E-Learning Grab Bag

Here are some items related to e-learning that have caught my interest lately…

TOP OF THIS LIST: Keyser Soze and Organizational Learning. One of Maish Nichani’s favorite films (and mine) is The Usual Suspects. In this article, Nichani describes the key scene where the incognito mafia kingpin Keyser Soze (Kevin Spacey) uses random bits of information in a police interrogation room to spin a bizarre but believeable story which throws the cops off track.

Building on that insight, Nichani writes, “A rich experience base is what distinguishes an expert from a novice. One way to build an experience base is to wait for experiences to come to you. This is the natural way. The other way is to create an environment where experiences can be accelerated. This is the realm of training. But how much of our training is based on accelerating experiences? How many training outcomes are based on interpretation and sensemaking capabilities?”

An excellent question. Nichani explores it briefly, but I’d love to see other e-learning creators and participants discuss this further.

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Listen: Women, Podcasting, E-Learning, and Spotty Skype

Today, as promised, Kris Smith posted the second half of our wide-ranging talk from last Friday. See his podcast Croncast: Amy and her friend Kris Ep. 2. (Right-click on the “podcast” link on that page to download the MP3 audio file. Oh, and what’s a podcast?)

Today’s show starts with a discussion of women in podcasting – or rather the current lack thereof, definitely on the creator side and probably on the audience side. I was fairly pointed in my observations on this topic, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some people take issue with what I said. Well, as always, if you question or object to anything I have to say, e-mail me or comment below (or on Croncast) and we can discuss it.

In the second part of this conversation, Kris and I explored the potential overlap of podcasting and e-learning or distance learning.

Here are some links, side notes, and stuff I forgot to mention…

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Three Steps to Teaching Decisionmaking Online

Here’s another line of thought spurred by my ongoing cross-blog conversation with Maish R. Nichani of elearningpost – which I’m enjoying immensely.

In his Dec. 16 article It’s all about rich e-learning experiences, Nichani wrote: “Amy Gahran points out that a task-oriented approach is more effective in most e-learning than an information oriented approach. My point is that a decision-making or an execution-based approach is even better. Decisions are what business organizations are about. The need to perform a task or to acquire information really depends on the decision you are trying to make. Thus, know-how is equally important as know-why or know-what, it really depends on the decision.”

That’s a very good point, and I’d like to respond to that. I think we might both be circling around the same goal here…

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The Highlights Approach to Corporate E-Learning

NOTE: Don’t miss the two Dec. 16 updates to this article on e-learning narrative and teaching decisionmaking online.


My recent posting Corporate E-Learning: Focus on Tasks has attracted a surprising amount of traffic, mainly because Maish R. Nichani blogged it in elearningpost, and added a good idea to my theme.

Nichani wrote: “I would simplify it even further and focus on the decision-making. For example, providing learners the answers to ‘The 10 most important things you need to know about this task’ or ‘The 5 most important decisions related to this task’ will help the them to focus on the execution of the task. These checksheets can also be linked to detailed documents for the learner to dig into if he/she wishes.”

…That definitely could be one approach to packaging corporate e-learning content. I can see some pros and cons about this…

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E-Learning Grab Bag, Dec. 8

Here are several items on the general theme of online learning that have caught my attention recently…

TOP OF THIS LIST: Learning in Communities, by Stephen Downes, LearnScope, March 4. This is some of the clearest thinking about online learning that I’ve read in a long time. Excerpts:

“With the discussion and – dare I say it – hype surrounding online courses, learning objects, and other forms of online content, people have to a large degree stopped talking about the idea of the learning community. But they shouldn’t. Learning – even online learning – still occurs for the most part in communities. Students take part in online classes and seminars, they exchange thoughts and ideas in mailing lists and on discussion boards, they work in project teams and work groups. The concepts of learning and community are almost inseparable, even for the self-study student…”

“…There remains a great deal of misunderstanding regarding the role and implementation of online discussion and online communities in online learning. Probably the greatest misapplication of online community lies in the idea that it is an adjunct to, or following from, the creation and design of an online course. This is perhaps most clearly exemplified by the existence in itself of course discussions. In more institutions that I can count, when a course is offered online, the discussion community is created with the first class and disbanded with the last. The community owes its existence to the course, and ends when the course does.”

Brilliant! This should be required reading for everyone in the online learning world. (Thanks to Collaborative Learning Environments for this link.)

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E-Learning Grab Bag, Oct. 31

Here’s a few items that have recently caught my attention on the theme of e-learning:

TOP OF THIS LIST: Categories of eLearning, eLearnSpace, Oct. 18. Whenever I tell people that I’ve gotten involved in the e-learning field, most of them give me a blank stare – or think I’m only referring to college courses that you can take online. This excellent primer by George Siemens describes and differentiates each of the main types of e-learning. (Thanks to Ruminators’ ILK for this link.)

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E-Learning Gone Awry in Poor Schools

I love e-learning (whether on the internet, or on a standalone computer or independent network), mainly because I believe this approach holds tremendous potential for education at all levels. But I must bracket my glowing blanket statement with these caveats:

E-learning only succeeds IF:

  • That delivery approach is appropriate for that individual learner. (Not all students learn well by e-learning.)
  • Other learning options are readily available (if that particular lesson is required).
  • Lessons are designed to achieve the correct learning goals. (That is, the top priority is meeting the student’s needs, rather than the needs/desires of administrators or other parties.)

Within that context, I’d like to draw your attention to an excellent and highly disturbing series recently published by Baltimore Sun writer Alec MacGillis: Poor schools, rich targets. Here’s the summary:

“Across the country, education software companies are trying to capitalize on the 2001 No Child Left Behind law by targeting struggling schools that are under pressure to raise their test scores and have millions in new federal funding to spend. But there is little solid research behind much of the software, which may not produce lasting results for the poor students the law claims to help.”

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