Posts By: Harold Jarche

Basic Unit of Learning

This comment on Weblogg-ed by Alan Levine jumped out at me;

It just goes to show that despite pontification about being "learner centered" or "student centered" most institutions, systems, and course management monstrosities are still stuck in the "course" being the basic unit of organization, rather than the student.

It seems pretty clear; the basic unit of learning is the person. This person is indivisible. All learning activities, products and strategies must be centered around the person. We can then go on to develop environments for many people, but the individual is the building block – not the learning object, the course, the programme, or the institution. All of these are temporary organisations that the individual may use, or be part of.

The power of search engines, blogs, wikis, aggregators and other low threshold access tools is that they give control back to the learner. But we don’t have many good design models for the creation of real learner-centric environment. Most of our models are prescriptive, but there is a lot of work being done by Jay Cross, Don Morrison, ISPI and many others, to address this need. These are exciting times for learning professionals who are willing to explore new models with some empowering new tools.

More LEG

Jay’s comments on this week’s meeting of the Learning Economics Group. Jay has added to Brenda Sugrue’s initial conceptual model, giving us his usual insight into this fuzzy world of learning, technology and business. I like the fact that Jay is pointing out the power relationships (e.g. Boss’s Ego) as well.

Kolabora Videoconferencing Review

Today I attended Robin Good’s free webinar on low-cost videoconferencing tools.

During this session, Robin (aka – Luigi Canali De Rossi) presented 9 systems, varying in price and pricing models. The two top scorers were systems I had never heard of before – Wave Three Session and Marratech. One insight that I picked up from Robin is that vendors need to create diversified products around core technologies in order to achieve mass customisation, because no two clients’ needs are the same. He was also critical of high-priced software, because customers cannot invest a lot of money in systems that could become useless with the next technological advance in a couple of months. It seemed that many people in the multinational audience were vendors, but Robin’s focus is buyers (hurray!).

Robin is an excellent web speaker, and his evaluations are to the point. You can see his other reviews on the Kolabora website. Stay tuned to his website for future live presentations.

Learning Economics Group

Attended a teleconference session of the Learning Economics Group today. This is a non-profit group focused on conducting research, developing tools, databases, forums and the creation of a virtual discussion ?��Ǩ��space?��Ǩ�Ѣ for professionals, policymakers and others about Learning Economics. LEG kicked-off in early April, but there is already a lot of interest worldwide in their research agenda, from all sectors. FYI, Learning Economics is defined by LEG as the study of the strategic value of learning, both formal and informal, and its economic impact on a corporation or organization.

Attendees included professionals in the field from Shell, Cisco, HP, BYU, SRI, and two Canadians! After introductions, Dan Blair from HP, with Brenda Sugrue of ASTD, gave the main presentation on setting a learning economics research agenda. A key concept in this presentation is the shift of Tangible versus Intangible Assets on the S&P index from 38% intangibles in 1982 to 85% intangibles in 2002. Most economic value is now intangible (think knowledge and knowledge workers). As someone stated, we now know the problem, but we don’t know the answers to "managing" intangible assets. A lot of participation and commentary from attendees, such as Eilef Trondsen and Jay Cross, et al.

Check out the website and join the group, participate, and contribute to the already significant resources that have been contributed by members.

Is there interest in the region to become a special interest group (SIG) and contribute to this forum? I will continue to participate and provide comments to the LearnNB (loosely coupled) community.

Business metrics

From Elliot Masie’s Tech Learn Trends comes this list from buyers of what metrics are starting to be used as indicators of the effectiveness of new approaches to learning:

* Time to Launch a New Product
* Time to Hire and Deploy a New Staff Member
* Time to Compliance for Regulations
* Time to Implement a Systems Change
* Time to Globalize a Process
* Time to Merge with New Company or Organization
* Time to Quality Targets
* Time to Sale

These are the points that learning providers should be addressing in their proposals, and it looks like they’re all about time.


SmartDraw is a charting & diagramming application, similar to Visio. I had used Visio for many years, but switched to SmartDraw because of the lower price. I liked it so much, I provided a free testimonial. SmartDraw has just launched a new Education package, which includes many aids that a teacher would find useful. It’s an easy program to learn, but the whole education package is still $(US)265.00, so I doubt if it would fit into most classroom budgets. Worth a look if you have the money.

New Website Soon

We’re making progress with the new website. Luc at the NRC IIT elearning group is helping us get set up with our blog and collaborative space. In the spirit of further exploring the open source model, this will be on a linux server. I will transfer over most of the contents of this blog to the new site – but in the meantime please continue to post any comments or suggestions here. If you feel shy, then send me an e-mail.

I met with some community members in Fredericton last week, and would like to meet face2face with others, so contact me if you’re interested in discussing R&D issues. My budget allows me to travel within the Maritimes; beyond that it will have to be on the phone 🙁


Personal Knowledge Management

From Lilia, is this quote worth keeping for your files:

To a great extend PKM [personal knowledge management] is about shifting responsibility for learning and knowledge sharing from a company to individuals and this is the greatest challenge for both sides. Companies should recognise that their employees are not "human resources", but investors who bring their expertise into a company. As any investors they want to participate in decision-making and can easily withdraw if their "return on investment" is not compelling. Creativity, learning or desire to help others cannot be controlled, so knowledge workers need to be intrinsically motivated to deliver quality results. In this case "command and control" management methods are not likely to work.

Taking responsibility for own work and learning is a challenge for knowledge workers as well. Taking these responsibilities requires attitude shift and initiative, as well as developing personal KM knowledge and skills. In a sense personal KM is very entrepreneurial, there are more rewards and more risks in taking responsibility for developing own expertise.

My conclusion for a while has been that knowledge cannot be managed, and neither can knowledge workers. It will take a new social contract between workers and organisations in order to create an optimally functioning enterprise. Adding management and technology won’t help either. This is the crux of everything in the new "right-sized, lean, innovative, creative" economy – getting the right balance between the organisational structure and the knowledge workers.

Edu RSS Newsticker

Thanks to Stephen Downes for providing the newsticker which was on my homepage. It wasn’t loading each time I opened the page so I have removed it temporarily; I hope. Thanks also to James Farmer, who asked for it. Comments on its usefulness would be appreciated.