Posted tagged ‘cloud computing’

E-Learning Provocateur: Volume 1

22 November 2011

Well I have finally bitten the bullet and published a selection of my blog musings in paperback form.

The book is entitled E-Learning Provocateur: Volume 1 and my intent is to provoke deeper thinking across a range of themes in the modern workplace, including:

E-Learning Provocateur: Volume 1•   social media
•   learning theory
•   pedagogy
•   instructional design
•   learning styles
•   blended learning
•   informal learning
•   mobile learning
•   augmented reality
•   virtual worlds
•   cloud computing
•   self publishing
•   employee engagement
•   corporate social responsibility
•   religion
•   the future of e-learning

The book is available now at Amazon.com.

Reach for the clouds

4 June 2009

Earlier this week, Michael Bromley, Head of Online Services at Telstra Business, visited my workplace to provide me and my colleagues with an overview of cloud computing.

What is cloud computing?

Michael defines “cloud computing” as:

…common business applications, platforms or infrastructure that are hosted on the internet (i.e. in the cloud) and are accessed locally from a web browser, while the software and data are stored remotely on servers.

hong Kong building 5, courtesy of herman430, stock.xchngThis definition may be particularly relevant to the corporate sector, because it could reflect the typical corporation’s chronological journey into the cloud.

For example, Company X might dip its toes into the cloud by discontinuing local installations of their standard desktop software onto individual PCs, in favour of connecting to Google Docs.

Of course this is a far cry from migrating all of their data and IP into cloud-based infrastructure, but it’s a significant start.

Private clouds

The major barrier to wholesale upsourcing to the cloud, I feel, will be data security. I can’t imagine too many organisations rushing to shift their sensitive customer details onto unseen servers in foreign jurisdictions. It’s one thing to use an online word processor; it’s something else again to store names, residential addresses and social security numbers out there, somewhere.

I can also appreciate corporate hesitation with public clouds like YouTube; many companies won’t want to share their IP with their competitors. That’s where I think private clouds may prove useful. By restricting access to jealously guarded content, but managing it within the cloud infrastructure, the company might strike a balance between security and efficiency.

vpc1, courtesy of Michael Bromley

What does this mean for e-learning?

Local installations of specialised e-learning authoring software is notoriously difficult in hierarchical corporations.

Even after you have secured funding (which is a feat in itself), you need to secure managerial approval to use the software, then you need to justify to various IT people why you need it, then you wait for a technician with the necessary admin rights to install it, then after 14 days you realise he didn’t register it properly, then you have to call him back to re-register, then he tells you he can’t seem to register it for some reason… By the time it’s all set up, a new version is released.

OfComm Series - Collapsed, courtesy of rajsun22, stock.xchng

Wouldn’t it be nice to skip all that?

Wouldn’t it be more efficient to simply log into the software on the web?

If you need 20 licences now, you can subscribe and have them in an instant. If you need only 12 licences next month, you can drop the other 8. On the other hand, if you need 30 licences, you can subscribe for 10 more.

Sure, you’ll still require the necessary funding and approval, but already the flexibility of licensing is promising an attractive ROI. Add the fact that you don’t need to install or register anything, nor maintain it or upgrade it, and it looks even rosier.

Suffice to say I’m keeping an eye on Lectora Online.

But online course creation is only one aspect of e-learning. Consider also:

Happy Cloud, courtesy of ba1969, stock.xchng.•  YouTube channels
•  Podcast hosts
•  Blog platforms
•  Wiki spaces

The list goes on…

Just log in

2 May 2009

A little while ago, I attended an executive briefing about cloud computing, hosted by SMS Management & Technology and presented by Paul Slakey, Director of Americas & Asia Pacific at Google, and Peter Coffee, Director of Platform Research at Salesforce.com.

Laptop in the clouds

What is cloud computing?

The 2009 Horizon Report states:

2009 Horizon ReportThe cloud is the term for networked computers that distribute processing power, applications, and large systems among many machines. Applications like Flickr, Google, YouTube, and many others use the cloud as their platform, in the way that programs on a desktop computer use that single computer as a platform.

Cloud-based applications do not run on a single computer; instead they are spread over a distributed cluster, using storage space and computing resources from many available machines as needed. “The cloud” denotes any group of computers used in this way; it is not tied to a particular location or owner, though many companies have proprietary clouds. “Amazon’s cloud,” for instance, refers to the computers used to power Amazon.com; the capacity of those servers has been harnessed as the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and can be leased from Amazon for a variety of purposes.

So it’s a little bit techie, involving distributed computing power, extended data storage, and scalability.

But for the lay person, I would suggest the term “cloud computing” can boil down to everything is web-based.

Head in the clouds

According to Paul and Peter, it’s clear that cloud computing is a rising trend. With thorny issues such as connectivity, reliability and security improving over time, more and more organisations are moving their work “into the cloud”.

One of the key points from the briefing that I feel compelled to reiterate is that cloud computing isn’t just some far off abstraction – it’s here and now. Probably the best known example is Google Apps, which provides email, calendars, documents, spreadsheets and presentation software, among a range of other tools and services, all on the web.

Sun Burst, courtesy of ba1969, stock.xchng.And surely you’ve used TwitterFacebook, Flickr, Delicious or YouTube…? These are all in the cloud.

In fact, the 2009 Horizon Report maintains that cloud computing is likely enter mainstream use in learning-focused organisations within one year or less  – and that was written in December 2008!

The report also notes that the technology is already well established on many educational campuses (including K-12), with claims that more organisations have their plans in place.

Sky’s the limit

Imagine if the corporate sector fully embraced cloud computing…

Businessman working on laptop

We could access our word processor, spreadsheet, e‑learning authoring tools, CRM system, sales figures, productivity reports, in fact any data or software, all online.

We could finally embrace thin clients. All that our laptops would need is a browser and an Internet connection.

We could purchase only the licences we need right now, and scale up later when we need to.

We could centralise our files and content, and collaborate more easily.

You can use a Mac, I can use a PC. It doesn’t matter.

No more relying on a technician with administrative access.

No more downtime for upgrades.

Just log in.

Who's that? He's my thin client.

Workplace learning in 10 years

24 March 2009

The Learning Circuits Big QuestionThe Learning Circuits Big Question for this month is:

If you peer inside an organization in 10 years time and you look at how workplace learning is being supported by that organization, what will you see?

To answer this question, I’ve organised my own two cents’ worth under six major banners…

1. The responsibility for e-learning development will decentralise across the organisation.

In 10 years’ time, I believe organisations will rely less on external development houses to produce e-learning solutions, and instead bring more – if not all – of it in-house.

Of course this is already happening; however, it’s usually associated with the appointment of a specialist “E-Learning Team”. While such a team may fill a gap in the short term, it’s akin to appointing a Photocopier Operating Team, a Word Document Authoring Team, a Google Searching Team and an Email Sending Team. While all of these technologies were novel at one time or another, everyone has since learned to integrate them into their day-to-day activities.

E-Learning development should be no different. My view is that it’s unsustainable for a specialised E-Learning Team to remain responsible, in the long term, for developing all of the e-learning solutions for everyone in the organisation. Soon enough they’ll get swamped, their turn-around times will lag, and their colleagues will start to say silly things like “e-learning doesn’t work”.

It makes more sense to me to train the organisation’s Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in rapid e-learning authoring. Then, whenever a learning need arises, the SME has both the knowledge and the skills to develop their own e-learning solution, quickly and effectively.

Hand Work 1, courtesy of jmark, stock.xchng.

Sure, the interactivity of the e-learning that is produced by the SMEs will take a short-term hit. However, that should change over time as their confidence and experience grows with using these tools. I’m sure you’re better with Word now than when you first started?

Of course, the support and guidance of qualified e-learning coaches will be crucial during this transition period.

2. E-Learning will shift from instructivism towards constructivism and connectivism.

In a previous article, I said that workplace learning has thankfully become more constructivist and even connectivist over time. I think in 10 years’ time it will be even more so.

A driver of this shift will be people power. As staff familiarise themselves with blogs, wikis, RSS, YouTube and Twitter, and as more tech-savvy Gen-Y’s & Z’s join the organisation, the demand for self-paced, self-directed learning will accelerate.

Conquer the world 1, courtesy of Mart1n, stock.xchng.

Couple that with the increasing demand for e-learning more generally across the organisation, and no one will be able to afford the time and effort to prepare perfectly pre-defined, pre-packaged content for all occasions. Something’s gotta give; open it up to Web 2.0.

I still maintain that instructivism will remain relevant in the digital age. However, with less hand holding from a “teacher”, meta‑learning (or learning how to learn) will become an increasingly important skill set.

3. Staff will collaborate and share knowledge.

The shift towards constructivism and connectivism will demand organisation-wide collaboration and peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, facilitated by blogs, wikis, discussion forums and other online media.

Toplaps, courtesy of ugaldew, stock.xchng.

Single-point sensitive gurus are a liability; everyone has the obligation to share their knowledge with everyone else. This might seem a lofty or even altruistic notion, but the principles of Wikinomics tell us that the organisations whose staff don’t do this won’t be able to compete effectively in the marketplace.

This shift will be accompanied by formal acknowledgements of informal learning. Sure, you can learn something anywhere, but the organisation still needs to be confident of your capability. Insert summative online assessments here.

4. Learning will be fully networked.

As the virtual workplace gains in popularity, more and more people will be working from home, in different cities and different countries.

Virtual classrooms will be the norm for centralising everyone in the one space, while emerging technologies such as virtual worlds and holograms will also bridge the geographical divide.

5. M-Learning will be popular.

Ragan reported recently that only 10% of Americans use their cell phones to access the web daily. My gut tells me this statistic is reflected right across the corporate sector.

Palmtop Series 1, courtesy of bizior, stock.xchng.

However, advances in mobile technology and connectivity, coupled with the business world’s shift towards cloud computing, will eventually render the cell phone an indispensable learning and working tool.

Why? Because everything will be online. Why wouldn’t you use your phone to get it if you needed it?!

6. E-Learning will be smart.

Finally, while many technological advances will continue to improve knowledge distribution, it’s on another plane to personalise it so that it’s relevant to the individual learner. I think we’re just seeing the beginnings of artificial intelligence and the dawn of the semantic web.

So, do you agree with my predictions?

How do you see workplace learning in 10 years’ time?