farewell jay cross

I first got to know Jay Cross through his blog (it was before we even used the term) in the late 1990’s. I was one of the few people to comment on his posts and that was the beginning of our friendship. Several years later (2002) I got an email from Jay saying he would be in Moncton, New Brunswick, asking if that was near where I lived. Our first face to face face meeting was in a pub, 50 km from my house. Jay started the conversation saying that since we already knew each other so well, there was no need for small talk.  “Let’s figure out how we can work together”, he said.

Our first venture together was the ‘Informal Learning Unworkshop’ series, where we used a different web conference platform each time, sometimes changing in mid-course when the technology broke. I learned to fly by the seat of my pants with Jay.

“Harold Jarche is a true pioneer. Nine years ago [2005], long before online activities were commonplace, we conducted a series of Unworkshops on the topic of web-based learning. We relied on free software. Our students came from Australia, Lebanon, Canada, Austria, the Azores, and points in between. Lessons were both synchronous and offline. To give people exposure, we used a different platform each week. I can’t imagine anyone (aside from Harold) crazy (and innovative) enough to sign up for something like this.”Jay Cross (1944-2015), founder Internet Time Alliance

Later we spoke together at an ASTD conference, where we received feedback from some participants that  it was the best presentation ever. We were told by others that it was worst presentation ever. I learned to take immediate feedback with a grain of salt.

I worked on several consulting projects with Jay over the past decade: Canadian Textile HR Council, Cigna, AstraZeneca, Canadian International Development Agency, and the Oberkotter Foundation. Jay initiated the creation of the Internet Time Alliance, and brought together Jane Hart, Charles Jennings, Clark Quinn, and myself. He introduced me to his worldwide network, which sometimes required that I sleep on the floor of his hotel room, due to my limited travel budget. It was always an adventure with Jay, such as the time we were asked to leave the Pergamon Museum in Berlin for ‘illegally’ filming.

Jay Harold BerlinJay was a deep thinker and a man of many talents, never resting on his past accomplishments. His 2006 book on informal learning changed the course of an industry. This year, he was working on his next book on ‘Real Learning’. Jay Cross died last week, and I will miss him greatly. He taught me to seize the day, and I will.


15 Responses to “farewell jay cross”

  1. Shaun Browne


    I was saddened to read that Jay has died. He was a true visionary who, in my opinion, did almost everything ‘against the grain.’ He reminded me of a poster I saw at The French Store, in Toronto, perhaps 30 years ago. The poster was a sketch of hundreds of snowy white sheep running off a cliff, en masse. One sheep, a black one, is going in the other direction, saying “Excuse moi. Excuse moi. excuse moi.”

    To my mind, that poster reminded me of Jay, and people like him, who recognize that there are other, more meaningful, and more effective ways of doing things, than those of the herd.

    After all, who else would post multiple ways to his home, along with warnings about the stairs, and dachshunds running loose in the yard, except Jay?

    I keep a small black sheep on my desk, a gift from my daughter, to remind me of the poster, long out of print, but more importantly, of the message that poster conveyed.

    Thanks for your work.

    Shaun Browne

  2. Brent Mackinnon

    I’m sorry to hear of Jay’s passing. My condolences to you Harold and all those who were his friend and colleague. Seize the day is a perfect motto to remember Jay. His legacy will be celebrated by many around the world.

  3. Luis Suarez

    Oh my goodness!! This is not the kind of news one wants to bump into when coming back online after a couple of weeks of biz traveling to realise a great friend and a superb thinker has now left us for good. Such sad and terrible piece of news! I know he was a good mate of you, Harold, and a bunch of other friends as well and my only regret is that I never had the chance to meet up F2F even though we tried many many times throughout the years.

    He was a kindred spirit who instigated ‘informal learning’ in my brain a good few years ago and it’s going to be really really tough to forget the many conversations, insights, and experiences he kept sharing across rather generously. One of the great ones, a bright mind, has left us and I, too, learned from him to seize the day and I’ll be embarking on that ever so much more than whatever I have done in the past. In his honour, in his living memory, in this life long learning journey he embarked us on back in the day.

    Jay Cross, R.I.P. You shall be missed by all of us. Thanks ever so much for all the fish and time for us all to treasure those precious little moments we enjoyed with you either F2F or virtually! So long and till we meet up again!

  4. David Kelly


    Thank you for sharing the sad news of Jay’s passing. He was indeed a visionary and someone I will not forget.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent together discussing workplace learning projects and everything else under the sun. He will certainly be missed.

  5. Kelly Lake

    I am greatly sadden to here this news. Jay was an amazing and wonderful visionary who always has plenty of ideas. He impacted several generations with his insights and love for life. To me, he was the original thought leader in our industry. He will be greatly missed by all. A man who can see a thought and present it as a gift to the world, breaths humanity into it again. Thank you Jay for the world you created for all of us.

  6. Stephanie Demiris

    I’m so sorry to hear this. Condolences to all. Jay was such a breath of fresh air in our industry. He was a visionary and I loved how he always pushed the bounds in an attempt to constantly redefine what could be. He inspired me personally. I’m so thankful he stepped out and challenged the status quo. He’s made it possible for so many to follow his footsteps and there is light at the end of our industry/tunnel because of him.

  7. Tim Gaughan

    Thanks for sharing Harold. We spent a lot of “coffee time” together a few years back.

  8. Gillian Martin Mehers

    Harold, thank you for this article, I just found out about Jay’s death and am so very sad to hear about it. He completely changed my thinking about learning after hearing him speak at Online Educa in Berlin, where I got to meet him a couple of times. I participated on the ning, and a set of really useful webinars way back when, and he helped me reframe my thinking about how to help my organization at that time, where I was the Head of Learning. He made a great impact, and I will always remember and thank him for that.

  9. Mariano Sbert

    LLevo un considerable retraso en mi lectura de artículos. Lamento profundamente el fallecimiento de Jay Cross. Os descubrí en los mismos dias y el me ha inspirado sobre el aprendizaje informal. Salud Harold, sigue compartiendo tus ideas con nosotros.


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