Posts Categorized: Learning

eLearning in Quebec

A recent report, on the state of the elearning industry in Qu?ɬ�bec was commissioned by Alliance num?ɬ�riQC and conducted by Am?ɬ�lioraction. The executive summary, in French only, is available for viewing and the entire report will be available for purchase soon.

Here is my quick translation and summarization of the executive summary.

The report’s authors describe the Qu?ɬ�bec elearning industry as comprising about 60 companies, with a total of around 600 people. Most of these companies have fewer than 15 employees. During the past two years, many of these companies have seen 30 to 35% reductions in their annual earnings. These companies do not have the necessary resources to bring their products to market, especially since the elearning marketplace requires a complex "go to market" strategy.

Using Moore’s "chasm" model, the report states that Qu?ɬ�bec companies have done a good job of attracting the early adopters, but are failing at convincing the more conservative buyers about the merits of elearning. In Qu?ɬ�bec, most executives believe that classroom training yields better results than elearning. For this reason, the authors suggest that blended learning may be a better strategy for Qu?ɬ�bec elearning companies. They also suggest that the elearning industry look at creating complete, or end-to-end solutions, in order to compete in an industry that is witnessing major mergers and acquisitions. They see fragmentation as the major obstacle to their industry’s growth.

The authors suggest that the industry look seriously into partnerships and collaborative models. They see Alliance num?ɬ�riQC providing a provincial industry focus, and mention the national role of CeLEA for industry and CSTD for professional development.

Some of the 33 proposed actions include reinforcing the role of Alliance num?ɬ�riQC; increasing the business competences of business leaders – especially in marketing, exporting and partnering; and identifying events to educate major potential clients about elearning. They recommend that the markets to be addressed should be, in order – Qu?ɬ�bec, Canada, USA.

This is an interesting report, particularly for its similarities to other Canadian studies. There are some unique Qu?ɬ�bec perspectives, and I hope that the spirit of co-operation will go far beyond the provincial borders. Obviously, when you add the figures from the elearning industries in BC, Ontario, Quebec and NB, we’re still only a few thousand people, and it’s a big world.

Farewell TeleEducation

I had mentioned earlier that Teleeducation NB was going to close; the victim of government budget cuts. The news was finally been posted to the After 5 website [which is now offline], and the official closure date is May 7th, this Friday. Philippe Duchastel, the Director, has penned a final note [I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him], on TeleEd’s accomplishements and on what is left to be done:

For one thing, TeleEducation NB was very good at what it did: it led the way in creating a climate in which e-learning thrives in many sectors: our main universities and many of our colleges now use e-learning routinely; our school system enrols thousands each year in specialized courses offered online; and despite ups and downs, the e-learning industry in New Brunswick is still going strong. So e-learning is all around us.

Isn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t then the mission of TeleEducation NB accomplished? Yes and no? Yes, e-learning is here to stay and thrive. No, we are not a model of an e-learning society as initially envisioned. A lot is missing. Take the government professional sector. Professional development of civil servants should be taking routine advantage of the benefits of e-learning. As should also the health sector. And the education sector [the professional development of teachers]. These are all sectors where tradition is heavy and that need to be ?¢‚ǨÀúbrought along?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ to e-learning.

There is another article written by the staff at TeleEd, reviewing the specific accomplishments over the past ten years – including the Program Development Fund. I am certain that every company in this Province tapped into this fund for online learning content development [I know, I evaluated the fund in 2001]. The staff cite the legacy of TeleEd as:

* Citizens have increased access to education
* Businesses have been established
* A culture of education as an economic development tool has been created
* Public and private sector organizations collaborate for the good of both
* New Brunswick has been recognized internationally as a centre for e-learning development and delivery

I agree with these, but have to add that many businesses have been "uncreated" as well. What really matters though, are the people.

Furthermore, this legacy is only a snapshot. We need to continue to innovate and create new pedagogical and business models. It will only be in the next ten years that we will see if TeleEd’s legacy has resulted in something lasting for the learning sector and the region.

I know that there is an initiative to continue with the "After 5" online ‘zine, and I have offered to write, edit or do whatever is necessary to continue the conversations that have been started here. After 5 was in its infancy, and just getting a following. Let’s keep the conversation going; and that includes you – the "anonymous instructional designer" ;-).

This just in: After 5 ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú the e-learning newsletter for New Brunswick" will be available May 31, 2004 at LearnNB – Watch for it!

Universities and Course Management Systems

Steve Epstein responds to an article in Syllabus describing the purchase of a proprietary course management system. Epstein feels that universities should not purchase CMS because they would be provided for free by content providers (read: textbook publishers). Epstein states:

In doing her financial analysis, Pletcher reported that she "considered license fee, plus five years maintenance, plus installation costs." Missing from the analysis are the cost of faculty development and the cost of faculty support. While these costs will continue with any campus based CMS, they are not necessary. Moreover, the cost of the present system, $3.3 million over five years, could be reduced to zero.
The cost of a CMS system is not necessary because publishers will provide them for free. For several years, leading publishers have provided electronic content that can be imported into many leading CMS. If the school paid for a CMS, this content can be used with the college’s system. If the school does not pay for the CMS, the content can still be used.

This potential model, of paying for the content and not the delivery system, shows that once again the medium of the Internet is spawning new business models. Any purchaser of technology systems has to clearly understand what the possible business models are – or wind up spending $3.3M more than was necessary.

Not so subtle effects of technology

One more example that the "medium is the message" is this commentary by James Farmer on a class moving from the FirstClass web course management platform to WebCT Vista. Apparently the structure of the group discussion areas is different – namely that WebCT allows learners to go directly to sub-group areas without passing through the main (instructor-controlled) discussion area. There is now less structural control, as the instructor’s comments in the main discussion area are not being seen as often by students:

Net conclusion?��Ǩ�� students are showing lower participation rates, groups aren?��Ǩ�Ѣt following tasks, Elizabeth is having to ramp up her involvement dramatically and shift her pedagogy towards a much more directed one and, without any change in course content, type of cohort, activities or assessment the entire course is changed?��Ǩ�� all because of the structure of the environment.

As I commented yesterday, the pedagogical methods used by instructors are important, but so is the selection and use of technology. According to McLuhan’s laws of media, every medium (technology) enhances, retrieves, obsolesces and reverses some aspect through use.
Educators have to clearly understand instructional technologies, so that they can use them wisely.

[James has some diagrams on his site, an aspect of this blog that I’m missing, but should soon address with the next version of Drupal]

Innovation and the Learning Industry 3

Dave Pollard completes his piece on A Prescription for Business Innovation in Part 3 of this series. I’ve previously commented on Part 1 and Part 2.

Simply put, we are living in an age when we cannot afford innovation, and cannot afford to be without it. Perhaps the most critical innovation need therefore is for creative mechanisms to finance, price and pay for the costs of innovation itself. Funding, pricing, and cost management are now inseparable parts of the innovation process.

Dave Pollard has created an innovation model that includes eight stages, and comprises three key processes – Analytical, Communicative and Creative processes. The eight stages are: Listen, Understand, Organize, Create, Experiment, Listen Again, Design, and Implement. Note how important "listening" is in this model.

My recent experience in the NB Learning Industry capacity initiative reflects that we are not listening enough. During the industry meetings this Winter, there was much discussion on "our" issues and needs, but very little on "broad ideas" from the market, key ideas from "pathfinder customers & competitors", "stories from the front lines", or an understanding of why customer wants and needs are not met. Maybe all of this information is proprietary, and not willingly shared, but we talked more about our needs, than our customers’ needs.

If we want to innovate, Dave Pollard’s model provides us with a starting point – Listening. We can provide a forum for listening through the Web, especially blogs. Remember that "markets are conversations", and innovation starts by really listening to those conversations. This is why we have to keep our R&D community of practice open to the public. Are there any users of learning products and services who have some advice for this industry? Post it here.

Update for the education community: George Siemens comments on Dave Pollard’s three articles as well:

Much of what he writes is applicable to education, training, and knowledge management. Formal education really needs to explore what innovation means in delivering learning. So much potential…yet so little focus.

First Online Teaching Experiences

In the April issue of the Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, Dianne Conrad of the University of New Brunswick has published her qualitative research on the reflections of novice online instructors. The research covers interviews with five new instructors, all using the WebCT platform in a university setting. The study uses Collins & Berge’s framework for facilitating interaction online.

Conrad notes that most of the instructors’ concerns were content-oriented, trying to ensure that enough content was delivered. There was little mention by the instructors on the student learning process, a hot topic amongst those using blogs in education. Conrad also notes the important role of instructors’ egos in the virtual classroom, and that online environments require a more learner-centred approach. Though not mentioned by Conrad, I find it interesting that all five instructors were men. Would the "content focus" have become more of "learner focus" with a different gender mix? How about with a different cultural mix?

One of the respondents made a comment about the limitations of the platform, in that the discussion fora were not searchable. This reinforces my opinion that any LMS/LCMS should be used in conjunction with a good CMS/Blog so that the conversation is less constrained by the technology [this open source blog is searchable, as are most others]. You need the right tool box, as well as the right pedagogical approaches.

Conrad’s study is a worthwhile read for anyone working with online instructors in an academic setting.

Free Online Course – IT Fluency

The University of Washington is offering a free, self-paced course in Fluency in Information Technology. According to the website, the course covers the basics, concepts and capabilities. For example – Basics: e-mail, word processing, searching for Web information; Concepts: what’s a "graphic user interface," how do networks send pictures; Capabilities: troubleshooting problems, thinking up IT solutions. There’s even a section on SQL.

A cursory review of the course shows that it is based on a published book, and requires about 150 hours of study time, which includes projects and quizzes.

What is missing from this course is interaction. I understand that a free course cannot offer mentored support or instructors, but why are there no blogs, student-generated FAQ’s or discussion boards? These would not cost much more, but would add a lot. It will be interesting to see what the uptake on this course will be.

Anyway, I commend the university for making this course available.

NS eLearning – Blog Follow-up

On Thursday, when I discussed blogs in business at the NS eLearning Summit, I was pleasantly surprised by the high level of interest. The fact that most learning is informal, and that our education and training programs only address about 20% of our learning needs, seems to be understood by many. Blogs are one way of encouraging conversation, which leads to individual knowledge creation and can result in increased business value.

Blogs are also a way of supporting more formal learning offerings. They can be used to engage potential clients through meaningful discourse. Blogs can also be used as a follow-up of a formal course or workshop, to keep the conversation going. These applications were appealing to a number of people in the audience.

There are many sources of information on how to use blogs. For the academic sector, I would recommend beginning with Weblogg-ed;, while Blog Kathleen is a good starting point for a business perspective. Other Blogs (learning, work, technology) are available on the left "Links" section of this website.

NS eLearning Summit

I attended the Nova Scotia eL Summit in Halifax yesterday, and it was a resounding success. Over 100 people in attendance; a number who were linked-in via the Net, thanks to Phil O’Hara of Dalhousie University. A quick review of what I learnt, with more to follow when I get home:

From Julie Kaufman of IDC – Linux developers generally prefer informal learning while MS developers generally prefer more formal learning. (It’s always important to remember who your audience is, when designing any learning intervention)

From Phil O’Hara – small incentives along the way work better than one large incentive at the end of a learning programme.

From the Education panel – the main driver for e-learning in NS schools is "equity of access".

From Joe King at Tecsult-Eduplus – you can create a sustainable e-learning business model by sharing costs and profits with your clients/channel partners.

From Jerry van Olst – has some of the most interesting clients: Nerds On Site.

Many thanks to Barry Nicolle for organising this conference.

Explaining Blogging for Business

Tomorrow I’ll be in Halifax for the Nova Scotia eLearning Summit. As a panelist during the "eLearning in the Corporate Environment" forum, I will have ten minutes to focus on weblogs and provide:

Practical, real-life examples of how companies/organizations are using elearning to strengthen their competitive position, streamline employee training and bring value to customer relationships.

This is like getting the perfect blogging elevator pitch, which is currently being sought by Judith Meskill, but unfortunately her competition isn’t over yet, so I can’t view the collective wisdom of the blogosphere.

So far I’m cobbling together ideas from Rob Paterson, Jay Cross, Robert Scoble, Kathleen Gilroy, and Lee Lefever. I’ll also tell how blogging has become an essential part of my free agent business. I’ll publish the feedback when I return.