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’être.
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 français. 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.
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.
Via Many2Many is this link to Grant Bowman’s list of open source collaborative group software.
This stuff is not for the non-technical, but it’s a good list to start looking at what’s out there if you’re thinking about trying out wikis, blogs, CMS, etc., and don’t want to blow your budget.
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.
Lee LeFever hits the nail on the head with this Esse Quam Videre (to be rather than seem) post about weblogging in business. It’s just too easy to see through the smoke when you post every day. You have to be yourself, or you’ll get caught. Lee talks about this idea stemming from the Cluetrain Manifesto (worth the read in spite of its rant style). From Rick Levine’s section of Cluetrain, "Talk is Cheap", is this excellent sidebar – "A knowledge worker is someone who’s job is having really interesting conversations at work." That would be most bloggers, I would say.
Blogging, like e-learning, is not for everyone or for every business. What’s great about blogging is the low barrier to entry. The bad part is that once you start, it’s tough to get off the "blog train". That’s the thing about interesting conversations; you want to keep them going.
For businesses, the trick is to find a balance. First you have to find out what you are passionate about, and who your audience may be. Then determine how much time you can spend blogging, without adversely affecting other business processes. For us free agents, blogging is marketing, market research and research all rolled together. The rewards are long term, I hope 😉
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.
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.
Dave Pollard continues his discussion in A Prescription for Business Innovation Part 2 and gives us further principles of innovation strategy:
Flat, small, responsive, democratic organizations are inherently more innovative.
True innovation only occurs where there is consensus that there is an important problem to solve and a sense of urgency to solve it.
Competition is now dysfunctional, a vestige of earlier times of resource scarcity, and cooperation is now essential to effective innovation.
The customer is now king and needs only better decision making tools to become the sole driver of economic activity, rendering obsolete the need for marketing, branding, and other producer-driven mechanisms of influencing customer actions.
… organizational structures, processes and behaviours more commonly associated with businesses run by women are gaining traction in the New Economy, and that bodes well for innovation.
This is a current interest of mine, as I’m moderating a community of practice around elearning R&D in the region. The central issue is how to get a disparate group of companies, united by geography, to collaborate on innovation in the form of a problem, project or issue. As Dave Pollard writes:
Perhaps this is a universal trait that we need to consider when designing innovation programs: Everyone loves to engage in social activities that are fun, challenging and unthreatening, but when the social activity impinges on individual ‘territory’ or property, or on scarce resources, social and collaborative behaviour ceases and confrontational, competitive behaviour takes over.
I believe that the key to this community of practice will be to find that fine balance between collaboration and confrontation, but also holds peoples’ interest.
Via Seth Godin is this reference to EditMe, which is a commercially supported wiki service. Most wiki software is open source, and can be a pain for non-programmers (like me). EditMe offers hosting, support and a better interface for a reasonable fee of $5 to $25 per month. I was involved in a recent healthcare project that used a wiki, and the learning curve was a bit steep for some people. EditMe seems to be an easier tool to use, which would mean less time to accomplish the goals of a collaborative build project.
A complete how-to Word document from Will Richardson. This is an essential step by step guide for those wanting to introduce blogs and RSS into their teaching. An excellent local example of school blogging is from northern New Brunswick’s Haut-Madawaska learning centre (in French).