2011 Webinar on Social Learning

A webinar on Social Learning, which I led it with two colleagues. The world of social software, social media, and how L&D uses the software, the media and leverages the theory of social learning has changed significantly. All in the direction we had envisioned two years ago.





‘Teaching with Moodle’ MOOC stats

Just heard that about 8000 people are participating in the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) ‘Teaching with Moodle’. In its 1st week now, the course has generated 6000 forum posts, nearly 2500 badges have been awarded and almost 2000 courses have been requested. What do MOOCs have going for them?

Here are a few things:

1. Free (Almost, unless one wants certification, or verification)

2. Content of interest (People have a choice to participate in the subject of their choice- there is immense intrinsic motivation )

3. Recognition (Peer and professional through Badges and boards )

4. Social (6000 forum posts? No standalone elearning, book, or ILT will generate this much interaction).

Again, how will corporations leverage this shift in how people choose to learn? The shift will neither be instantaneous, nor easy. A smooth, successful migration / inclusion will require a framework.

What do you think are the considerations?


MOOCs are here- let’s leverage them thoughtfully!

Uwituze and her family live in Rawanda.  They have $75 in savings. Although it is unlikely that Uwituze will ever be able to afford college, she aspires for a career in finance / banking.

She might just get what she dreamed for!  She will get the required knowledge through the Kepler project initiated by a non profit Generation Rawanda. Briefly, the Kepler project will leverage the MOOC ( Massive Open Online Course) model of education, and blend online content from best universities of the world with in-person instruction to help Uwituze realize her dream.

In 2007,  at the AERA Conference in New York, a professor from Yale demonstrated the first open access course ( earlier name for MOOC).  What began as bootstrapping has now grown into a blossoming industry. Harvard and MIT started a $60 million dollar non-profit and created edX. Likewise, Udacity raised $21.1 million with venture capital funding! (Source)

The power and reach of MOOC is undeniable.  Reasonably small sums of American dollars deliver immense value for people all around the globe.  The cost of one hundred cappuccinos could mean a student earns a CS101 or is able to take a class on Teaching, and sign up for the signature track and get verified as a successful candidate from Stanford, or other such university!

From a corporate L&D point-of-view, Jeanne Miester has shared a very useful article with the community.  Here, I note some additional considerations, and few reasons to use  MOOCs.

1.    Most organizations are not necessarily training content creators.  Even though some content is generated in-house, most is procured from third parties (trainers, training companies, or publishers).  MOOCs could be a great source to procure content (all in one place if no customization is required).

2.     MOOCs are mostly free and can enable professional development, up-skilling, or re-skilling.  Resources thus freed-up can be allocated elsewhere.

3.   Verification and certification becomes possible for $39- $100 per course.

4.  Learning on-line is convenient and easily accessible for employees / participants with internet access.

5.  Learning on-demand means that work time can we used for working which is a benefit to both the employee and the employer.

6.   MOOCs provide context-free situations ( are not organization, or industry specific), skill development, and add to the knowledge base.

MOOCs offer a good deal of benefits but there are challenges to consider as well.

1.    What’s the incentive to complete the program?  Only 5% of participants completed a MITX’s MOOC. (Source)

2.    How will we evaluate knowledge transfer and measure achievement?

3.     70:20:10- Do MOOCs currently address the need for peer-peer, informal, and formal social learning?

MOOC’s are not a perfect fit in every instance but they offer rich possibilities creating opportunity and flexibility in the L & D space.  I think of these considerations- will MOOC platforms  by Coursera, Udacity or others allow for creation of bespoke content?

There will be other considerations around:

1. Interoperability

2. Technical specifications

3. Reporting

4. Content assimilation, and curation from multiple providers

The future  is bright, and every organization needs to leverage this emerging trend in learning, and teaching to the extent they can ( just as McAfee did by ‘flipping the classroom’).

Bring your party to life!

I was at a very well-organized party held in a remote location. The organizer who is a good friend did a great job of thinking about every small thing that guests might ask for. Dull and drab as the party was, someone had to do something to keep it going!

Two things brought life into the party: questions and games! And we designers,  curriculum strategists, or learning and development professionals forget about these two essential elements of a learning program, or a training intervention.

We engage in ‘engaging interactivities’ which are either mere drag and drop, or match the column, or multiple choice with nice round radio buttons, and worry about the user interface. Not to say all of us do this. Some of us who do not only think about drag and drop, or radio buttons think have started thinking about Blended-Learning!

So we think of video, we contemplate inclusion of pre and post test, we make a case of case-based learning. If we are more creative, and courageous, we think about including social-learning. Great stuff all, don’t get me wrong guys! However, for learners to creatively respond, to strongly engage, and definitely reflect, discussion questions are a great activity.  Beauty is that for your video content, you can have questions; for the case-based learning, ask questions, and ensure people engage in a conversation through answers and comments. Sadly, we do not significantly leverage discussion questions, and certainly not in effectively.

We all know not to ask closed questions all the time, but our open-ended questions are not interesting enough. The party I refer to came to life when somebody else asked the organizer how they had remembered to bring even the smallest of items. Can you imagine how interested the organizer will be in your/your questions? Immensely is the answer!

When you bring the learner to a classroom for training, or a student for learning, or create an elearning program, engage your learner with content, and activity both.

Here is a list of my pet peeves ( do you care?) around discussion questions as an activity as we designers often present it:

  1. Only teachers/ community managers ask discussion questions most of the time. Learners/Students do not get to pose a question for peer-peer discussion.
  2. Inevitably closed questions find a place in a ‘discussion question’ category, thus limiting any potential discussion. Closed questions are great for gathering facts/information , but not to foster inquiry or intellectual dialogue.
  3. Too many questions, little participation, and little or no moderation/ summarization.
  4. Too many learners responding to one question, and / or a few specific comments
  5. Many LMSs that afford discussion questions do not facilitate download. All learning / knowledge captured goes with expiration of access.
  6. Group-think, and need to confirm also prevent learners from questioning responses/ arguing /inquiring if there is no encouragement to present views fearlessly.

Okay, lets take a quick look at how to include Discussion Questions and make them work for the learners/students:

  • Make sure questions are as open-ended as possible
  • Encourage ( sometimes mandate) participants/students to share there views, and comment on another one or two people’s views. This will allow for reflection, and collective contemplation
  • Ensure there is a regular summary of the discussion, or a curation of the comments. This can be performed by the teacher/trainer, or better still by a nominated student
  • Have a community manager who is tasked with directing the conversations toward a productive direction/knowledge enhancing direction
  • Create smaller groups to facilitate deeper and meaningful peer-peer conversation

These practices, a great online system to handle it, and a watchful eye of the community manager, and your online discussion forums are super-charged learning objects.

As always, would like to hear comments/thoughts. Feel free to add them.

Mobile Learning 101

Our preferences have changed over time. Remaining connected is a priority, whether it be for social purposes or work. And between work, and managing a social life we want time for personal growth, and development!

Learning through mobile devices though not exactly a panacea, is certainly the most feasible solution in many ways in today’s times. To possess a wi-fi enabled mp3 player, a smart phone, or a feature phone is the norm. To have a couple of smart phones ( one from work, and a personal one), a netbook, and perhaps an ipad, or tablets as released in the future would be sign of ‘in touch with times’. Advances in technology (3G and 4G) networks, newer apps on a daily basis, and an appetite for mobile devices are now able to meet the business drivers midway, and thus provide a strong platform for growth and adoption of mobile learning (mlearning).

However, the adoption is slow, and that is partly due to misconceptions related to mobile learning.


• It is device dependent: again, not necessarily, unless the subject matter, and learning design demand specialized features, e.g., if your mobile solution requires VOIP, or is a distributed simulation or is a location-based learning exercise, a point and shoot, or a scavenger hunt based learning where there may be a need for a built-in camera. However, if you are looking at standard audio, video, interaction features, or a sms based solution (provided it is enabled as a service in the plan), most devices available in the market will meet the requirements (use/non-use of Flash is certainly to be remembered!).  Browser based deployments may eliminate requirement for specialty ‘Apps’ or other capital expenditures.

• There will be capital expenditure: no, not really. Specialists in education, and technology would work with you to understand the business and learning drivers. They invest in infrastructure, and build service capabilities so that you do not have to.

• You may have to work with mobile operators: no, you would not have to. Your educational, and learning partner will invest in learning design research, technology research, and invest in infrastructure after having studied the state of the market, and therefore you would not have to worry about it (they would also think about coverage by a mobile operator when considering solutions!).

How to find success with mobile learning?

• Identify immediate audiences that could benefit from mobile learning- sales force, process technicians, project managers, marketing & advertising professionals, and HR professionals may immediately benefit from ‘Just in time’, ‘Performance Support’ type learning initiatives. Identify the requirements, or use experts to help you do that.

• Partner with experts- Experts in this area understand prevailing standards, and ensure that design, and deployment adheres to those standards. Standards in question are

  • Content Design ( Instructional and Visual) standards- Flash does not work on iphones. HTML5 though excellent as a learning object development tool, is still developing. However, innovations galore, and with the right instructional design, usability considerations, and appreciation of available content development tools, and technology appropriate content design standards would be considered from the outset.
  • Technical standards (devices used by your entire audience may vary significantly)- Devices differ, and so what works on one device may not on another (flash based learning modules will not work on iPhone), location aware functionalities may not be available on all devices.
  • Learning Environment/LMS- Choice of the learning environment and requirement for tracking of learning interaction, and completion are a primary requirement in most cases. Selecting an appropriate learning environment which is either mobile friendly, has native apps, or a platform that ‘pushes’ content to the mobile device are critical to the success of a mlearning initiative.

• A compelling business model- Expertise drawn from in-house resources, and strategic partnerships with content, technology, and related services providers will jumpstart your mlearning initiative. Strategic partnerships also ensure commitment, quality, and can potentially help in building a long-term product strategy. Commitment of partners ensures advice, and risk mitigation by experts, thus leading to a successful mlearning initiative.

Ambient Insight, June 22, 2008, Web site: http://www.ambientinsight.com/Default.aspx