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Archive for the ‘Online Learning in General’ Category

aLearning Trail Guide Now Available on Amazon

Posted by Ellen on March 25, 2015

Though I’d thought it was time to retire aLearning: A Trail Guide for Association eLearning, I continue to see sales and interest in the book — a great sign that online learning is alive and well and growing in the world of nonprofit and trade associations!

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Much has changed in the technology of elearning since the trail guide was originally published in 2009, but the step-by-step instructions for gathering what you need to develop, and then create, your association’s elearning strategy are still valid. When the book came out, it was the only place to get such detailed information in a practical, useful format.

Whether your online learning strategy needs an overhaul or you’re just getting started, the aLearning trail guide can help.

And that help is easier to get than ever.

While I still believe the book is best used in print format, those who’d prefer a copy on their Kindle or other device can now purchase and download it. And the e-book can be given as a gift: with a few clicks, you can purchase it and have it sent to someone else via their e-mail address. How cool is that?

Order now, for just $9.99.

Oh, and tell your friends!

 

Posted in aLearning Strategies, Asynchronous Learning Types, eLearning Resources, Financing eLearning, Justifying aLearning, Online Learning in General | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Did You Feel That?

Posted by Ellen on February 28, 2012

We’ll call it a technological earthquake (because we’re currently in Soutern California; you can call it a tornado or hurricane or monsoon… whatever).

The “seismologists” are the researchers at the USC Annenberg School’s Center for the Digital Future. They’re reporting on more than ten years of studies, tracking the emergence and use of technology and online activity. (You can find a summary of the results here.)

The article identifies some key takeaways from their work.

  • Despite its popularity, social networking suffers from just a 14% confidence rate. According to Jeffrey I. Cole, Director of the Center for Digital Future, “…51% of users said that only a small portion or none of the information they see on social networking sites is reliable.” Yep. Makes you wonder: how credible do people think your association’s Facebook presence is? What can you do to improve their confidence in your social networking presence?

 

  • The desktop PC is going to dwindle to 4-6% of computer users — and those will primarily be professionals who rely on computers for their work (programmers, financial planners, scientists, writers, gamers, analysts, and scientists). Tablets will soon become the most used personal computing devices because they are “more convenient and accessible than laptops and much more engaging to use.” Are you preparing for this shift? And, as you know I like to warn, do your members fit into the tablet profile, or are they in a field that will be in the minority but devoted group of desktop PC users? Because it won’t matter if 96% of the country is using tablets if 98% of your members are still using desktop PCs and/or laptops. Just sayin’.

 

  • The irony about personal computing is that we believed they would be labor-saving devices — and they are — but they have also extended the workday into the evening and expanded the workweek into the weekend. Many people on vacations stay tethered to the office via e-mail, Twitter, and other methods. So here’s what you should be asking about your online offerings: are you making it worth your members’ time to participate in your Webinars, social networking discussions, online courses, and otherwise engage in the online activities you make available to them? Better make sure. The report suggests that people are soon going to have had it with all this and start cutting back. Don’t give your members reasons to cut you out.

 

  • With the exception of four major newspapers (the NY Times, USA Today, Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal), Sunday metros and small weeklies, most US print newspapers will be gone in five years. The report asks, “How will the changing delivery of content affect the quality and depth of journalism?” What opportunities for you does this open up? How can your organization make up for any lost quality or depth of journalism? Where are the gaps that you can fill?

 

  • How transparent are you? How do you reassure your members that their online presence with you is safe? “Our latest Digital Future study found that almost half of users age 16 and older are worried about companies checking what they do online; by comparison, 38% said that the government checking on them is a concern,” says Cole. While our members love making purchases and connecting with others online, they’re also very aware that the Web is public, and that information on them is collected with nearly every click. So far that isn’t stopping people from participating in online shopping, surveys, commenting on blogs, reviewing purchase experiences, adding rankings and ratings, etc…. But what are you doing to make sure your members don’t log off your site or your blog or move away from your Facebook or LinkedIn pages thinking, “Darn… I wonder what they’ll do with what I said there?” What are you doing to make sure your members aren’t balking at the information you’re asking for on profile pages? The tipping point for privacy concerns might still be a ways off… but there’s no doubt it’s on people’s minds.

 

  • “Even though online outreach to voters continues to expand, and Internet fundraising is a major priority for candidates, the Internet is not yet considered a tool that voters can use to gain more political power or influence,” Cole says. Yet they believe this is changing and over the next two election cycles the Internet will become “a major factor in changing the political landscape.” Occupy Wall Street, Occupy LA, Occupy [fill in the name of your organization]. Occupy it online. What are the possibilities here? Threats? How can you get ahead of the potential impact of influencing politics online to benefit your organization’s mission? Is there a part you can play in accelerating this trend?

 

  • Can you believe online buying is 18 years old? Amazon has flourished and Borders Books has suffered because of it, to cite an example from just one industry. Music CDs have pretty much gone by the wayside as fans download digital files. “Even though purchasing online has already had a significant impact on buying habits, the changes still to come in American purchasing brought by the Internet will no doubt be even more extensive,” says Cole. Are you leveraging online buying trends as fully as you could be? Are you taking orders online but still shipping out print books and manuals? Time to think hard about converting to ebooks…. I’ll digress from the report summary here to mention that ebook readers have satisfaction rates of 60% and higher (up to 75% for Kindle buyers). Kindle books outsold print books at Amazon this past year for the first time. It isn’t a fad. It’s a trend. Don’t be the Borders to someone else’s Amazon.

 

  • A friend recently recounted his nephew’s description of a college party. “About fifteen people were there. And they were all texting each other. In the same room. My nephew said it was quiet. The quietest party you can imagine. Except for the occasional laughter when someone forwarded something funny or texted something witty. Then there would be a laugh, then another, as the message floated around the room.” Yes. In the same room. Texting each other. It’s no joke, it’s true, and the Digital Future’s report validates it. People are spending more time connected online than they do face-to-face. “But is quality being sacrificed for quantity?” Cole asks. “Will those who use social networking services consider them as alternatives to face-to-face involvement with the people in their lives?” In your organization’s social networking and other online environments, how are you ensuring that quality is overriding quantity? That your members are getting something valuable for their time? That they are able to make the same sorts of strong connections online that they make at face-to-face events?

 

  • Are you ready for what’s next? “In 2006, YouTube and Twitter had just been born, and Facebook was a toddler. Six years ago, who would have thought that these nascent technologies would become the standard for social communication in 2011? The next major online trend is being developed right now by a new crop of Internet visionaries just waiting to be heard,” says Cole. How adaptable is your organization to upcoming change? Because there will be change.

And if I were to guess it would be about personalization.¬† Think about it. You can order M&M candies with any message you want (that will fit their basic specs). You can create your own movies and upload them for the world to see. You can write and publish your own books with a few clicks of the mouse (okay, the publishing part… not the writing part). You can produce your own music and market it to your fans. You can order any number of items with your name or logo on them.

So can your members.

And the youngest members of our associations have been growing up in a personalized, customized, all about “me” world for a long time.

What are you doing to give your members a unique experience in your organization? Do they get the same tee-shirt as everyone else, or do you give them the opportunity to design their own? Do they have a say in the educational sessions available at the national conference? Can they control how and where and for how long they access online learning sessions? Or are you still making them fit your schedule? (Oh, that’s so last century!!)

Okay, glad I got that off my chest.

At least you can start with these ideas from the Center for the Digital Future and your pal here at aLearning, right?

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, eLearning Resources, Online Learning in General | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

How Time Flies…

Posted by Ellen on January 27, 2012

…when you’re having fun, right?!?

And we have been having fun here at the aLearning Blog! Suddenly, it seems, we’re publishing our 250th post and celebrating five years.

Yep, five years. And so much has changed!

When aLearning published its first post back on January 27, 2007:

  • no LMS systems (that we know of at the time) were designed especially to meet the needs of associations and nonprofits
  • few (if any) research endeavors about online learning focused on associations and nonprofits
  • few (if any) organizations bothered to survey association learning leaders to find out what we’re doing in the field and how things were going
  • the number of association-specific blogs could be counted on the fingers of one person’s hands
  • social learning and virtual learning environments were mysterious, hocus-pocus, scary entities

A lot has changed over just five changes of the seasons, hasn’t it?!?

Top 100 aLearning Blog Posts

To celebrate this milestone, we’ve compiled an ebook of our Top 100 aLearning Blog Posts. Just skimming through these selections made us realize how quickly the elearning sands shift, affecting the landscape, even moving the horizon.

At over 200 pages, this compilation brings together in one place the best — and most controversial — writing from the aLearning Blog. We’ve included most comments (the fine print is that we’ve deleted pingpacks, backtracks, and outright sales pitches) and are proud of the attention the aLearning Blog has garnered over the years by elearning and education experts.

To Get Your Copy

We’ve made this e-publication very affordable at just $5. To order, go to www.ellenbooks.com/store.html and click the “Buy Now” PayPal button. You should be able to read this PDF from any device with a PDF reader (such as Adobe Reader).

Special Offer

If you’ve purchased aLearning: A Trail Guide to Association eLearning, we’ll send you a copy of the Top 100 Posts for free. Just send Ellen an e-mail at ellenbehr@aol.com and attach an electronic copy of your Lulu receipt, and we’ll send you the Top 100 Posts by return e-mail. We appreciate your support and are happy to say “thank you” in this small way.

Thank You!

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Surveys, aLearning Trends, Conferences, eLearning Marketing, eLearning Resources, Financing eLearning, Justifying aLearning, Learning in General, LMS, Measuring Results, Online Learning in General, Social Learning, Webinars | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Cloudy About ‘The Cloud’?

Posted by Ellen on January 10, 2012

Don’t be. Here’s the easy-sneezy version of what you need to know to help your association or nonprofit.

First, “The Cloud” is just another way of referring to the Web, the Internet, cyberspace. Services “in the cloud” are available via the Web instead of systems having to be installed on your server(s) or applications or programs being installed on your desktop. It means they’re out there — in cyberspace — and you connect to them.

What this means is that the responsibility for maintaining those systems rests on the company providing them, instead of on you.

Yes, this is very good news.

“SaaS” or “Software as a Service” has been around for awhile, and “The Cloud” references have sort of evolved from that.

But here’s the best part. According to TSIA’s October 2011 report, “Understanding the Impact of Consumption Economics on Education Services”:

“Customers no longer have to buy all the complexity. They can buy the capacity, features, and functionality they need, when they need them, and in the amount they need them. The best part for the customer is that huge, up-front payments are replaced by manageable, monthly payments. No longer is the customer held hostage by a product that is too hard to use and too hard to uninstall.”

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Wait! There's more!

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"…[T]here will be constant price pressure as new suppliers enter the marketplace and/or new cloud offerings are promoted."

TSIA anticipates a shift from long-term licensing fees to micro-transactions, which could be pricing per user per month, per feature, per gigabyte of data stored, per content downloaded, or any number of other similar yet singular types of transactions.

We’re already seeing this from some vendors. Charging a $X fee per user per month for up to X number of users is one example.

This is great because we’ll only be charged for the actual number of users in the system and/or for the actual downloads or other access options.

Of Course There’s a Catch

You can get your calculator out and do the math if you want, but the logic is clear: the better the deal is for us (the consumers), the more the vendors will have to work to make the same levels of income.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you’ve decided on ACME LMS. Let’s say you’re just starting with elearning so you’ve chosen their low-end “Basic” option: features A, B, and C, for $5/mo per user.

Let’s also say they have a “Standard” option that includes the features you already have and use, PLUS features D, E, F, G, and H for $10/mo per user.

Even with the same number of users, ACME LMS stands to make more  money from you.

They might not try to get you to opt for the “Standard” bundle at first, but you can bet they’ll be looking to “upsell” you at some point. They have revenue needs, and you’re the way to fill those needs.

I’m not saying don’t take the upsell. But I will tell you to ask for the data.

More Cloudy Benefits

A hidden benefit of a product that sits in the Cloud is that it’s generating a bunch of data on your use of the system. You might be getting that data, you might not. But you can bet the company is sucking as many numbers out of the system as it can get.

That’s not a bad thing.

They can tell you how your members are using the system in ways you probably can’t imagine. It’s to their benefit to do that.

So if they’re suggesting an upgrade to another bundle — let’s say to the Standard option in the example we’ve been using — then ask to see the data. Look at how the features you’d be adding could enhance the learners’ experience in the training you’re giving them. How many users would likely be affected if you incorporated those additional features? Would it be worth the additional cost? Why? Why not?

If you’re not convinced, no need to make the jump. The next “level” of service will be around for awhile. You can make the change whenever your organization is ready, and you can do it pretty quickly compared to the old license-renewal cycles that are measured in years.

Yes, there are terrific benefits when you let your elearning programs live in the Cloud rather than on some server in a back room someplace. Start modestly, graduate up if needed, and be sure the vendor you choose has a great reputation for uptime and excellent back-up systems.

Could your elearning benefit from living in the Cloud?

Posted in aLearning Strategies, Financing eLearning, LMS, Online Learning in General | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Why Your Board of Directors is Dysfunctional

Posted by Ellen on December 21, 2011

And it is, isn’t it? Admit it. Well, maybe things seem okay for the moment, but at some point, you’ll experience frustration with a board of directors that you’ll be convinced is off its rocker, in whole or part.

It isn’t their fault.

Think about it.

They volunteer to run for the board of directors of your nonprofit organization, get elected or appointed, and voila! — they’re supposed to know what’s expected of them.

“But Ellen! We have an extensive board orientation program,” you say.

Sure you do.

You cover the organization’s pertinent documents (bylaws, standing rules, etc.), mix in the most critical legal stuff (open meetings laws, liabilities, etc.), spend some time with the financial data, maybe cover some of Robert’s Rules of Order.

Everybody leaves with a fat binder and cognitive overload.But nobody leaves having experienced effective training.

Stop a second and think about that.

You’ve just entrusted major decisions to a group of people based on a binder, a lot of conversation, and maybe a few expert speakers.

You’ve given them a lot of “what” stuff, but very little “how.”

Board members perform several tasks. Learning those tasks requires learning new skills — or adapting existing skills to new applications.

When is the last time your board orientation included practicing performing a necessary task? Or practicing anything?

When’s the last time you presented your board members with hypothetical problems of the sort they’ll need to solve? Case studies? Asked them to work together on a simulation?

I hear your protest: “But Ellen! That takes so much time and we already have several days devoted to this orientation!”

You’re right. You do not want to extend your orientation time. If anything, you want to reduce it.

Instead of walking the members through the bylaws, pick a half-dozen key items and create role-playing scenarios so they will experience them.

Instead of asking members to sit through a presentation by a legal expert, create a few scenarios based on the most likely litigation you could face. Have members work in small groups to work through what they should do and why.

Instead of handing your members a manual on Robert’s Rules of Order and expecting them to magically know the ins and outs of conducting a meeting with them (even assuming they actually take the time to read the manual, which they probably won’t), tell them you’ll be conducting part of the orientation using Robert’s Rules.

Instead of handing them a bunch of financial documents and tediously explaining each item line by line, ask them what they think the most pressing financial issue for the organization is, then use the documents to show the current fiscal situation. Ask them what they think the organization wastes the most money with, then use the budget to determine where the most money is spent, and where the least money is spent.Create an online version that includes explanations of those items through call-outs that appear when the mouse hovers over them so they can continue to refer to it even after the orientation session.

You probably have even better ideas than these to introduce more effective training techniques into your board orientation — the point is to involve them actively in the materials they will be using as board members. Get them thinking like board members through case studies and scenarios and small group discussions. Help them begin to behave like board members by modelling and practicing Robert’s Rules of Order (or other meeting management techniques).

We expect our children’s teachers to be trained in classroom management. We expect our doctor’s office to know how to keep our medical records straight. We expect our attorneys to have the answers to our questions.

Why should our board members be any different?

You wouldn’t want your children in a classroom where the teacher was given a week’s series of lectures and handed a binder then considered ready to do the job. If you’ve had a car accident, you wouldn’t want your insurance agent showing up in his pajamas complaining you interrupted his favorite daytime TV show, would you? of course not. You expect that they’ve been properly trained so you will get the service you expect from them.

Members expect that your board members are properly prepared, too. But taking on a board position is taking on a new job. New jobs require training. Yes, there’s some “orientation” involved, but to overlook the importance of training new board members is to render those members incompetent to fulfill their duties…

…leading to the very dysfunction you really, really, really don’t want permeating your board.

Posted in Learning in General, Online Learning in General | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »