aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

Archive for July, 2009

Thank you, Bill!

Posted by Ellen on July 22, 2009

Bill Brandon, editor of e-Learning Guild’s Learning Solutions e-magazine, published a review of aLearning: A Trail Guide to Association eLearning that called the book “a stunning success.”

Thank you, Bill! As someone posted to my Facebook wall after reading the review, “If Bill says it, it must be so!”

If you’re not familiar with the e-Learning Guild, consider joining — their basic membership level is designed for the types of budget restrictions common to non-profits and associations — it’s free. Their next level, which provides a terrific value for the money, is just $99/year. Their focus is on elearning development, with a mission to provide specific, practical, applicable, implement-able (!) information and training.

Even if you’re not a techie, it’s important to know enough about the tech side to be able to ask a question that the techies will understand (and translate into their own geek-speak). The eLearning Guild can help you with that.

Most of their members are Web developers, instructional designers, project managers, graphic artists, and others engaged in building elearning, either in-house for large organizations (including large associations) or within vendor companies.

Over the years, they have expanded their conference tracks to include management and strategy, so those of us who oversee online learning can benefit from the practical workshops and tutorials they provide.

If you’re considering hiring a company (for Webinars or custom courseware) to develop elearning for you, or if you’re looking for a good LMS or LCMS, the e-Learning Guild’s Annual Gathering (coming up again in March of 2010) is a MUST. You’ll learn more and make more contacts for potential vendors here than at any association-specific event.

I’m not just saying this because Bill had such great things to say about my book. And he does say this:

This is one of the best-executed books I have seen in some time on the topic of learning strategy. In my opinion, every association should have a copy of this to refer to during creation or revision of the professional development curriculum.

It will be particularly useful to associations with small staffs (and no professional development staff). It will also be useful to vendors who have little or no experience or insight into the challenges faced by associations as they adopt e-Learning. Finally, consultants on the staff of associations, who are more and more often asked to help their member organizations create a comprehensive learning strategy that includes online and social media components, should definitely have a copy of this.

If Bill says it, it must be so!

Thank you, Bill! And thank you to those of you who have already purchased your copy — I’m happy to help and you know where to find me if you have questions not answered in the book!

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, Justifying aLearning, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Social Media, Advanced Learners, and Timing for aLearning

Posted by Ellen on July 14, 2009

Ready for a convergence? I don’t know about you, but I love it when, suddenly, several things that have seemed disconnected (though related) align like rows of corn in an Iowa field, so the symmetry and design and relationships are as clear as a blue sky.

Here are the building blocks:

  • social media
  • advanced learners
  • timing of alearning

If we believe that:

  • the more advanced the learner, the less that learner needs fundamental training and more best practices (especially from colleagues who have been there and done that) (see the diagram on page 28 of aLearning: A Trail Guide to Association eLearning and the explanation within the text of it)
  • the more advanced the learner, the less time they have (and will want to spend) in formal, classroom settings
  • the benefits of social media are the linkages the media make between and among people, informally, and in ways they are self-selecting and self-identifying (think of the ways you identify yourself in your various profiles — executive association leader? educator? meeting planner?)

Then here’s the convergence:

Social media as a learning platform is especially beneficial to advanced learners (i.e., those who have deep experience in their area of expertise) because they can connect with others who walk in their shoes, have likely faced similar challenges, and can provide best practices, lessons learned, and other informal counseling and guidance.

Social media can be immediate and because it’s accessible on the advanced learner’s terms, rather that at a time/place designated by someone else, it fits the scheduling demands and restrictions for those learners in particular.

Here’s an example:

Ted is a foodservice professional who has many years of experience at the small college that employes him. His operation has just been asked to cater a special event by the college president. This isn’t unusual, but the president has specifically asked that they include an ice carving or chocolate fountain or other special centerpiece “attraction.” Ted has his own ideas — he’s thinking of edible arrangements — fruits carved to resemble flower arrangements, among other things. But he’s not sure which would be the most affordable, and what issues might be inherent in them (What’s the best chocolate mixture for a fountain to avoid the oily residue? Is there a way to keep the fruit fresh looking through the full event? Are their ice carvers in his area and if so, where would he find them?).

He seeks out his colleagues via a social networking site — either through his professional organization or independently through sites like LinkedIn and posts his questions. In a matter of minutes, responses start coming in.

Ted has leveraged the collective knowledge of his peers to help him with something that would be unwieldy to learn from a course (if, indeed, such a course covering all of these topics exists), and he’s able to do that in quick order because of the speed of the Web and the availability of existing networks.

Voila! Just-in-time (JIT) training for an advanced learner using social media.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Yeah, I knew that, Ellen. Why a full post on it?”

Here’s why:

We should not assume that social networking is the answer to all association learning. It has its place, like any modality. Understanding who is most likely to use it and for what purpose can help us best leverage it to those ends.

Learners early in their profession would need more than this. They might need to know what chocolate fountains are, why they are sometimes used for such events, and what’s involved in using one, and have similar questions about ice carving as well.

Could they learn this from social media? Sure. But if you can provide quick, five-minute “tutorials” or learning episodes that will answer those questions, and make them easy for your members to access when they need them, they’ll turn to you for the fundamentals.

And that’s what you want, right? 

(With thanks to Jon for his recent comment, which led to this post — and probably a few more.)

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, Social Learning | 5 Comments »

Example of a PowerPoint…

Posted by Ellen on July 12, 2009

… that would make a deadly Webinar:

Okay, maybe it would be funny for the first few minutes…. but can you imagine sitting through an hour or so of this as a Webinar presentation?!?!?

Thankfully, as far as I know, that wasn’t the intent of this slideshow.

But keep it in mind when you’re creating the PowerPoints for your next Webinar. Or show it to your member volunteers if they’re the ones creating it.

Sometimes an example of what NOT to do is even more effective than a good example.

Larry Sloan’s post on Acronym, “Difficulties in Managing Web-based Seminars”  tackles the challenges of Webinars from a little different angle, but when it comes to this elearning modality, best practices are just that.

And bad practices can haunt you for a long, long time.

Posted in Online Learning in General, Webinars | 1 Comment »

aLearning Podcast Interview

Posted by Ellen on July 8, 2009

Jeff Cobb at Mission to Learn was gracious enough to invite me to be a guest in his ongoing podcast series, and has now made the link to our conversation available via his blog.

It would be great to hear from you, so here are some of the questions Jeff asked me for your input and opinions!

What do you think makes a successful elearning program?

How do you see the relationship between social media/social  networking and elearning? How can they complement each other?

What do you think keeps some associations from succeeding in their elearning efforts? Why?

If you’ve incorporated elearning, what would you do differently now, if anything? What do you know now that you didn’t know then?

And here’s a new one: whether you have an elearning program or not, what resource do you wish you had that you haven’t been able to find, can’t afford, or otherwise isn’t available to you? Why? What would you do with it?

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, Online Learning in General, Social Learning | 2 Comments »