Free Culture = Free Content

The Globe and Mail has covered the recent launch of Lawrence Lessig’s new book Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and The Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. The book is available free for non-commercial purposes under a Creative Commons license. Since the online book launch, volunteers have already created audio versions of each chapter, also available for free non-commercial use.

This story follows on the heals of a Canadian federal court ruling that making files available for sharing on the Internet does not constitute copyright infringement. However, big media would have you believe that making content available for free has a detrimental affect on sales. This assumption has been proven incorrect by a recent Harvard Business School study, showing that the number of music file downloads has no relation to in-store CD sales.

The real story here is that the Internet has turned traditional business assumptions upside down. According to McLuhan’s laws of media, every technology has unexpected, and unintended, effects on its users (Extend, Obsolesce, Retrieve, Reverse). Lessig will sell more copies of his book because it is available online for free. This is especially true in his case, because the book is about digital copyright issues. Lessig has not given up his commercial rights, but he has created a legion of potential book buyers, without an expensive marketing campaign.

The lesson for businesses is that you had better understand the medium, and especially its effects, before it flips your business model around. The open source model, applied to open content, can actually be a financially solid business model. Think of it as the whistle-blow of the cluetrain 😉

TeleEducation NB to Close

So it’s now official. Teleducation NB will be closing its doors next month. TeleEd NB has been my partner and client over the past six years. TeleEd NB predates the WWW, and has been involved in a lot of elearning initiatives, including the evaluation of LMS’s and production of the After Five newsletter.

TeleEducation NB’s mission is to provide to the New Brunswick government, education and training institutions, and private sector companies leadership, direction and expertise in the practical application and integration of new instructional methods and learning technologies.
TeleEducation NB facilitates flexible access to quality education and training by promoting the integration of e-learning in the education and training systems, thereby contributing to increased education levels and the prosperity of the citizens of New Brunswick.

Over the years, some people have voiced criticism of TeleEd, as a government agency performing functions that others might do as well. Well folks, it’s time to step up to the plate. LearnNB might do the job, but it is in its infancy. Take a look at the TeleEd site and the After Five newsletter, and see if there’s something that you or your organisation might be able carry on. It’s up to us.

Finally, I would like to thank all of the people who have worked so hard at TeleEd. You helped to put New Brunswick on the global e-learning map.

The Polo Parable

Via James Farmer comes the polo parable from David Wiley. This is a light-hearted story which will ring true for many of us in the elearning sector. Without giving it all away, the moral of the story is that "putting classroom training online" is like turning a water polo team into a polo team.

For example, the water polo coach is told by the athletic director, "Do all the things you did before, just do them on horseback instead of in a pool." Sound familiar?

LearnNB – Where Innovation Lives

The LearnNB website was recently launched as a portal to the learning industry in New Brunswick. The site currently has a recent article on the state of the industry, and you may sign up for the newsletter. More information and tools will follow soon.

Members of the industry met in Fredericton today to get updates on recent initiatives, such as the creation of a local chapter of the Canadian Society for Training and Development, as well as upcoming trade missions to ASTD’s annual conference in May and the CSTD conference in Toronto in November.

There was also some interest in working on open source software applications for learning. If this interests you, please contact me, as we would like to hold a conference on this subject sometime in the next year. Engage Interactive in Fredericton has developed some OS applications, and I know that some of our friends at the NRC elearning research group would be interested.

eLearning Sector in BC

A recent report on The elearning Sector in BC provides a marketing strategy for the industry. The report covers Global Trends and Market Opportunities; some regional comparisons and strengths and weaknesses. The key recommendations made in the report are:

To grow effectively, we recommend that companies:
1. Focus on the United States and Canada.
2. Target three to five vertical sectors, like the Olympics, rural communities, the federal government, healthcare, oil and gas and resource sectors.
3. Consider e-Learning opportunities related to gaming and simulations in the longer term.
4. Look at international markets in three to five years.
Industry associations and post-secondary institutions can support the growth of the sector, through education and research. Governments can provide ongoing support for industry-wide marketing, along with sponsoring further industry research and related policy development.

These recommendations could work for other North American regions, such as Silicon Valley, Ontario or New Brunswick. In BC’s case, the industry is even more fragmented than New Brunswick, but there is more access to larger firms (as clients or for sub-contracting) in BC than here in Atlantic Canada. One of New Brunswick’s advantages, of having one third of its population French-speaking, is quite unique when compared to BC. This advantage has yet to be translated into business success.

Many regions are looking for a way to capitalize on Canada’s perceived leadership in elearning. Like any other industry, success will come with the best business model, that is vigorously implemented, at the right time.

Passover Googlebomb

Given yesterday’s fire bombing of a Jewish school in Montreal, I’m doing my part in "Googlebombing" to ensure that racist propoganda is pushed off the web. From Liz Lawley’s Blog, I’ve discovered that the top-ranking Google search for "jew" is a racist site. Therefore I’m linking to Wikipedia’s definition, in order increase Wikipedia’s Google ranking. This in turn will decrease the racist site’s Google ranking [note no link]. This small post is now part of a larger movement in the blog world, showing how a lot of networked indviduals can work together for a better future. Any fellow bloggers, please join in.

I wish all of our friends a happy and peaceful Passover.

Via James Farmer’s Incorporated Subversion.

Atlantic Canada eLearning Case Studies

A recent Industry Canada sponsored report, Innovative e-Learning Practices in Atlantic Canada: Case Studies is now available online. From the eight case studies, the conclusions drawn by the researchers on success factors for elearning in rural areas are:

Address a Clear Market Need
Use a Partnership/Collaboration Approach
Have Access to Broadband Technologies
Create a Sustainable Business Model
Use Prior Learning Recognition (aka PLA)
Training the Trainers/Teachers

Learning Objects Summit

I attended the final day of the eduSource Learning Objects Summit in Fredericton today. An interesting presentation from Doug MacLeod of the Netera Aliance with this thought – open source is a way of nurturing the e-learning industry to become a "real" industry. I guess it’s like railroads, you need the rails before you can start shipping. Open source gives us a common platform.

Also, there is now a training module on IMS content packaging developed by the Unversit?ɬ© de Moncton, available online.

Atlantic Wildlife Institute Officially Launches

One of my other roles is as director of education at the Atlantic Wildlife Institute, a voluntary position with an exciting charitable organisation. Having just developed a five-year strategic plan, I’m looking forward to using social networking technologies and practices to build a much larger community of learners. Comments on learning and the non-profit sector are always welcome. Here’s some of our latest news:

Our mission is environmental education and our theme is renewal, says David Hawkins, recently designated acting Chairman of the Atlantic Wildlife Institute (formerly Maritime Atlantic Wildlife). We’re launching our new season with a new name, a new slogan, a new web site, a new Wildlife Learning Centre, and a new board of directors.

The name change, to Atlantic Wildlife Institute (AWI), reflects an expansion of the focus of the well-known Maritime Atlantic Wildlife organization, which has been in operation for the past eight years. It will now add an important dimension of learning and research to its initial mission of rehabilitating displaced or injured wildlife. The new Institute program will include wildlife education and ecotourism experiences, as well as training opportunities for people who want to gain the skills required for responding to wildlife emergencies.

The Institute designation also underlines the non-advocacy nature of our activities, continues David Hawkins. We are ready to partner with any organization that has a sincere interest in enhancing the relationship between human society and nature. We’re actively seeking constructive solutions, but we’re not activist, in the confrontational or lobbying sense, nor will we be.

Performance Improvement Certificate

There is finally some formal training/education in the field of performance improvement available in Canada. From CSTD news feed is this article on a program being offered by Fanshawe College and Seneca College, both in Ontario. From the joint course description:

Training can be the most expensive of performance improvement options. It is also among the most frequently and inappropriately used, and without performance support in the workplace, is a highly perishable investment.
The number one workplace complaint compromising job satisfaction is poor systems and processes: 94% of employees flagged this issue in studies conducted by W. Edwards Deming, father of Total Quality Management. By contrast, training and professional development solutions address skill and knowledge gaps almost exclusively.

All I can say is that it’s about time, but what about Atlantic Canada? Is anyone willing to get a program going on the East coast?