aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

Posts Tagged ‘learning theory’

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 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 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 »

January Quick Clicks

Posted by Ellen on January 23, 2012

Whew! It’s been awhile since an aLearning post, but we’ve been working hard behind the scenes onĀ a great new aLearning venture. More on that soon… šŸ™‚


Meanwhile, we’ll make it up to you by providing this edition of Quick Clicks, some links to what we believe are valuable resources, articles, and tools, collected here to help save you the time of tracking them all down.

As always, if you have suggestions for Quick Clicks links, send an e-mail.


Struggling with Systems Integration?

First, take a look at “Bringing Systems Together” from associationTECH…

Then take in the first installment of their series, this one focusing on AMSes: “Bringing Systems Together: AMS Central”


MOOCs and Connectivism

Curious about MOOCs (Mass Open Online Courses)? Wonder what the impetus was for the first one in 2008 (yes, they’ve been around more than three years now)? Want to see how Connectivism is at the center of it all?

Read all about it at Stephen Downes’ “Creating the Connectivist Course” at his Half and Hour blog.


Making the Case (Yet Again) for the Legitimacy of eLearning

Still looking for justifying elearning? Looking for support in your argument thatĀ online teaching and learning has been validated? Craig Weiss at the E-Learning 24/7 Blog has captured a bunch of facts with bona fide, respectable sources in hispost, “Online Learning in Education.” The post focuses on elearning in higher ed, but hey, if you can get a legitimate university degree this way, shouldn’t it be fine for our association members?!??


LMS Help

We’ve mentioned Craig several timesĀ here at aLearning (and include him in our pretty exclusive Blogroll) becauseĀ provides enormous help when it comes to LMSes and other systems… Here’s a list of some of the “Must-Reads” from his blog (noted above):

Interoperability – it works every time..Wrong

LMS – Extended Enterprise SpaceĀ 

LMS Q and A

What about UR infrastructure? Questions 2 Ask B4 Implementing a LMS


eLearning Strategy Mistakes

Of course, we believe you should start with aLearning: A Trail Guide to Association eLearning when developing a strategy for your learning programs (especially online offerings)… but you would also benefit from Marc Rosenberg’s “Ten Common Mistakes in Building an eLearning Strategy” from his Marc My Words blog. It’s a quick but very valuable read, and you don’t need to be an eLearning Guild member to access it online.


More on Learning Styles Bunk

Yes, we’re still fighting the “learning styles” myth.Ā Here’s more ammo from Knowledge Factor’s blog.


Free Image Editors

We all like stuff that’s free, especially when it saves us money and performs a job for us. You can thank Tom Kuhlman at The Rapid E-Learning Blog for a list of five free image editors. Manipulate those clip art images, photos, and other graphics to make your tutorials, newsletters and other documents look the way you want, instead of the way those images are handed to you. Read his post for the full list and links to those editors.

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

Learn or Die

Posted by Ellen on May 10, 2011

… as an organization, that is (though some brain experts are also telling us that continuing to engage and challenge our brains is essential to staying mentally healthy as we age).

Somehow I missed this report, which dates back to 2008, but it’s no less valid now (maybe even moreso) than it was then, so it’s worth a post.

“In Search of Learning Agility: Assessing Progress from 1957 to 2008” by Timothy R. Clark, PhD, and Conrad A. Gottredson, PhD, both of TRCLARK LLC, sponsored by ASTD, Chief Learning Officer, and The eLearning Guild, says it more plainly than I ever could:

“Unless an organization can learn at or above the speed of change in its environment, it faces the grave risk of irrelevance and failure.”

Given that change swirls faster than the strongest tornado and — if you’re not ready — leaves devastation in its wake, you really need to pay attention.

“We know that, Ellen,” you’re thinking. “So what?”

Here’s the so what:

“Unbounded and un-prioritized learning can actually make things worse. In any organization, learning imperatives are never created equal. Each organization has to prioritize its learning needs based on its strategic objectives. The point is that too few organizations learn fast enough or well enough.”

Let’s break this down:

  • How many of your programs are — at most — loosely linked, but generally fall into the “unbounded” category? How often do you pull together a session or program because someone said it’s “important for the members to know this stuff”? Do you have a unified curriculum, or a hodge-podge of sessions, programs, events and other offerings that have accumulated over the years?
  • Are your programs prioritized? Do you know which ones are the *most critical* for your members’ knowledge base and skills? Can you quickly answer the question: If you could only offer one thing that would benefit your members’ educationally, what would that one thing be? Why?
  • Do you have a learning strategy? Does it comprehensively direct your department’s decision-making for face-to-face (FTF), online, and hybrid learning offerings? Does it show a clear relationship to your association’s organizational strategy?
  • How quickly can you respond to a situation that immediately requires your members be trained? How quickly can you do that WELL? Throwing together a Webinar on new industry regulations is one thing. Doing it so it is *effective* in helping your members incorporate those new regulations into their processes and policies is another.

When you get right down to it, individuals actively using social media options for answering questions, solving problems, obtaining background information and insight as it’s needed, and otherwise participating in “just in time” training are practicing agile learning.

Your members get it. They’re actively engaging on all sorts of levels in many ways to continue to feed their need for the latest facts and most up-to-date skills.

You need to be able to deliver at their speed (or faster) through the modes they’re accustomed to using.

Aren’t Core Competencies Enough?

Clark and Gottredson make an important distinction, given associations’ reliance on competency models.

“Competence refers to an organization’s ability to meet the challenges of today… An organization may be highly competent today, but competence today is not necessarily a good predictor of future competence — learning agility is.”

So what is this “learning agility” an organization needs?

“Learning agility refers to an organization’s ability to respond to adaptive change — be it an opportunity, threat, or crisis — through the aquisition and application of knowledge and skills. High agility organizations are able to learn quickly and apply effectively the collective knowledge and skills of their members… At an organizational level, agility is the ability to grow, change, or innovate at or above the speed of one’s own market.”

Here’s the bottom line:

  • You can be competent, but unprepared.
  • You can be competent, but unable to adapt.
  • You can be competent, but unspectacular.
  • You can be competent, but unable to innovate or create.
  • You can be competent, and still fail.

Time to rethink competency. Time to be agile. Time to transform the culture of your association into one that celebrates learning agility — for you, your staff, your volunteer leadership, your members, and your constituencies.

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

A Followup, an Update, and More Helpful Links

Posted by Ellen on April 8, 2011

…with apologies for my tardiness in posting this! Better late than never, given the value of these resources:

First the followup…

If you’re looking for ways to make your Webinars less passive for your learners, take a look at Christy Tucker’s “Synchronous Software Scavenger Hunt” post at her blog.

Christy’s been exploring how to make Webinars more active for quite a while, and the brief case study in this post will get you thinking about some possibilities.

For example, if you’re implementing a new LMS in your association, why not offer a Webinar that gets your members to hunt for various features or options? Wouldn’t that be far better than just doing a boring show-and-tell of the features?!?

What other ways could you leverage a “hunting” activity during a Webinar?

I appreciate Christy including a reference to aLearning and links to my earlier posts about Webinars and information-driven sessions. It’s great to get nudged (okay, pushed) into imagining how we can leverage the technology of live Web sessions for things other than talking heads.

Thanks, Christy, for a great post!


And the update comes from Craig Weiss, who’s made his very useful (and FREE) LMS/Learning Portal Directory even better. It now includes whether the vendor provides a demo, pricing (if so, there’s a direct link to that info — Craig also believes that pricing shouldn’t be a deep, dark secret when so much moola is at stake), indicators for products with new features, and link updates.

Some LMSes are categorized as “Lite” — a good place for associations needing a basic system to start looking. You can access the directory here

This is a tremendous service — and Craig has made it even better by starting a LinkedIn group that covers more detail than his blog, which gets into things like personnel and other business changes at LMS companies. These are important details to keep an eye on — who wants to make a major purchase from a company that always seems to be in some sort of internal upheaval? Of course, who has time to track all that?!? So leave it to Craig — whose business it is to do that — and reap the benefits of his insight.

To join the E-Learning 24/7 LinkedIn Group, go to


Helpful Links

Top 100 Tools for Learning 2010 from Jane Hart:

The following thanks to Stephen Downes’ OL Weekly:
“Questions I’m no Longer Asking” at eLearnSpace

More on the myth of Learning Styles

Do Shared Recommendations Lead to Learning?

Four Free Web-Based Screencasting Tools

Community in Asynchronous Learning

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, eLearning Resources, LMS, Online Learning in General | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

All A-Twitter

Posted by Ellen on January 21, 2011

Is it true that far more people initially register for Twitter than stay with it? Do you really have the number of followers you think you do?

And what does that mean for using Twitter as an element in your social learning mix?

For background:

First see Jane Knight’s post, “How do you learn from #lrnchat?”

Add some statistics.

Mix in some naysayers.

I searched for an update on this data, but couldn’t find whether the trend is continuing. Perhaps people tune in, then out, then back in again.

In any case…

What does this mean for using Twitter in social learning?

Before attempting to answer that, here’s another factor to consider: what tools and apps learners say they’ll actually use when it comes to extending their connections and communications around their elearning might not be the ones they truly use, but reflect their wishes or maybe an answer they think you want to hear.

So here’s a study of note:

Terry Anderson (Athabasca University), Bruno Poellhuber (University of Montreal) and Ross McKerlich (Centerboard Strategic Learning) have published the results of their study in the article, “Self-paced Learners Meet Social Software: An Exploration of Learners’ Attitudes, Expectations, and Experience” (you can read this report online here.

They define “social software” as tools that “include profiles, wikis, blogs, posting walls, artifact tagging, web conferencing, calendaring, and other network-based tools.”

Their study focused specifically on university students enrolled in self-paced, distance education to determine their “interest, expectation and expertise” in using social software.

The general conclusions aren’t suprising:

— “a majority are interested in using these tools to enhance their learning experiences”
— “the greater use and experience of the learners, the more they expect and desire to have educational social software used in their formal education programming.”

That should go without saying.

What you might find surprising is that 81% of the respondents (nearly evenly divided across all age groups from 16 up) ranked themselves as “beginner or having no experience using blogs…” while “some tools, such as podcasts, e-portfolios and virtual worlds had very high response rates of ‘don’t know.'” More than 55% rated themselves as intermediate, advanced, or expert users of social networks.

Even so, that means nearly *half* of respondents ranked themselves as either a beginner or someone with no familiarity at all with social networks.

Should give us all pause, don’t you think?

And when asked what their interest is in using various social software options, Twitter ranked *dead last* with just 15.7% of respondents expressing an interest in using it in their courses.

Video sharing (65.4%), Web conferencing (62%), and podcasting (56.2%) all ranked higher than social networking (50.9%), while fewer than half were interested in blogs, wikis, photo sharing, social bookmarking, e-portfolios, and Twitter.

The top three (video sharing, Web conferencing and podcasting) are all content-focused, did you notice? That tells me that students don’t want to just “chat” — they want something of substance at the heart of their online connections.

Of course, it’s possible they haven’t experienced effective use of the other tools as a part of their self-paced, online learning, which is why those options ranked lower… If your experience with something isn’t positive, you generally don’t want to do it again.

The research results also give us a look into how these self-paced online learners prefer to work cooperatively, with “41% preferring to use the Internet, 19% preferred face-to-face and 10% chose telephone as their preferred modes of collaboration.”

Self-paced, online learners are online for a reason: their professional and/or personal schedules and responsibilities led them to online learning in the first place. It makes sense they would prefer to communicate in ways they allow them the same freedom from time and location constraints.

What activities do these students most want to do while collaborating? 70% said “discussions with other students.” This might not mean much until you see the choices and how those ranked, so here’s the full breakdown:

Interest in working with others on specific collaborative activities:

Discussions with other students: 70%
Sharing Internet resources: 44%
Working on a project: 40%
Studying for exams: 38%
Doing an assignment or coursework: 34%
Other activities: 20%
Writing a paper: 18%
Creating Web pages or resources: 18%


The authors touch on much more than these excerpted topics in their research findings, but their recommendations include the following:

— “Familiarity and competence using these technologies is not universal and varies enormously among current students. This suggests that efforts to introduce social technologies need to be accompanied with programs and support that both help learners (and teachers) gain competence, find useful applications and educate them to the potential pedagogical benefits of their use.”

— “At least half of our sample are interested in working collaboratively in some way with other students — but another half are not. This implies that developers of distance education and especially those working with self-paced models should not mandate social interaction, but rather create compelling but not compulsory activities, so that both social and independent learners can be accommodated.”

— “Of the diverse types of social networking tools investigated in this study the most familiar ones are the ones that students are most interested in using in their distance education courses.”


This tells me a lot:

— We shouldn’t assume because we use and see the advantages of a particular social learning tool that our students will embrace them, too.

— The number of registrants for a tool or app (such as Twitter) isn’t the same number of its active users (due to abandonment rates and levels of activity).

— A person can know about a tool or app and have tried it out, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily want it to be a regular part of their learning experience.

— The fastest way to engage self-paced learners is on their terms, using the tools they know and are comfortable using.

— Not all learners are “social” learners; one reason some people are drawn to self-paced online learning might be because they prefer to learn independently.

— Because we shouldn’t assume all online learners are “social learners,” we shouldn’t mandate cooperative nor collaborative activities.

What do you think?

How will these findings affect the way you’re handling your online learners or your plans for future online offerings?

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, Asynchronous Learning Types, eLearning Resources, Social Learning | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »