days, eLearning was justified by the savings in instructor salaries and airplane tickets when learning migrated from the classroom to the desktop.

Of course, people aren’t bales of cotton and learning is social, so most of the early eLearning programs went down in flames.

Come into my store

Imagine if I operated a store that treated customers the way early eLearning treats learners. You bought an expensive item last week and come back into the store. No one acknowledges you or says hello. No one calls you by name. They’re already forgotten you were here before. They have no memory of your purchase. There isn’t much merchandise on the shelves and you’re not allowed to try anything on before you buy it. We never follow up. You want a personal shopper? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. That’s a good one.

Most eLearning is like this. Is it any wonder people don’t buy it?

Drop outs?

Lance Dublin and I interviewed dozens of companies while researching our book, Implementing eLearning. Why were so many people dropping out of eLearning? They told us:

  1. It was irrelvant to their jobs.
  2. They already knew the material.
  3. They hit roadblocks and had no one to turn to.
  4. The material was dull as dishwater.

If eLearning were personalized, these irritants would evaporate. (Well, perhaps not #4.)

Even my online bookstore remembers who I am and suggests new things for me to look at based on my previous selections and those of people like me. It’s always learning how to serve me better. It lets me go at my own pace, providing lots of directions so I’ll stay interested. I’ve yet to see an LMS that learns as well as Amazon does.

What others think

71 people responded to a short poll about the value of personalized learning. I’ll provide a summary here; I’ve posted the details on the web.

  1. Most respondents say personalization makes a difference or is very important. (But only 7% rate their own efforts better than so-so.)

  2. A solid majority think it important to avoid redundancy by automatically skipping over material the learner has already mastered. (But only half do it.)

  3. More than 90% think it’s important for learners to be able to annotate and highlight materials and “dogear” virtual pages. (But only 27% have implemented it.)

  4. Four out of five think it’s important for learners to be able to share notes, annotations, and content with other learners. (But only one in five do so.)

  5. Everyone thinks it important to tailor learning to the learner’s job requirement and competencies. (And 38% do it.)

  6. Everyone thinks collaboration with peers is important. (And 42% do it.)

  7. Most people deem it important to have a live mentor or learning coach to asnwer questions and help learners over rough spots. (But less than half do it.)

The bottom line

Most people think personalized learning is important. Less than half do anything about it. I sense lots of unrealized potential to be gained by “dealing with learners so that they will feel important and appreciated.”

Posted by Jay Cross at 02:07 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 05, 2003

What works

Today I caught up with my old pal Josh Bersin at a coffee shop in Oakland. Eighteen months ago, Josh went independent after healthy stints with IBM, Sybase, Arista, and Digital Think. You’ve probably seen the Bersin & Associates logo on the web, announcing the firm’s market research findings.

I asked Josh a few questions and jotted down his replies. Like the cool colors? Go here.

Jay: You talk with a lot of people in eLearning. Who’s calling you these days and what do they want to know?

Josh: “The market seems to fall into two broad categories. A surprisingly large number are people new to eLearning and they need help getting started.

They’ve purchased some courseware from SkillSoft or NetG, and they think they’re doing e-learning. Although it’s a good start, it’s just the first step. Once they expand, they struggle trying to figure out which LMS to buy, where to find specialized content, and how they should build content on their own. The second group is people who have built e-learning programs but are growing to do more. They ask us how to do blended learning, when to use simulations, how to manage development teams, what tools to buy, and how to optimize their LMS. This group is growing in size every day, but at least half our clients are still relatively new to the whole space.”

What’s new and important today?

“One hot trend is something we call Rapid eLearning. In the early days, (only a few years ago) developing eLearning was an elaborate, expensive, and time-consuming affair. We have found that e-learning programs fall into four natural categories – and two of these are what we call “informational” and “knowledge transfer.” For problems in these two categories it is not necessary to build elaborate, expensive courseware. It’s more appropriate to use Rapid eLearning to slash development time to a week or two.

Rapid eLearning is typically based on PowerPoint and uses audio and maybe one short assessment. You push a button and it is published to the web, in a trackable AICC format. A great tool set for this solutions is Macromedia Breeze – which is a complete “rapid e-learning tool.” Others which fall into this category are Webinar tools like Centra, Interwise, and Webex. In this model the SME can do much of the authoring, and the program can be built quickly and edited easily. Small is beautiful and simpler is better.”

What should people watch out for?

“People often say that Content is King, as if that’s the only tough nut to crack. We agree that it’s vital to have content that’s interesting and on the mark. But in our research we find that success requires much more. Content goes nowhere unless you have an entire program around it — (we call it “program management”). This means worrying about program launch, marketing, infrastructure, audience motivation, manager motivation, change management, and business process integration. These processes are unique in e-learning because of the scale and technology issues involved. We find that the total cost and investment in e-learning is probably only 20% content. A king is not much use if you don’t have the kingdom to go with him.”

You and Chris and Karen are busy as beavers. When we’ve met recently, customers are inundating you with calls. In contrast, with the recession I’ve found myself with open spaces on my dance card. I have “excess capacity” for promoting products and ideas. How are you positioning Bersin & Associates?

“Well the simple answer is that we focus on what works™. Our goal is to continuously identify, research, analyze, and communicate best practices. ”

“The eLearning world is evolving so rapidly that you won’t find best practices in a book. Books are obsolete the day they are published. We talk with practitioners all day. We’re all former practitioners ourselves. We find out about best practices from the people who are inventing them and we analyze the impact. Then we share what we’ve found.”

There’s still a lot of confusing and hand wringing over LMS. You’ve developed them. Any advice for buyers?

“Caveat emptor. LMS systems are complex – far more complex than order processing or financial systems. Why? Because training is a very custom application from company to company and problem to problem. As a result, LMS’s are riddled with features which most companies do not use.

It’s vital for both buyer and LMS vendor to understand the business requirements – meaning the specific application workflows which you need the LMS to enable. Because of the history of the vendors, the products are wildly different from one another. Some grew from a “for-profit” training background, some grew out of “assessment systems,” others grew from “classroom management systems,” and others grew up focused on “content management.” The list goes on. We advise buyers to think through the business applications they are solving (not just “publishing a course catalog”), consider the features and workflows that enable those applications and then come up with a short list of providers, three or four. If the vendors don’t have at least fifty customers, cut them. Walk through business process with them. Ask whether they can do this or that. Then get hands-on demos and see if the product does what you need.”

Help us understand some of the differences. What’s the DNA of the prime LMS vendors? Where are they coming from?

“Well I want to be fair and equitable here. Click2learn comes from a content development background; they’re strong in content management and deployment. Plateau is strong in certification and flexible technology architecture, this has been their focus. Saba was originally designed to deliver for-profit training, which by definition is not behind the firewall – and they have added features for corporate universities over time. Docent’s legacy is in the assessment area, and now are heavily focused on analytics and measurement. In our recent surveys we asked more than 5,000 people “what was the business issue that drove the purchase of the LMS” and for the first time the #1 answer was “centralizing information about all of our training so we can make decisions.” This means that one of the critical value propositions of the LMS is reporting and analytics – an area I am very focused on. Saba and Docent each have strong analytics, and this will become increasingly important over time.”

What advice do you have for eLearning practitioners?

“Don’t get too far ahead of the curve. We advise companies to use what’s tried and true. Let the other guys take the arrows from pioneering.”

“Figure out how to integrate live eLearning in a big way. Bandwidth is getting cheaper. If someone’s not doing in-house webinars, they’ve missed some low-hanging fruit.”

“Centralized training units must figure out how to provide exactly what their business units need and no more. Otherwise, they’ll hear the frequent refrain that ‘We’re not using any of this stuff. Let’s outsource the entire function.’”

Posted by Jay Cross at 08:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 01, 2003

Leonardo's Laptop

I’m reading Leonardo’s Laptop by Ben Shneiderman. Ben was a fellow keynoter at the I-KNOW Conference in Graz earlier this year.

The big message is “Computing today is about what computers can do; the new computing will be about what people can do.”

Leonardo da Vinci excelled in science and art, as he detailed in the notebooks he always carried. Today he’d carry a tablet computer of some sort. The book looks at computing in learning, business, healthcare, and government, always asking What would Leonardo do?

The old computing was about mastering technology. Remember when people talked about how big their hard drives were or the clock speed of their processor chips? The new computing is about getting people together. We’ve gone from formulating database queries to participating in communities of practice. Teachers no longer teach; they guide. Sales people don’t sell; they form relationships. Shneiderman says “This Copernican shift is bringing concerns about users from the periphery to the center. The emerging focus is on what users want to do in their lives.”

I agree that “The new computing is about collaboration and empowerment—individually, organizationally, and societally,” but it’s also the way the world is starting to work. The computing is a reflection of the users rather than some new invention.

Great line: “The shift in attention is from AI to UI.” From artificial intelligence to user interface. The UI is “you” and “I.” The desired outcome is not a HAL 9000 that replaces man; it’s more like the old Outer Limits punchline: “To serve man.”

Shneiderman posits a universal creative process:


Then he sets up four tiers of relationships

SelfFamily and friendsColleaguesCitizens

He puts these into a grid: an activites and relationships table (ART). Seeing how the cells play out in learning, business, government, and medicine fill most of the rest of the text.

Family and friends

“Memorizing dates for Napolenon’s rule, names of the U.S. presidents, or rivers of Africa is less relevant in an age of ubiguqitous information. The new education accenturates critical thinking, analytical strategies, and working with people. This goals are tied to improving communication skills and creative problem solving.”

“The case for active learning was boldly stated in 1971 by the Canadian educator Wilard Wees in his aptly titled book Nobody Can Teach Anybody Anything:
bq.Whatever knowledge children gain they creat themselves;
whatever character they develop they create themselves.

“I’ve come to see that the sound of learning is not my voice lecturing but the buzz of team discussions during a collaborative exercise.”

“Asking a good question is one of the golden keys to learning. Educational psychologists talk about meta-cognitive skills: the capacity of students to reflect on what they know and what they don’t know.”

The old business was about making a profit; the new business is about making a profit.

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 26, 2003

The Future of Knowledge

The Future of Knowledge: Increasing Prosperity through Value Networks
by Verna Allee

"Why are you reading something called The Future of Knoweldge?" asked my wife. "You are supposed to be on vacation, remember?" I replied that I was thoroughly enjoying myself, and indeed I was.

Verna's concepts around knowledge and the way I think about learning are completely in sync, but Verna has pushed the envelope further than I have, expanding the arena to include sustaining the earth.

These are my notes. Most are direct quotes from the book although a few of my own thoughts are scrambled in, and sometimes I've shortened or rearranged the original. I encourage you to buy the book; at $20, it's cheap.

"There is really only one management question: What do we need to pay attention to in order to be successful?" Similarly, there is only one individual question: What do I need to pay attention to in order to be successful?

Awareness of how we create our shared social reality is the most important aspect of business life we will need to learn for a successful future. (So say Nonaka, Senge, Varela, de Geus, and others)

  • Businesses are evolving into the patterns of living systems. The meta-level learning that we are all engaged in is learning to work with network principles. Decision making and knowledge creation are not rational processes, but social processes.

  • Now it is as important for managers to work as deliberately to improve the quality of knowledge and learning as it is to improve the quality of products and services. Indeed, in this economy they are often one and the same.

  • Networks are the natural pattern of organization in living systems. They are the pattern of social systems and the natural pattern of business relationships as well.

  • Our present accounting methods were developed during the Renaissance, and most of our management practices come from bureaucratic and military models that have dominated management practice for decades. These vestiges of the old order are obsolete.

  • Decisions are moving from corporate headquarters out to individual business units. Business units in turn are distributing power and decision making to self-managed teams and profit centers. Workers who used to be tucked snug inside corporate walls are roaming the roads and working from home. The action is at the edges.

  Early industrial Industrial Age Knowledge Era
Management focus Plan, organize, control Vision, values, empowerment Emergence, integrity, relationships
Structured around Functions Processes Systems
Social structure Individual tasks Work & project teams Communities
Strategic resource Raw materials Financial capital Knowledge & intangibles
Worldview Descartes, Newton, mechanical Ford, Taylor, efficient, engineering Complexity, systems theory, living systems.

When something is truly complex, all the parts work together in such a way that the whole cannot be divided without losing its integrity--and the parts also lose their integrity when separated from the whole. When you cut a cow in half you don't get two cows. You get a mess.

Every conversation is an experiment in knowledge creation/testing ideas, trying out words and concepts, continuously creating and re-creating our experience of life itself. As people move beyond routine processes into more complex challenges, they rely heavily on their colleagues and friends as thinking partners.

Verna's value mapping process:

  • Intangibles: Human capital, external capital, structural capital; Values
  • Exchange analysis, impact analysis, value creation analysis
  • Holistic model puts people back in.

With too much structure organizations can't move. With too little, they disintegrate or fly apart. Companies that have learned to keep that edge--that fine balance between tight and loose?are at their most alive, creative, and adaptable. Systems adapt best if they are only partly connected.

A business school professor once instructed me, tongue in cheek, that "Everything comes in three's." Usually, this holds true. The first columns below are Verna's. I added Bloom and my shorthand for Bloom.

Learning tools Networks timeframe individual Bloom
Operational eLearning, newsfeeds, search technology Immediate Hands Psycho-motor
Tactical Community, stories, collaboration knowledge Soon Head Cognitive
Strategic Scenarios, system maps, dialog value Future Heart Affective

Check out Verna's site. And you thought "bookkeeping" was the only word with three double-letters in a row, didn't you? www.vern aa ll ee .com

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Against School

Against School, How public education cripples our kids and why
John Taylor Gatto
Harper's Magazine, September 2003 [not available online]

We live in tumultous times. The citizenry is not in open revolt, and we don't have guillotines in the streets, but take it from me, there's a revolution going on.

Consider: Intellectual capital is now worth more than plant and equipment. Industrial-age management no longer works. Networks are replacing hierarchy. Cycles are more frequent and more volatile. Cooperation edges out competition. Innovation trumps efficiency. Flexibility beats might. Everything's global.

The past no longer illuminates the future. Yesterday's solutions won't solve tomorrow's problems. We need fresh thinking. Zero-based philosophy. A new page. And that's why it is sensible to listen to dissidents.

John Taylor Gatto is an award-winning school teacher who decided that compulsory schooling is what's wrong with our nation's educational system. Tom Jefferson and Abe Lincoln did okay without it, as do millions of home-schoolers today.

Gatto has a marvellous, rabble-rousing website. Read his five-page lead essay in Harper's. You won't be able to resist going to his site for more.

    "Boredom was everywhere in my world, and if you asked the kids, as I often did, why they felt so bored, they always gave the same answers: They said the work was stupid, that it made no sense, that they already knew it. They said they wanted to be doing something real, not just sitting around. They said teachers didn't seem to know much about their subjects and clearly weren?t interested in learning more. And the kids were right: their teachers were every bit as bored as they were."

    "...the Prussian system was useful in creating not only a harmless electorate and a servile labor force but also a virtual herd of mindless consumers."

    Woodrow Wilson, in 1909, said, "We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."

Cloister the children, strip them of responsibility and independence, and they will never grow up.

Use this failed model as the blueprint for training adults, and they will never learn.

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Personalized learning

Today several of us hosted an online conversation on the topic of personalized learning.

Click "There's more" below for the results of the pre-event survey.

If you're a prize winner, select the report you'd like to receive from the Center for Enterprise eLearning Excellence and email your choice to [email protected]

If you have questions about personalized learning, please enter them as a comment below.

When the recording of the event is available, I'll post the URL here.

Personalized Learning Survey




"Mass customization" was an early promise of eLearning. How important is personalization to learning outcomes?

Makes no difference  1.


Minimal importance  2. 1 1%
Mildly important  3. 13 18%
Makes a difference  4. 38 51%
Very important  5. 22 30%
  74 100%



[Software] How important is it to adapt to what the learner has already mastered? To avoid redundancy?

Not important  1.


  2. 2 3%
Important  3. 9 12%
  4. 23 31%
Very important  5. 40 54%
  74 100%



[Software] How important is it to enable the learner to make annotations, highlight text, and create bookmarks? To "dogear" pages to be able to find them again?

Not important  1.


  2. 5 7%
Important  3. 27 36%
  4. 17 23%
Very important  5. 24 32%
  74 100%



[Software] How important is it for learners to be able to share notes, annotations, and content excerpts with peers and fellow learners?

Not important  1.


  2. 15 21%
Important  3. 25 34%
  4. 16 22%
Very important  5. 14 19%
  73 100%



[Software] How important is it to prescribe and deliver content based on a worker's job requirements and competencies?

Not important  1.


  2. 0 0%
Important  3. 11 15%
  4. 19 26%
Very important  5. 43 59%
  73 100%



[Services] How important is it to supplement online content with online collaboration, i.e. the ability to study, experiment, and learn with peers?

Not important  1.


  2. 3 4%
Important  3. 27 37%
  4. 15 21%
Very important  5. 26 36%
  73 100%



[Services] How important is it to provide a live mentor or learning coach to answer questions and help learners over rough spots?

Not important  1.


  2. 10 14%
Important  3. 22 30%
  4. 20 27%
Very important  5. 19 26%
  73 100%



Which of the following are part of your organization's current eLearning environment?

Adapt to prior learning and proficiency


Take personal notes & annotations 17 27%
Share annotations & selected content 12 19%
Automatically tie to competencies & job requirements 24 39%
Provide mentors and learning coaches 26 42%
Facilitate peer-to-peer collaboration 26 42%
Posted by Jay Cross at 12:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 24, 2003

Email bombs

Grrr. I'm connected to the net with my laptop and a modem today, so I'm more conscious of download speeds and hassles than usual. The SoBig worm arrived just as I was leaving on this trip, so I didn't have time to innoculate my computers. Hence I am using webmail (via Horde). I've been getting 150 virus-generated emails a day. Re: Wicked Screensaver, Re: Your Report, etc.

Email, until recently the easiest networking tool of all, has become a pain in the ass. Once a tool for everyone, now it requires a specialist to explain worms and viruses, Symantec vs. McAfee, updated definitions, disinfection, and why an email from Aunt Tilly may have been sent by a cyber-terrorist spoofing Aunt Tilly. In an instant, you could lose the photos of the grandkids, last year's income tax figures, and the beginning of the Great American Novel. Opening email has all the thrills of walking alone in a dark corner of Central Park at 3:00 am.

eLearning relies on email for scheduling, assignments, announcements, and peer networking. Once upon a time, email seemed more reliable than snail mail. No longer. If an incoming email makes it through my Spam filters, it can still get lost among the junk that still gets to my email box. What's the world to do? Return to copy machines and paper memos?

Maybe the "e" stands for "entropy."

Posted by Jay Cross at 07:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 18, 2003

Level 4, forever out of reach

Einstein said, "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them," e.g. if you think only in training terms, you'll never attain Level 4.

Other Einstein thoughts relevant to Training ROI:

  • Imagination is more important than knowledge.
  • A perfection of means, and confusion of aims, seems to be our main problem.
  • Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler.
  • People love chopping wood. In this activity one immediately sees results.
  • Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
  • The road to perdition has ever been accompanied by lip service to an ideal.
  • There comes a time when the mind takes a higher plane of knowledge but can never prove how it got there.

Which brings me to a posting on ROInet by one Phil Rutherford, who wrote me, "Please feel free to re-post my mental wanderings. A lot of my current thinking is actually coming out of my PhD research coupled with nearly a decade of experience trying to get management more interested in the domain that trainers for so long have claimed for their own, but which is clearly belonging to managers. "

Take it away, Phil.

From: "Phil Rutherford" Date: Fri Aug 1, 2003 Subject: Re: [ROInet]

...I for one share your frustrations and hope I'm not being too bold in offering what I've found to be one solution.

You talk about the problem of transference between training and on-the-job performance, and this is something that I grappled with for many years until I realized that by training alone I didn't have a hope in Hades of influencing what they would do when they got back to work. The truth is that training was actually only a very minor part of my wider responsibility when it comes to bringing about change in the workplace, and done wrongly it actually worked against change. But more on that shortly.

In my opinion the heart of the problem with transferability centers on the fact that much of the training is not based on what the people need to be able to do on the job. In simple terms, what I have found is that trainers generally spend a great deal of time concentrating on what they are going to provide, and use this as the basis upon which their effectiveness is measured, and overlook what the customer wants to buy and what they will, at the end of the day, actually measure the trainer's effectiveness by.

For example, in a stationery store I might sell someone a pen but what the client is actually buying is a means for communicating. I can wax lyrical all day about the beauty of the pen but if all they need to buy is something to scribble their lotto numbers out with then I'm wasting my time. When it comes to measuring how effective I am at my job, or how well I'm meeting the client's needs, if I'm trying to justify my position by the beauty of my pens when in fact I'm being measured, by others, for how well I'm providing them with the means to communicate then we are never going to have an agreement on how well I'm doing. In fact, if the store is more akin to a supermarket then a specialty store, and customers can walk around picking out what they want and taking it to the cash register (exactly the way some training centers are run) then some are actually going to question whether or not I'm needed at all if all I can use to measure my effectiveness is the beauty of my pens.

In this day and age most people already know how to write and can do so using anything from a gold-plated Parker pen to a stick dipped in ground-up clay. So, rather than concentrating on trying to get people to write using our preferred writing tool we should move a bit further along the continuum and find out what they need to write and what they would need to do if what they wrote was wrong. Here we are moving into the world of what they intend to do with the skills/tools rather than the skills/tools themselves. Anyone can provide the skills/tools (sorry folks - the world is full of trainers/stationery store attendants), but not everyone can work at the next step in the continuum and help people apply them.

By way of example, I would venture to suggest that one of the main problems you had with your particular leadership program in SA (and it is fairly clear which one you're talking about) is that it is almost entirely theory based and trainer driven (ie, pedagogical). This fact that has been more than done to death on other lists so there's not much to be gained in denying this. Sure, it has been around for a while and has some very special videos, wallcharts and handouts, and is in fact a trainer's dream when it comes to running a nice little training program, but very little of it is based on what actually occurs in the workplace What you needed was a more practical and reality based model such as John Adair's Functional Approach which has been shown to work simply because it doesn't rely on theory. More importantly, such an approach actually relates to what happens in the workplace when people apply their leadership skills.

I'm not talking simply about coaching and mentoring here. I am, in fact, still wearing my trainer's hat. What I'm talking about is not teaching people what we want them to learn (usually 'cos it is easy for us) but teaching them how to learn for themselves what it is that they need to know, the issues they will face when learning what it is that they need to know, and how to overcome them. By teaching them to be more independent and effective on the job we are actually working alongside them at a point when our effectiveness is much clearer.

What helped for me was to separate training and learning. Training and learning in the training room happened when I told/showed people what to do and they learned to do it (the way I told/showed it). While I could successfully run a barrage of tests that proved they knew how to do 'it' in the training room, the real problem was they still needed to learn how to do 'it' back in the workplace. And so often I (and, I dare say, we) left them alone to figure this out for themselves.

Your mention of Skinner and the relationship between training and behaviorism reminded me of the research I've been conducting over the past ten years. I'm in my final year of a PhD and would like to share a couple of paragraphs from my thesis that demonstrate where my thinking now is:

"Most commentators (such as Somerville 2000:35, Smith 1998:143-147, Bowden & Masters 1993:20, Bowden undated:3, Merriam & Caffarella 1991:128, Bass & Ryterband 1979:46, Galloway 1976:80) agree that competency-based training is drawn predominantly from the behaviorist field and, when used to support off-the-job training and individual development it leans very heavily towards the behaviorist traditions. Such traditions include the classical or stimulus-response theories of Watson and Pavlov and the concept of instrumental or operant conditioning of Thorndike and Skinner.

On the other hand, there is considerable evidence (see for example Brantley 2000 and Brown 1998) that the application of competency-based training on-the-job and in the pursuit of work-related objectives is more closely aligned to the cognitive and developmental perspectives of Piaget and Dewey, the cultural and interactional aspects of Vigotsky and Bruner, and the mental models and schema of modern management systems theorists such as Senge and de Geus.

Other theories, according to Stacey (2001:41), go even further and suggest that such an approach centers on a constructivist teleology (i.e., knowledge as a cause of learning rather than as a result) in which knowledge and meaning are constructed and continually grow from the social interactions that take place at work. This, according to the theorists, is how learning occurs on the job and organizations grow as a result of it."

When we link pedagogical behaviorism to training we're generally talking about training that is aimed at achieving learning or training objectives (and usually off-the-job) and not organizational objectives. This is the training/learning that we (the trainers) drive. On the other hand, when we look at achieving organizational objectives (and this has got to include having people apply new skills and knowledge in order to develop and grow with the job) then we have got to think about workplace andragogy, in other words learning that is driven by the trainees - in the workplace and in line with their workplace needs.

I would suggest that much of your frustration comes from concentrating too much on the behaviorist approach to training rather than the constructivist approach to learning. After all, ROI is not so much about how well you have trained but about how well people have learned and, more importantly, do on the job.

Finally, we say that people don't apply any newfound skills and knowledge on their return to work because their attitude is wrong or because of a whole host of other reasons, and it is because of these reasons that we can't prove how effective we've been. I agree with your sentiments on accountability, but to me your example was a little like telling a parent telling a child that "We've spent $1000 on your teeth and here you are eating candy!" What I say is that we have been providing a service for people that they don't always need because we are concentrating on how to make our lives easier and not theirs. The problem is, they are the one's who measure our effectiveness so if we're not meeting their needs then it will be that much harder for them to accept that we can have any impact on them at all. (Yes, I agree with your suggestion that staff can provide evidence of the manager's competence. We just need to get right the criteria by which such competence is measured.)

Just a few thoughts.


Phil Rutherford

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

News Release

Enterprise Suites Will Absorb eLearning, Study Finds

Standalone eLearning Doesn?t Work in a Zero-latency Environment

Berkeley, California, August 20, 2003
Work and learning are rapidly converging, according to research released today by Internet Time Group.

"Enterprise technology is in the midst of an accelerating process of integration and convergence. Previously distinct product categories are being assimilated into integrated enterprise application suites. SAP, IBM, Oracle, Sun, Siebel and PeopleSoft all added eLearning to their suites in the last year."

So says Sam Adkins, author of "Simulation in the Enterprise," the 375-page roadmap to the next wave of eLearning released today.

Adkins foresees three watershed developments in learning:

  1. Migration away from courseware as a corporate performance improvement method
  2. Fusion of skills, knowledge and affective learning in workflow applications
  3. Integration of contextual collaboration and Web Services technologies with learning technology

"Courses are nearly dead. Real-time learning is starting to support getting the job done. Workers will learn what they need when they need it," says Jay Cross, Adkins? publisher and CEO of Internet Time Group. "This is not science fiction; it?s happening right now," he says."Standalone eLearning?s heyday is over."

This summer, Sam and Jay talked with an unlikely group of panelists in a session of the eLearning Forum. For the first time anywhere, the major enterprise vendors (e.g., PeopleSoft, Oracle, Sun, Siebel, SAP) and the top LMS vendors (e.g. Docent, Saba, Plateau, Click2Learn, etc.) came together under one roof to discuss the future of eLearning in the extended enterprise. The issue was not whether eLearning would be integrated into enterprise systems, but how soon; it wasn't whether LMS would become enmeshed in enterprise webs but how.

Author Sam Adkins is well-positioned to see the big picture. In his eight years at Microsoft, he worked with the leading research vendors in the industry. He forecast training channel trends and performed advanced product research on nascent developments with the potential to impact the elearning market. Previously, Sam built the world's first commercial online university, known as the Microsoft Online Institute.

Adkins' extensive new reports map the correspondences between enterprise technology, instructional simulation, learning design, Balanced Scorecard, Six Sigma and ISO9001:2000.

He describes why integrated business application suites are superior to point solutions. These suites contain not only eLearning but also business process management, business intelligence, content management and, increasingly, live collaboration.

Chief Learning Officers will see many new names popping up as specialty software companies demo new products that use simulation, workflow, and collaboration to improve human performance.

Content management vendors are buying collaboration companies. Enterprise vendors are bulking up by acquiring performance support, simulation and virtual classroom capabilities. Workflow by-products include interactive manuals, business process demonstrations, coaching inside applications, and even virtual workers and environments that collaborate in what is now called WorkSpace (what the military calls BattleSpace).

Structured knowledge management and expertise mining add Workflow-based eLearning, Workforce Analytics, and a range of new innovations to the mix.

The reports single out a select group of companies as "pioneers of innovation:" IBM, Sun, Oracle, SAP, Siebel, Microsoft, PeopleSoft, Knowledge Impact, Nobilis, VCampus, Element K, Teamplate, Ultimus, Lombardi, XStream, Knowledge Products, and Hyperwave. Standalone profiles of each highlight their extraordinary products and their likely role in the extended eLearning environment.

In today's economic climate, customers demand immediate, measurable and observable workforce improvement results (concepts familiar to both performance technologists and CFOs). As a result, says Sam, "Corporate learning is finally being recognized as a business process. It will be monitored, measured, and managed like any other business process."

"Level four and nothing but level four," says Jay. "Sam and I are canaries in the coal mine. We?re fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time to glimpse the future. Our mission is to help bring it to fruition."

The two offer free white papers, articles, and an overview of their research at the newly established Center for Expertise Learning Excellence online at www.internettime.com.

An annual, single-reader subscription to the full Simulation in the Enterprise series is $750. Individual reports are available for $250.

About Internet Time Group

Internet Time Group helps organizations improve the performance of their people by speeding up their learning. Founder Jay Cross designed the University of Phoenix's first business degree program. He converted a startup into an Inc 500 winner, training a million professionals to make sound decisions and sell services. He is CEO of eLearning Forum, an 1800-member think tank and advocacy group, and author of Implementing eLearning.

Center for Excellence in Enterprise Learning

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Marc Rosenberg passed along this tidbit from the Arizona Republic:

Phoenix-based Corpedia Inc., which signed deals with management gurus Peter Drucker and Tom Peters, says its business leadership titles are a weak spot these days. The company also got stiffed for $50,000 when Enron Corp. signed a deal for ethics training and went bankrupt a week later, Chief Executive Officer Alex Bingham said.

The good news is that the legal fallout from Enron helped make Corpedia's compliance training programs the biggest part of its sales today, he said.

My email to the reporter:


Hi. I'm CEO of eLearning Forum, a 1800-member nonprofit eLearning advocacy organization.

You picked the wrong bright spot! Those ASTD statistics are several years out of date and do not reflect the current situation. Last week the CEO of ASTD resigned "to pursue other opportunities."

The really bright spots are under the radar, the in-house programs that don't show up in vendor stories and most industry surveys. Industry is not buying new stuff so much as they are applying what they already bought.

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Lance & Jay Show

ASTD and WebEx are offering a passel of free seminars over the next few months. Only one will be led by the dynamic duo of Lance and Jay. Mark your calendars! Register now! You don't want to miss this one. See Jay and Lance as you've never seen them before, live from their Northern California habitat.

Wednesday, 10/08 11am Pacific, 2pm Eastern

The first twenty registrants will receive a free copy of Implementing eLearning.

Click here to score your copy of the Implementing eLearning Action Plan Template.

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:47 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 17, 2003

Ten tips from Jane Knight

My friend Jane Knight is the founder of and driving force behind the e-Learning Centre.

    The e-Learning Centre Information site contains links to thousands of selected and reviewed e-learning articles, white papers, research reports; examples of e-learning solutions; vendors of e-learning content, technology and services; as well as  e-learning conferences, seminars, workshops and other e-learning events. The main focus is on adult e-learning, i.e. e-learning in the workplace, in Higher Education and in continuing professional development. The e-Learning Centre Services business offers a range of independent e-learning consultancy services to both Higher Education and corporates.

Remember the old Volkswagen commercial that pictured a Beetle cutting a path through virgin snow and asked "Have you ever wondered how the man who drives the snowplow gets to the snowplow?"

Well, if you've ever wondered where I go when I'm stuck for guidance on an eLearning topic, it's e-Learning Centre. Jane's site is my online learning thesaurus. I don't mean it's a book of words; I am referring back to the original meaning of thesaurus, "treasure house." She picks the crème de la crème. Here, for example, are ten things you must know about eLearning.

Top ten tips for implementing e-learning

by Jane Knight



E-learning is more than just e-training
Most training in organisations still takes place on a very formal basis using the traditional training object - the 'course'. However, it is now well recognised that something like 70% of learning actually takes place informally in organisations, i.e. not in the classroom nor working through an online course, but in everyday working life as employees carry out their jobs - finding out information, reading documents, talking to other colleagues etc. It is these kinds of informal learning activities that need to be supported and encouraged online. E-learning is therefore not just about e-training but also about information, communication, collaboration, performance support and knowledge sharing.



'Quick and dirty' works
Complex, sophisticated, interactive, instructional, multimedia e-learning costs money, takes a long time to build, and may well be out of date by the time it reaches the desktop. In many cases, a simpler solution is more useful since it allows you to respond more quickly and appropriately to a learning need. Consider the provision of just-in-time, bite-sized learning solutions, like an online presentation or job aid instead of an all-singing, all-dancing online course.



Communication and collaboration are the key
It must also not be forgotten that learning is a social activity, and that you can often provide a far more powerful and enduring learning experience through the use of online communities and networks and by encouraging collaboration between learners than you can by placing lots of content online. Make sure you provide opportunities for people to communicate, collaborate and share their knowledge.



The magic is in the mix
More formal learning solutions often work best when they combine a mix of online solutions with traditional, face-to-face activities to create a 'blended' solution. This can provide a more complete and varied learning experience for those who need to work through a learning programme over a period of time.



Learning should be driven by the needs of the individual
Find out what people need to learn for their jobs and how, where and when they want to learn it. Then build learning solutions that meet those needs. Encourage employees to become self-directed and self-sufficient learners - to take responsibility for their own learning - and to help drive the development of e-learning.



If you build it, they won't necessarily use it
Just because you've created some very engaging and compelling e-learning solutions, don't expect learners to come rushing to use them. You will need to overcome some of the organisational and personal barriers to learners' 'buy in' and 'take up' of e-learning. They need to see e-learning as something that truly benefits them and fits their way of learning.



E-learning needs to be tailored to the organisation
There is no magic formula for designing e-learning within an organisation; it will look different in each organisation. It should be tailored to the business objectives, the organisational culture, what employees want to learn and to the personal learning style. By addressing these factors, you will be able to create the most appropriate e-learning solutions for your organisation.



E-learning is a business solution
A well designed e-learning strategy needs to be firmly aligned with business objectives, e.g. increasing productivity or sales, or improving customer loyalty. Many organisations are still overly concerned with the numbers of people being trained, and whether employees have worked through every page of a course or passed all the tests. At the end of the day, it's not about how much employees have learnt, it's about how they¹ve applied their learning, and how the performance of the individual and ultimately the organisation has improved. E-learning, just like learning itself, is a means to an end, not the end itself.



Coordinate your e-learning efforts
HR, IT and the business units need to work together to create an effective e-learning environment. Many organisations have found that different parts of the business have been sold competing solutions by different vendors. There needs to be some central control over the selection of e-learning systems to ensure that purchasing decisions can be justified across the organisation.



Just do it!
Finally, many organisations are spending too long getting going with their e-learning plans. They want to know whether or not something is going to work before they engage in it. The best advice I can offer is: Start small, think big and have a planned approach - but just get started!


Editorial offices of eLearning Centre, Upper Swell, The Cotswolds
Posted by Jay Cross at 12:44 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 15, 2003

KM and Learning: Separated at Birth?

Seventy people attended this morning's eLearning Forum to discuss the convergence, or lack of same, of Knowledge Management and eLearning, fifty of us in a conference room in Redwood Shores and the remainder participating via Interwise.

I kicked things off with a few observations:

  • The Glossary on my site defines knowledge management as "whatever you want it to be."
  • The director of a knowledge management institute in Europe told me he expected KM and eLearning to converge in three years. I suggested we start right now.
  • IBM's Larry Pruzak says the smokers standing outside an office are a great catalyst to grassroots KM: they come from all ranks and departments, and and are free to talk about whatever comes to mind.
  • "Information is not instruction," says Dr. David Merrill. So KM is not eLearning. So what? If it gets the job done, why does what we call it matter?
  • Why are KM and eLearning generally cast in adversarial rather than cooperative roles?

Several of us plan to write articles on what we heard today. Soon, notes and pictures will appear on eLearning Forum's website.

In the wrap-up, I contributed a new meme to the KM toolkit: Virtual Smokers. You don't have to ruin your lungs to talk with people in other departments and at other levels.

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 13, 2003

So long, Tina

Dear Colleagues:

This is to inform you that I will be resigning from ASTD to pursue other opportunities, effective November 1, 2003.

I leave with a sense of pride in what all of us, together, have accomplished these past few years. Most of all, I feel especially fortunate to have been associated with so many extraordinary individuals who are dedicated to this remarkable profession. I will miss the personal contact with all of you who have been both my colleagues and my inspiration.

I’ve had the good fortune to have met with many of you in locations around the world. What I saw was a community of people -- highly skilled, volunteering, reaching out, giving selflessly of themselves. If any group of people could be a model for the world, you are it. As I’ve said many times, you are truly special!

I want to thank you for all you’ve done and the support you’ve provided. It’s been a remarkable experience, a voyage of discovery, and one that I’ve enjoyed tremendously. It’s been a privilege to know you, to work with you, and to have shared this journey with you. I wish you all continued success.


Tina Sung

I couldn't find anything on Matt Drudge or National Inquirer Online. Anyone got the gossip on what this means?
Leave a comment.

Posted by Jay Cross at 04:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 08, 2003

Long term or short?

Darwin, August 1, 2003

Mastering the Training Balancing Act


COMPANIES NEED TO better balance the demands of short-term goals with employees' needs for long-term professional development. The challenge for businesses is to weigh their employees' needs for training to keep skills fresh while watching money spent on training walk out the door when the employee takes another job.

Although the lack of career development opportunities was high on the list of reasons people leave their jobs in one Gartner study, less than half of those companies offered adequate career development. In another study, only 28 percent of employees said they were satisfied with educational and job training programs, and 22 percent were satisfied with promotion policies. Only 28 percent of the companies had established formal career development processes.

We've deal with this one before. The article quotes a manager who laments:

"However, because employees are less loyal than in the past, we are finding that we are training people well who have no problem moving to a new company or industry with the skills we've trained them in. That is causing us to rethink how much training these new recruits get and how quickly we give them all we've got. We will train them well enough to do well and let them earn more training opportunities as rewards."

Letting people learn enough to do well sounds like a winner to me. Taken to extremes, however, it backfires. Bankers have told me about withholding training mainly to keep others from poaching their tellers. Geez. They could extend that to hiring, too. Only offer jobs to people so incompetent that nobody else would ever want them.

As to the article in Darwin, the companies discussed would be better served by making their organizations more enjoyable places to work. I bet there's a high correlation between poor career development plans, dysfunctional reward systems, inadequate job descriptions, unclear objectives, heavy-handed top-down control, and turnover.

Posted by Jay Cross at 07:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

KM Update

My Knowledge Management Reference page has been updated. The convergence of KM and eLearning (or lack of same) is the topic of the August 15 meeting of eLearning Forum which will be held at Oracle.

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:59 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 06, 2003

Eating our own dogfood

Throughout most of 2000, SmartForce was among my marketing clients. I wrote white papers, customer newsletters, and sales presentations on eLearning, and gathered market intelligence. SmartForce occupied the former NeXT headquarters on the Bay in Redwood City. Several times a week I'd struggle with the traffic on Highway 101 to make my way home in Berkeley.

In September or October of that year, a large sign sprouted up alongside 101, stating that Oracle had saved $1 billion by using its own products. Personally, I wondered how Oracle had been able to overlook this spare billion until now, given the nature of its business and its take-no-prisoners leader. Several SmartForce executives wondered what level of benefits we could claim from using our products. I took the challenge. The result appears on the next page.

eLearning boosts revenue by $10 million annually, slashes expenses by $4 million

November 2000

On October 19, 1999, two thousand employees of CBT Systems gathered in offices around the world to participate in a webcast from the firm"s headquarters. Unbeknownst to them, workers outside the offices were simultaneously hanging signs heralding the firm"s new name, SmartForce, the eLearning Company.

The new identify was the tip of the iceberg. The firm was reinventing itself as an e-Business. SmartForce had invested $50 million developing an eLearning ecosystem for the future. IDC recognized SmartForce as the world"s largest eLearning company.

Sales Issues

The salespeople of fourteen year-old CBT Systems were accustomed to selling the firm"s library of CD-ROM and LAN-based IT skills training programs to Fortune 2000 firms. Several hundred reps personally called on senior management, offering a value proposition of low cost, volume discount, fresh content, and single-source accountability. The firm recruited experienced veterans who had earned their spurs at IBM, Xerox, and other traditional bastions of high-performing sales professionals.

The reinvention of the old training company into an eLearning company turned the tables upside down for the sales force. Overnight, they had to switch from selling products to selling solutions. From delivering multimedia training run behind the firewall to providing round-the-clock Internet-based services on a hosted basis. Basic product categories were blown away. A real-time database of more than 20,000 learning objects replaced the former library. Personalized learning paths replaced courses. Like many a business reborn into the new economy, the sales people of SmartForce had to learn new products, new approaches, new presentations " an entire new industry " in order to share the eLearning vision with their customers.

Sales training before eLearning

Two years ago, it took a newly hired sales person nine months to a year to get fully up to speed. For one thing, the firm offered more than a thousand different training programs. Partnerships with Microsoft, Intel, Novell, Cisco, and other industry titans, enabled the company to often be first to market with training in new technologies, so the library of programs was forever growing.

Introductory new hire sales training was accomplished through two instructor-led workshops, eleven days in total, at the company headquarters in Redwood City, California. The sequence of workshops was conducted twice annually. All salespeople attend national, regional, and area meetings for new product introductions and renewal training.

With the sales force adding fifty new people a year, the instructor-led training was at capacity. Management wanted to accelerate growth of the sales force but expanding new-hire sales training would require adding both staff and facilities.

Also, sales managers were reluctant to take people out of the field for the sales meetings or training sessions because it interrupts the flow of business and cuts productivity.

Eating their own cooking

Senior management summed up the situation as,

  • "Our past track-record of 40% annual growth continues. Carrying out our mission requires more and more sales people. We need a sales development process that scales with our business."
  • "We must accelerate the development of new hires. It takes too long to make them fully productive."
  • "We must become more nimble in responding to changing market conditions."
  • "Sales people need to work with one another on global accounts, practicing new presentations, keeping up with the industry " with a torrent of new information."
  • "The major sales conferences are great for morale but don"t suffice for late-breaking news and coordination. We can no longer hold up announcements for the next meeting " which might be six months out."
  • "The instructor-led sessions overwhelm new hires, trying to stuff so much new information into their heads that it pours out of their ears."

Given these conditions, one would expect SmartForce to have adopted the obvious solution " eLearning " right off the bat. This didn"t happen. Creating the infrastructure to support eLearning at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, Dell, Lucent, and other major customers was Job 1. Implementing eLearning internally was Job 2. Job 1 pushed Job 2 out of the picture until the middle of 2000.

eLearning for the sales force

The sales team at SmartForce is adopting eLearning incrementally. New product announcements, expert guidance, and presentations are provided in virtual classrooms. Web-based training modules teach skills that support sales " the Sales Force Automation system, mastering productivity software, even using the in-house email system. Custom modules are being rolled out in text, as instructional objects, and via virtual collaboration. All current reference information is online, covering everything from product specifications and pricing to competitive updates, case studies, presentations, white papers, success stories, delivery dates, press coverage, sales tips, to who-to-call phone lists.

Converting the bulk of what was formerly covered in workshops to computer-based delivery produces these results:

  • Eleven days of instructor-led new-hire training have been reduced to three.
  • Orientation sessions take place five times per year instead of two.
  • Bringing new hires up to speed is scalable, so it no longer constrains corporate growth.
  • Numerous regional and area sales meetings has been replaced with on-line conferencing.

More importantly, the adoption of eLearning has enabled SmartForce to become a fast-paced e-Business.

  • The time it takes for a sales person to reach competence has been cut from eight months to four.
  • The entire sales force has learned to sell solutions instead of point products.

Quantifying the benefits of eLearning

Note: Figures are annualized approximations.


  • Sales force new hires/year: 50
  • Size of existing sales force: 150
  • Quota per sales rep: $2,000,000
  • Annual revenue = $200 million
  • Travel, food, lodging = $1,000 per event + $150/day.
  • Sales days/year = 250.

Value of cutting new hire development from 8 months to 4 months, half a year.

  • Gain 6 months productivity per sales rep.
  • Revenue increase = 50 x 1/3 x 2,000,000 = $33,000,000
  • Reasonable proportion of revenue attributable to training = 1/3
  • Gain = $10,000,000

Eliminate five days travel associated with sales meetings.

  • Five days = 5/250 = 2% of sales time
  • 2% of annual revenue = $4,000,000

Reduced travel expense = immaterial

More effective sales force, better teamwork, shorter cycle time = incalculable.

Total benefit = $14,000,000+


It is not feasible to calculate ROI in this example because SmartForce had already built the eLearning infrastructure to host its sales training. The incremental cost of customization has been less than $100,000, and this is more than offset by the staff that SmartForce did not have to hire to increase its sales force development capacity.

That was then; this is now.

Eighteen months later, the press reported "In a merger of corporate e-learning firms, SmartForce is buying rival SkillSoft, of Nashua, N.H., in an all-stock deal." That's not exactly what happened. SkillSoft had acquired SmartForce. The Redwood City office closed; the Dublin Development Center downsized significantly; most of the SmartForce organization was dismembered.

I advice other companies these days, still writing white papers but also helping them gain a strategic toe-hold, making presentations and introductions, and championing the causes I believe in. SmartForce ran off the rails -- It's a complicated story -- but accelerating employee time-to-performance remains one of the biggest paybacks of any investment in corporate learning. Not for nothing my consultancy is named "Internet Time Group." Time is more important than money. Effective learning buys a lot of time.

More articles and rants
Posted by Jay Cross at 08:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

ISPI Performance Express

If you've followed my work, you may have noticed that I am generally down on ISPI.

Perhaps it's just me. I'm a businessman. I am in this for results. Some people in the ISPI priesthood seem more enamoured of form than substance. My measure of success is accomplishment, not adherence to formulae. Maybe I spent too much time with a particularly doctrinaire bunch of ISPIers. I date back to when ISPI was NSPI. Did you know that NSPI originally stood for "National Association for Programmed Instruction"?

A title that drives me up the wall is Telling Ain't Training. Don't get me wrong. It's a best seller. People love it. It's the title that ruffles my feathers. So telling ain't training. So what? If telling gets the job done, that's fine with me. Telling works in the military. It works for the fire department. All of which brings me to an article in ISPI's Performance Express by Harold D. Stolovitch and Erica J. Keeps, the authors of Telling Ain't Training. I like it.

Improving Performance: Low Cost Solutions in a TIght Economy hits the bulls-eye. It opens with a reality check:

For the last three years, we have repeatedly heard that the economy will turn around “very soon.” Meanwhile, budgets grow tighter and every new training and performance support initiative is scrutinized with a magnifying glass in one hand and an ax in the other. Despite the austerity on the learning and performance support side, the pressure is still on to produce and maintain an increasingly productive workforce and prepare employees for new systems, regulations, and products.

The usual response, proposing to improve efficiency with technology, raises eyebrows. Stolovich and Weeks counsel us to make what's already working better. There's less risk and higher return. Though less fun than building new stuff, making do with what you have is the right message for today. Examples include:

  • Cleaning up performance expectations. Research in human performance identifies a lack of clarity of expectations to be the number one cause of inadequate performance.

  • Developing feedback systems. Inadequate feedback constitutes a close second to unclear expectations in causes of deficient performance.

  • Creating performance support systems. No matter how good the training, without adequate support mechanisms, acquired skills and knowledge tend to deteriorate.

  • Providing and aligning incentives and consequences. In a recent year-long, rigorous study, we discovered that incentives, especially tangible ones, can improve performance 13-40% (Stolovitch, Clark, & Condly, 2002).

  • Increasing motivation to perform. Motivation is critical in both learning and performance along with ability and prior knowledge.

  • Making sure mechanisms for training transfer are in place.

Tough times call for creative cost-cutting measures. Let’s get back to the fundamentals of performance improvement.

Practical advice like this encourages me to keep my ISPI membership active.

Posted by Jay Cross at 04:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 27, 2003

Great sources

I spent a few hours today updating the eLearning Jump Page.

There are more great resources out there than ever before. Voices with experience. Links to other disciplines. I'm a generalist, so I like to apply concepts from other fields. When I'm researching what's going on in eLearning, here are the places I often head to first:

Posted by Jay Cross at 07:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 24, 2003


The alarm went off at 6:30 am this morning because I had to get to Oakland for Jury Duty by 8:00 am. Waiting with a hundred and fifty other citizens, I recalled the feedback from Tuesday's webinar. I have issues.

Better speakers than I have cautioned me not to take participant feedback too seriously. No matter what the speaker says, some people are going to report on how they felt when they got out of bed that morning, regardless of what was said. Do I take my friends' advice? Of course not.

If feedback can help my next presentation grab just one more individual, I'll dig through the numbers to glean what lessons I can. The only thing worse than learning from experience is not learning from experience. Continuous improvement is simply one of my core beliefs.

Overall, I was quite pleased with the event and gratified by the feedback I received.

What was the feedback?

  • 82% of 146 respondents found the event valuable and would recommend it to their colleagues.

  • 76% said the length and pace of the event were appropriate for the material covered.

  • 97% found my voice intelligible and easy to understand.

    On average, most people say they were satisfied but not "strongly satisfied:"

    I was glad to see that replies about the “most important thing learned” are all over the map:

    • Additional resources IIIII IIII
    • Blended (har-har) III
    • Blogging is worth it IIIII III
    • Branding vs. commodity III
    • Collaboration IIII
    • EAI & realtime learning III
    • “Everything” and "the memes" IIIII
    • Future trends IIIII I
    • Hunt the elephant meme IIIII
    • Importance of informal learning IIII
    • Improving the core business IIIII
    • Meta-learning III
    • Networks & learning IIIII
    • Uncertainty engages the mind IIII
    • Got me thinking in new ways IIIII
    • Realizing I am not alone IIIII
    • Too many to mention IIII

    • Course description did not match the course content I
    • Too fluffy, not enough content I
    • Too little learning per se I

    The second open-ended question asked for additional comments about the presenter, the content, and suggestions for improvement. I’ll post all the replies. For years I attended conferences and never saw anyone else's evaluation. They are generaly not consistent.

    • A lot of good information, but presented so quickly. It might have been better to focus on one aspect.
    • Already go to InternetTime.com nearly every day.
    • Excellent presentation.
    • For next session give examples of current EAI: workflow based learning . Who is doing this, and where are they in the process? Best practices examples. THANKS!
    • Good job!
    • Good keep it up, rapid and interesting
    • Good speaker, would like more classes about topics covered and go into more details.
    • "great
    • up front, give instructions for people with old interface. why didn't i get newer one? this was confusing. took me a while to figure out how to write a note."
    • "Great and inspiring - maybe enough material (ideas) for two sessions. Thanks"
    • Great hour. Well spent!
    • great presentation
    • Great presentation, I'm looking forward to checking out the resources.
    • great presentation, thank you.
    • Great session. Love being able to dig deeper into topics covered.
    • Great speaker, Jay needs to come back and give us more!
    • GREAT!!
    • hard to use Interwise
    • He needed more time!
    • I expected a more interactive experience....would be interested in participating in a more interactive event. Please keep me posted...the technology is unbelievable.
    • i know interwise very well - great technology!
    • I would have preferred more questions and interaction. I thought there was going to be more audience participation throughout.
    • I would like a copy of the presentation material. Also, I would like information on how to complete a eLearning Implementation Action Plan.
    • I would suggest not insulting your participants. I'm a Microsoft employee. Jay's comment about my company did not impress. I also feel this was very, very basic information and really didn't give me any additional information, or ideas. Overall, very disappointing for me.
    • I was looking for new techniques not just information of this nature.
    • I'd like to hear a similar seminar on K12 elearning.
    • Interesting overview.
    • Interesting speaker and format.
    • It would be great to see a regular (monthly) session with Jay. 1 hour just scratches the surface on this topic.
    • Jay is always interesting.
    • Jay is, as always, excellent!!!!
    • Jay seems to be very talkive, except on the subject at hand. This was not what was expected when registering; more of a networking presentation for his interests.
    • Looking forward to the recorded availability. I missed the first 20 mins due to an electrical storm here in Orlando. Thks
    • Make this a little more concrete -- use actual course material.
    • More time needed, maybe another 15 minutes.
    • Need a bit more visual material to go with the spoken presentation. Make sure text is not too small. Some information was lost that way.
    • "Overall the content was great. A bit more info that would have been ""new"" would have been great. But he did give a different perspective. "
    • Thanks
    • Thanks once again :-)
    • Thanks so much!
    • the pace could be a bit slower for the volume of information shared - i like to take notes and provide myself reminders about things to go away with and check out - i didn't have enough time to do that
    • The presenter is obviously (IMHO) a brilliant, dedicated professional. I expect that his ideas will go far in re-defining elearning.
    • There was a problem with the voice volume. Loulou was inaudible at full volume settings while John needed to be turned down to the lowest volume but he was easily understood. I really missed all of Loulou.
    • This presentation was a nice look into the mind of Jay and his thoughts about eLearning.
    • It would have been great to dive down into any of the topics but I recognize that the time did not allow it.
    • "this was very entertaining, but seemed to just scratch the surface on a bunch of various subjects, versus going in depth on anything at all - sounds more like an intro to an absolute beginner; nice examples; good points, interesting way to link ideas..."
    • "Too much material at the given time. Still, it was great, very, very interesting."
    • "was hoping for more concrete ideas of the future direction of elearning
    • more specifics for immediate future"
    • Wasn't clear if there were other materials available besides the slides.
    • What is the next step? Where do I go to take Jay's ideas and putting them into the elephant hunt?
    • Would like to have some interim conclusions or "next steps" on this topic.

    At the Center for Creative Leadership, they teach that a negative comment has three times the impact of a positive one, so I sense some problems here. Trying not to be defensive, I’ll offer a few observations about my though process before our webinar together.

    Whenever one puts together a presentation, the Law of Raspberry Jam kicks in: The more you spread it, the thinner it gets. I purposely chose wide rather than deep for this presentation. My logic was that if you wanted more, you could take a look at the essays and links I posted at internettime.com.

    Interactivity is a similar trade-off: You can interact or you can present a lot of material but you can’t do both.

    My first cut at this presentation was to recount an almost stream-of-consciousness story of the birth and evolution of eLearning. After the dry run, we decided it didn’t address the topic squarely. I proposed chopping the whole thing into memes. Participants would select a meme by polling, and we’d go back and forth on it. We feared that I might get only a couple of ideas out before the discussion degenerated into free-for-all. So, as much as I like give-and-take, we had fifty minutes of my yap and twenty minutes of Q&A. I think this was probably the right mix.

    Going into this, we knew that we weren’t going to “write the next chapter of eLearning” in 90 minutes. I figured that at most, I could share a few new perspectives, provoke your thinking, and help you make wiser decisions. After all, I’m not writing the next chapter; all of us are. Let me tell you a secret: There aren’t any cookie-cutter solutions out there.

    We had a few conflicting goals entering the session. Some wanted specifics and how-to’s; I was more interested in raising the uncertainty that engages the mind. Some wanted answers; I focused on process.

    Finally, as to the comment that "Need a bit more visual material to go with the spoken presentation," sorry, sir, but you must have walked into the wrong room.

    Posted by Jay Cross at 07:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 22, 2003

Follow-up: Writing the Next Chapter of eLearning

Here are some of the links I promised in today's webinar. Within 24 hours I'll post the presentation (with narration) as well. If you have questions, post them as a comment below and I'll answer them here.

There's information on blogs here, although I also recommend you simply poke around on this blog and visit some of the others I showed:

Unlike many bloggers, I think it's okay to go back to add additional material. That's because I view blogs as nifty content management systems more than as diaries. For example, here's an excellent article on blogging from journalist/entrepreneur Jeff Jarvis.

Request your copy of the eLearning Implementation & Action Plan Template here.

The unexpurgated "director's cut" of Lance's and my book is here

Jay's notes on Living on the Faultline (core vs. context)

Thoughts on the nature of time

Jay's white paper on Informal Learning.

The Meta-Learning Lab

Information on Enterprise Application Integration and real-time learning is here and here.

My thoughts on the parallels between networking and learning first appeared here. This is a work in progress. If you'd like to be notified of new developments in this and the other topics I track, sign up here.

Sign up for:

Send a note to Jay

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June 29, 2003

Another look at learning

Last night, preparing my keynote for the upcoming knowledge management conference in Graz pushed me to refine my recent thoughts about the process of learning.

Networks are everywhere.

Our era could well be called The Age of Networks. Humanity is awakening to the realization that everything's connected. If something's not a node, it's a connection. Each of us is enmeshed in social, communications, information, and neural networks.

People are networks, too.

Furthermore, our bodies and brains are networks. Scientists are still conceptualizing the human protocol stack but they affirm that our personal neural intranets share a common topology with those of chimps and other aniamals. Maybe recognizing that people are more similar than different from, say, squirrels, will rid us of the silly notion that mind and body operate separately. Learning is a whole body experience.


For the most part, we are unaware of the firewall that filters the connections between our personal neural nets and the teeming mass of networks on the other side. Many people have failed to change the default settings their personal firewalls came with, even though the factory-installed settings haven't been upgraded since 1 million B.C. Without changing our mental macro libraries, we continually snap into flee or fight mode. Being alert to minute movements is a survival skill on the savannah but not in the executive office.

A new definition of Learning

The point of learning is to prosper within our chosen communities. Learning enables us to enjoy relationships and knowledge. Learning involves exploring new ground, making discoveries, and clearing paths that let us go deeper. To learn is to optimize one's networks.

Taking advantage of the double meaning of the word "network," learning is making good connections.

A fresh set of instructions

Designers of learning environments can borrow tools and techniqes from network engineers. They would focus on such things as:
  • Improving signal/noise ratio
  • Installing fat pipes for backbone connections
  • Pruning worthless & dead material
  • Promoting standards for interoperability

I don't propose that this is the way to define learning. Rather, it is one of many descriptions. I'll see how it plays with an academic audience in Austria next week. If any of this resonates for you, please leave a comment.


Thinking Today as if Tomorrow Mattered: The Rise of a Sustainable Consciousness, by John Adams

Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software, by Steven Johnson

The Wealth of Knowledge, by Tom Stewart

The Social Life of Information, by John Seely Brown & Paul Duguid

Cultivating Communities of Practice, by Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott, William M. Snyder

Mindfulness, Ellen Langer

Simulation in the Enterprise: New Workflow-based eLearning Products Embedded in Enterprise Applications, by Sam Adkins

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June 26, 2003

eLearning's Next Chapter

On July 22, join me online for a provocative discussion about the future of eLearning. It's a freebie, courtesy of Interwise. The webcast begins at 11:00 Pacific/2:00 Eastern.

Topics include:

  • eLearning today: over-achiever or corpse?
  • Big winners: companies that have made millions through eLearning
  • Big losers: companies that have lost millions through eLearning
  • Collaboration: putting people back into the eLearning process
  • Workflow-based learning: real-time, inevitable, and no more courses
  • Blogs, wikis, and gonzo learning

Get in your two cents' worth. Add to the agenda here..

Find out more and save your seat here.

Posted by Jay Cross at 07:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 17, 2003

Going to Graz

I-KNOW ‘03 - 3rd International Conference on Knowledge Management

Next month I’ll be giving the keynote on eLearning at I-Know 03 in Graz, Austria. Preparing a new presentation always gives me an opportunity to assess what I find interesting and promising on the eLearning horizon. Today it’s informal learning, informal KM, social software, business blogs and syndication, workflow-based learning, meta-learning, visualization, collaboration, and, of course, losing weight.

I always try to combine business with pleasure, and I’m really looking forward to visiting Graz, the capital of Styria and the 2003 EU cultural capital. The medieval quarter has survived intact.

Come join the fun on July 3rd. I’m speaking to the masses in English. My topic is The Rise and Fall and Rise of eLearning.

Posted by Jay Cross at 03:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 14, 2003

Enterprise Learning, Friday the 13th

Yesterday we had Friday the 13th, a full moon, and 13 panelists at the monthly meeting of eLearning Forum. Nonetheless, it was the best session we've ever had. More than a hundred people listened as a dozen prominent enterprise software and LMS vendors joined researcher Sam Adkins to talk about where enterprise learning is headed in the next 24 months.

I am a very happy camper. The discussion yesterday, which we'll make available as video, notes, reports, charts, and photographs, should shed light in a previously dark corner of our industry, thus accelerating the adoption of eLearning. This is the mission of eLearning Forum:

  • Promote understanding and use of eLearning in industry and government worldwide
  • Provide a forum for resolving issues impeding the progress of eLearning
  • Identify and publicize new developments and emerging best practices
  • Host a global virtual conversation of vital eLearning issues

We couldn't have picked a hairier topic. Enterprise integration is a rapidly moving target. It has been unclear whether ERP and LMS systems are symbiotic or competitive. Just talking about learning in the zero-latency enterprise requires mastering a sea of new acronyms: SCM, CRM, KPI, BPI, SOAP, UDDI, W3C, PLM. PDM, EDM, SFO, WFM, BPM, BAM, CPM, WPM, BI, CA, HCM, UKM, ERM, LCMS, ECM, PA, ECM (again), and more. Behind each set of initials is a company or group that's changing things almost daily. Standards are in flux. All these puzzle-pieces eventually have to fit together in a real-time system, riddled with learning at every junction. Our objective was to clarify where all this is headed and what it means in three and a half hours yesterday.

Today my brain still hurts from grappling with this stuff, but we managed to pull it off. We'll document the proceedings on eLearning Forum so what you'll read here is color commentary.

Here's the panel. Sam Adkins is standing. From the top are Chris Pirie (Oracle), Tobin Gilman (Docent), Amar Dhaliwal (THINQ), Ed Cohen (Plateau), Harry West (SAP), Stephen Burke (Knowledge Planet), Becky Mason (PeopleSoft), Mark Nation (Siebel Systems), Tamer Ali (VCampus), Grant Ricketts (Saba Software), Dale Cline (Knowledge Products), and Ashwani Sirohi (Click2learn). These companies, as well as IBM, Sun, and others had been recognized as "Pioneers of Learning Innovation" in Sam's extensive research project, Simulation in the Enterprise, The Convergence of eLearning, Simulation and Enterprise Applications.

Sam and I knew from the outset that we would need a solid model for the session if we were to keep things on track. OD sophisticates that we are, we fell back on the set-up and roles of the Mel Gibson/Danny Glover movie Lethal Weapon. Sam would play the good cop, and I, the crazy cop. In addition, Jerry Neece was our timekeeper. At the start of the session, panelists had up to three minutes to answer a question. This was reduced to 30 seconds in the final rounds. This kept the discussion focused. To my utter amazement, we hit every one of our timing marks on the nose.

I'd asked all the participants to check their guns at the door, but these companies had never been under one roof before and we were risking the possibility of a major catfight. Yesterday PeopleSoft rejected Oracle's $5 billion hostile takeover bid and sued Oracle for unfair trade practices. J.D. Edwards, contending that Oracle is messing with its proposed merger with PeopleSoft, sued Oracle for $1.7 billion. Professionalism won the day, we confined the conversation to eLearning, and reason prevailed.


Sam Adkins

Evolution of enterprise elearning --> Workflow-based eLearning

Key trends in eLearning:

* Ubiquity
* Collaboration
* Integration

Functional areas of the extended enterprise that elearning programs must serve:

* Product management
* Resource management
* Process management
* Colloboration management

Ashwani Sirohi
User collaboration and personalization will be key.
Amar Dhaliwal

eLearning technologies are now very mature, but customers still have a very unsophisticated understanding of how to use them -- especially analytic functionality.

Make sure you develop a working understanding of the web service features and benefits, because the model WILL have a big impact on elearning technology delivery.

It's questionable whether enterprise software vendors have the expertise to serve existing "best of breed" customers.

SCORM is here to stay. The onus is on vendors to make it work -- not customers or content developers.

Harry West

As outsourcing is taking off in HR, it will do so in elearning.

As a large enterprise software vendor, SAP depends upon "best of breed" practices and standards for product development strategy.

Limited bandwidth is often a variable influencing purchasing decisions.

Becky Mason

Learning is now becoming a more important focus than training in training departments.

"What" is delivered to the learner is more important than "how".

"I'd like to hear what the audience has to say about all this."

Mark Nation
Siebel Systems

Training managers are beholden to demonstrate how elearning programs impact performance and productivity.

Key performance indicators (KPI) are being used much more regularly by workers to plan and for managers to assess. eLearning solutions direct this critical need.

Web services is more of a competitive driver for "best of breed" rather than larger enterprise software vendors.

Competency management capability is critical, and requires personalization for learner to work.

Tamer Ali

Training managers need to reposition themselves as IT experts, and ensure influence over the architecture of eLearning technologies.

Trainers must be choreographers.

Grant Ricketts

Training people should focus on alligning their priorities with the core business segments served by elearning programs -- customers, sales, channels, strategic partners, OEMs, distributors, manufacturers/assemblers, & standard groups.

CEOs are geniunely concerned about the competency and skills of their workforce.

Innovation is still driven by "best of breed" vendors.

Corporate clients with a global presence have a very organized picture of local needs, and vendors have to find out how to access it.

Dale Cline
Knowledge Products

The opportunity for "best of breed" vendors is in the middle-tier solution market.

Nobody is doing personalization (role-based filtering), but delivering that functionality will be critical to compete in the future.


Ed Cohen

Training managers need to position elearning services as a profit center.

SCORM will become less significant as solution vendors transparently embed meta-data generation into their technologies.

Many customers demand competency management functionality, but very few of them end up using it.

Stephen Burke
Knowledge Planet

Training departments are looking at outsourcing non-core activities.

Critical that workers can assess how they are performing relative to their peers, partners, & customers.

"Best of breed" vendors must differentiate themselves as innovators and rapid responders to changing customer needs in order to survive.


Tobin Gilman
In order to become a core business process, elearning solutions need to be able to integrate and make sense of information stored and processed in other enterprise databases and applications.
Chris Pirie

Instructional design is becoming more important than innovative technology in elearning. Training people should focus on that area -- their area -- of expertise.

HR outsources because of the "self-service" functionality offered by third-party vendors. The "self-service" idea will also have a big impact on the elearning space.

The great challenge for elearning software vendors is to enable training managers to leverage the intelligence and analytics produced by ERP solutions.

It's more important for training departments to focus on the process of teaching rather than learning.

You can't compete as a vendor unless you have the capability to localize your solutions.

Jay Cross
Internet Time Group

Aside from KPI (key performance indicators), what's important for us to know and keep track of? Web services, enterprise integration, content management, collaboration, social network analysis, business process modeling....

Watch out! "Competency" is a slippery term. Like "Knowledge Management," it means whatever you want it to mean.

At our Learning Object Symposium last year, netG's Brendan Towle pointed out that you could string together all the movie objects you could find, but you'd never end up with Citizen Kane.

I encourage you to join eLearning Forum. It's free. We're quite open. Put yourself on our email list and you're in. Put it on your resume. Volunteer to help us out and you can put that on your resume, too.

Photographs by Jim Schuyler

Sources of quotes: Alex Gault's real-time notes

From ThnkEquity's Knowledge Notes Record attendance at eLearning Forum’s LMS symposium Last Friday, we attended a symposium of major enterprise software vendors hosted by the Silicon Valley-based eLearning Forum. An all-star panel of product managers representing Click2learn, Docent, Global Knowledge, Oracle, KnowledgePlanet, PeopleSoft, Plateau Systems, Saba Software, SAP, Siebel, Thinq, and VCampus ensured record attendance at the Microsoft campus in Mountain View. Topics addressed by the panel included the future role of learning management systems within the broader enterprise software market; the evolution of enterprise learning within organizations; integration, globalization, and consolidation trends in the enterprise software market; corporate purchasing patterns; and customer demands. In addition, we had several one-on-one conversations with attendees and sensed great enthusiasm for the market potential of LMS products and strong strategic commitment to the category by large and small vendors alike. All of the vendors represented offer learning management functionality within their application suites, both as a standalone product and as part of a fully integrated platform. All the participants expressed their belief in accelerating demand for LMS functionality, driven by the desire for workflow optimization and its ability to drive down training costs. We were unconvinced by the happy assertions of room for all and left with the continued impression that the larger vendors lag the best-of-breed players significantly in terms of functionality.
Posted by Jay Cross at 06:23 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 11, 2003

Being Objective

Last year at the Learning Object Symposium at SRI, Brendan Towle pointed out that no one is ever going to assemble film objects and end up with Citizen Kane. The sum > the parts.

Stephen Downes has posted an intriguing presentation which says we’re looking at learning objects all wrong. They are multimedia fragments, not to be taken linearly. Words are the objects of which poetry is assembled but we don’t raise a fuss over the words, we laud the poet who put them together. Read Stephen’s PowerPoint. It will reshape the way you look at objects.

I just installed Moveable Type 2.64 and will soon install an RSS 2.0 feed here.

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 09, 2003

PlaNetwork 8, ManyOne

Joe Firmage gave the opening keynote Sunday morning.

Previously I knew Joe Firmage only by reputation. He founded and ran a high-flying Internet company named U.S. Web. BIG bucks. If memory serves, and that is questionable, Joe was drummed out when he began talking about extraterrestials. Little green men do not play very well on Wall Street. I figured he was an interesting flake. I was wrong.

This guy gives great, inspiring presentation. His ideas are lofty but well thought through. This morning Joe opened the kimono for the first time on his awesome new venture, ManyOne.

ManyOne is a brilliantly conceived project to create what Isaac Asimov called the Encyclopedia Galatica — all the knowledge we have, available through your browser. ManyOne will play X-box class animations over a 22.8 modem connection(!). A reusable portal infrastructure will enable ManyOne to offer custom 3D portals to groups as small as 1,000. Joe’s looking to create a 3D mirror of reality. After all, we’re moving from a world of 2D pages & links to a 3D environment of spaces & objects. Joe gave a knock-your-socks-off demo. Imagine an image-driven browser with these modes: discover (education), inform (news), trade (barter goods & services), community (chat, place to hang out) and (coming soon) play. You can see all this at the ManyOne site. (If you’re okay with a 100 MB download and use a PC, not a Mac.)

Pipe dream? I think not. Joe has a compelling business plan. In shorthand, the plan is to “disintermediate AOL.” For less money than either AOL or MSN charge, ManyOne will offer a connection, email, and wonderful content. (Joe’s aim is to be seen as the PBS of cyberspace.) Convincing? I was one of the early ones in what became a full standing ovation.

If you’re into UI, you owe it to yourself to check out the ManyOne browser.

Posted by Jay Cross at 08:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Brave New World of Learning

"Workflow trumps courseware in an emergent new world where the terms and tools are changing--and you need to aborb Web services, super-stack environments, zero latency, and a slew of acronyms. And, by the way, just-in-time is too late." So begins Sam Adkins' lead article in this month's T+D magazine.

If you're interested in the convergence of learning and enterprise applications, check out this Friday's eLearning Forum. If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can attend in person. Otherwise, you can join our remote participants via WebEx.

If you're really interested in enterprise learning, you can buy your copy of Sam's major reports right here.

This will be the first time SAP, PeopleSoft, Oracle, Siebel, Sun, IBM, Saba, Docent, Click2Learn, Thinq, Knowledge Planet, Plateau, Knowledge Products, Element K and VCampus have talked about learning in the same room together.

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June 05, 2003

Johnny Appleseed

I believe that we are in the midst of a second renaissance. Learning, culture, progress, and all of humanity will prosper (so long as we don't destroy ourselves in the process.) So when I have an opportunity to pound the drum in support of this vision of the future, I take it. That's why the mission statement of eLearning Forum begins with
  • Promote understanding and use of eLearning in industry and government worldwide
  • Provide a forum for resolving issues impeding the progress of eLearning
That's also why I respond to requests for interviews, often to audiences who will never hire me to advise them on improving their organizations' performance, write their white papers, or develop their marketing campaigns. This morning I answered questions from a report at a Greek new-economy magazine. I'll recycle them below. >font color="red">Q&A with Greek magazine reporter:

1. What is your own view (based on your experience) of e-learning?

"eLearning" is a marketing term. It's confusing because everyone has their own definition. In the broadest sense of learning + technology = eLearning, it is a powerful force, in the process of reshaping our world. Technology improves humanity's ability to learn. We've only just begun.

2. Why do organizations tend to ignore or trivialize learning as an essential element of competitive strategy? What is needed for that to change?

Learning is trivializedwhenexecutive management fails to see thedirect link between learning and business performance.Examples of companies using eLearning to increase sales, improve service, and cut costs are turning this around.

3. What about the balance between learning and technology? Currently it seems to be heavily technology focused. What is needed to achieve the proper balance.

Our attitudes about learningeither slant too far toward technology or too much toward people & relationships; a good balance is rare. In late 1998 we were headed to the numbers extreme. Web-based learning was going to cut costs, eliminate jobs, reduce face-to-face meetings, automate training, and boost ROI. Having found that you can only take that so far until it bites back, in 2003 the pendulum is swinging back into the extreme people-side. The focus is shifting from mechanics to community, connections, collaboration, social software, faith in worker self-determination, mentors, and coaches. In sum, the pendulum is still swinging to extremes and overcorrecting on its return.

4. What is the next great training movements? What top training trends will have staying power?

1. Training is becoming a core business process.

2. Training will be integrated intoenterprise application suites.

3. Informal learning will gain stature alongside formal learning.

5. What trends in the e-learning industry, are you expect to develop in the future?

eLearning started as "push," e.g. the organization tells the learner to come. It must become"pull," e.g. the learning comes to eLearning because it's relevant and useful.

6. What about the concept of _ blurring learning _ ?

By "blurring," I presume you mean "blended."

To me, the blended buzzword is overused, for all it means is 'apply common sense,' use the appropriate tool for the job.To help people learn, you use the best means for that particular subject. You don't learn to drive from a book; you don't learn to deactivate landmines by trial-and-error. A multiplicity of means always works better than just one. The only folks I know who are really going "Ah ha! Blended!" are people who duped themselves into thinking they could do everything with a computer (unblended) in the first place. I've never been party to that line of thinking.

7. What about the concept of "embedded learning"?

Embedded learning is a very important concept. Integrating learning intowork will accelerate its development. See http://meta-time.com/lcmt/archives/000514.htmlfor more.

8. There seems to be a lack of a defining e-learning industry community. Pockets of interest seem to bump into each other occasionally, but never seem to gel to create a vibrant community. Is this a symptom of e-learning as a young industry? What is needed to enhance the community focus for e-learning?

This is because eLearning is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The last thing we need is an inward-focused eLearning cabal that talks among itself. This is why knowledge management and learning, which are obviously two sides of the same coin, have remained separate for all these years. I'd prefer to see more multidisciplinary approaches, more looking outward and linking with other disciplines. This is one of the goals of eLearning Forum, which, by the way, your readers are invited to join for free. www.elearningforum.com
Posted by Jay Cross at 11:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 03, 2003

Enterprise eLearning Forum

This email just went to members of eLearning Forum. You don't have to be a member to attend.

eLF Announcements Monday, June 2, 2003

On June 13, the eLearning forum is putting every major innovator in Enterprise learning in one room.

You don't want to miss this one.

Join the thought leaders of real-time enterprise learning for a discussion of:
- Learning as a core business process
- The shift from ROI to Key Performance Indicators
- The appropriate and likely roles of LMS, ERP, & CRM
- How enterprise learning will evolve in the next 24 months
- Findings of recent research on learning technology

You must pre-pay online, with a major credit card, for this event (http://tinyurl.com/db0o). This event will sell out, so please make sure you register early.

The eLearning Forum takes place from 8:45am - noon, when lunch will be served. Microsoft is hosting the event for the second month in a row - directions.

This month, we are also offering a bonus session that goes until 2:30pm. Take the whole day off!

For further details and Webex conferencing details (to be posted shortly), please check out the eLF web site.

Please note that you must pre-pay online for the June 13 eLearning Forum.

Do it here.

Click2learn, Docent, Element K, IBM, Oracle, PeopleSoft, Plateau, Saba, SAP, Siebel, Thinq, VCampus, and a couple of others will be attending. How about you?
Posted by Jay Cross at 06:43 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 02, 2003

Up with people! (Duh)

A Measurable Proposal

CIO: "He's back, and Tom Davenport's betting on a new, big idea: knowledge workers are people too. Can their processes be quantified? Can we help their plight? This might just be the new reengineering." [New reengineering = Next Accenture Cash Cow?]

Tom laments that:

    When it comes to knowledge workers, we pretty much hire smart people and leave them alone. No quality measurements, no Six Sigma, no reengineering. We haven't formally examined the flow of work, we have no benchmarks, and there is no accountability for the cost and time these activities consume.

The prescription for change?

    ...the next big process change initiative should involve knowledge work. Let's examine how we do strategy, marketing campaigns, mergers and acquisitions, and R&D programs. Maybe we could even take on the process of management.

I have mixed feelings about this.

  1. There's no doubt that there are a gazillion things organizations can do to leverage the productivity of their knowledge workers.
  2. Given Tom's role with Accenture, I see his newfound religion a covert way of creating new turf for Accenture consulting. "Tired of paying us to glue together applications too complicated for you to understand? Let us mess with your marketing campaigns, M&A, and even your process of management."
  3. I told you this was coming six weeks ago. Remember this?


Posted by Jay Cross at 12:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 24, 2003

Laughter from the Spam

PageWhiz automates the process of making page-turners. (I am not making this up.)

    Page Whiz is an amazingly easy to use tool that creates 3D page turning digital catalogues, eBrochures, eBooks, manuals, photo albums, quizzes, surveys and more - in a digital web book format.

    Publishing on the web has never been so exciting! Finally a publishing solution which emulates real life like publications, page turns and more.

Check the demo. Choose "Open" when given the option. (Right-click the pages to modify and/or exit.)

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Yesterday I met with Pascal Kaplan and his son Soren, the principals of Icohere, an innovative on-line conferencing system. Armed with a ticket to the Collaborative Communities 2003 Conference, today I'm sampling the presentations and discussions that remain on the web after the real-time event is over.

Since I just returned from four days at a traditional conference, it's only natural that I compare the live experience to this dead one.

Icohere is providing the infrastructure for David Cooperrider?s Business as an Agent of World Benefit project, so that?s where I started, with a narrated PowerPoint style talk. I had latched onto Cooperrider's work last month. Cooperrider's approach, and his focus on sustainability, parallel the work of John Adams. Funny how things converge when you're having fun.

    Accelerating and pervasive global system change. We're in a transformational moment, a time of extremes. Last time this happened was the Renaissance.

    Key vision. Seeking a place for daily global dialogue on transformational cooperation. Leaders everywhere are thinking about the relationship of business and society. Business has the opportunity to be the new creative force on the planet.

    Can we articulate both the common ground and the higher ground. Stories of exemplars, a new societal learning process, anticipatory learning. Interviews with millions using the interview guide.

    To discover and unite the best in business with the call of our times of creating prosperous, inspired and sustainable societies.

    Appreciative Inquiry. A way to see the world anew. Deficit-based theory of change was common; it is a problem-solving approach with its root-cause analysis, brainstorming of solutions, and presentation of action plans. The view is that organizations are problems to be solved.

    Time for a new metaphor. Organizations are not problems to be solved. Organizations are centers of human relatedness, alive with infinite potential for innovation. Instead of What is wrong?, ask What is strong? Searching for the good, the possible, we found that human systems moved in the direction of our questions. What is the organization like when it is most alive? A remarkable energy for change begins to emerge.

    Research supports this view: placebo, Pygmalion effect, positive emotions, imbalanced inner dialogue.

September 2003 is the kickoff event for Business as an Agent of World Benefit, but you can get started right now if you want to take part. Telling transformative stories is part of the method; Icohere is the infrastructure that will collect, refine, and disseminate them.

Now I head over to the Conference Hall to hear David Coleman's keynote, The Evolution of Collaboration and On-Line Communities.

Well, I guess I won't hear David. He provided a presentation in Adobe Acrobat. Interesting stuff; I downloaded it to study more thoroughly later.

Richard McDermott is the next presenter. His topic is the Human Side of Virtual Communities. Soren has told me this is one I must check out.

Oops. I got lost there for a few minutes. For some reason, my default was set to show only the most recent posts. I could not find Richard's talk. Resetting to All fixed the problem.

Communities of Practice are a small part of a KM strategy. Some communities arise spontaneously. Other times, an organization purposely links opinion leaders in a strategic community. Sometimes it takes more: Centers of Excellence.

Let me show you what I'm looking at. I entered the Conference Hall and clicked on Day One Keynote Presentations. I chose one. And I ended up here:

Here's something I wish I'd had in San Diego: you can jump from slide to slide. I did this to skip over things I found boring and to re-listen to things I wanted to stick. Some speakers have the ability to condense a lot of learning into a few slides, and here are two examples:

My next stop was Verna Allee's presentation. Businesses are networks. Everything is networks. But networks are not all the same.

The dogs begin to bark. I click the Pause button, something else that would be nice to have at live events, a put-the-world-on-hold button, as in Nicholson Baker's book, The Fermata.

Verna's material is compelling, and it invites a lot of questions. In Icohere, Q&A discussions follow every presentation:

David Woolley on The Right Tool for the Job. Comments suggested that this is a great presentation. David gives a handy taxonomy of collaborative tools. It's all at his site if you're interested.

By picking and choosing judiciously, I spent just under three hours at the online conference site. I received several times as many lessons as I did from the live sessions at ASTD.

Recently readers of the Learning Circuits blog reported to me that they learn a lot more in the halls and over lunch at conferences than from the formal presentations. (It's that old informal learning once again.) That holds true for me.

Icohere provides an easily navigated collection of presentations and remarks but there's no hallway for informal face-to-face interaction. During the event, IM could take care of that.

This is friendly software.

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May 22, 2003

ASTD Late Tuesday & Wednesday

Tuesday evening I attended a cocktail reception as one of the few gringos among dozens of Canadians. Canada is becoming a power in filling eLearning niches. David Bostwick, the Consul and Trade Commissioner told me a major part of his role is informing please about the Canada they don't know. For instance, few people realize that the U.S. imports more oil from Canada than from Saudi Arabia. I suggested he might get a consortium of companies to produce some eLearning about Canada; everybody wins.

My friend Al Bailey, CEO of Learning Designs (Mississauga, Ontario) invited me to dine with the group. We ended up discussing just about everything under the sun.

Speaking of sun, my half-hour soaking up rays at the lunch on the roof of the Convention Center with Ken Blanchard was turning me into a beet. A day later, my face is still red and warm to the touch.

Don't Wait For Instructions

Waiting for the airport shuttle, I took Margaret Wheatley's advice about reflection to heart. The affluence of the Western world enables many of us to invest our time as we choose. When people ask me what I do, I sometimes tell them that I write myself a new job description every morning.

It's as if we all walk a corridor lined with doorways. Behind each door lies opportunity. Sad to say, many people think the doors are locked and pass them by. Perception is reality. We hold on to vestigial patterns and assumptions long after they have outlasted their usefulness. This has been a concern of the Meta-Learning Lab.

The Conference has finished. The Learning goes on:

1. It ain't over ?til it's over.
2. It's never over.

Waiting for the Southwest flight back to Oakland, I noticed some people from the Canadian reception, Alex Pattakos and his wife Elaine Dundon. Elaine is author of Seeds of Innovation: Cultivating the Synergy That Fosters New Ideas. I hadn't thought about it before, but most of the books on innovation describe it as revolutionary. Gary Hamel, for example, focuses on developing innovative strategic plans; if they don't totally rattle the organization's cage, they don't qualify as innovation. Elaine and Alex take a more practical approach in their workshops in Santa Fe.

People at this year's ASTD conference seemed happier and more optimistic than last year in New Orleans. San Diego's a great spot for a conference. Smiling people open the Convention Center doors when you approach. The weather is wonderful. Hotels and restaurants are within walking distance. More than that, the war is over and people are looking forward to going back to work. Numerous marginal vendors have dropped out of the game, leaving the stronger firms to play the field.

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May 20, 2003

ASTD, Monday & Tuesday

Monday morning. Margaret Wheatley led an early-bird session on "Turning to One Another," suggesting we ask ourselves what we need to be for the world. Lots of people come to a conference like this to find time to pause, to reflect, and to heal. (We used to come for new ideas but you hardly need come to a conference for those.)

Take time for reflection.

Are you turning toward or turning away? Fear, anxiety, and conflict can lead one to focus on the negative and withdraw.

In meetings, listen for views that are different from yours. (Don't be argumentative, starting counter-arguments in your head.) Acceptance is relaxing.

In a South African classroom, at the end of the day, they reflect on what they have learned. At the end of the week, they do the same. Ditto at the end of the month. Meg asked the teacher where the practice originated. He did not understand. That is just the way you do things.

Take time for relationships.

Think of leaders not as commanders so much as hosts. Start where the energy is. It only takes a few people to make things happen.

Unfortunately I fell fast asleep for the last half of Meg's talk, in spite of sitting in the front row.

Tina Sung outlined ASTD's priorities going forward:
1. Link learning to business objectives.
2. Be a performance consultant, not a mere trainer.
3. eLearning continues to grow.
4. Leadership development and executive coaching are hot.
5. Pro diversity, not just oversees, but also using Gardner's multiple intelligences.

Major initiatives are:
1. Go international.
2. Focus on ROI. (For some reason, ROI is a specialty; I thought it was something everyone needed to embrace.
3. Competency. = credentials. Certificate programs. (Done with DDI.)
4. Best Practices awards.

Pat Crull, incoming president, heads up trainiing for ToysRUs

eLearning is becoming a profession of specialties: designers, programmers, authors, and more. I asked what ASTD was doing to attract these constituencies. Learning Circuits and Interest Groups. I suggested they consider changing the content of shows like this one.

On the Expo floor, I met up with Joe Flynn. Joe is the former General Manager of the eLearning and Telecom Group at Advanstar. He's the guy who negotiated Advanstar's purchase of TechLearn from Elliott Masie. Now Joe is CEO & Chairman of PeopleView, which provides real-time decision support for human capital management. Each application includes an interactive diagnostic and reporting tool that identifies and ranks opportunity for improvement in the workforce and link these to custom developed change management action plans.

Bill Lee notes that corporations are downsizing and outsourcing during the recession. He thinks the attractiveness of outsourcing (buy service when you need it) will make this a hard habit to break.

One of Bill's clients found that 64% of their people will be eligible for retirement in two years. The baby boom bulge has made it almost to the end of the population snake. Wise companies are instituting coaching and mentoring programs to transfer knowledge from the old generation to the new.

Karl Krayer sees the downside of eliminating command and control: confusion over team roles, relationships, and expectations. More than ever, every program must begin with objectives.

Click2Learn's Ashwami Sirohi and I spent the better part of the evening at a fabulous seafood place on Fifth Avenue talking about the learning industry, enterprise computing, and software packages. He foresees an eLearning world dominated by suites which bundle together an LMS, LCMS, virtual classroom, and performance management. That's a sound approach so long as we are plagued by a lack of interoperability, what I call "Plug and Blame."

Trading Places
In the publishing world, CLO magazine is becoming a monthly. Learning and Training (née eLearning) goes from monthly to every other month.

The official headcount at ASTD is 8,000. Last year's show in New Orleans drew 9,000. Given the continuing recession and the SARS epidemic, this is a good turnout.

Lance Dublin and I gave a 90-minute presentation to around 150 people this morning. At least 30 of these left when the sound system went bonkers, filling the room with white noise too loud to shout over.

Ken Blanchard hosted a luncheon for members of the press. In the old days, training was as much entertainment as results. Now results are what counts. In Ken?s world, this takes Raving Fan customers, Gung-Ho people, and being the investment of choice. Employees are ducks (bad) or eagles (good).

Ken told the story of showing up at the airport without any i.d. He ran into the bookstore and bought a copy of his book that features a picture of Ken with coach Don Shula. At security, the Southwest Airlines people not only accepted the book as identification but shouted out, "This guy knows Don Shula! Get him a seat in First Class." Southwest has no first class but it does have fun-loving employees.

Another airline's security people were ducks not eagles. Their response to the book as i.d. met with "Quack, quack, quack, not in the regulations, quack, quack, call my supervisor" and four handoffs before Ken could board the plane.

Ken's advice: Treat your people as important and you'll kill the competition.

This is a "virtuous circle," i.e. the process is self-reinforcing. I told Ken's tale to the Southwest employee who checked me in. She smiled and said "Just look at our uniforms." If you've flown on Southwest, you're aware that employees wear shorts, t-shirts, and pretty much whatever they feel like.

Tina shared a new meme that has a certain ring to it: Knowledge Productivity.

Look at those ribbons! A veteran of many ASTD campaigns.

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May 18, 2003

ASTD, Sunday

Sunday, May 18 San Diego
The Conference keynote opened with cliches that transported me back to the 80s:

  • Link your training plan to business objectives.
  • Become a Performance Consultant instead of a trainer.

Time for a cup of coffee. I returned for the keynote by Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point. He presented the Cliff's Notes version of his book, which is okay since it's an exciting message, even if it's one I've heard and read before.

Social Power is often under the radar but it's what makes things work. Diagram the connections between people; it looks like the routes of an airline, lots of activity around the hubs.

Connectors are the human hubs. Most of us connect with about 35 people. Connectors link to one-hundred and twenty or more people.

Mavens are expert sources, for example the nerd who tells his acquaintances what technology to buy. Mavens exert incredible influence in buying decisions. They spark informal learning, but often that's not appreciated.

Paul Revere had social power; people listened when he said "The British are coming." William Dawes set off at the same time; no one paid him any attention. He was neither a connector nor a mavein.

Jennifer Homer, ASTD's charming PR chief, arranges interviews with keynoters for the press corps at these events every year.

The first was with Malcolm Gladwell. Noting that we'd talked before, I asked Malcolm if he'd stuck his finger in a lamp socket. What's with the big hair? He replied that his hair looked like this most of time. The short hair was an aberration.

Social Power is related to emotional intelligence but connectors and mavens are virtuosos of the art.

Can one change roles? Yes. More often, it's simpler to encourage the latent connectors and mavens to come out of the closet. Or to show people how to take advantage of the networks before them.

Because it's not easily quantified, social power is often considered second class compared to formal, explicit power. Women, when excluded from formal power, have used social power to great advantage.

I asked if anyone was suggesting what corporations could do to take advantage of social power. Malcolm mentioned rewarding active participants. It impacts how you arrange your office. My interpretation: Not many people have advanced from reporting on social networking to doing something about it.

Walking the halls, I reverted to Jay Cross, cyber-reporter, and began asking people what important trends they saw in training and development.

Rob Henderson, Custom Building Products, Seal Beach, brought up a point from the keynote that I'd missed: eLearning has reached the tipping point. It's no longer some off-the-wall flyer. Rob's wife is an airline executive who has seen air traffic to Asia drop 70% due to SARS. Virtual meetings are the order of the day. More and more, eLearning is used for knowledge transfer and face-to-face is used only for well-defined social events.

Business is good at Talentkeepers, because organizations are waking up to the huge costs associated with turnover. Craig Taylor points out that pay and benefits aren't sufficient motivators to keep people on the job. If they don't like the work environment or their relationship with their boss, people go somewhere else. Front-line leaders should be held accountable for turnover, not HR. They need to learn retention skills. Craig put the cost of a defection in a low-level job at $5,000 and in a high-level position, say an investment banker, at $100,000. I bet it's a lot more than that.

Haidee Allerton, editor of T+D magazine, noted how fast things are moving these days. She also senses a backlash against ineffective tech solutions.

Marc Rosenberg

Following the dot-com bubble, Marc Rosenberg is seeing a lot of new faces. Companies have cleaned house and are starting over. The new crowd is less starry-eyed; they ask good questions. While I may have found deja vu in this morning's keynote, it was new material for many in the audience who have yet to discover Robert Mager, Dana Gibbs Robinson, and other sources I consider gospel.

Lance Dublin

Lance Dublin attended a session where a variety of statistics on eLearning were presented. The problem? Everyone defines eLearning as they see fit. 80% dislike eLearning, but what do they dislike? Eight-hour online class experiences? Using Goodle to look up answers?


The dot-com razzle-dazzle fooled many of us into thinking that eLearning was the universal cure-all for training woes. Apply eLearning to your problems, cut costs, boost performance, and defy gravity. Now we're waking up from the dream. eLearnia's Brenda Sugrue and I talked about how corporations are going back to applying the right tool to get the job done. They're also moving away from self-paced instruction as a silver bullet, instead developing competency models and communities of practice.
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May 15, 2003

Friday eLearning Forum


[Late Friday]. Well, that was embarrassing. I set up the webcam this morning at the Microsoft Campus, only to find that my images could not permeate their firewall. By this time, several people had emailed back that we needed to turn the camera to face the audience. Actually, they were looking at a blurry picture of my backyard, the last image uploaded on Thursday.

As a result of today’s session on Informal Learning, we’ve set up a Blog for members.

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May 14, 2003


I’ll be attending ASTD from midday Saturday until Wednesday afternoon.

Lance Dublin and I are speaking about management support and in-house promotion of eLearning on Tuesday, from 10:00 to 11:30 am.

You can leave messages for me in the Press Room. Or call me at 510 528 3105. I’m staying at the Comfort Inn Gaslamp.

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May 08, 2003


This white paper addresses how organizations, particularly business organizations, can get more done. Workers who know more get more accomplished. People who are well connected make greater contributions. Employees and partners with more capacity to learn are more versatile in adapting to future conditions. The people who create the most value are those who know the right people, the right stuff, and the right things to do.

It’s all a matter of learning, but it’s not the sort of learning that is the province of training departments, workshops, and classrooms. Most people in training programs learn only a little of the right stuff, are fuzzy about how to apply what they’ve learned, and never address who are the right people to know.

People learn to build the right network of associates and the right level of expertise through informal, sometimes even accidental, learning that flies beneath the corporate radar. Because organizations are oblivious to informal learning, they fail to invest in it. As a result, their execution is less than it might be.

Informal Learning - The Other 80% looks at what informal learning is and how to leverage it. It accompanies the May 16 meeting of the eLearning Forum at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley Campus.

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April 30, 2003

The Other 80%

At work we learn more in the breakroom than in the classroom. We discover how to do our jobs through informal learning -- observing others, asking the person in the next cubicle, calling the help desk, trial-and-error, and simply working with people in the know. Formal learning - classes and workshops and online events - is the source of only 10% to 20% of what we learn at work.

Yet corporations, non-profits, and government invest most of their budgets in formal learning, when it?s apparent that most learning is informal. This stands common sense on its head. It?s the 20/80 rule: Invest your resources where they?ll do the least good.

Informal Learning -- the Other 80% is the theme of the May 16th meeting of eLearning Forum. We'll offer numerous suggestions on how to leverage informal learning. I need a little help fleshing out our agenda. Specifically, I'm looking for:

  • Anecdotes about informal learning in corporations (which might include such things as story-telling, blogs, IM, mentors, creating space and time for informal learning, etc.). We'll post the stories on the Forum website.

  • A brief, whiz-bang demo of Instant Messanger from someone who uses IM in their work. The more remote the location, the better.

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Learning & Training Week

A report from Learning & Training Week from my pal Rick Huebsch, the head honcho at Open Minds Learning.

    Hi Jay,

    Winding up here in D.C.  Wanted to report back about your request to look for social software/informal learning information.  I was very surprised to find only one session about Learning Communities and none specifically about the topic of informal learning. 

    I have been attending conferences about eLearning for the past five years.  I guess I am discouraged because I see that presenters are not focussing on the value proposition that eLearning offers.  From the session topics it is clear that technology and business issues are still driving the definition and implemention of eLearning.  Many, many sessions about LMSs, ROI, content migration, eLearning strategies, etc.  Other sessions were neutral and provided little direction about the psychological or educational rationale that should underlie blended learning solutions.  Most demonstrations showed the learner operating in isolation.  I did not hear but one presenter discuss the social needs of the learner or the relationship between learning and potential communities of practice, purpose, expertise or interest.  Only one presenter, Paul Clothier, provoked his audience to think of eLearning as an opportunity in increase the quality of interactivity, but his demonstrations did not show the relationship between the learner’s experience with interactive digital learning in isolation and his application to his job or his relationship with his colleagues.

    Several presentations discussed informal learning in the context of discussion blended learning models.  One speaker from SkillSoft, Dorman Woodall, probably came closest to addressing informal learning in his session entitled “Blending Formal and Informal Learning for Performance Impact.”  He talked about eight key learning steps from formal to informal learning, presented six blended learning models involving formal (self-paced) and informal (collaborative) methods, and provided some examples.  One of his slides was particularly useful in representing support for formal and informal learning.  He showed this on an axis, the y as depth of the learning application, the x axis as time.  It shows that the more integrated formal and informal training methods, the deeper the learning application.  All of this was presented in 45 minutes, so it was cursory at best.

    The one session about Learning Communities was led by Andy Snyder.  He advised that we should be moving from the information age, (ease of access to information) to a people-centric model (fostering relationships).  eLearning, he posited, provides a stepping stone to learning communities that can enable transition of formal learning to informal learning.  He  kept his presentation at a high level, so he did not delve into the hows and whats of informal learning.


    So I propose that the eLearning Forum focus one of its sessions on the topic:  The value proposition that eLearning in fact provides and the technologies and models that enable this proposition.

Rick Huebsch

Jay again, wondering who these people from the conference masthead are and why the center one appears to be pressing the enter key upside down.

Please add your two cents about Learning & Training Week as a comment.

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April 29, 2003

eLearning Life Support?

I don't mean to beat a dead horse, so to speak, but I must respond to the last item in today's eLearning_Insider newsletter from the eLearning Guild.

Insider: Did you hear? e-Learning is Dead. That's right... dead. Shot down in the prime of its life. Six feet under. Kaput.

Jay: I presume they mean this , which was part of my Eulogy for eLearning presentation.

Insider: A few weeks ago a few of our industries infamous "thought leaders" announced that the term "e-Learning" was dead. On the "Ins and Outs" lists, it was in the "outs" column. Their reasons included 1) the death of the dot-com era, 2) failed e-Learning projects, and 3) the suffering of e-Learning vendors....

No, what I really said was that eLearning would go on because it brought too many benefits not to. But..."eLearning" is a marketing term, an attempt to get under the halo of eBusiness, and that it has outlived its usefulness as a marketing term because many senior managers consider it a fiasco.

Insider: .... But Insider argues that we shouldn't toss away a perfectly good term. Think about it for a moment...

I go further out on the limb than that. I don't think learning is an easy sell in the executive suite. They're called executives because they want to execute. We need to position what we do as the key to execution.

Insider: The term "e-Learning" has served many of us really well. For one thing, it is a term that CEO's, CIO's and CFO's understand. Granted they may not entirely get the big picture of the breadth and potential of e-Learning, but they know the term. Remember, they actually sat up and took notice of our requests to fund e-Learning initiatives, even if only because Wall Street took notice too. This was a good thing! It was the term "e-Learning" that opened the discussion about how we can create substantial and sustainable organizational value.

"Was." Past tense. In today's lean and mean economy, executives pay for performance. They often defer maintenance, including maintenance on human capital.

Insider: Another reason to keep the term "e-Learning" is because it is easy to remember and our students "get it". Those of us in the training/learning industry get really caught up in the "performance improvement", "knowledge enhancement", and "productivity accelerator" terms, but our students and their bosses are really much more responsive to a simpler term. "E-Learning" fits the bill. When they hear the term, folks know that they are going to use technology to get the information/learning/training they need to do better on their job. And that is all they really care about.

If eLearning were synonymous with performance improvement, I'd be a happy camper. The most popular title at ASTD Press is Telling Ain't Training. You know what? Business people do not care. Better numbers will make them happy whether they result from training or telling or taking smart pills or prayer. They want performance from their workers. (We're the only ones who call them learners.)

Insider: While we have had ups and downs, I have not seen a better term appear to replace "e-Learning", and until I do, and until the hundreds of thousands of people developing e-Learning and the millions using e-Learning stop using e-Learning, I think I will stick by it for a while longer.

We agree on this. I haven't come up with a replacement. As I said, I'm working on it. I no more relish changing the name of eLearning Forum than you guys want to rename the eLearning Guild.


This is about all I've got to say on this issue. We have bigger fish to fry than semantics.

While I enjoy sparring with my friends at eLearning Guild, I am a big fan. If you didn't get eLearning_Insider in your email today, you probably haven't upgraded your membership from Associate to Guild Member. For $99, it's a great deal.

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April 27, 2003

The time machine rides again

Five years ago at TechLearn, I asked people to join me for a ride in a time machine to see what corporate learning might look like in 2004. Reflection on the past is a wonderful teacher, so this afternoon I looked back at my presentation to see if it rang true.

Our attitudes about learning seem to slant too far toward numbers & mechanics or too much toward people & relationships; a good balance is rare. In late 1998 we were headed to the numbers extreme. Web-based learning was going to cut costs, eliminate jobs, reduce face-to-face meetings, automate training, and boost ROI. Having found that you can only take that so far until it bites back, in 2003 the pendulum is swinging back into the extreme people-side. The focus is shifting from mechanics to community, connections, collaboration, social software, faith in worker self-determination, mentors, and coaches. In sum, the pendulum is still swinging to extremes and overcorrecting on its return.


Learning Objects are creating more buzz now than in 1998 but they are hardly new.

Learners weren't being treated as customers fast enough for my taste, so Lance Dublin and I wrote a book about it to try to speed things up. Most organizations have yet to buy into this concept.


No one talked about Web Services in '98, but it was no secret that interoperability based on the notion of XML was on the way.

Well, okay, not all my predictions come true. If you, too, drank the dot-com Kool-Aid, you'll remember when the sky was the limit, Moore's Law applied to everything, and Wired magazine could pass for truth.

Most of my uncertainties in 1998 remain uncertain today:

  • What to do about public schools? Create corporate schools?
  • Will telepresence ever replace a human teacher/coach being there in person?
  • Will learning become elitist or will it drive equal opportunity?

By now, I expected us to have recruited our corporate "village elders" as mentors.

My vital questions in 1998 were:

  • Will the net lead us to become empowered individuals or helpless serfs?
  • Will different peoples getting to know one another lead to world harmony or perpetual clash?
  • Is mediocrity now becoming more important than quality later?

Jay in 1998.

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April 25, 2003

Future eLearning

The Longer Term Future for eLearning

About fifty of us participated in the April meeting of eLearning Forum this morning. Forty people met F2F in a classroom at the HP Nonstop Learning Center; eight to ten people joined us remotely via HP Virtual Classroom, a private-labeled Placeware derivative.

Our host, Tom Hill, is Program Manager, Advanced Learning Technologies, Hewlett Packard Education & Training Center, NonStop Enterprise Division, and a long-time member of eLearning Forum (back when we were the Silicon Valley eLearning Network).

Tom explained that our topic is the future of eLearning, but not the close-in future one can predict through extropolation so much as the future five years from now when things will be really different.

Jerry Neece comparing early eLearning to our microphone holder constructed of Bic pens and Scotch tape.

Jerry Neece, an eLearning pioneer in his years with Sun, noted that Mosaic is celebrating its tenth birthday this month! For many of us, this first browser was the wake-up call for the idea that marrying technology and education could yield tremendous results. Yet eLearning has failed to live up to the promise. Why?

    1. The (non) Human Factor – first systems were built from the administrator’s standpoint, not the learner’s
    2. Inherited, outdated paradigms – “put a week of learning on the web”
    3. Piecemeal solutions – have to log into three or four different systems with different passwords
    4. Proprietary systems – defendable from competition but not interoperable

The future is promising because of such things as:

  1. Open architecture based on J2EE, modularity, and learner-centricity. MIT is offering a free LMS. U-portal is free, developed by colleges, now 500 institutions. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of engineers are working on these open systems. Web standards such as SOAP, XML, UDDI, etc. mean that engineers can work on a module rather than the whole enchilada. For example, Villa Nova University, has tied together registration, the grading system, and student information to provide professors with a composite class list (with photos) and a single interface for attendance and grading.
  2. More personalized learning enabled by identity management, profiling, and quality of service. Adaptive, based on learner’s historic behavior. Rank-ordered list of what I need to know (based in part on what I already know).
  3. More standards, leading to reusable learning objects, giving increased quality at lower cost
  4. Paradigm shift: learning comes to you rather than you to the learning. Take the mountain to Mohammed.

Trace Urdan, Research Analyst, Think Equity Partners

Trace Urdan joined us by phone, identifying three seismic shifts in eLearning:

1. shift of training responsibility from corporations to individuals

volatile employment conditions, labor a variable cost
proven benefit of credentials and degrees – the boost pay and are portable
rise and redefinition of trade schools, e.g. University of Phoenix
web-based degree programs

2. outsourcing

EDS, IBM, Thompson making their moves
Farm out what you don’t understand well

3. disintermediation of content development

companies will roll their own
steadily advancing power of tools

Wayne Hodgins, Autodesk futurist, phoned in from a car hurtling along an L.A. freeway. Wayne starts 3-5 years out and tries to go out another 50 years. Our world is speeding up. Like driving, the faster you go, the further ahead you have to look. Wayne shared three alliterations with us.

Small, smart, standards
No one is thinking small enough
How small? So small it’s never used by itself
This maximizes flexibility in reassembly

Low level of intelligence we gain thru pattern recognition
Substitute proactive for reactive
Subjective metadata – gathering peoples’ opinions
Use this for predicting what people will and won’t like
NetFlix can predict how you’ll rate a movie

Standards are a long haul but an important one
Progress is being made. XML, XMS derivatives, RSS, SOAP…
MOTO = metadata, objects, taxonomies, ontologies

Personal, proactive, performance
Teacher for every teachable moment
“When the learner is ready, the teacher will appear” (Confucius)

Key on the proactive side
We have set our expectations way too low

Results and performance are what matters
Readiness to respond to the unexpected
Business trend: performance-based contract payouts

Content, collaboration, context
Current content sucks. Neither compelling nor relevant
New kinds of content, e.g. visual language, Scott McCloud’s comics, simulations – compelling, not entertaining

Collaboration -- check Wikipedia, 100,000+ nodes generated by readers
Once you start to provide enabling things, responsibilities shift to the users

Customers will develop the taxonomies and vocabulary

Peg Maddocks describes the changes at Cisco.

Peg Maddocks told us about her exciting new assignment at Cisco, working in a new business unit, Learning Strategy and Development.

John Chambers recently observed that Cisco "was not flying in formation," i.e. the company was trying to tackle too many things in too many ways. Peg's new group was established to create a unified learning strategy for all of Cisco. One of their objectives is to enable employees to move around, cross-fertilizing the organization. To pull this off, Peg foresees creating common learning models and supportive business processes, taking a user point of view, and making content interoperable across all Cisco divisions. New eLearning business council has SVPs; they will make decisions about learning strategies.


Tom Hill described trends he's seeing at Non-Stop University.

Tom Hill talks about trends at HP Non-Stop.

Overseas online learners are two to three times more active than the typical North American.
90% of content champions are from Europe
Caution: don’t be America-centric

Economic – MIT Technology Review says next major information technology corporation may come from India
Realtime, around-the-world financial markets
Strategically, you’re either selling the product or building it

Collaborative – increase engagement, two-way, organic. Nurture -- you can't force it.
Agents – learner controlled, centric
Embedded learning
Mentoring – accompaniment, great book on this: Working Wisdom
Self publishing – user contributions

UI – fewer steps, clicks, and pain; “more dashboard” but make it a customizable dashboard

End user
Anxious User/Customer (no travel, fewer offices, more products coming out)
IBM – I’m by myself. (Gerstner). We live in a technology envelope. More high touch coming.
Self-efficacy. Managing my own learning, Flow
Iterative – spiral, adding to mental map.

Katie Povejsil debriefs the discussion groups.
Katie Povejsil of Catalyst Consultants facilitated the formation of discussion groups on technology, users, and content.

The Technology group wanted an expert voice in the ear that follows them around. Social network analysis will help pinpoint expertise. For the next five years, most knowledge will still come from people. The Learner group figured that everyone will be a learner; the term will lose meaning as learning becomes part of the tapestry of life. The Content group foresees a shorter distance between SME and learner. Already, knowledge centers (think call center for learning) are being established in India.




Our next meeting, on May 16 at the Microsoft Campus in Mountain View, will deal with informal and social learning. Google will be joining us, along with leaders of the social software movement, edu-bloggers, and a new technology. You'll need to sign up early since attendance is limited to sixty.

This is only a prelminary report of our April meeting. This is what I would have blogged live if HP had Wi-Fi in the classroom. Mentorware is creating an electronic summary for the eLearning Forum archives. The results of our pre-meeting member poll are already there.

Additional links

Emerging Technology Conference wiki

Social Software Alliance Wiki

Social Software and Social Capital


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April 24, 2003

Learn More

E-Learning’s Unique Capability by Will Thalheimer answers a great question: What can you do with eLearning that you can’t do by other means?

Thalheimer begins with a precious metaphor, “Sensible people don?t pound nails with paintbrushes, turn screws with hammers, or paint walls with screwdrivers,” and then asks what the eLearning tool is good for. Part of the answer is “Among all the learning media, e-learning is the only one that has the potential to have meaningful and renewable contact with learners over time.”

He goes on to explain how proper timing can increase retention 112% (with spacing, repetition, delayed feedback, and shorter retention intervals.) Neither LMS nor learning objects nor current corporate practice take advantage of these techniques for improving learning.

His “Percentage Improvements that are likely when Key Learning Factors are utilized” should be pinned above instructional designers’ desks for ready reference.

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April 23, 2003

eLearning Business Translator

Noted in Ten Reasons Why, this item by Kevin Kruse totally cracked me up.

I’ve been tyring to swear off cynicism: it’s fun but it doesn’t get you very far. Nonetheless, you absolutely must experiment with the eLearning Business Translator. Not only is the EBT a brilliant piece of work, it also raises the bar for how to introduce a white paper. Bravo, Kevin!

This graphic from Agora ‘03, could accompany Kevin’s business translator.

eLearning Newsline doesn’t appear to have gotten the news about eLearning magazine.

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April 18, 2003

Open Source Ed

How much of eLearning should be in the public domain? What should be proprietary?

Training has a history of taking advantage of tools that were invented for other purposes. Consider the VCR. Or intranets.

If you are a large, global enterprise, you’re going to spend big bucks on a robust, scalable learning infrastructure. Even so, you’d needn’t reinvent the wheel. You’ll complement whatever you pay for with things like email, instant messaging, NetMeeting, and Java scripts.

I envision a future for shared content. If Linus Torwalds can line up an army of programmers to add functionality to the Linux kernel, why couldn’t we (you and me) enlist a core group of organizations and individuals to share learning objects?

I wrote those red words nearly two years ago. Happy to say, others have picked up the ball and are running with it very fast.


    Open Source Content in Education by George Siemens

    George has compiled a list of Edu-bloggers.

    In autounfocus, David Wiley notes, “This group moves fast. Like, from initial conversations to working code in one day fast. Pin your ears back and get ready for collaborative knowledge development like you?ve never experienced before. “

It feels like this train is finally leaving the station. Bravo!

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April 16, 2003

Change of Pace

Until now, the words here on the Internet Time Blog have all been tapped in by my very own fingers. Then I read David Forman's paper, Reinventing the Training Business, and thought to myself, "I couldn't have said this any better." So why try? Here's David's paper. Enjoy!

Reinventing the Training Business

                                  By David C Forman

David C Forman is founder and president of Sage Learning Systems, a consulting company dedicated to the effective use of technology in learning.

It is time to face the cold, hard reality that the training business, as we know it today, is out of touch with customers and changing market requirements; and is therefore floundering, if not failing, as a business itself.   While this analysis focuses on corporate training vendors, particularly those that supply technology-based training products, I suggest that the same condition pertains to classroom providers and those suppliers that serve other audiences as well.

The training business has finally escaped from being viewed as being on the periphery to achieving newfound recognition. International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates tell us that e-Learning will grow at 50% annually and be a $18 billion dollar segment by the year 2005 (Rossett, 2002) .  Major business leaders such as John Chambers, Larry Ellison, and Jack Welch talk about the criticality of continuous learning in the workplace and using technology to foster these changes.  Economists and policy makers all acknowledge that the enduring competitive advantage of companies and even countries is the knowledge and skills of their people.  This is the ideal stage, the perfect recipe for success for the training business.

But this vision has failed to materialize.  The evidence is too overpowering to ignore.  Training company revenues are stagnant.  All significant vendors in the technology-based training segment are losing money.  The often-frequented prediction that classroom training as a percentage of total training delivery will fall below 70% is simply not happening.  Usage rates for technology based courses within large courseware libraries hovers at 20% (Islam, 2002). The courses themselves are boring, generic duds that simply automate the linear classroom model of instruction.

Thirty years ago the two major content suppliers in the technology-based training industry carved out a $300 million business.  Today, in spite of all the technical advances, population growth, and rise of the knowledge economy, the size of this segment is essentially the same.  The only difference between these two snapshots in time is that 30 years ago these two companies were profitable.

The training business is in trouble.  It is running on past fumes.  It is wasting the best opportunity it has ever had to be successful, and it has lost both its way and its passion.


Why did the U.S. automobile industry lose its way?  Why are telecommunications companies struggling?  There are painful lessons from others to inform our plight.  Rule number one is: do not lose sight of the needs and preferences of the real customer.  Rule number two is: be agile and adapt to changing market conditions quickly or risk being marginalized.   Training is 0 for 2.

The training buyer is very different from the training user or learner.  There is a very real distinction between the two audiences; motivations, interests, experience, and agenda are all very different.  The training industry?s focus is almost exclusively on the buyer and not the learner.  The preponderance of resources, personnel, marketing materials, and executive coverage is directed at making the sale, not about meeting the needs of the learner or achieving results.  We have had a problem understanding who the real customer is.

The buyer historically has been frequently more interested in providing the broadest coverage possible to meet any possible need that could arise across various business units.   The buyer also usually wants to go with a safe, proven supplier, and is interested in negotiating the best possible price per unit.  The buyer likes to talk about the generic organizational advantages of courseware that are available anywhere 24/7 and the money saved by reducing travel costs. 

The learner is not interested in any of these issues.  Learners are concerned with relevance, and the quality of the learning experience.  Instead of a broad library of courses, they want targeted and specific courses that meet a particular need and that do not waste their time.  Learners could care less about coverage, infrastructure, and contracts; they want to learn something valuable and meaningful for their personal and professional development.

The training industry has developed systems and models that are advantageous and convenient for the vendor and buyer, but not for the learner. These development, sales and marketing systems are not forward looking; they are inward facing.  They serve the training industry, not its real customers.  While these approaches may have been effective twenty years ago, they do not stand the test of time.  These approaches are part of the problem, and they are not changing fast enough.

What?s Wrong

The Business Model:  The prevailing business model for technology-based training companies has been a multi-year license for a large courseware library.  This decades old approach worked because it met the needs of the buyer, not the learner, and it made the vendors a lot of money.  Depending on accounting practices, a multiyear contract could be counted in the first year as revenue or at least toward quota.  Nice deal for someone?s balance sheet, but a bit divorced from reality.

If this model ever worked, it no longer does.  The reasons are many.   First, in this economy buyers do not want to sign multi-year agreements, even if the price per unit is infinitesimal.  Second, data about usage for large product libraries are getting more public airing and company executives are alarmed.  Why pay for a library that gets used only 20% of the time?  If one bothers to compute the cost of multi-year course libraries based on courses used as a percentage of all the courses in the library, pricing becomes less attractive.  Third, the much more relevant pay for play model is replacing the library card metaphor.  The culture of the web is to pay for what you want; put a book or a travel reservation in the shopping cart and buy it.  Training should work the same way.  And fourth, because of the increasing pressure to demonstrate results, the ability to access a large undifferentiated mass of courses is not only no longer important, it has become a barrier to achieving results.

The Product:  Because of the prevailing business model, product strategy and design were based on coverage and quantity.  The more courses, the better; measures of success related to fatter catalogs and more shelves in the library.  The best way to build up libraries was simply to repurpose what already existed in another medium.  Consequently, videotape courses became CBT courses, which became CD-ROM courses, which became e-Learning courses.  Even if new development was undertaken, it often followed the standards based on repurposed courses so that everything could remain consistent.  Course engines and content management systems became very proficient at producing the same thing over and over again.

The product architecture, just like the business model, is old and outdated.  There have certainly been modifications, but the basic tutorial structure has essentially remained the same for decades.  It is characterized by:

· A didactic approach in which information is presented followed by an interaction or two and then more information, and then this cycle is repeated again and again

· Courses are text-driven, sometimes with audio versions of text available; and still use the page or screen as the primary geography

· Graphics are an adornment, usually an afterthought

· Interactions require very little thought

· Feedback is rudimentary

· Simulations and interactive case studies, when present, are limited and often trivial

· Treatments are not particularly interesting, appealing, or creative

· The training product is one-way and self-contained

This model has become very suspect.  The majority of courses produced within this framework are neither compelling nor effective.  Some have estimated that 80 to 90% of the courses now available are sub-standard. There are many new techniques and capabilities that current courseware models simply ignore, because they are different or present production challenges.   The current product mold is based on an instructional framework developed tens if not hundreds of years ago, emphasizes quantity over quality, is linked to a business model that is outdated, and is not what customers use or want.

A Comprehensive Learning System:  Decades ago, the course was the defacto learning system, with perhaps a few job aids thrown in for good measure.  It was all there was.  With creative thinking about the use of powerful new tools and technology, we can move beyond the course as the only vehicle to convey knowledge and skills.  New technological alternatives permit entirely new models, but yet these are rarely seen.

Most current technology-based courses are still self-contained entities.  All knowledge worth knowing, as determined by the vendor, has been captured and presented on the CD-ROM or online course.  The information exchange is one-way, uniform, and impersonal. It is also assumed to be current, which it may not be at all.  Learners do not really have to do anything, except change screens and answer the occasional questions.  The link between the training taken and work requirements is tenuous at best. 

Learning and performance problems are way too important and complex to be left to typical asynchronous courses to solve.  Courses cannot and should not be asked to be the only vehicle to present knowledge and impart skills (Rosenberg, 2001).  Instead, think of a seamless and integrated system of tools and technologies, each doing what it can do best.  Five examples follow:

· Meaningful Job Aids:  These should form the backbone of any training experience because they pertain to how training should impact the world of work.  If a meaningful job aid cannot be constructed, then perhaps the course should not be created. Teach backwards from the Job Aid.  Job Aids, themselves, should be more than trivialized lists or checkboxes.  They can be interactive, personalized, dynamic performance support tools.  Content can be linked to these job aids and accessed by learners at the moment of need.
· Knowledgebases:  All content should be synthesized, easily accessible and searchable so that learners can get their specific questions answered without having to take (or retake) an entire course.  Courses do not have to teach everything if the content is available in a knowledgebase.  Emphasis can then shift to what courses do best and how to use the knowledgebase to get information when and where needed.
· External Content:  The Web is an indexable and searchable database of billions of documents.  It is the largest and most comprehensive content repository ever developed.  There is no reason not to include this resource in learning programs to provide depth, currency, and diversity of information and perspectives.  There is more to learning than pre-packaged courses.
· Two-way Communication and Exchanges:  Open up learning and put human touches back in.  One reason Instructor Led Training has continued to be the dominant delivery medium is that learning is a social activity and people enjoy personal contact.  Early attempts to provide this type of contact through technology were lame and ineffective.  A chat room or message board is aimless and woefully inadequate.  Instead, learners should always have the opportunity to get their questions answered, receive expert coaching, interact and collaborate with others, and solve problems with real-time guidance and support. 
· Personalized and Current Treatments:  Packaged courses are not very personal; everyone receives essentially the same treatment.  New technologies enable a greater degree of personalization and currency with My Learning Homepage which can include presenting dynamic information and resources based on who I am, what I have done and where I want to go.  The highly personalized, sticky, and intelligent Amazon.com model is a good beginning.

Learning Outcomes:  Fifty years ago attention was brought to the differences between teaching and learning objectives.  As the names imply, teaching objectives refer to what is presented, taught or delivered to the learner, while learning objectives relate to what sticks with the learner and results in behavior change.  The training industry?s rhetoric supports learning objectives, but our practice does not.  The training industry has never accepted or even understood that its job is to produce learning results, not simply provide access to courses.

This fundamental folly is easy to understand from the training vendor perspective.  Learning is complex and messy.  It always takes work, care, and support to achieve.  There are factors outside of one?s immediate control.  It is much easier to simply provide materials than to be held accountable for learning.  It is easier to devote most of your resources to making the next sale as opposed to making the current one work.

But this too will change.  Individuals and executive sponsors are demanding greater accountability.  The murkiness of large, undifferentiated course libraries will be replaced by the fewest, not the most, courses to solve a business problem.  Relationships and accountability will be clearer. The training companies that will assume a leadership role in the future will not only accept the responsibility that their job is to produce learning outcomes, but will actively embrace it as their only reason for existence (Forman, 1999).

Business Results:  Much talk, very little action.  There have been more articles written on Return On Investment (ROI) than actual findings of positive ROI and business results.  It is, of course, hard to achieve business results when the training business is structured around libraries of generic products and does not even take responsibility for achieving learning outcomes, let alone business outcomes. 

The key to achieving business results is a targeted point solution, not broadcast generic ones.  It is a narrowcast, not a broadcast.  It is fewer courses, not more.  It is an integrated, seamless performance system, not just courses.  And it is clear thinking about the business problem that is being addressed and how training can improve the situation, add value, and contribute to revenue growth. 

The preponderance of business cases for e-learning focus on distribution efficiency:  reducing travel and living costs associated with seminars or classroom-based training.  This can be a significant figure because 40% of all training costs are related to T&E, but it is not enough (Moe, Bailey, and Lau, 1999).  Cost reduction measures can get a program funded initially, but executives quickly move beyond first-year cost reductions to more enduring business value. Effectiveness, value-added, and strategy dimensions are far more valuable over time (Forman, 2002).

Training companies must be able to play in this arena.  They need to take responsibility for business as well as learning results.  They must become knowledgeable and conversant with measures such as those displayed in Table 1.

                    Table 1:  Key Metrics for Business Results

Time Measures

Human Capital



Time to market

Talent acquisition costs

Customer satisfaction

Error rates

Time to competency/quota

Turnover costs



Billable time



Span of control

Cycle time

Capacity to innovate

Life Time Value


Rework time

Talent development



Response time

Time to hire


These are not simply interesting or academic measures.  They are core to the future success of training initiatives and of training companies themselves.  Without them, training will be increasingly marginalized and on the periphery of the customer?s business.  With them, training can become part of the value chain that produces and contributes to growth, earnings, and value.

There is also a real possibility that this theme will radically alter the way training companies do business in the future.  Not only will clients start to demand information and progress reports on achieving business results, but they will start to pay for results.  The business model then is shifting from Pay to Access (a library or catalog), to Pay for Play, to Pay for Performance or Results.  Training companies that embrace this change and do not resist it will be in a market-leadership position.  Training companies that deliver learning outcomes and business results, and stand behind this charter, will not only survive but thrive.

What?s Next

We?re lost but making good time.

                             Yogi Berra

Change and especially significant structural change is difficult to accomplish.  The weight of tradition, long-standing systems, and cultural inertia is hard to overcome.  It takes vision and courage to recognize a problem, let along fix it.  Currently, there is little indication that the training industry is going to correct itself.  More of the same is on the horizon.

Two of the most frequently discussed advances in the technology-based training industry are 1) learning objects and 2) human capital management systems.  These both have merits, but they are built on a foundation that does not work.  Learning objects, which take hour-long courses and break them down into 6 to 8 minute objects, may simply give us more little bad things, unless innovation and creativity are applied to the process.  The few current courses that are high quality, coherent, and have soul may get so chopped up that they lose their momentum and value.  We have to insure that learning objects provide meaning to our real customer and are not merely internal training solutions that make courseware production more efficient.  We must also differentiate between chunks of content that can stand-alone and instructional designs that require weaving content carefully into a powerful, cohesive structure.

Human Capital Management Systems (HCMS) are in danger of creating the opposite problem:  one huge bad thing.  By rolling Learning Management Systems, Content/ Delivery Management Systems and Knowledge Management Systems all into one, we will have created a technological medusa.  The market is already telling us that each one of these individual systems is way too expensive, is as difficult to implement as an enterprise software system, and takes many months if not years to become operational.  It is clear why training companies want to sell more infrastructure, but is this another example of a technology in search of a problem and customers?

Where to look

Look small. 

There are pockets of innovation and creativity all throughout our industry.  They are not to be found in the big bureaucratic companies that simply want to emulate each other.  They are small, agile companies that stay close to their customers and core skills.  They have the vision to think of new approaches and products to meet specific needs.  They are not trying to be all things to all people.  They iterate immediately and are smart enough to learn from their mistakes, the first time.  They can build on their core skills to reinvent themselves as the market changes.

Look different

Some of the most innovative and effective training programs being delivered today are not from training companies but from public, private, and for-profit universities.  These models are built around faculty intervention, student communities, work products, declared schedules, and different types of learning materials.  Learning is two-way, personal, and relevant.  There are now 150 institutions offering online undergraduate degrees and nearly 200 offering graduate programs (Pethokoukis, 2002).  The University of Phoenix has more than 37,000 students studying online.  There are successful lessons here that can be transported to the training business if and when it reinvents itself.

Final Thoughts

New models are needed for new times.  The training industry can continue to bumble along or it can take a tough look in the mirror and get angry at itself. Finally the stars seamed to be aligned as others recognize the value in learning and using technology to enhance the skills of the workforce, but we cannot deliver.  We are out of step.  We are in danger of becoming a vestige.

The necessary changes will not be easy.  It means busting a-part models and systems that have functioned for decades.  The size, complexion, and compensation of the sales force changes drastically.  The effort, tools, support and mentoring aimed at users, learning outcomes, and business results must increase dramatically.  Content editors must continually update, refresh and find new sources of information for knowledgebases, job aids, and external content sites. The structure of the course becomes less meaningful than the reach of the entire learning system.  Learning materials must cease being generic and neutral.  They must be relevant to the learner, compelling, minds on as well as hands on, challenging, practical, and real.  Learning needs to be personal, two-way, and dynamic.

The training business is in trouble.  Unless core issues are resolved, the tree will continue to whither.  Given limited resources, time and talent, it is vital that we set our aim on the most important problems and issues, even if they are the toughest to solve.  Only then can the potential and passion of the training business, which attracted so many of us to this business years ago, be realized.

David C Forman is founder and president of Sage Learning Systems, a consulting company dedicated to the effective use of technology in learning.  He has also founded   e-learningjobs.com, the first Internet job board for e-learning professionals. David has held management and executive positions in the training industry for 25 years.  He has worked with many of the country?s leading corporations to design, develop and implement technology-based training solutions. David has written over 30 articles and books in the fields of training, evaluation, return on investment (ROI), and instructional design; and has presented at most of the major industry conferences and seminars, both in the United States and abroad.


Forman, D. C.  (1999).  Perspectives on the training industry.  Journal of Interactive Instruction Development, Vol 12, Number 1. 3-9.

Forman, D. C.  (2002).  Benefits, costs and the value of e-learning programs.  In:  A. Rossett (Ed.), The ASTD e-learning handbook.  New York:  McGraw-Hill

Islam, K. (2002).  Why e-learning is floundering.  E-learning.  May, 2002.

Moe, M., Bailey K. & Lau R.  (1999). The book of knowledge.  Merrill Lynch.  April, 1999.

Pethokoukis, J. (2002).  E-learn and earn.  US News and World Report.  June 24, 2002.

Rosenberg, M. (2001).  E-learning:  strategies for delivering knowledge in the digital age.   New York:  McGraw-Hill

Rossett, A. (2002).  Waking in the night and thinking about e-learning.  In:  A. Rossett (Ed.),  The ASTD e-learning handbook.  New York:  McGraw-Hill.


Originally printed in ISPI Performance Improvement, January 2003


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April 15, 2003

Six Degrees

I just finished reading Six Degrees, and if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't.

Networks are the metaphor for our age. I am attracted to them as the moth to the flame. My gut tells me we've only glimpsed the start of something incredible. Hive mind on steroids. No, words can't even capture what humanity is headed into.

Smarty-pants that I am, I figured I'd get a leg up on most of the civilized world and formulate some rules for understanding the nuances of networks, social and otherwise. This book sucked me in with some great turns of phrase: "It is only slightly unfair to characterise sociology as a discipline that attempts to explain human behavior without the humans."

The author writes:

    Regardless of whether we are discussing magnetization or the frezing of water into ice - procedures that involve completely different physics and ven completely different materials - it turns out that the nature of the corresponding phase transitions is the same!

    The observation that very different systems can exhibit fundamental similarities is generally referred to as universality....

    By knowing all the universality classes for a particular kind of model, physicists can make some very powerful statements about what can and cannot happen in different kinds of physical systems, again by knowing only the most basic facts about them. This is a tremendously hopeful message for anyone interested in understanding the emergent behavior of complex social and economic systems like friendship networks, firms, financial markets, and even societies.

Boy, I'll say. That's what I was after in reading the book. Wow. Let's get it on.

Sad to say, that was about all I learned. Geez. I waded through three hundred pages of a book by a guy with a Ph.D. in theoretical and applied mechanics and a professorship in sociology at Columbia, only to find nothing but theories that had no bearing on my reality. Oh silly me.

The science of networks appears to be similar to the science of economics. Supply and demand work if people are rational, and it's too bad they're not, for that rips the heart out of most economic conjecture. Similarly, network analysis usually assumes all nodes are equal or bandwidth is free or some other pie-in-the-sky notion. At least the scientists have figured out that a static diagram is not a very faithful reproduction of a dynamic network.

Let me save you some time. Here are the lessons of this book:

  1. Things may be closer than they appear.
  2. Little things can mean a lot.
  3. History is an unreliable guide to the future.
  4. A diagram of a network is not the real thing.

Oh, and if you didn't know it, that six degrees thing that Stanley Milgram wrote about in Psychology Today, finding that it only took six hops between acquaintances to link any two people in the world, it's crap. Bad data, flawed experiment. Didn't happen. Not a bad name for a book, though.

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April 14, 2003

Object Objections

Three Objections to Learning Objects
Norm Friesen ([email protected])
Athabasca University
April 13, 2003

Norm Friesen has three philosophical problems with learning objects but offers no solutions. The term learning object is meaningless and a learning standard can be either neutral or relevant but not both. These are academic arguments. His third objection is that the bull leading the charge into object standards is the U.S. military, and they’re the wrong people to do the job. This is a real problem, but if not they, who? I’d hate to the team behind “No Child Left Behind” work on standards.

The game as Friesen sees it:

    Strike One: Bad name. Learning Object, the combination of learning, a concept so vague that people can read almost anything into it, and object, a technical term so precise that it’s hard to describe without technobabble - principles such as abstraction, concurrency, encapsulation, hierarchy, persistence, polymorphism, and typing.

      In order for the positive potential of learning objects to be realized, they need to be labelled, described, investigated and understood in ways that make the simplicity, compatibility and advantages claimed for them readily apparent to teachers, trainers and other practitioners.

    Strike Two: Flawed concept. SCORM purports to be pedagogically neutral. But there are many pedagogies — tailored to specific situations. SCORM favors the single, self-directed, self-paced learner; that’s not neutrality. Neutral or relevant: take one, not both.

    Strike Three: Do you really want educational systems defined by the Department of Defense? Not all education is mil-spec, nor all learners soldiers, nor should they be.

Thanks to Stephen Downes for the pointer to the original item.

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April 13, 2003

Bay Area eLearning Companies

Last month I put together a list of major eLearning companies in and around San Francisco as part of a presentation for visiting entrepreneurs. Several people have requested copies, so here it is. If I've inadvertantly left out any major players, please add their names in the Comments section.
eLearning Companies in the San Francisco Bay Area

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April 12, 2003

Go With The Flow

The Dawn of Workflow eLearning

Disclosure: Internet Time Group publishes Sam Adkins' research reports.

If analyst Sam Adkins is right, and I believe he is, eLearning in large organizations is morphing into something entirely different from what has gone before.

In a free white paper, Adkins writes that the era of real-time enterprise systems is upon us. Half of the companies in a recent survey reported using real-time data feeds in decision-making. Nearly a third update their analytic databases at least hourly. Open standards enable enterprise silos of ERP, CRM, and SCM to hook together into a single real-time model of work flowing through the value chain.

    The enterprise customer demand for integration, optimization, real-time collaboration and embedded business alignment has created an emergent technology and business process methodology.
This integration takes all the slack out of the system. Remember "training at the desktop." It was supposed to take place during that slack time. Besides, half of America's workers don't work at their desks; they're in the field or on the facotry floor. First-generation eLearning is giving way to what Adkins calls workflow eLearning.
    Employees in the field and on the job do not have the time, the place or the inclination to 'take' conventional elearning. Conventional elearning formats are inappropriate for their needs. New, highly innovative, and effective augmented reality and mobile performance products are emerging that map directly to their contextual performance needs.

    Wireless technology is being used to extend the enterprise beyond BackOffice and FrontOffice to employees in the field. Workers across vertical industries who do not sit at computers all day are now being connected to enterprise applications via wireless handheld technology.

Adkins maintains that when content is flowing in real time, there's little point in halting work to take a course. Just in time is not soon enough. What's the alternative? Context-specific performance support.

    Vendors are marketing tools that generate highly contextual content directly in the workflow of the user. Content management firms are developing products that automatically generate context and expertise maps. Compelling innovations that focus on workflow are also coming from the Business Process Management (BPM) and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) industries.

    Virtual embedded coaches, wizards, bots and agents are now being used in the real-time workflow. Lombardi's TeamWorks product embeds contextual process coaches inside workflow. PeopleSoft's Intelligent Context Manager functions in a very similar way by proactively prompting workers with task-related information in the context of specific tasks.

    Ultimus products contain Flobots that automate task compliance and are embedded directly in Microsoft applications such as Microsoft Word and Excel. Other companies like Teamplate and Nobilis also embed process wizards in productivity applications.

Will business leaders buy into this? Probably so. The case for workflow tools is more compelling than the traditional eLearning package of LMS, objects, courses, etc.

    These new products measure performance skills and provide remediation in real time, on the job, and in the context of an employee's workflow. The 'bottom line' business result is the direct physical connection between business needs (via hard-coded business rules) and performance. They meet the buyer's need for integration, optimization and cost cutting and the user's need for embedded workflow support.

What do you think about this? Elliott Masie recently called Adkins "one of the top learning researchers in the country." Drop me a note or leave a comment telling me how you feel.

Source of quotations:
White paper, ""The Dawn of Workflow-based eLearning"

Source of the research:
The Gravity of the Situation: The Assimilation of eLearning by Enterprise Applications

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April 11, 2003

The Positive Learning Movement

Training, like psychology, has a legacy of inherent pessimism. Both were built on the core belief that people are deficient or dysfunctional.

Psychologists spend most of their time studying people who are “disturbed.” Then they generalize their findings from these fringe cases to normal people. Hence, the psychological literature is filled with neuroses, diagnostics, therapy, and cures, but precious little on making people who are generally okay feel better.

Similarly, most training treats people as though they were missing something. The trainees need content or performance support or a new skill because without it, they are sub-par. Given what we’d like them to do, the trainees have yet to make the grade.

Recently, a group of renegade psychologists founded the positive psychology movement. The positivists study well-adjusted people rather than nut cases. They focus on making healhy people healthier.

Learning can benefit by following suit. Optmism works better than pessimism. Optmism encourages one to test assumptions until proven wrong rather than eliminate them out of hand on the assumption that they wouldn’t work anyway.

What might we expect by starting out on a positive plane?

  • Respect for the contributions of learners, leading to “each one, teach one”
  • Refocus on what’s best for the organization. “Ask not what your company can do for you….”
  • Concentrate on finding ways to make things better instead of memorizing the status quo
  • Foster cross-fertilization of thinking and cooperative working styles
  • Improve motivation through positive reinforcement

The consequences of assuming the role of training is to fix what’s broken rather than make what’s good better have been holding us back:

  • Disregard for creating new knowledge (for the trainer/curriculum is assumed to be the authority)
  • Unmotivated learners (Who wants to accept that the other guy knows it all? And that they are clueless?)
  • Focus on fixing the individual rather than optimizing the team (because the individual trainee will submit to being fixed but the organization is reluctant to join in group therapy)
  • Lack of acceptance (Because the faculty implies “My way or the highway.”)
  • Negative reinforcement (correct what’s wrong, take the test, do this or else). Positive reinforcement always works better.
  • Training (we do it to you) instead of learning (co-creation of knowledge)

What do you think? Am I on to something here? Or is this just wishful thinking on a beautiful, sunny Spring day?

Nextdoor neighbor’s artichoke plant

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April 07, 2003

Who's buying whom?

22 August 2000

KnowledgePool acquires Maxim Training

KnowledgePool, the e-Learning, IT and business skills training company, today announced its acquisition of Maxim Training, the second acquisition within a month. Maxim Training is one of the UK’s leading independent developers of CD-ROM and online multimedia training in personal and management skills for the corporate market. In a recent UK study by Televisual¹, Maxim Training was ranked eighth in the top ten online multimedia producers.”

2 April 2003

KnowledgePool acquired

KnowledgePool, Europe’s leading training provider, has been acquired by Maxim Training Corp (UK) Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of TomaNet Inc. of Canada, effective 1 April 2003. Previously owned by Fujitsu Services Ltd, the company will continue to operate as KnowledgePool in the UK and the United States. A new division, KnowledgePool Canada, will be established by May 31, 2003.

Maxim Training Corp will create the world’s leading learning provider by building on the leadership of KnowledgePool in Europe and through the acquisition and consolidation of leading-edge content, technology, and service companies in North America.

While continuing to operate under the name KnowledgePool, the new company will trade publicly on the Canadian Equity markets as Maxim Training Corp (UK) Ltd.

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April 05, 2003

Mapping Social Networks

“There is a central difference between the old and new economies:
the old industrial economy was driven by economies of scale;
the new information economy is driven by the economics of networks…”
Information Rules
by Carl Shapiro, Hal R. Varian

Nature has published a summary of an article about scientists from Hewlett Packard information dynamics lab processing the flow of email messages to draw maps of informal organizations.

    The technique can also reveal who is at the heart of each sub-group. These people often correspond with company-designated leaders such as project managers. But unofficial de facto leaders can also emerge. The approach might even help to pinpoint the heads of criminal or terrorist networks.

    Communities of practice

    It has long been recognized that big institutions tend to divide organically into informal collaborative networks, called communities of practice.

    For example, colleagues in one department might all tend to consult one particularly useful person in another department, linking the group into a community of practice. Such collaborations are very common in scientific research. Groups in different universities share information, skills and expertise to solve problems.

That’s cool as far as it goes, although I doubt that email alone will produce reliable maps since F2F communication is probably more vital.

How might this automated mapping be used?

  1. Some organizations are using maps of traffic flow in “find-an-expert” systems.
  2. Traffic analysis could identify and fix communication bottlenecks that impede the progress of the informal organization.
  3. Rumor has it that others plan to use traffic maps to identify workers who are “out of the loop.” (One can imagine the birth of inner-office Spam if email sends are incorporated into performance appraisal.)

Yesterday I played around with a couple of web-link mappers. Touchgraph is a mapping engine. One application points Touchgraph at Google. I entered “InternetTime.com” and received a clickable map of sites with at least two reciprocal links.

Someone else pointed Touchgraph at Amazon. I put in the title of Lance’s and my book on eLearning to generate this map of “people who bought this book also bought…”

Valdis Krebs is the leader in applying these mapping techniques to organizations. His bio says, “Valdis is a management consultant and the developer of InFlow, a software based, organization network analysis methodology that maps and measures knowledge exchange, information flow, communities of practice, networks of alliances and other networks within and between organizations.”

I love this line: “If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is an interactive model of your organization or industry worth?”

Steven Johnson has a delightful article on Krebs and related projects in this month’s issue of Discover.

    “You have this enormous archive of your social interactions, but you need tools for visualizing that history, for feeling like you’re actually inhabiting it,” Donath says. Turning her sleek, black flat-panel display toward me, she loads up Social Network Fragments, created by Danah Boyd, a grad student, and Jeff Potter, a programmer. The program is visually stunning, if somewhat overwhelming: a floating mass of colored proper names projected over a black background and clustered into five or six loosely defined groups. It looks more like a work of information sculpture than a supplement to e-mail software.

    The program was featured as a work of art in a gallery show in New York City in the summer of 2002. But the data it represents are culled from mundane sources: the addresses of e-mail messages sent or received. By looking at the names of people whom you send messages to or receive them from, and who gets cc’d or bcc’d on those messages, the software builds a portrait of your social networks. If you often send messages to your entire family, the software will draw links between the names of all the people you’ve included in those messages; if you cc a few colleagues on a message to an important client, it will connect those names as well.

    from New Scientist.

    In his Managing the Connected Organization, Krebs describes the things that get me excited by the potential of social network analysis:

    How can managers improve the connectivity within their organization? Here are a few places to get started:

    • Look beyond the individual — uncover their interconnections and multiple group memberships.
    • Know the difference between tacit and explicit knowledge and how it is shared and transferred.
    • Reward people for directly sharing their know-how, for including others in their knowledge-sharing networks.
    • Design computer systems that facilitate conversations and sharing of knowledge — think communication, not storage/retrieval.
    • Help women and people of color connect to key knowledge flows and communities in the organization. This may help eliminate the glass ceiling.
    • Recruit new hires through the networks of current employees — they will be happier, adjust quicker, and stay longer.
    • When transferring employees keep in mind their connections. Exchanging employees with a diverse network of ties can create shortcuts between departments or teams and greatly improve the overall information flow.
    • Ensure better coordination of behavior between departments or projects by adding crosscuts to minimize the path length of their information exchange networks. To reduce delays you want some redundancy in the paths — if one is blocked then alternative communication paths are available.
    • It is no longer sufficient to just hire the best. You must hire and wire! Start new networks, help employees and teams connect —connect the unconnected!

    What is connected knowledge? A competitive advantage! Your competition may duplicate the nodes in your organization, but not the pattern of connections that have emerged through sense-making, feedback and learning within your business network. And if you get Vancho’s take on Einstein’s formula correct, then connected knowledge is pure energy!

    In the 1992 U.S. presidential race, one simple phrase refocused and re-ignited a jumbled campaign effort by Bill Clinton - “It’s the economy, stupid”. Adaptive businesses see the benefits in managing connected organizations. We can adapt the old campaign slogan to reflect the new network reality - “It’s the connections, stupid!” 

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April 04, 2003

Avaltus, R.I.P.

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April 03, 2003


I just came upon Stephen Downes’ Edu_RSS.

Edu_RSS syndicates a couple of dozen great sources of information on one page. (RSS = Really Simple Syndication.) Putting together a page like this has been on my to do list for several months. Now I don’t have to.

Thank you, Stephen. Edu_RSS is going to be the one page I must check out every day.

If you devour news and value your time, you need to find out how syndication works.

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What I really think about eLearning


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April 02, 2003

Content is not king.

Click me.

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The DNA of Silicon Valley

Last month I gave a presentation to a group of Canadian eLearning entrepreneurs looking to do business in Silicon Valley. I excerpted 12 minutes of the talk, titling it Silicon Valley, The DNA of a Community of Practice.

This is my initial test of Macromedia Breeze. First I narrated my PowerPoint presentation, using a $4 Labtec microphone. Then I saved the presentation and clicked the Breeze plug-in. Breeze condensed my sound files and began uploading the presentation to Macromedia’s server. Twenty-one minutes later, my presentation was ready to go, just as you see it here.

I like this product. As with Macromedia Contribute, it’s another way to put content creation in the hands of subject matter experts. I recognize that many SMEs aren’t good writers or speakers. That’s a problem. But it’s often better to get fresh information out the door than to wait until it’s properly edited. Also, getting the word right from the horse’s mouth leaves less margin for translation errors.

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March 31, 2003

Transforming e-Knowledge

Last week I finished reading Transforming e-Knowledge by Donald Norris, Jon Mason, and Paul Lefrere. This book is a fantastic collection of stories, memes, theories, predictions, scenarios, reference lists, and diagrams about the future of knowing. I read the hardcopy on my travels the last couple of weeks, but the entire book is online. For free.

If you’re concerned with knowledge management, intellectual capital, how to prepare for knowledge standards, best practices, and how to succeed in the emerging e-knowledge industry, you simply must read this.

From the Foreword:

    Underlying many of the contributions in this book is a debate about epistemology?when the knowledge technologies change so radically, they change not just what we know, but how we come to know it. The contributors here argue that knowledge is contextual, social, relativistic?not a discrete and unchanging object. The e-learning agenda creates the dilemma that while we can atomise knowledge into elements such as ?learning objects?, we must recognise that they are there to be shared, contextualised, and negotiated in the social context of the online community of practice.

From the Introduction:

    We begin with a simple vision: in the Knowledge Economy, those individuals and enterprises that share and process their knowledge effectively have a great advantage.

    To succeed in the Knowledge Economy, most of us will need an order-of-magnitude leap in our ability to create, acquire, assimilate, and share knowledge. Even the manner in which we experience knowledge will be transformed, through technologies and practices that exist today or will soon be available. Between now and the year 2010, best practices in knowledge sharing will be substantially reinvented in all settings?education, corporations, government, and associations and non-profits. That is our vision.

    This book traces the three primary indicators of e-knowledge transformation: 1) Internet technologies, interoperability standards, and emerging e-knowledge repositories and marketplaces; 2) enterprise infrastructures, processes, and knowledge cultures; and 3) cascading cycles of reinvention of best practices, business models and strategies for e-knowledge.

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eLearning is dead.

Two weeks ago at the eLearning 2003 Conference in Manchester, UK, I announced that eLearning was dead.

While I didn’t see them in the audience, Advanstar apparently got the word.

is morphing into

The press release announces a new direction for the publication:

    “Our emphasis will be on innovative solutions and strategies,” said Gina Cohen, Group Publisher. “We will stress the business value of implementing new and blended techniques and technologies for training, development, collaboration, and HR to readers who lead the learning and training decision-making process in their organizations.”

    “Our dedication to learning and training is demonstrated by our actions to strengthen both our editorial coverage and our sales team with the mission to deliver the highest quality readership and service in the field,” said Cohen.”

In a couple of days, I’ll post my take on what’s going to replace eLearning.

I’m recovering from flying Air France back from Paris yesterday while the U.S. is at Homeland Security Level 1. An overload broght down the Immigration Service’s network just as I was going through passport control, causing me to miss my connection and adding six hours to my return flight.

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March 29, 2003

Cross-cultural cross-training

Today I had the pleasure of addressing a class studying cross-cultural negotiations at HEC, the most prestigious business school in France. "Local roots, global reach." The park-like campus is located in Versailles.

I'd met Dr. Nouha Thomières in the beginning of the week at the quarterly business breakfast of the Oxford University Society in Paris, and she invited me to participate in the first meeting of the class. I was there as specimen American businessman rather than as a learning hot-shot.

Using Getting to Yes as a process, the class will devote a session each to negotiating in Asia, Latin America, the U.S., etc.

I gave my current shtick on how eLearning was born and how it failed to live up to expectations.

Some members of the class showed scant enthusiasm for my description of how weblogs are impacting knowledge transfer. Or perhaps their torpor was an aftershock from the party that lasted most of the night before. Or the fact that class followed lunch.

I asked how many had taken a computer-based course (none), used an online discussion group (none), had a website (1), a laptop (2), and frequent Internet access (all).

Finding that no one was familiar with the term "Community of Practice," I described the history and culture of Silicon Valley, and the impact of the gold rush, railroads, the 1906 earthquake, Stanford University, Messrs. Terman and Shockley, and the free thinking of beats, hippies, and other rebels on the Valley's values today. France and the Valley differ in so many ways -- job mobility, working from home, the importance of credentials, and more.

Compared to American college students, this group had a marvellous command of a second language; all spoke flawless English. These students were also more reserved. They are in a two-year transition from K12 (and in France, everyone has the same centralized K12 curriculum) to an MBA program.

Dr. Thomières' rapid summary of the cross-cultural findings of Edward T. Hall, George Simons, Geert Hofstede, and others was perfect preparation for my work with Didaxis the following day, for Didaxis is pursuing the same subject area in the commercial environment.

Related link: Institute for Research on Intercultural Cooperation

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March 27, 2003

The history of schooling

Don’t think that walking the streets of Paris is all just for fun. No. This is a business trip. Today I visited a famous learning-related site. East of the Louvre pyramid is a lovely little arch Napoleon had built to celebrate the victories of his Grande Armee.

Each panel celebrates a particular campaign and victory. The horses on top were originally those from atop St. Mark’s in Venice but were repatriated later. (The small photos are clickable.)

This panel represents Napoleon’s defeat of Prussia at Austerlitz. The Prussian troops lost all discipline, retreated, and lost the campaign.

The Kaiser, infuriated, vowed that this would never happen again. He created the Normal Schule to teach the obedience for which the Prussians became famous. They followed orders so well that the Kaiser enjoyed great success hiring them out as mercenaries. Needless to say, the military and social elite were spared these common schools.

An American school board official from Boston, Horace Mann, visited Prussia and concluded that this was just what America needed. America wasn’t fighting Napoleon; rather, it was building railroads and factories which required a discipline of their own.

Anyway, today’s pedagogical parable is that Napoleon is one of the root causes of American’s dumbed-down schools.

With more work to do today, I continued walking, through the garden of the Tuileries, where I stopped for a snack. (These folks took the next table.)

I trudged on up to the Place de la Concorde:

From there, I walked up the Rue Royal to the Madeleine, to the Opera, past Galeries Lafayette, and along Rue Provence to the Folies Bergere:

From the Folies, it’s only three or four blocks to the office of Didaxis, the company I’m working with on prospering in multicultural environments. It’s almost 11:00 pm here but I am tethered to our fast Internet connection.

Paris headquarters of Didaxis. The mistress of Louis XV lived next door as a little girl. A poet unknown outside of France was born upstairs.

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March 12, 2003


I just received an email from David Grebow that summed up where we are in eLearning these days by way of a wonderful analogy to the early days of moveable type:

Johannes Guterberg

    …the new technology was The Printing Press. August 15, 1452. The first Bible was printed. It was a form, needing only hand-drawn illustrations to be complete. The Church felt that the press was a gift from God and realized that X monks writing by quill in a Scriptorium could only produce 12 Bibles a year = 12 more souls saved BUT a printing press, used for the words only with the monks adding the illuminations, could produce 100 or more per year! It was an immense increase in Bibles per Monk.

    So the printing press started cranking out the bible forms and the monks added the pretty pictures and voila you had …. The Incunabula.

    Machine-printed, hand-painted Gutenberg Bible

    The printing of books, revolutionary pamphlets, democratic speeches, newspapers or anything else made little impact because printing anything but Bibles was banned by the church until 1502. That year a dissenter, using a stolen copy of this new technology The Press, printed Virgil’s Æneid and made it accessible to the public. And from that came The French Revolution, The Reformation, Democracy, Communism, Pornography, and the books on Happiness by the Dali Lama etcetcetc..

    Point is that we - e-learning technology developers and users - are in that Incunabula period in which the Priests of the Old Order of Things have misused - or not allowed others to realize - the real hidden potential of e-learning. Only now that we are burying it will it be reborn. Akin to what my seat mate on a recent trip from Boston told me. He was an Executive in charge of a Private Banking Firm (translation: Big Buck Clients), and he was telling me one of his newest revelations. The Next Big Thing for investors is (keep this to yourself) The Internet! And here I thought the bubble had popped.

    So the next wave or generation or incarnation of e-learning will be very different from the last. It will actually work for real people, not just Peter Senge’s Lifelong Learner (a beast as mythical as the Unicorn). Save people time and money. Increase innovation, collaboration, the sharing of knowledge, Help enable learning cultures which foster communities of practice and purpose. Be useful from cradle to grave. Be fun to use. Seductive and pretty. Sexy.

This morning I woke up with another piece of the puzzle that is the Second Coming of eLearning. Focusing on the learner was a major contribution of first-wave eLearning. Focusing on the learner as worker can make things a little better. Focusing on the learner and his or her colleagues, that’s where we’ll get breakaway performance.

The difficulty of connecting with others has been holding eLearning back. It’s the modern-day equivalent of the manual illustrations of the monks. When we figure out how to use computer networks to build human networks, that’s when learning will grow to rival publishing and media.

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March 11, 2003

Letter to subscribers

Some of us favor push marketing (letting email nudge you to come back here to look at something) and others like pull (the content is here whenever you come and get it.)

Every two or three months, I send an email to the push people, those who pressed thebutton.

The rest of this post is the email they’re receiving today. (I prefer the “Notify Me” option myself.)

The initial era of eLearning has officially ended. Sometimes it worked very well; many times, it was a disaster. January was the first time I’ve heard thought leaders acknowledge eLearning’s massive failures publically. From now on, it is not useful to declare first-generation eLearning ineffective. We know that. Now the job is to make things better. Some people are doing exciting things.

In the not-distant future, enterprise apps are going to swallow eLearning in the Global 500. Sam Adkins has written the definitive research in this area, and it’s for sale at the Internet Time Store. Sam and I intend to produce better research than the major research houses at a fraction of the price. Take a look at the free samples.

Lance Dublin’s and my book, Implementing eLearning, is selling well, in part because it’s written in plain English, not HTML. Lance is offering eLearning Tune-Ups to get stalled programs back on the road. We work together on the more extensive engagements. I’ve posted some pre-edit “unexpurgated” chapters of the book’s website.

The eLearning Jump Page got a total makeover, returning to its roots as my personal research page. This latest version has more and better links than previous incarnations. Underneath are two dozen explanatory pages on things like Metrics, Implementation, Knowledge Management, and Design. Check out the Center for Visual Learning. Google indexes the entire site. That’s how I often find things in this labyrinth I’ve created.

Europe beckons. Later this week I head to the UK to keynote an eLearning conference. The week thereafter I’ll be working with Didaxis Group in Paris on culture programs. I’m selling the European eLearning Directory in the store. There is such incredible opportunity — so long as we don’t initiate a war that makes even America’s allies hate us.

My home page has morphed into a real-time blog because the world seems to be moving faster and faster. The metronome of business is a blur. Speed trumps just about everything. Half-baked but timely information has more value than tardy certainties. Expect more focus on change and less on eternal truths.

Someone recently expressed surprise that I write white papers, give speeches, train sales people, and develop strategies for a fee. The recession is a blunt instrument. You need something done? I have excess capacity. Call me.

I’m collecting anecdotes of eLearning’s greatest hits and worst fiascos. I’d love to hear from you.

Peace be with you.


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Webinar infomercial

First item in today’s Online Learning e-News:


How should you get ready for a Webcast?

In “The small, empty space” on Feb. 25, University
of Arizona psychologist Robert Cialdini suggested
practicing with a live group at least once.

Then, Cialdini suggested, “imagine the audience” and
remember where you must alter your presentation pace.

Berkeley, Calif., e-learning consultant
Jay Cross ( [email protected] )
takes issue with that advice.

“Better than practicing on people before the
presentation is to record the live session in
front of a small group,” says Cross.

“No amount of imagination is going to substitute
for real human interactions.”

Cialdini told e-News he was taken aback by the strict
confines of the studio in which he recorded.

To which Cross retorts: “You don’t need a sound booth to
record a Webcast. I suggest Bob get out of the box.”

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March 09, 2003

Ageless Learner

Welcome to the Ageless Learner, Marcia and Karl Conner’s site for lifelong learners.

This new website focuses on how learning and curiosity influence everything you do in life, no matter your age. It offers resources and information to help you get more out of life no matter if you’re 4 years or 94 years.

[DISCLOSURE] Marcia is a good friend. She’s easily one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met. Marcia has taught me a lot.

The site’s Learning Style Assessment pegs me as a Visual Learner (10/13). My Motivation is Learning itself (8/10). These jive will the way I see myself.

The articles on the site are inspiring.

Learning by Doing: Getting Faster Every Lap by Jack Ring

    Doing is what causes all types of learning to occur. Other ingredients of learning are purpose, nourishment, tenacity, and time. But without the doing part, as is well known, retention suffers and the ability to apply what was learned degrades quickly. And the vetting of doing helps ensure that what is applied makes sense.

    Some managers are still convinced that the organization is too busy to take time ?away from work? for learning. Once we understand the self-aligning and self-cleansing power of learning by doing, we will be able to create true learning cultures. When we all spend our days learning by all three types of doing, then we will all be winners.

At the Water Cooler of Learning by David Grebow

    We have become obsessed with formal learning in the workplace. In our zeal to learn, we have transferred the formal model of learning into the collective mind of our corporations. Even e-learning is simply less-expensive formal learning at a distance.

Old Dogs, New Tricks, and a Few Simple Opinions by Kellee Sikes

    As we get older, most of us realize jumping through hoops of fire at the circus we call work isn?t worth the milk bone any more. So, is it true? Can old dogs really not learn new tricks?

Creating a Learning Culture by Marcia L. Conner and James G. Clawson

    Today it seems that organizations need to be able to do more than just adapt; they must be able to do so quickly, in the face of ever changing conditions. And if organizations are to adapt quickly and intelligently, they must make learning a central part of their strategy for survival and growth. If leaders and the people within their organization are learning all the time, faster than competitors, and applying the right strategies at the right times, the organization has hope.

The site’s backgrounder on experiential learning turned me on to this informative site I’d not seen before:

Experiential Learning articles and critiques of David Kolb’s theory

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March 03, 2003

Another Pro Bono Day

Need a white paper on eLearning? A stirring sales presentation? A new marketing concept? An introduction to an important contact?

Internet Time Group has capacity; give me a call.

Capacity. That's why I devoted the day to pro bono work. First, a no-fee presentation on the state of eLearning in Silicon Valley and the opportunities for doing business there. Second, responses to a Portuguese journalist preparing an article on ROI and meta-data. Here's my reply. If you have another take on things, please make a comment.

"Here are my rapid-fire answers to your questions. Please email me a copy of your article when it's printed.

1. How do you evaluate training in the e-learning paradigm?

    eLearning is no different from other corporate expenditures. You evaluate its success or failure in meeting the business objectives you set out for it.

2. ROI for e-learning has been a dominating issue. In you view, what are the appropriated metrics for measuring ROI for learning?

    ROI is another way of saying cost/benefit analysis. You assess the benefits you received (usually things like higher sales, better customer service, speedier processes) and compare them to what it cost you (mostly the opportunity cost of the people learning but also computer, administration, and license fees).

3. What are the main difficulties in determining results
of training (its intangible factors) in financial terms and their measurement? Is it hard to link it directly with training? Why? Does the adoption of e-learning standards have any effect in this process?

    The difficulty I come upon most often is poor up-front planning. You set your goals in advance. You gain your internal sponsor's agreement on your logic, that is, if we do this, we expect that, and that's an indication of this result. It doesn't have to be scientific; rather, it has to convince management.

    eLearning is no harder to measure than other intangible items. What's the value of advertising? What's it worth to be more careful in hiring? The only effect of standards is cost, the "I" of ROI. At first, adhering to standards will cost more than doing nothing. In time, factors such as reusability, modularity, and interoperability will lower costs. Dramatically.

4. And how can e-learning increase ROI for training?

    When used appropriately, eLearning provides more learning for less cost. It's often more convenient, and therefore more likely "to take." It is sometimes faster, for example, providing compliance training to tens of thousands of people in a matter of weeks, something you simply cannot accomplish with classrooms and instructors.

5. How does ROI demonstrate the monetary benefits of the cost of training?

    ?? I don't understand your question.

6. Part from the ROI evaluation is based on the opinion of the stakeholders. How is possible to overcome this subjective
dimension and obtain accurate, unbiased information?

    Whoa! Subjective doesn't mean inaccurate or biased. It's important for stakeholders to be actively supportive. Sometimes numbers like ROI get in the way of common sense.

    Some people think of ROI as just a number. That simplifies things at the expense of knowing what's really going on.

7. But there is fear of negative ROI - many do not want it, proven that a training program is actually bad for the company. How to overcome this?

    Some training and eLearning is probably not worthwhile. I've certainly seen lots of eLearning that was a waste of time and money. That's one reason for assessing ROI, to identify and eliminate the programs that are not working -- and to improve the others over time.

8. Going to the issue of e-learning standards - how can
the adoption of e-learning standards increase the accuracy of ROI for training?

    I consider standards and ROI separate issues. Standardization in general makes things uniform, and therefore easier to count. At the same time, it may obscure important but subtle distinctions.

9. In which ways e-learning meta-data facilitates a better measurement of the transfer in learner?s behaviour?

    I don't think it does.

10. How can e-learning meta-data contribute for identifying the specifical learning profiles of each trainee?

    Meta-data could be coupled to a competency management system to identify gaps in knowledge -- and objectives for future learning. I recently did some research in this area. Lots of people talk about this, but it's always something they'll do next year. Sort of like the economic future of Brazil, which has been just around the corner for centuries now.

11. Are there other advantages that can occur from the
adoption of standards in the e-learning meta-data?

    Meta-data standards are the key to interoperability. They are the Rosetta Stone that makes learning experiences from many sources work together seamlessly.

    Just as XML and a set of related protocols are the foundation of "web services" and the Semantic Web, meta-data standards are a significant part of the underpinning of a universal system of learning.

12. How do you analyse the content market in USA? Is it conformant to e-learning standards? What about European market?

    The military is ahead of everyone, but of course they can enforce whatever they want and also have the money to pay for it. On the corporate side, both in the US and Europe, standards are just beginning to take hold. Don't hold your breath waiting to see everyone jump on the standards bandwagon.

13. Should organizations have a common repository for all content, and if so, which rules will govern how the system is used?

    All organizations? Never. There are economies of scale at work here. Tiny organizations will be better off with apprenticeship than with eLearning for a long time into the future.

    The question of a common repository is another instance of the perpetual battle between centralization and decentralization. Logically, centralization is more efficient. The problem is that many gigantic systems topple under their own weight. Consider Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). Brilliant software, very expensive, lots of hard work, and yet half the time it fails miserably.

    If things are truly interoperable, rules won't make much difference, will they? There's not much difference between sharing and owning content.

14. Will any governance structures be needed to help ensure adherence to standards within and organization?

    All standards require policing: identifying those not in compliance. I think the market mechanism, the "Invisible Hand," will reward those in compliance and drive the others from the market.

    Who's going to buy non-standard material in a world that has agreed upon standards? It would be like buying a 7" CD: there's no way to play it.

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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This is the footer from Sun’s site:

Wouldn’t this be a nice addition to your online learning pages?

Posted by Jay Cross at 02:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 02, 2003

Hey, teacher, leave those kids alone...

If you enjoy a good rant and haven’t experienced John Taylor Gatto, you’re in for a treat. Gatto was an award-winning teacher before coming to believe that compulsory schooling is a sham foisted off on America for the needs of business, fear of a competent people, and a misreading of German mental science. His The Underground History of American Education is a gripping read — and it’s all available on the web. Gatto makes compelling arguments for dismantling our entire dysfunctional educational system.

From the prologue:

    In the first year of the last decade of the twentieth century during my thirtieth year as a school teacher in Community School District 3, Manhattan, after teaching in all five secondary schools in the district, crossing swords with one professional administration after another as they strove to rid themselves of me, after having my license suspended twice for insubordination and terminated covertly once while I was on medical leave of absence, after the City University of New York borrowed me for a five-year stint as a lecturer in the Education Department (and the faculty rating handbook published by the Student Council gave me the highest ratings in the department my last three years), after planning and bringing about the most successful permanent school fund-raiser in New York City history, after placing a single eighth-grade class into 30,000 hours of volunteer community service, after organizing and financing a student-run food cooperative, after securing over a thousand apprenticeships, directing the collection of tens of thousands of books for the construction of private student libraries, after producing four talking job dictionaries for the blind, writing two original student musicals, and launching an armada of other initiatives to reintegrate students within a larger human reality, I quit.

    I was New York State Teacher of the Year when it happened. An accumulation of disgust and frustration which grew too heavy to be borne finally did me in. To test my resolve I sent a short essay to The Wall Street Journal titled “I Quit, I Think.”

      From the Wall Street Journal:</