Reflections of LearnX 2009 – Day 2
Personal Professional Development: I expected the keynote by Stephen Downes to be the standout session of the event, and I was not disappointed. Instead of focusing on supporting the learning of others, Stephen shifted his focus to how e‑learning professionals can support their own learning. His premise is, bluntly, if you don’t take care of your own career, you risk losing it. One of Stephen’s key principles for personal professional development is interaction, which he defines as participation in a learning community (or CoP). In fact, Stephen considers it so important, he elegantly expresses it as: “Interaction is breathing for the brain”. His point is: if you aren’t interacting with other people through media such as mailing lists, blogs, Twitter, discussion forums etc, then you are not developing professionally and you will eventually stagnate. Stephen offers the following tips: place yourself (not the content) at the centre of your own learning network; organise your knowledge (eg build your own CMS with Drupal); simplify your learning by summarising it; and accept the fact that you can’t read it all, so choose what you need now and let the rest of it go – if you need it again in the future, it will be on the Web somewhere. Stephen has kindly made the slides and audio from his session available on Stephen’s Web.
Connecting Many Voices to Make a Difference: Anne Walsh and Brendan Revell from Fraynework Multimedia provided an overview of the e-learning support they are providing to The Sisters of Mercy. The Sisters are a religious order working to alleviate poverty in 47 countries around the world. They use web conferencing to facilitate large group meetings and also 1-to-1 meetings across geographical boundaries. Each Sister has the power to set up a web conference via their organisational CMS platform, which also provides access to their email, e-newsletters etc. Anne and Brendan are clearly proud of their work, given that the average age of the Sisterhood is over 65. The implementation of web conferencing has not only reduced travel costs significantly for the order, but has also given each member a voice that they otherwise would not have had. A practical tip that Anne and Brendan share for introducing web conferencing to those who are unfamiliar with it: facilitate several group conferences first to allow the audience to grow comfortable with the concept. As their confidence grows, they will start to set up their own meetings at their own pace without feeling like they are being railroaded into it.
Training Remote Workers and Their Managers – Getting the People & Technology Right: Margaret Aspin, Director of Aspin Online Consulting, explored the challenges of managing and training teleworkers and virtual teams. Key drivers in our changing environment (eg tightening labour market, climate change, terrorism, work/life balance) are increasingly pushing workers to the virtual workplace. Margaret maintains that it takes about 6 months for office-based workers to feel comfortable transitioning into a fully virtual team space. This new paradigm demands proactive, transformational leadership from people managers. Margaret offers them the following tips: always be mindful of the remote worker/learner; train them to chunk their days into productive periods free from interruption; avoid information overload; and build social capital through social networking. Margaret also recommends the resources at Telework Australia and Knowledge Ability.
Fusing eLearning and eMarketing Best Practices to Achieve Your Business Objectives: By applying principles of e-marketing, Faith Legendre, Senior Global Consultant at Cisco WebEx, explains how you can optimise the success of your online training. Faith umbrellas these principles under 7 steps: determine the goals of your training program; smooth out the technologies and systems you will use; plan who does what during delivery; promote the event; execute the training; follow-up the training after delivery; measure and report. Faith also offers practical tips to maximise attendance: survey your learners to identify the most appropriate delivery day and time for them (avoid Mondays and after 3pm); employ champions throughout the organisation to raise the profile the event; send out an engaging video clip to prospective attendees prior to delivery, and send out another video clip to the actual attendees post delivery as a “gift” for attending.
Thriving in the midst of a slowing economy: Invest in powerful rapid eLearning tools: Nachiket Khare, Sales Manager at Harbinger Knowledge Products, reminds us that while one of the consequences of cost-cutting during the GFC will be less interactivity in our e‑learningware, it’s an important aspect of learning. Nachiket used this concept as a segue to introduce his company’s tool, Raptivity, as a low-cost, yet powerful, rapid and easy-to-use interactivity builder. Caryl Oliver was on hand to demonstrate her use of Raptivity in building engaging, self-paced e-learning for the hospitality and transportation sectors. Despite the commercial overtones of this session, I happen to think that Raptivity is a wonderful product, and it certainly won plenty of awards at this year’s LearnX.
Animating E-Learning: Robb Reiner, CLO at Evolve Studios, informed us that static graphics are typically more effective than animations for conveying general information to learners. However, animations are superior when illustrating complex structural, functional and procedural relationships between objects and events. Robb demonstrated a few of the impressive works that his company has produced for various clients, including a mind-blowing 3D animation of the inner workings of a glock pistol for the Australian Police. Unfortunately I think that during the GFC, amazing resources like these are going to be beyond most non-government budgets.
Is m-learning just learning hype? Carolyn Barker, Managing Director of TheCyberInstitute, finalised the conference with a keynote about m-learning. Carolyn exploded the myth that m-learning is a passing fad; however, she maintains that it must be done right. In particular she recommends: restricting m-learning to “nanobites” of no more than 3 minutes in duration; covering only 1 or 2 key concepts per nanobite; using rich media where appropriate; and providing opportunities for collaboration (eg discussing photos uploaded to Flickr). Carolyn also made the point that m-learning should support other forms of learning. She maintains that “blended learning is king” – m-learning is just one of its inputs.
I hope you have learned something from my synopses of the conference, or at the very least they have provoked some creative ideas.
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