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 Efimova, is this quote [on PKM] 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.

RSS for Learning

Eva Kaplan-Leiserson, gives a good overview of RSS [that’s "rich site summary" and/or "really simple syndication", defined for the last time on this blog] for learning in Learning Circuits. She brings together the recent work of Stephen Downes, Amy Gahran, Mary Harrsch, Robin Good and others. Many readers will have seen some of the referenced articles, but Kaplan-Leiserson’s piece will be a good introduction for those new to RSS, or if you need a current summary. Here’s the business rationale (for a very short elevator ride) for RSS:

Rather than collecting content in a central repository, requiring an expensive software application, the RSS model distributes content across the World Wide Web, allowing access piece by piece.

Free Online review of Low-cost Videoconferencing Tools

On Thursday May 13th, Robin Good is offering another free review of technologies. This time he has selected over ten interesting and emergent low-cost videoconferencing technologies. After his brief analysis of those technologies selected from a buyer’s standpoint, the floor will be opened to participants to ask direct live questions to Robin or to anyone representative of the tools being showcased.

Conference starts at 1:00 PM Atlantic.

What do instructional designers design?

Don Morrison has made available his speaker notes for a presentation on “What do Instructional Designers design?” Much of what he says resonates with my own experience and perspective. First, that traditional instructional systems design cannot address the multitude of alternatives available to us today – such as knowledge management, performance support, blogs, workflow learning, communities of practice, etc.

Morrison also says that Google is a learning tool [I agree, it’s how I learned HTML], and that it favours information over instruction. This is an interesting point. A few years back, I had a conversation with the design team at Tecsult-Eduplus about their learning programs for astronauts. They recounted how they had initially designed some courses which adhered to the “standard” rules of using only 7 points of information per screen. The feedback of the astronauts was that they wanted not only more information, but the maximum information possible per slide. For these bright students, time was of the essence and they couldn’t waste it by clicking on the next button. I have noticed that medical school students are the same in their learning style – they absorb information like sponges, and later reflect on it. Speaking for instructional designers, Morrison says:

That if Google is being perceived as the best learning tool ever, it’s because it has developed relevant notions like adjacency, weight and PageRank, implemented them in a smart, innovative process which is embedded in a lightning-fast, user-friendly interface.

What LMS, what LCMS, what competency engine, what third-party or custom course library or curriculum, what instructional design theory has done anything close in terms in responding to today’s learning needs?

I think you and I both know the answer. Not one.

In comparison, our response has been linear, turgid and unimaginative.

Morrison goes on to discuss a number of design models, including some more advanced models (and lesser known within many instructional design teams) such as vanMerrienboer’s Four-Component Instructional Design Model, as well as more general Cognitive Load Theory. The whole text is worth a read, and worth the effort of reviewing or researching Morrison’s references. This text should also be read by anyone in higher education where educational technology is taught, to show that there is a heck of a lot more to learn than how to put courses online.

Wikis – pushing the envelope

So you think that the idea of wikis is a bit confusing? Still trying to get your brain around blogs and RSS? Well folks, check out Lion Kimbro’s Wiki Proliferation article on how we should really be using wikis to create the public web. This is not for the faint of heart – and not what you’ll find on the Wall Street Journal in the near future.

I found out about Lion via Seb.

ATutor 1.4 soon to be released

ATutor has announced the latest version of its open source, standards compliant LCMS, which should be available in a couple of weeks. The new version 1.4 includes:

Templates for creating your own custom look-and-feel
Roles & Privileges for students to create teaching assistants or additional instructors
Automatically marked tests
Search the TILE learning objects repository, and import content packages directly into ATutor by entering a URL
Evaluate content with the content editor accessibility checker to ensure learning materials conform with international accessibility standards
Visual Content Editor (currently disabled) format content without knowing any HTML
ACollab Groups for running group activities within ATutor courses, as well as file sharing, managing assignment submissions, collaborative document authoring and archiving, and more (also available as a standalone)

I will be putting the standalone version of ACollab through its paces in a short while, and will provide a detailed evaluation of this platform as we go along.

Moving soon

This blog will soon be moving to the LearnNB site. This site is hosted by the NRC and will be an excellent portal for learning in the region. Unlike TeleEducation, which no longer exists, the LearnNB site will not be linked to any specific organisation. This means that if this community closes, the LearnNB site will remain for new initiatives and groups. It will be our “one stop shop” for the long run.

My intention is to start our community web presence with a blog, and very quickly add a collaborative work space, including access to a wiki. If you haven’t used a wiki, let’s learn together.

Stay tuned here for further announcements.


While I was in Fredericton this week, I started some conversations around the focus of this community. One area of interest is around the sharing of technology. The idea being that the use of common platforms would facilitate collaboration. For instance, if everyone used the same LCMS, then it would be easy to develop a single solution using multiple suppliers. The R&D focus would be to determine what kind of technology would be suitable for co-operation. Simulation tools probably would not be suitable, as they can give a company a competitive edge. Content management platforms might be mnore suitable, as most companies need one, and one does not provide a significant competetive advantage over another. Sharing in the development and implementation of open souce platforms for multiple organisations received some interest (e.g. see this model. For instance, Engage Interactive has developed some add-ons for the open source CMS, Mambo. If other learning companies wanted to use a CMS, why not choose Mambo, where we already have some expertise in the region? Some people even suggest using a CMS instead of an LCMS. hmmm?

Another suggestion, from John Heinstein:

I was thinking about our conversation today and the question of settling on a small-scale project that could bring together members of the eLearning community, and which also championed Open Source as a low-cost and effective alternative to commercial software. I think that one good candidate is: a SCORM test-bed.

This would be an extremely useful service for NB eLearning companies. After having been through the painful SCORMization process ourselves, we can testify to the difficulty of comprehending the SCORM spec, much less implementing it. In fact, I’m still not sure exactly how conformant we are. Having an easily accessible SCORM test bed would enjoin NB companies to marshall around an international standard, emphasizing the importance of interoperability, and provide direct evidence to eLearning consumers that NB is on the leading edge of the courseware industry.

It would demonstrate the feasibility and advantages of integrating Open Source software with commercial software. It would provide a model of how collaboration can be achieved within an industry that is highly competitive. Companies could promote their SCORM-conformant courseware by displaying demos on the website; NB [and the region] could better sell itself as having a coherent approach to eLearning. Wikis, forums, chats, papers, newsletters, blogs, etc. could provide support services for participants.

Commercial consulting services for SCORM-related matters could be offered. Eventually services like EduSource and Knowledge Agora could be integrated into the system. The SCORM test-bed could also be used by schools with eLearning curricula.