Yugma free web conferencing

I came across the Yugma web collaboration application a while back but haven’t had time to test it out. Chris Nadeau has been using it and says that it compares favourably with applications like Webex and Vyew. Yugma requires a download (thin client) which may limit its use for those behind the firewall.

What really interests me about Yugma is that it offers free tele-conferencing, something not available on the free/low-cost Vyew application and much too expensive on Webex. Yugma may have found the sweet-spot for free web conferencing.

Early adopters make the mistakes first

At the Internet Time Community we’ve been having a discussion about adopting blogs and social bookmarks for organisations. These kinds of efforts need pioneers to go out and test the myriad of web 2.0 applications and figure out which ones will work in their organisation. With all of the options available, it can be a bit daunting, as Gillian asks:

do you spend a lot of time trying out things that don’t do exactly what you need them to? Or having to upgrade/change all the time to get the better fit for purpose (and hoping for high compatibility?)

My own reponse is that early adopters make the mistakes first and can then teach others, hopefully saving time and frustration. This is what I have previously described as Bridging the Chasm for my clients.  It’s pretty well impossible to explain how all of these small pieces loosely joined actually work unless you have used them yourself. We freelancers have that luxury of not being constrained by an IT department 😉

Informl Learning Unworkshop Legacy

We conducted several “unworkshops” on informal learning on the Web last year and learned a lot. We also met some interesting people, several of whom have continued the conversation around the use of two-way web tools for organisational learning.

Jay has now created The Unworkshop Legacy Page as an information resource and has coupled this with the Internet Time Community where the conversation can continue. Please come and join us.

I think that this open forum has the best potential to scale up, as our unworkshops worked well with web-savvy learners but could be difficult for those not used to adding and tweaking web applications on the fly. Anyone who wants just information can read the legacy page while those who are more communicative can join the community social network.

My own experience has been that face-to-face workshops, where participants have a laptop and Internet access, work best for the mainstream. A little bit of explanation, some concepts and a chance to play in a controlled environment with personal assistance, seems to be a good mix.

Training, for all that ails you

“Canadian companies aren’t spending enough on training,” said the announcer on the radio this morning. My first thought was that we would never hear the news that we weren’t spending enough on bandages in our healthcare system. Once again, the mass media and the so-called experts get it wrong. It makes you wonder if there’s a training industry lobby out there.

According to the Conference Board of Canada:

“Canadian organizations are under increasing pressure, due to a tight labour market and competitive demands, to renew and upgrade workers’ skills. Building workers skills through training, learning and development is one way for organizations to compete. Yet, TLD spending in Canada is stagnant,” said Michael Bloom, Vice-President, Organizational Effectiveness and Learning.

Read in its entirety, this makes sense, as TLD is only one way to improve performance. There are many other ways and usually training is the most expensive method. I’ve noticed that many large organisations have a tendency to slap on the training bandaid once any problem has been labelled a human performance issue. It seems that the media and research institutes reinforce this behaviour. However, training that is not directly related to developing specific skills and knowledge wastes time, bores workers and costs money.

This is not the first, nor the second, but the third time that I have heard our national broadcaster report the unfounded notion that training can solve unrelated performance problems. This is the same as prescribing medication without a diagnosis. Of course I don’t really blame the CBC, because it is getting this misinformation from our training and learning “experts”. The snake oil salesmen have jumped on the Conference Board report and are demanding that companies spend more on training. That would be a costly mistake.

I also noticed from the Conference Board’s report that informal learning is actually being mentioned:

Informal learning, which is not well tracked or monitored, may be occurring more frequently. Respondents said 42 per cent of all learning occurs informally.

I get the sinking feeling that informal learning will soon be commoditized by the TLD industry and sold like training currently is – as a solution looking for a problem.

To read the complete report you would have to spend $975 to find out what many of us already know. Training is a means (one of several, not limited to learning & development), while performance is the real goal.

Blog Comment Tracking

When I discuss the basics of personal knowledge management on the Web I usually suggest starting with a Feed Aggregator (like Bloglines) and a Social Bookmark service (like Ma.gnolia or del.icio.us). Using these two tools, you can manage the streams of information that flow by and mark items of note for future reference and sharing.

One of the more difficult aspects of reading blogs has been tracking the comments. Now there are several services available to help you with that. Basically, they act like a feed reader for specific posts and tell you if anyone has added another comment since you last looked. I started with coComment last year, but found it had a few glitches when I used the Firefox plug-in, so I abandoned it. It probably works fine now, as I get frequent visits to my site via coComment.

How do I know that I get visits from coComment? I use Blogflux’s MapStats which is a service only for blogs that shows you who has visited your site, where they come from, what search terms they’ve used, etc. Blogflux has recently introduced Commentful, which is similar to coComment and lets you track any conversation with a right mouse-click. So far I’ve found it simple and easy to track blogs where I’ve left comments.

One other comment tracking service that I’ve come across is co.mments, which appears to be simple and easy, but I haven’t tried it out.

Once you’re comfortable with an RSS feed aggregator, the next addition to your learning 2.0 toolbox should be a comment tracker.

PKM Notes

Yesterday I gave a 90 minute online session to the Calgary eLearning Network, using Elluminate (a free “room” was provided by the company). This web presentation platform is quite robust and simple to learn if you’ve some experience with synchronous web tools. It’s based on a presentation model though, which means that it’s best for a lecture format, with one person doing most of the talking. It’s more difficult to get a conversation going, with only one person holding the microphone at any given time. The audio was good and I liked the polling function to get some quick feedback.

Here are links to what we discussed, in order of appearance:

Informal Learning Website and Jay’s book on Informal Learning

Dion Hinchcliffe’s blog on Web 2.0 (I used some of his excellent diagrams)

Hugh McLeod’s Gaping Void cartoons and commentary (may not be workplace safe)

Accenture Report on managers finding information on intranets

Dave Pollard on PKM

Will Richardson on Reading & Writing Online

Stock & Flow on the InternetTime Wiki

Leigh Blackall’s Networked Learning photo set

On the right navigation bar of this site are my External Links, including My Feed Aggregator and My Bookmarks. There are also several posts on PKM on this blog.

* You can test out Elluminate with their free vRoom offer.

Web-Learning Skills

With my upcoming online presentation on personal knowledge management (PKM) to the Calgary eLearning Network tomorrow, I’m going through some collected files on the subject. I’ve also noticed that “personal learning” was a topic for a panel discussion at the recent eLearning Guild conference. Tony O’Driscoll has remarked that:

This is also one of the coolest things about Web 2.0 that we talked about on the panel. First and foremost Steven made the point that your approach as an educator should not be “OK let me figure out what blogs, wikis, social tagging, You Tube, Second Life and Moodle mean for my learning strategy or my learners.” Instead Steven suggests you start in the most obvious place -Where might that be? you ask – Why YOU and your own learning of course – Steven [Stephen Downes] says.

Learning has always been a personal thing, even when it happens in formal training. It’s also social, in that our learning is affected by our social context, whether it be in conversation or observation. What’s relatively new is that the Web lets us do some of our personal and social learning in a much easier way. We can connect, reflect, dispute and research with the click of the mouse.

My experience in helping trainers and educators with learning on the Web reinforces Stephen Downe’s advice to start with YOU. Those who are using the Web for their own learning have an easier transition in using it in training & education.

I guess it would be similar to asking someone to be a trainer in the pre-Web era. Could they be a good trainer if they lacked presentation, speaking, writing, or organisation skills? Today, you need web-learning skills.

For further digging, here are some articles I’ve tagged with PKM. Here are a bunch more tagged PKM on del.icio.us.

Grassroots Social Software

Meredith Farkas has created Five Weeks to a Social Library, a site that includes many knowledge artifacts from a well-structured online course. The material is not just for librarians, with an outline that looks like this:

Week 1: Blogs
Week 2: RSS & Social Bookmarking
Week 3: Wikis
Week 4: Social Networking, Flickr & MMOGs
Week 5: Selling Social Software
Final Project
Successful Completion List

The structure is similar to the informl learning unworkshops we conducted last year, but what I really like about this site are links to the participants, their blogs and their final projects, so you can follow the learning process. The site is built on Drupal, an excellent system for multi-user blogs and community resources.

Note that Week 1 covers blogs, which I have come to see as the primary building blocks for the social web. One reason that blogs are so persistent is because they are personal, and owners take pride in their maintenance.


Blogs are great for conversations, but often fall off the radar screen when they go beyond the first page and are left dangling.

One of the older conversations here is about Aliant’s connection speed. I had some woes with my ISP, which were finally addressed after a year of complaints and figuring out if anyone else had similar problems. My recent problems with Skype (last post) may be related to my ISP and it seeems that others have problems with Aliant’s service, namely that XBox live doesn’t work with their fastest service.

The homework question has garnered a lot of comments, as had earlier posts on homeschooling. Most of us have gone though the public education system and many have an opinion. I have come to believe that the core of the problem is an education system that was created for very different reasons than what we need today. Many “educational” activities are ineffective or counter-productive to learning, yet they continue based on tradition instead of sound science. If the evidence shows that an activity has little purpose, then we should abandon it. Homework is only one activity that lacks evidence to support its continuance. Subject-based curriculum, age-based cohorts and reliance on unsound models like Bloom’s Taxonomy to prescribe learning activities are other examples. This conversation on homework has been picked up in the community and we may even have a radio spot in the near future.

There also have been some comments to an older post on Education’s Three Conflicting Pillars. It’s great to see new discussion after several months of quiet, which is why I keep comments open.

This week there were some updates to the state of the NB elearning industry, thanks to Ben. Companies come and companies go, but many of us choose to stay. I’m on my third business card since I retired from the Army in 1998.

Finally, I’d like to quote Shawn, at Anecdote, on the importance of conversation, “… most learning comes through interacting with people. Learning richness increases as multiple perspectives are described, discussed, challenged and explored.

CGI Informal Learning Case Study

Jay Cross refers to the March Issue of CGI Technology Viewpoints, which covers this Canadian company’s experience in implementing informal learning practices. CGI is discussed in detail in Jay’s book.

This is a good reminder for the naysayers (it can’t be done here) to see what a large corporation can actuallly implement. Here is CGI’s “bottom line” on informal learning:

  1. When creating an environment that blends a rich mixture of available technologies to drive optimal collaboration, organizations don’t need to invent anything fundamentally new.
  2. Be creative, taking advantage of what’s already in place within the enterprise, and look at open source options as an inexpensive but viable way to build a robust collaboration infrastructure.
  3. Collaboration doesn’t require a large systems integration exercise when you leverage what’s already readily available and proven.