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Online Learning for Trade Associations

Archive for July, 2011

Can We Learn from Information?

Posted by Ellen on July 29, 2011

In a recent blog post over at Midcourse Corrections, Jeff Hurt wrote that “Information isn’t education.” While that may be true in the purest sense, we shouldn’t conclude (as I posted in my comment) that it means people can’t learn from information.

According to George Siemens, a greatly respected thought leader and educator, “Learning is now happening through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks.” He goes on to write: “know-how and know-what is being supplemented with know-where (the understanding of where to find knowledge needed).” (You can see these comments in context in this article on Connectivism.)

I’ve called this “the Einstein method” for many, many years. “You don’t have to memorize all the rules of grammar,” I used to tell my college students, “you just have to know where to find the rules.” I taught them how to identify the kinds of grammar problems that plagued them and where to locate the info in their grammar book. In this way I provided individualized training to 25 students rather than forcing all of them to slog through a lot of stuff they didn’t need. I called it the Einstein method because one story about the genius goes that when he was asked for his phone number he said he didn’t know it but they could look it up in the phone book. He believed that keeping his head free of stuff you could find in other places meant he could focus on other things. It certainly worked for him, didn’t it?!?

People are doing this all the time, every day: need to learn how to change that tire on your Gary Fisher bicycle? There’s probably a You Tube video on that. Want to brush up on your high school Spanish? There are podcast feeds for that.

How many times have *you* Googled a question so you could get an answer that helped solve a problem?

Thought so.

It’s true that information is static. Information is data.

But here’s the thing: we are learners. We have learned to learn. We know how to access that information and apply it to our needs.

Here’s another example. My husband and I travel all the time. We’re constantly in new environments. We’re weather fanatics. We have a NOAA radio that has occasionally startled us with its ear-blasting tone and a warning about severe thunderstorms and tornadoes (!). That’s information.

I grab my road atlas. I look up the state we’re in, find our location. I check the county and neighboring counties. This is information, too. It’s just sitting there, print on the page, not doing anything except letting me look at it.

But I’m doing more than looking at it. I’m processing it. I’m going through all kinds of mental steps: “This is where we are. This is the county we’re in. These are the counties nearby. The NOAA warning said the storm is in that county and it’s moving in this direction at 25 miles per hour.” I’m thinking about whether we’re in the same county or one nearby. Whether we’re in the direct line of the storm or of anywhere near it’s expected to pass. I’m creating a mental picture of how that storm is moving, based on the NOAA report. I make a decision about whether we’re in danger or not.

Did I learn anything? Yes. I learned what county we’re in and the counties nearby. I learned there was a storm in a certain county of the state. I gained knowledge from the information from the NOAA broadcast and the road atlas.

Did I act on what I learned? Yes. I might have reacted by closing windows, checking the ceiling vents to be sure they were closed, too. I might have decided to go on a bicycle ride because the storm was in another part of the state and moving away from us. I applied what I learned to my situation.

Am I belaboring a point? Probably.

We shouldn’t make assumptions about the value of certain types of content. Information is a type of content. We learn from information in various ways. To ignore the role “information” plays in training and education is to miss a big chunk of how we process and use data within our learning, assimilation and application of knowledge and skills.

Do we still need to create learning events that promote active learning? Discovery? Construction of meaning? Eventual application of skills? Of course! Just be careful not to throw out the education baby with the information bathwater.

Should associations still put smart money behind their educational efforts? Absolutely!

Should they have a professional educator on staff — someone who brings expertise in adult learning, instructional and curriculum design, e-learning, and training methodologies? Of course!

Should organizations implement “train the trainer” types of programs to provide volunteer content leaders, education committee members, and others with the skills and knowledge they need to develop and lead effective educational events? No doubt about it.

There’s a place for those white papers and research reports that association execs love to tout as part of keeping their members “educated.”

It’s up to us to help them recognize the information that should be redesigned for delivery in a learning environment, and information that’s valuable reference information.

We have to be clear. We have to be consistent. We have to be patient. Eventually they’ll come around.


Posted in Learning in General | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Welcome to the Learning Decade!

Posted by Ellen on July 24, 2011

So says Sam Herring, writing for Fast Company  in his article, “Moving Toward 2010: The Learning Decade” (3/21/11) .

Bravo! I’m all for that. Of course, I wouldn’t limit the value of learning to just one decade, but if we must, this one is as good as any.

Better, says Herring. All because of the Great Recession. “…[M]ore and more organizations recognize that learning can help solve the most vexing economic and financial problems of the day. As a result, we predict that the years leading up to 2020 will be known as ‘The Learning Decade.'”

What about that?!?

He goes on to note the key drivers behind increases in corporate learning investments:

  • Top-Line Innovations
  • Disruptive Technology (especially social media, digital games, and mobility)
  • Competitive Pressures
  • Increasing Speed
  • Beyond Commodity (determining “how to efficiently synthesize this fungible data in order to obtain the incisive clarity required to drive genuine innovation and growth” — yep, that’s what it says)
  • Virtuous Circle (“Knowledge will become the new value-add, and the ultimate growth differentiator, as we approach 2020.”)
  • Emerging Markets
  • Industry Change
  • Industry Consolidation
  • Brain Drain
  • Failing Grade (we’ll come back to this one)
  • Return to Growth (and we’ll come back to this one)
  • Future Jobs (this one, too)
  • Knowledge Workers
  • Leadership Vacuum
  • Culture Change
  • Unanticipated Conditions

All of these offer tremendous opportunities for associations and professional societies’ learning departments. Read the article. Brainstorm all the ways you could fill the gaps that Herring notes amidst this list — you’ll probably even think of a few specific to your industry that he might have missed.

I’ll get you started. Take another look at the three items I promised we’d come back to.

Each of these are very specific to education in general. Some employees (and potential association members) will hire on with gaps in their education we could be filling (Failing Grade); others will have been out of the workforce during this long recovery and will have some educational catching-up to do (Return To Growth); and still other industries will see jobs emerge and change as a result of the shifting times (Future Jobs) — again creating gaps we can fill.

Okay… now that your brain is working, go read that article and start your own list of possibilities.

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, eLearning Resources, Justifying aLearning, Learning in General | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Why are So Many LMS Buyers Dissatisfied?

Posted by Ellen on July 15, 2011

Patti Shank, in her 2010 “Getting Started with Learning  Management Systems” research report for the e-Learning Guild cites some important findings:

  • Of the 909 survey respondents, “more than a third think that the LMS can be an “impediment to learning.”
  • “Only about 62% of respondents said that their LMS lives up to vendor promises.”
  • “Almost 13% plan to abandon their LMS.”
  • “On average, most respondents spent two to six months on each phase of implementation except for administration, which took longer.”

Do a Google search on “dissatisfied with LMS” and the number that keeps popping up is 25%. That’s a lot, considering the time and expense it takes to select and implement such a system.

Is it the fault of the vendors? The products? The buyers?

Well… probably a combination of all these.

Garry Kranz adds a bit of perspective. In his article for the February 2011 issue of Workforce Magazine Online, “eLearning Hits its Stride,” he cites these findings:

  • More than 70% of enterprise organizations [multi-unit corporations] have an LMS
  • Of those who have an LMS, fewer than 20% have a formal, documented learning strategy
  • Of those with a documented learning strategy, under 7% have a content sub-strategy

Ikes! Think maybe the lack of a learning strategy has something to do with their LMS frustrations?!?

Creating an elearning strategy isn’t just about deciding which content to put online. It involves planning around (and for) personnel and systems. You might find you won’t even need an LMS! Instead, you might decide to focus on something that will lead you closer to ICE (see the previous post for more on intelligent content engineering).

The moral of the story is to do your homework.  Taking the time to strategize your elearning involvement should help you make decisions that will lead you to success (you’ll recall that this is what Tagoras found out in their recent study as well).

Don’t ignore the data!

Don’t let your association leaders ignore it, either. If you’ll need more resources or time to create a meaningful strategy, use these reports to support your position. To do anything less is to shortchange yourself, your organization’s leaders, and your membership. You don’t want that, do you?!?

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Surveys, aLearning Trends, eLearning Resources, Financing eLearning, Justifying aLearning, LMS | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Get ICEd!

Posted by Ellen on July 13, 2011

It’s a wonderful thing when you stumble across an article that says exactly what you’ve been trying to find the words to express…. That’s what happened when I started reading Rick Wilson’s article, “Learning Content is Not Your Job Any More: The Effect of Convergence” from  e-Learning Guild’s Learning Solutions e-magazine (June 21, 2011 issue).

I’ll try to summarize without duplicating the article, which is worth the time to thoroughly pour over. He starts with two new rules about learning leaders’ responsibilities:

“Rule One: You are no longer in the business of learning content development and delivery.”

“Rule Two: You are in the business of bringing dexterity to your content.”
This is because of the “convergence” of learning content within an organization: educational events and training aren’t separate from other organizational content, not anymore. Learning isn’t a series of courses, not even within a curriculum. Instead, we’re amidst a convergence of all institutional knowledge.

So instead of spending our time and energy creating new courses and sessions and learning events, we need to devote ourselves to “intelligent content engineering” (a phrase he credits Joe Gollner with) and is, essentially (to paraphrase Wilson), rendering your organization’s content manageable, enhancing its searchability, and producing it “in formats that collectively create remarkable new value for the content.”

How awesome is that?

It’s what’s been called “knowledge management,” but from a learning point of view.

I know I say “This is critical” a lot in this blog, and I always mean it. That’s true for this concept as well.

Here’s why “intelligent content engineering” (let’s call it ICE for short — cool acronym, huh!?) is critical and why it’s such a great fit and opportunity for associations and non-profits…

Wilson goes on to cite these important statistics from Robert Eichinger and Michael Lomgardo from The Center for Creative Leadership:

  • 10% of learning can be attributed to formal instruction
  • 20% “occurs through other people informally, or formally through coaching and mentoring”
  • 70% is the result of “real-life and on-the-job experiences, tasks, and problem-solving”

Some might argue the actual percentages, asserting that the last category is more like 80%, with only 10% coming from coaching and mentoring, but the numbers aren’t as important as the general balance of them (or imbalance, maybe).

Associations and professional societies do a great job of hooking our members up to accomplish the first two, so they can exchange what they’ve learned through the third.

So it’s not that we haven’t created an atmosphere for all three environments to be exploited.

It’s that we could be — should be — doing it better. And we could, with ICE. Two concepts about ICE in particular are essential: search (discovery) and distribution (delivery), “while also promoting contextualizing content,” writes Wilson.

Sounds deep. But we’re already doing a lot of that.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and here’s a brain dump:

  • We have lots and lots of tacit knowledge in our organizations. our members are experts on topics specific to the industries and professions we serve. (Member benefit: industry-specific resources)
  • We already connect members to each other so they can share best practices, help with problem-solving, advocacy, and in other ways where lots of heads are better than one. (Member benefit: networking)
  • We already provide our members with excellent (if we do say so ourselves) training to help them become even better at what they do. We do this with our face-to-face sessions and online. (Member benefit: professional development and certification)

But we’re missing something. And that something is an engine that makes it all much faster and easier. It’s more than a discussion list with links… more than a Web-accessible library of white papers, articles and research reports… more than an internal social networking space… more than an online marketplace where members can get books, online courses and tutorials, and other materials.

It’s something bigger than all that, something that ties them all together.

Wilson says the processes we use will have to change; we won’t just be designing and offering FTF and online educational sessions. “Processes remain important,” he writes, “but processing is now about content ingestion, aggregation, cataloging, indexing, orchestration, curation, transformation, and transmission.”

He goes on to say, “Success will require an ability to facilitate an organizational-specific model with variable options for content access and use, including end-user abilities for authoring, publishing, and distributing content. You are going to need provision for managing the content generation from virtual communities, social networks, and exchanges outside organizational control (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, industry blogs, and ad hoc media sources.”

In effect, he concludes, we won’t be developers of educational sessions anymore. We’ll be content curators — adding another voice to others who have predicted this same future for us.

I’ll add a few more aspects to this entire conglomerate that is ICE: the system (whatever it will be that will make searching and accessing all of these resources possible) will have to provide for learners to download, link to, and otherwise “extract” the pieces and parts that are of the greatest value to them. Why?

  • Our members will want to design their own personal learning environment (PLE), and we have to make it easy for them to do that. I’ve said it before — if we can provide them with the *ultimate* environment for creating their professional PLE — we’ll have provided a benefit that puts us ahead of our competition. If we are the conduit — if we become their primary feed, for example — for their Twitterfeed, blogroll, and general Web resources filtered by search/category, then we have made it easy for them to access the latest info and data in the fastest possible way.
  • The increasing creation of personal learning networks (PLNs) means more and more of our members will be sharing resources with more and more contacts. As members link up outside our organization (yes, it happens; get your head out of the sand already!), they’ll come across more and more resources that would benefit all of our members to be able to access. Why not be the conduit for that?!?
  • Most importantly, the system must provide a well-publicized opportunity for members to share *their own* expertise. What blogs to they write? What articles have they published? What advice do they have to offer? What problems have they solved? Including the knowledge intrinsic in your association is what will truly set your ICE system apart from even a very good Google search. Encouraging — urging — members to directly contribute content can pull in remote and otherwise inactive members on the one end and provide a platform for those who wish to increase their professional profile on the other. Regardless of your members’ reasons for contributing, everyone benefits.
  • Your ICE system must be more than a news reader. More than a blogroll. More than a wiki. More than a social network. This is a dashboard portal that delivers immediate access to key resources and quality results from any search. It’s a system that allows members to rate entries and comment on them. It’s a system that allows members to add links and participate in updating and managing it. It’s a churning, ever-growing system.

Future members of our associations aren’t officially called the Google generation, but they should be. They’re growing up accustomed to being able to find answers to their questions, solutions to their problems, and connect to people worldwide with a few clicks. “Time is the new currency,” someone said.

If we don’t create an ICE system for our members, somebody else will. Then you’ll really have something to worry about when it comes to member renewals, don’t you think?

Do such systems exist? Yes. Wilson’s article describes one in place at a large corporation  — but with annual maintenance costs of over $1 million, it’s prohibitively expensive for most associations.

Even so, we should advocate for the development of such systems at lower cost and structured for our needs.

Who’s with me on this?!?

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, Justifying aLearning, Learning in General, Online Learning in General, Social Learning | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Quick Clicks

Posted by Ellen on July 11, 2011

Once again, aLearning is pleased to be able to save you enormous time and energy by perusing hundreds of blogs and resources to summarize those likely to be of particular interest to you. If you have any links that have been especially insightful or helpful to you, please feel free to add them to the comments section or send them to me directly for inclusion in a future Quick Clicks post.

These are in no particular order…. so scroll the entire post to be sure you won’t miss anything.


LMS? LCMS? What’s the Diff?

Thanks to this article by Nic Hinder, courtesy of the “Funderstanding” ( site and brought to our attention by Julien R. Barlan, Research Associate at Funderstanding, we’re all a little bit clearer on what distinguishes the two types of systems, the features that most often overlap, and when each system is put to best use (and by whom). That’s a lot to cover, and the article does it clearly and succinctly. You can find it here.


iSpring Free Update

If you’ve browsed our aLearning Fundamentals tutorials lately, you’ve noticed we went from a pure PowerPoint download to using iSpring to compile the PowerPoint for easier access and viewing. Though we use iSpring Presenter for most of the tutorials, we want to pass along this update regarding the iSpring Free version, which is available to non-profits for — you guessed it — free (although the Presenter version is not that expensive, compared to its competition).

According to an e-mail from Tanya Mosunova at iSpring:

iSpring Free 5.7 can generate Flash content that is compliant to SCORM 2004 R3, the most popular standard used in today’s eLearning. This means that with iSpring, courses created in PowerPoint can become compatible with Learning Management Systems (LMSs) that also support SCORM. Moodle LMS is a perfect example of an LMS that is great to use with iSpring-generated courses and is also free. We have just released a new version of iSpring Free, which upgrades it from Flash creating software to eLearning authoring master.

I’m not sure what upgrading to an “eLearning authoring master” means and haven’t taken the opportunity to test it out, so feel free to explore it on your own. Try this link (and let me know if it doesn’t work for you).


Ideas for Getting More HOW Into Your Face-to-Face Sessions

Trying to figure out how to make your sessions focused on “HOW” rather than “WHAT”? Though written for elearning development, the process and examples described in this article by Patti Shank can help you think through how to handle a session for FTF. This great Learning Solutions Magazine article, “The MOST Crucial Learning Activities and Media,” can be found here.


Flipped Classroom

Maybe you’ve tried this… it’s new to K-12 and catching on in higher ed.

You provide links to recorded lectures, discussions, and readings prior to the event, then focus on hands-on activities during the face-to-face (FTF) session. Though we should make it a goal to make this a model for educational sessions at conferences, established, stand-alone FTF events (institutes, seminars, etc.) are a good place to start. We often know more about our attendees, earlier, which is essential for making this model work.

I’d add that refusing to support poor learner behavior would also be critical to its success: if pre-event preparation is necessary for the FTF session to go well, you must resolve to start those sessions on time and with the assumption that learners have completed the preparatory assignments. No coddling those who “just didn’t have time” — doing so only punishes those who followed the rules and it jeopardizes your timeline.

So — keeping in mind that such a model will probably require managing some change around the current culture of the event — here’s more on the flipped classroom (or reverse instruction, as it’s also called). Note that these are just a few of the many resources a general Google search is likely to scare up for you:

“Flip your classroom through reverse instruction,” from The Electric Educator blog 

“Reverse Instruction: Dan Pink and Karl’s ‘Fisch Flip'” via the Connected Principals blog. 

“3 Keys to a Flipped Classroom” from the “David Truss: Pair-a-dimes for Your Thoughts” blog.

“The Revolution of Reverse Learning” from 2footgiraffe’s Blog.

“Advancing the Flip: Developments in Reverse Instruction” from the Connected Principals blog.


Why Knowing How the Brain Works Isn’t All You Need to Know

Yes, it’s important to know how we process new information and experiences, and that’s all about how the brain works. But don’t stop there. See “We are not our Brains,” from Norm Friesen’s blog  for more.


Need Coaching for Your Volunteer Online Content Leaders?

Looking for resources to provide guidance to your online volunteer content leaders? The University of New South Wales in Australia has provided some great tutorials, available free here. (Of course, don’t forget to access the free aLearning Fundamentals tutorial on “Leading Learning Events.” Just click the aLearning Fundamentals logo on the left.)


Help in Selecting an LMS

Janet Clarey’s “Wait. What? I can buy an LMS with a credit card?” doesn’t just provide a summary of her review of Intellum’s Rollbook LMS, but includes some great tips for your LMS/LCMS selection process. If you’re shopping for an LMS, you must read this post.


Ads on Twitter?

Mike at the electronic museum blog says it’s likely and cites the evidence he sees that your Twitter stream will soon carry advertisements in his post, “What if Twitter goes rogue?”

Don’t shrug this off. If you rely on Twitter, you need to think about what this could mean. Will you have any control over what those ads are for? What could it mean for your members, following a backchannel for your conference, to suddenly see an ad for something your organization doesn’t support? Ads on Twitter could mean a change you need to be ready to face.


Who Owns Your Photos In Social Media?

Kathy E. Gill at MEDIASHIFT asked this question, and answered it as well. Don’t assume you know the answer! (BTW… Facebook’s fine print on this matter is why I axed my account there.)


Attention K-12 Education Organizations!

If you or your members create online educational content or resources for students, teachers, administrators, or parents, you need to know about the “Learning Resources Framework Initiative” which will “improve search results for educational content on the Web” using a “common language of codes [that] Web producers and developers should embed within a digital learning object…”

Read about it in Education Week’s Digital Education column here.


Higher College Tuition Opens Opportunities for Associations

What could you be offering through your organization to those who might be affected by the rising cost of college tuition?

Here’s the data.

Because tuition and fees at public universities “have surged almost 130% over the last twenty years” while “middle class incomes have stagnated” fewer people are able to afford higher education. This creates a learning gap that your organization could fill… or some other organization could fill that gap, if you don’t. Why take that chance? So I’ll ask again: “What could you be offering through your organization to those who might be affected by the rising cost of college tuition?”


Social Media Tutorials

…Okay, they’re not tutorials in the sense that we use the term here at aLearning (the few links I clicked led to blog posts), but they’re still chockfull of great information, leads, and how-tos. Get started here, courtesy of Socialbrite.

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, eLearning Resources, Learning in General, LMS, Measuring Results, Social Learning | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »