After a few false starts and some technical glitches, we have the new (and improved?) blog for elearning R&D in the region, available at www.learnnb.ca/blog/. This is a continuation of the posts started on the R&D Community Blog on this site, which will now be retired. The community now has its own web space, as part of the LearnNB site, which is hosted by the NRC.
I have also established a collaborative work space for interested community members. We are using the ACollab platform, which includes document sharing, file uploading and a discussion forum. Initial feedback is to use the blog for general discussions, and the collaborative work space for specific project-related issues. Please contact me if you would like access.
Feedback is always appreciated.
Rob Paterson offers the example of the New Bedford whaling community as a successful community of practice.
The entire community was financially behind the trip. All contributed to ensuring that the investment was safe by offering the very best equipment from the boat to the rigging. All crew members were paid on a share basis – all had a vested interest in supporting all the others on the ship. It was considered bad form to sail with the same crew so experience was continually spread around the fleet. Every position was apprenticed so their was a hierarchy of experience behind every trade and position. All captains shared their logs at the end of every trip so the NB fleet collected the collective wisdom and experience of every trip.
New Bedford = New Brunswick? Couldn’t we use a similar model for LearnNB? I think that some of the keys to this community are shared risk, no return on investment until the voyage is over, and the sharing of ships’ logs. Sounds almost like the open source community.
Bill Gates introduced blogs to the business community today. I guess that means that blogging is officially mainstream. Anyway, here is Bill’s view of this "new" phenomenon – parts of which may come in handy when explaining blogging to "The Suits". [Note that I couldn’t just copy this material and then link to it, because the MS Bill Gates site doesn’t use anything as simple as a Creative Commons licence. Instead, I had to dig through many pages of Microsoft legalese in order to determine that the company allows for the quoting of up to 10% of an article. After copying and pasting and doing a word count of the article as well as my quote, I know that the selection below is 4.1% of the total article.]
Another new phenomenon that connects into this is one that started outside of the business space, more in the corporate or technical enthusiast space, a thing called blogging. And a standard around that that notifies you that something has changed called RSS.
This is a very interesting thing, because whenever you want to send e-mail you always have to sit there and think who do I copy on this. There might be people who might be interested in it or might feel like if it gets forwarded to them they’ll wonder why I didn’t put their name on it. But, then again, I don’t want to interrupt them or make them think this is some deeply profound thing that I’m saying, but they might want to know. And so, you have a tough time deciding how broadly to send it out.
Then again, if you just put information on a Web site, then people don’t know to come visit that Web site, and it’s very painful to keep visiting somebody’s Web site and it never changes. It’s very typical that a lot of the Web sites you go to that are personal in nature just eventually go completely stale and you waste time looking at it.
And so, what blogging and these notifications are about is that you make it very easy to write something that you can think of, like an e-mail, but it goes up onto a Web site. And then people who care about that get a little notification. And so, for example, if you care about dozens of people whenever they write about a certain topic, you can have that notification come into your Inbox and it will be in a different folder and so only when you’re interested in browsing about that topic do you go in and follow those, and it doesn’t interfere with your normal Inbox.
And so if I do a trip report, say, and put that in a blog format, then all the employees at Microsoft who really want to look at that and who have keywords that connect to it or even people outside, they can find the information.
And so, getting away from the drawbacks of e-mail — that it’s too imposing — and yet the drawbacks of the Web site — that you don’t know if there’s something new and interesting there — this is about solving that.
The ultimate idea is that you should get the information you want when you want it, and we’re progressively getting better and better at that by watching your behavior, ranking things in different ways.
Unfortunately there is no RSS feed (nor trackback URL) on his site.
Other comments on the Bill Gates’ speech are available from Lee Lefever, BBC NEWS – World Edition, Kathleen at the Otter Group, and Cutting Through; among, I am sure, many others.
We have the basic functionality set up for community of practice on the LearnNB website.
All new information will be posted there.
Jay’s comments on this week’s meeting of the Learning Economics Group. Jay has added to Brenda Sugrue’s initial conceptual model, giving us his usual insight into this fuzzy world of learning, technology and business. I like the fact that Jay is pointing out the power relationships (e.g. Boss’s Ego) as well.
Attended a teleconference session of the Learning Economics Group today. This is a non-profit group focused on conducting research, developing tools, databases, forums and the creation of a virtual discussion ?ï¿½ï¿½Ç¨ï¿½ï¿½space?ï¿½ï¿½Ç¨ï¿½Ñ¢ for professionals, policymakers and others about Learning Economics. LEG kicked-off in early April, but there is already a lot of interest worldwide in their research agenda, from all sectors. FYI, Learning Economics is defined by LEG as the study of the strategic value of learning, both formal and informal, and its economic impact on a corporation or organization.
Attendees included professionals in the field from Shell, Cisco, HP, BYU, SRI, and two Canadians! After introductions, Dan Blair from HP, with Brenda Sugrue of ASTD, gave the main presentation on setting a learning economics research agenda. A key concept in this presentation is the shift of Tangible versus Intangible Assets on the S&P index from 38% intangibles in 1982 to 85% intangibles in 2002. Most economic value is now intangible (think knowledge and knowledge workers). As someone stated, we now know the problem, but we don’t know the answers to "managing" intangible assets. A lot of participation and commentary from attendees, such as Eilef Trondsen and Jay Cross, et al.
Check out the website and join the group, participate, and contribute to the already significant resources that have been contributed by members.
Is there interest in the region to become a special interest group (SIG) and contribute to this forum? I will continue to participate and provide comments to the LearnNB (loosely coupled) community.
We’re making progress with the new website. Luc at the NRC IIT elearning group is helping us get set up with our blog and collaborative space. In the spirit of further exploring the open source model, this will be on a linux server. I will transfer over most of the contents of this blog to the new site – but in the meantime please continue to post any comments or suggestions here. If you feel shy, then send me an e-mail.
I met with some community members in Fredericton last week, and would like to meet face2face with others, so contact me if you’re interested in discussing R&D issues. My budget allows me to travel within the Maritimes; beyond that it will have to be on the phone 🙁
This blog will soon be moving to the LearnNB site. This site is hosted by the NRC and will be an excellent portal for learning in the region. Unlike TeleEducation, which no longer exists, the LearnNB site will not be linked to any specific organisation. This means that if this community closes, the LearnNB site will remain for new initiatives and groups. It will be our “one stop shop” for the long run.
My intention is to start our community web presence with a blog, and very quickly add a collaborative work space, including access to a wiki. If you haven’t used a wiki, let’s learn together.
Stay tuned here for further announcements.
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.