While I was in Fredericton this week, I started some conversations around the focus of this community. One area of interest is around the sharing of technology. The idea being that the use of common platforms would facilitate collaboration. For instance, if everyone used the same LCMS, then it would be easy to develop a single solution using multiple suppliers. The R&D focus would be to determine what kind of technology would be suitable for co-operation. Simulation tools probably would not be suitable, as they can give a company a competitive edge. Content management platforms might be mnore suitable, as most companies need one, and one does not provide a significant competetive advantage over another. Sharing in the development and implementation of open souce platforms for multiple organisations received some interest (e.g. see this model. For instance, Engage Interactive has developed some add-ons for the open source CMS, Mambo. If other learning companies wanted to use a CMS, why not choose Mambo, where we already have some expertise in the region? Some people even suggest using a CMS instead of an LCMS. hmmm?
Another suggestion, from John Heinstein:
I was thinking about our conversation today and the question of settling on a small-scale project that could bring together members of the eLearning community, and which also championed Open Source as a low-cost and effective alternative to commercial software. I think that one good candidate is: a SCORM test-bed.
This would be an extremely useful service for NB eLearning companies. After having been through the painful SCORMization process ourselves, we can testify to the difficulty of comprehending the SCORM spec, much less implementing it. In fact, I’m still not sure exactly how conformant we are. Having an easily accessible SCORM test bed would enjoin NB companies to marshall around an international standard, emphasizing the importance of interoperability, and provide direct evidence to eLearning consumers that NB is on the leading edge of the courseware industry.
It would demonstrate the feasibility and advantages of integrating Open Source software with commercial software. It would provide a model of how collaboration can be achieved within an industry that is highly competitive. Companies could promote their SCORM-conformant courseware by displaying demos on the website; NB [and the region] could better sell itself as having a coherent approach to eLearning. Wikis, forums, chats, papers, newsletters, blogs, etc. could provide support services for participants.
Commercial consulting services for SCORM-related matters could be offered. Eventually services like EduSource and Knowledge Agora could be integrated into the system. The SCORM test-bed could also be used by schools with eLearning curricula.
One of the issues that surfaced during the industry capacity initiative this Winter was a lack of high-level business skills in the region. We do not have enough experienced people, especially those with a tech start-up background. Dave Pollard, a fellow Canadian, has a couple of interesting articles focused on business skills. The first is on Avoiding the Landmines in the Entrepreneurial Business. Since most NB learning companies are private, Pollard’s advice is pertinent. I’ve been hit by some of these landmines – biting off too much; being too far ahead of the market and copycat businesses. I’m sure that many of us can relate to this post.
Pollard’s other article, The Caring Enterprise Coach offers a new service to small and medium sized companies. This service is not what you get from the Big 5 consulting companies; it’s focused on entrepreneurs:
The Caring Enterprise Coach is a collaborative enterprise of independent consultants, technologists, trainers and retired entrepreneurs. Our members are equal partners, each with unique and specialized skills essential to the delivery of our offerings. We have no hierarchy, no physical assets, no front or back office, no overhead, no bureaucracy, and no employees. Our assets are the shared intellectual assets of our members ?ï¿½ï¿½Ç¨ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ expertise, skills, experience, networks – and the leading edge tools and technologies that they have developed and contributed for our collective use. We bring agility, economy, efficiency, and, through our powerful independent networks, reach and depth, that no limited, hierarchical, traditionally-trained professional services firm can match.
These articles are worth a read, and may provide food for thought on how we can develop a community model to foster innovation and sustain our businesses.
I had commented on the closing of TeleEd and its “After 5” newsletter on my other blog. The newsletter is now going to come under the umbrella of LearnNB, which I think is appropriate. I see LearnNB as the brand under which a number of independent ventures (public & private) can flourish. With this model, the closure of one part (e.g. TeleEd) would not require rebranding or renaming, as the LearnNB name can be more than the sum of the parts. This is a more networked, and non-hierarchical, model.
Our community of practice (CoP) will be developed under the LearnNB banner as well. My intention is to link this blog from the LearnNB site, as well as the other components to come – the collaborative work site and ELF’s Spoke network.
Here is another idea for the CoP. I think that we can use the After 5 newsletter as a discussion vehicle. For instance, a few of us could write a collaborative wiki on an area of interest. How about a wiki to collaboratively write a visit report on ASTD next month? (I won’t be there, but can write and edit from here). The wiki could be part of the newsletter, or we could use it as a development tool before “going to press”. How about 2 or 3 volunteers to blog ASTD? I can set up a blog for you on this site, or we can start one elsewhere. Let’s practice what we preach. If you don’t know how to use a wiki, then you can LEARN. I’m not an expert either.
Not many people have responded to my poll request. If you are in the region and want to get involved, then please look at this initial poll. I would like to know where you want me, and the community, to put our efforts.
I’ve been talking to a few people about one of the suggestions that emerged from the industry meetings this Winter, and that was to have a regional conference around learning. As many of you know, CSTD has committed to let the NB chapter organise an elearning conference in May 2005. More details on that should be available after the chapter meeting in Fredericton in June. Date and location will be posted here, as soon as it’s confirmed.
Many of us discussed how to work as a learning industry during LearnTec at NBCC Miramichi last May. This discussion resulted in the RDeL initiative, LearnNB and CSTD-NB. Obviously things get done at conferences!
So the question is – how can we best coordinate our efforts and create a conference that brings in the best learning professionals as well as potential purchasers. This Fall we will have LearnTec in Miramichi as well as NAWEB in Fredericton. NAWEB at the University of New Brunswick is now in its 10th year, with international participation. Why not join the two conferences, or even add a third like Texpo? I’m sure that there are others that I’m missing, particularly in Nova Scotia or on PEI.
What do you think? Should any conference also have a virtual component? Could we set up high speed video conferencing between each conference, so that you can attend a session at a distance, but with a small group and your own moderator? Should we focus on specific themes? Does it make sense to have a conference of conferences?
Here is a review of some industry reports that I had used four years ago as references for an evaluation of TeleEducation NB. I’m putting it up as a reference.
The 1999 Industry Canada research report ?ï¿½ï¿½Ç¨?ï¿½Sector Competitiveness Framework – Education and Training Services?ï¿½ï¿½Ç¨ï¿½ï¿½ listed the following issues to be addressed by government and industry:
* Collaboration, including partnerships and strategic alliances
* Quality Assurance
* Business Skills
* Validation of products and services
The 1996 ?ï¿½ï¿½Ç¨?ï¿½Profile of the Commercial Education and Training Industry in Atlantic Canada?ï¿½ï¿½Ç¨ï¿½ï¿½ conducted for Industry Canada cited issues of importance to the long-term prosperity of the sector:
* Credibility in the Market
* Internal Competition between Private and Public Sector
The following seven gaps in the ATT sector were identified by the Centre for Learning Technologies in 1999, in a report for the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Culture.
* Marketing and Market Understanding
* Product versus Service Emphasis
* Business and Financial Management
* Research and Development
* Human Resources Issues
* Instructional Design and Project Management Processes
* Industry Support Programs
Is there anything in these reports, from as far back as eight years ago, that could inform the industry today?
At the NS eLearning Summit on 22 April, the last agenda item was “Building the elearning Industry in Nova Scotia”. This is the same agenda item that we have had around this industry cluster in New Brunswick for a while.
Steve Kelly from Business New Brunswick gave the NB perspective, and mentioned that NB had stopped trying to create an industry association, and would instead focus on fostering a professional development organisation through the Canadian Society for Training & Development. This is a smart move, as industry associations are difficult to grow (witness NBITA), due to conflicting interests. CSTD also appeals to both vendors and purchasers, as it’s about the profession of “training & development”, and business networking is a by-product, not its raison d’?É¬ï¿½tre.
Blogging is the same. A good weblog seeks to inform and communicate. It may result in collaboration, or even business deals, but these are bi-products. As soon as we know that someone is trying to sell us something, our defences go up. If we feel that someone is honestly trying to communicate, then we are more receptive to his or her ideas.
With this in mind, I will try to foster communication and discussion in this forum, not the selling of a vision or a marketing plan. This community will be a place to discuss R&D issues, which will remain loosely defined for the time being. Specific deals or collaboration can take place “off-line” or outside of this venue – but this is where you can float an idea and see what happens.
In this same vein, I would like to expand our horizons and open this community to all of Atlantic Canada, and friends of Atlantic Canada, en anglais et en fran?É¬ï¿½ais. Nova Scotia elearning professionals are looking at ways to collaborate, and I invite them to come and talk with us. With their help, the conversations will be richer. I also hope that our friends on Prince Edward Island and in Newfoundland & Labrador will also join us. Given geographical barriers, which we all understand, I don’t believe that this will become all-inclusive; but our community will be open.
Take a look at this 15 minute Macromedia Breeze presentation by Jay Cross of the Emergent Learning Forum. Does this strike a chord? As a node of the Forum, we can extend our reach, and collaborate with people who have similar interests in extending learning. I will be exploring this further over the next few weeks.
Comments would really be appreciated.
In order to understand your areas of interest, I’ve created a poll. Please respond to it if you are interested in participating. The focus of this poll is on the interests of people in the Atlantic region, but others are welcome. Just make a comment on where you’re from. Only one vote per person, but you can always add comments.
Link to Poll
Still only 4 votes, as of 12 May
Welcome to the Community of Practice (CoP) blog on R&D issues in the region. Read the previous three posts for a bit of background, but this is the first step in fostering a CoP around issues that are of importance to us. Your participation is essential, and my job will be to connect people, ideas and communities; as well as keep the conversations flowing. Suggestions are always welcome.