Technologies for the CoP

Based on the general requirements for a community of practice, and the short duration of this project (six months), three separate systems will be used. Each system has its unique attributes. All systems were compared with other available systems. ACollab was selected because it is open source, Canadian and bilingual. Drupal was selected because of its scalability and the existing knowledge base in New Brunswick (I’m using it, as well as some other companies). Spoke was chosen by default, as it is the only free access network of its type at this time. Spoke was recommended by Jay Cross of the Emerging Learning Forum in California.

Collaborative Tool Suite
ACollab is a bilingual, open source, collaborative workspace, for the more intense
sharing aspects of the community. This can be password protected and allows for document storage. ACollab is developed by the University of Toronto, and this project will help to introduce it and its LCMS (ATutor) to the New Brunswick Learning community. This tool suite may only last the duration of the project, but may continue, depending on the interests of the members.

Weblog
Drupal is a content management system with a powerful weblog capability. This weblog runs on Drupal. This weblog is separate from the collaborative site, and is open to the public. As the moderator, I will make posts, with comments open to anyone. The blog will likely continue for longer than the duration of the project (which is why it is separately hosted by Jarche Consulting), and will provide continuity, and perhaps a home for LearnNB related discussions. I am willing and open to move this blog elsewhere should the need arise.

Relationship Management
Spoke enables connections with other people through your existing contact list. It allows members to see who they know and how these people may be connected to others. A number of members of the NB learning community are already members, and Spoke may become the medium by which the NB “node” connects to other “nodes”, such as Silicon Valley. Comments on how to maximize the use of Spoke will be posted to the Collaborative site. The use of Spoke will extend beyond the limits of this project, but could be an interesting component of community-building. Those using Spoke will be members of a much larger community.

Both ACollab and Drupal will be tested, and should technical problems arise, other platforms may be used in their place.

CoP

Jarche Consulting has the role of coordinating this Community of Practice (CoP) for the next six months. This will include:

Contacting and coordinating any potential members
Analyis and synthesis of any research-related activities
Moderation of any meetings and online discussions/conversations
Provision of a technology platform to enhance the CoP
Developing a case study to be made available to the industry

The NB Learning industry comprises any organisation, private or public, that is interested in emerging issues related to learning, particularly technology-mediated learning. The focus of this CoP will be research and development, especially business models and commercialisation. This will not be a theoretical or academic community, but one that is looking at the development of practical applications – be they products, services, standards or models.

Membership will be open to anyone, with the initial membership working through the norms and guidelines. For instance, a group may form that is composed of CTO’s of learning companies. This group may decide to limit participation (by forming a sub-group) as they develop protocols to share intellectual capital.

eLearning R&D – Community of Practice

As a follow-up to the discussions and collaboration of the previous six months in the NB Learning Industry, Jarche Consulting is coordinating the first formal Community of Practice. Previously the only New Brunswick organisation dedicated to advancing Research & Development in e-Learning (RDeL) was initiated by industry, under the leadership of Innovatia Inc., in partnership with provincial and federal government agencies during the Spring of 2003. This ad hoc organisation has now grown into a larger group, including the creation of the LearnNB brand and website.

A record of the discussions of the original RDeL group is still available.

In October 2003 it was determined that this discussion board was no longer adequate for the community’s needs, as it is not secure and has limited functionality. Following an industry meeting in Saint John on 15 October 2003, Jarche Consulting was given the mandate to develop a community of practice to further the needs of the R&D community. As of April 2004, some funding was made available by IRAP, and this Community of Practice initiative has now begun.

Welcome to the first weblog dedicated to elearning R&D initiatives in the region.

Buyers’ Review – Web Conferencing Tools (22 Apr)

Are you looking into the purchase of a web conferencing system? Robin Good will be reviewing a number of web conferencing, live presentation and real-time collaboration tools on Thursday, April 22nd at 12:00 EST (1:00 PM Atlantic). Kolabora Live is free, but you will have to pay to view the recorded presentation. I won’t be able to attend, so I would appreciate any comments on this presentation.

Many thanks to Robin for offering this to the buyer/user community.

Democracy in the Workplace?

More on Tom Malone’s new book “The Future of Work”, this time from Fortune Magazine. According to the author, Malone expects that pervasive information technology will force businesses into becoming more democratic. Malone envisages four potential organizational models:

Loose hierarchies (e.g. open source)
Literal democracy – voting for your boss
Outsourcing through specialized guilds
Markets within organizations

I have not read Malone’s book yet, but it is now high on my to-do list. Via Stephen Downes, who makes this pertinent point in yesterday’s OLDaily – “… if democracy is actually the best form of governance, why don’t we use it in our institutions?”

“It is difficult to overstate the significance of the Internet …”

From the University of Prince Edward Island, Mark Hemphill’s end of course notes from “Networking, Knowledge & the Digital Age”, discussing eBusiness, enterprise software and the social and commercial forces of the Internet. Some of Mark’s observations:

Web-like Internetworking provides us with a new freedom, and allows us to grow faster than we ever could when we were fettered by the hierarchical classification systems into which we bound ourselves.

Networking offers an opportunity to reclaim our real voices and restore real human relationships.

We are hurtling through an era of unprecedented change – a transformation of unimaginable scale and proportion. Much of the existing complex has been undermined and is slowing crumbling around us. Legal, ethical, and social institutions are lagging far behind our technological evolution.

Great technological shifts of the past, such as the advent of speech, fire, writing, and the printing press, can help us to understand our current transformation.

Lots of food for thought. Worth the read, and worth some reflection. It’s great to see this use of social networking software in our region’s universities. Keep up the good work Mark.

Amazon’s A9

I wasn’t going to comment on the latest release of Amazon’s A9 because I thought that it would be in all the media outlets before lunch, but the way the news was released is interesting. My first notice came from Jay Cross but this post from Common Craft says that Amazon decided to release the news through a blogger, instead of the mainstream media.

What could this mean? First, that Amazon believes that the blogosphere is a viable marketing and communications channel. Second that some folks in advertising agencies may soon be looking for new jobs. Third, that bloggers could be used by vendors to sell their wares; so bloggers beware.

A9 beta seems to be an innovation on the Google Tool Bar that lets you do all kinds of specialised searches and files those searches for your own knowledge management system. I haven’t used it yet, but probably will. So how much extra market leverage will all of this additional data on user behaviour give Amazon?

Update Thursday Night: Amidst the increasing hype and noise, there is another word of caution from Mark Federman.

Innovation and the Learning Industry

Dave Pollard in A Prescription for Business Innovation Part 1 cites six basic principles of the innovation process:

Need Drives Innovation
Innovation starts with the Customer
Innovation Drives Technology
Innovations are Interconnected
Stories Transfer Knowledge
Innovation Requires Discipline & Patience

Having just completed an analysis of the learning industry in New Brunswick, I had the opportunity to reflect on global issues relating to the industry and make suggestions on how the industry could better position itself. Using Dave Pollard’s principles, what could the industry infer?

Since need drives innovation, a solid understanding of customers is essential. Build it and they will come, will not work. Neither will products that are developed because they have new features. Learning companies have to fill a real need – and there are lots of learning needs; just listen to the customers.

If innovation drives technology, then your competitive advantage is the ideas you can generate, not your technology, with its ever shortening half-life. Not only are creative people necessary, but they need a creative environment. Too many learning companies are still structured around the industrial command and control model.

The interconnectness of innovations means that you have to be looking outside your industry, your discipline and yourself, in order to see the connections. Perhaps magazines like the Utne Reader should become required bathroom reading.

If stories transfer knowledge, why do most companies (including learning companies) insist on PowerPoint slides with lists of bullets that are read out loud. Having survived another “death by PPT” presentation last night, it seems to be obvious to everyone, except the presenter, that no one is interested in reading a bunch of bullets. Tell a story. Tell your story. Share your stories. Remember that “markets are conversations”. For example, all learning companies should be encouraging blogging so that they can look outside the region, sharing their stories and learning. Get the conversations going.

Like blogging, innovation requires discipline and patience. As Ms. Rice says, there is no silver bullet.

Learning in Healthcare

One of my performance improvement projects last year was with a Montreal area hospital. We looked at the performance requirements around the adoption of a new nursing methodology. This methodology focuses on learning as the primary function of nursing care – learning for the patient, the family and the community. Health care organisations should be the epitome of learning organisations, but many are stuck in their disciplinary "silos", as well as command and control training programs. Kim Vicente’s book, The Human Factor, highlights some of these issues in healthcare.

The need for continuous learning is reflected in a recent report on a nonprofit community medical centre in the US. As the director of education, Dr. Anne-Marie Sawyer, states:

Beyond new technology and learning methods, changes have come in the philosophy of education, Sawyer says.
"We’re really encouraging people to think about not just their everyday work life but their life as lifelong learning. It never ends."
A willingness to learn is "what’s going to get people through the 21st century," she says.
That extends to the patient.
Accurate knowledge "allows people to act on their own behalf when they need to enter a health care system. It enables them to ask intelligent questions, to know where to go for information, to evaluate if they’re in the right place and satisfied with (the treatment that’s) been given to them," Sawyer says.

Via Online Learning Update

Emergent Learning

Jay Cross gave an animated session on the web this afternoon. This webinar, using HorizonLive, featured Jay talking about emergent learning, the end of industrial models and even “smart learning objects”. The commentary on the chat was fun and fast. The audio on the HorizonLive synchronous classroom platform was excellent, and I did not notice a single technological glitch. Having used various synchronous web platforms, from both sides, I can say that I’m impressed. Kudos to Matt Wasowski at HorizonLive for hosting this excellent webinar, which included over 60 people from across Canada and the USA.

Jay has followed up from his “à la carte” menu of this afternoon with a dessert menu of topics for further reading and discussion. Here is one of his comments on emergent learning:

Emergence is the key characteristic of complex systems. It is the process by which simple entities self-organize to form something more complex. Emergence is also what happened to that “utopian dream” of e-learning on the way to the future. Simple, old e-learning has combined with bottom-up self-organizing systems, network effects and today’s environment to morph into emergent learning.