BYOD for e-Learning

The e-learning industry is currently engaged in a mad rush to get their stuff to work on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). This rush is driven primarily by clients who can be a little naive when it comes to the tricky technical bits (think of those car buyers who are never interested in looking under the bonnet). For many projects we get a reasonably sensible brief but then tacked on the end is the request that the e-learning also has to be ‘accessible on mobile devices’. Now, in the words of software development, this is ‘non-trivial’ – there are many challenges to developing e-learning that works across the vast number of mobile devices.

However, one of the key challenges is not actually technical at all. It’s about device ownership – because in the majority of cases the mobile devices that learners will be expected to use to access their work based learning are their own personal devices. These are devices that they have purchased and for which they pay all the bandwidth usage costs. This simple fact can throw a big spanner in the works for any roll-out of work based learning on mobile devices.

The simple solution of course is a ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) policy and here’s a really useful infographic that explores the pros and cons of BYOD.

“BYOD has freed up many enterprises from the responsibility of exclusively purchasing and maintaining computing devices, such as notebooks, tablets and smartphones, but companies still need to have policies set in place to make things work.”

BYOD for e-learning

Infographic from

Learning Technologies 2013


Learning Technologies is the main conference/show for the e-learning industry in the UK. This year it neatly overlapped with the educational technology show BETT so I managed to get to both of them over a couple of days in January.

Learning Technologies is both a conference and a trade show. I didn’t get to the conference this year but there is lots going on in the show to keep anyone busy for a full day. I actually presented one of the free show seminars with the team from Sponge – our subject was ‘Brain friendly e-learning’ and specifically what we can do in an e-learning course to help the brain retain more stuff. There’s another blog post on this soon.

If like me you missed the conference you can see the videos/presentations here: Learning Technologies 2013 Conference Videos and Presentations

This year there were six seminar theatres within the show and mostly they appeared pretty busy with seats full and others standing in the aisles.

I always use the show to catch-up on the various companies in the e-learning business. Learning Technologies is one of those shows that you simply have to be seen at so as you can expect all the major players were there, and usually in their hard won stand locations.

So was there anything new this year? Not much actually.

It seems that m-learning is being dropped as something separate to e-learning – the aim of the game now is multi-device compatibility. Kineo are promoting a responsive web design approach while others are sticking to more conventional layouts based of course on HTML5.

There were a few new e-learning design and development companies exhibiting so clearly DIY authoring hasn’t completely killed the market for custom development at £10k-£15k per fully interactive hour.

e-learning brothers

E-Learning Brothers at Learning Technologies 2013

As far as DIY tools are concerned Articulate had a bigger stand this year and the Articulate guru Tom Kuhlmann was there to sing the praises of Storyline and to give us little tasters of Studio 13. I actually saw a version of Engage 13 in action on Tom’s laptop so clearly we can’t be too far away from full beta testing. e-Learning Brothers were also there all the way from Utah promoting their bolt on templates, players, and other stuff for the most popular DIY authoring tools.

There was a new UK authoring tool called Bricklayer from Training Bricks. It’s entirely browser based and looks pretty powerful but the fact that it’s priced similarly to Storyline and not yet HTML5 capable is likely to mean that it will struggle to get a hold in the DIY market. A short video review coming soon.

On the platform front there was nothing significant but one new entrant in the market is LearnUpon from my home town of Dublin. Their LMS is aimed primarily at training companies and is priced very competitively for those looking for a starter LMS. Of particular value from a learning business perspective is the fact that it supports multiple portals so a training company can deliver a branded online learning experience to a number of different customers using the same LMS instance. You can get started with LearnUpon for $99 for up to 250 active users – that’s an attractive start point for a small training company who are just getting started with e-learning. Full review to follow.


Talking Brain Friendly Learning with the Sponge Team

For a quick video tour of the show see: Learning Technologies 2013 Show Tour


Learning Technologies 2013 Show Tour

Create or Curate?

Create or Curate?


One of the current hot topics in e-learning is curation. But what exactly is curation? And what relevance does it have to e-learning?

Interestingly the word derives from the Latin cura – meaning literally someone ‘who cares’. Curators have existed for thousands of years and their role is defined as follows:

Traditionally, a curator or keeper of a gallery, museum, library or archive oversees an institution’s collections and is responsible for the safe keeping, display, documentation and interpretation of the objects and artefacts in the collection.

Interpretation is the key word here. These institutions have substantial collections of objects and artefacts – way too much usually to put on display – so the role of the curator is to create an exhibit that combines a variety of artefacts in order that they may be interpreted in some way by the visitors. Interpretation is largely about telling stories. And not surprisingly it’s about learning so in that respect a curator is a sort of teacher.

So in the simplest terms curation is about organising, displaying and interpreting stuff. More tellingly it’s about organising, displaying and interpreting other people’s stuff.

Curation on the Web

In this post I really want to focus on curation as it applies to learning (and specifically online learning) but before we do that it’s worth exploring the current trend for digital curation on the web.

Curation is big on the web driven largely by a raft of new platforms such as Storify, and Pinterest that make it easy to collect, organise and display the articles, photos, and videos we come across while trawling the Internet.

Curation with these tools appears to be primarily about aggregation and many curators place freshness above anything else so many curated collections end up looking like the front page of newspapers. Indeed many of the platforms are purposely designed to look like magazine pages. A scoop beats old ideas hands down in the attention economy.

Learning is different to news. The important stuff is persistent. It has a long shelf-life. If you are new to e-learning then reading an article on ‘Social Learning’ isn’t going to be the best place to start your learning journey even if it is the hottest new topic. Curation applied to learning is going to be much more dependent on interpretation rather than organisation. Before our new e-learner reads about ‘Social Learning’ they should understand what an instructional designer does and why we need LMS’.

But we are all creators not curators?

When a client calls and wants a programme on equality and diversity we hardly ever say ‘That’s been done already – you can buy it off-the-shelf’. Our first instinct as learning designers (and business people) is to create shiny new learning experiences – designed precisely for the audience and content we have been given by the (paying) client. Why re-cycle old stuff when we can start afresh on a blank sheet?

Well there are a number of possible reasons but four of the most compelling are:

  • There’s already some really good stuff out there
  • Content that already exists can be made available immediately
  • It’s more interesting to mix and match than to build something homogenous
  • It’s much more cost effective to recycle than to create something new

Suddenly curation is sounding quite attractive if I’m trying to get as much learning done as I can on a limited budget and/or timescale.

However curation is actually harder than it looks because the skill of the curator is in interpretation and in our case as learning designers in creating a coherent learning journey. To illustrate this let’s look at the place where we are most likely to have come across curator’s prior to 2012.

Museum’s 20 years ago were a place you went to see things in glass cases with labels. Museum’s today take a very different approach. They create learning journey’s through the collection of artefacts on display. Modern museum curator’s are effectively learning designers working in a different medium – the medium of objects and artefacts.

Effective curation involves a number of key skills:


With digital assets we have the advantage of powerful search and stacks of content feeds.


We often need to look beyond the most popular stuff to filter out the older but more persistent stuff that we really need. Some things change slowly and often they are conceptually key. Facts not fads.


Not all content is appropriate for all audiences. If you are curating a collection on Roman technology for primary school kids it will feel quite different than if you were to curate the same collection for a graduate archaeology class.


Not all collections will speak for themselves. A curator’s role is to join the dots and to paint the bigger picture.


Sometimes people need the condensed version. Sometimes they need the advanced guide.


Sometimes people simply need to fills gaps in their knowledge. Signposting them to the bits they need or are interested in is a key curation skill.

Balancing creation with curation

In practice a successful online learning experience is likely to result in a mix of creation and curation. The relative amounts of each will depend on the subject matter and what is already available but I imagine an analysis and design loop along the following lines:

  • Establish the learning objectives and intended audience
  • Create a broad content outline and scope
  • Find and filter existing digital assets
  • Create a learning path design based on the curated assets
  • Create additional content to fill the gaps
  • Create the final learning journey

Clearly there are challenges when developing learning using a mix of creation and curation. Do you have permission to use third party materials? Will they be there over the long term? What if they are updated or moved?

In a future post I’ll look at some of the practical problems associated with curation and also explore some of the curation friendly learning platforms and technologies (such as the quirky Curatr from @benbetts).

Tomorrow I’m at the Weelearning event in Bath –  ’Curate? Create? Debate?’. Some interesting contributions have been made to the pre-session Google Doc. Hopefully I can share those after the event.

I’ve added this endpiece from Julian Stodd which was posted on the Weelearning Google Doc – it echoes some of my points quite nicely I think.

My first job was in a museum, a local, dusty affair concerned primarily with telling the story of how the town had grown from it’s early marketplace origins through to it’s current shape and size. The story involved buildings, artefacts, documents and people. Indeed, one of my personal jobs was to go and record oral histories from elderly local residents: recordings that gave depth and flavour to exhibitions. From time to time, we would pull together an exhibition, and that’s when we would curate. It would start with us defining a central story: ‘The wool trade in Chichester’, or ‘The market traders’. Once we had the story, we would decide what, from the extensive collections, we would use to help us to tell it. The decisions were laden with subjectivity. For example, we had a coffin. It had been used to commemorate the last cattle market run in a continuous eight hundred year history. If you just saw it, it’s just a coffin. If you know the story, it represents (or signifies) something else entirely. The curator needs to understand the thing, but also the meaning of the thing. They are a historian and a storyteller. Julian Stodd


HTML5 Explained in 1m 32s

HTML5 is causing all sorts of headaches for us learning technologists at the moment. Suddenly everyone wants their e-learning to be developed in HTML5 without having a clue what it actually is. Of course much of this behaviour is down to Apple and its fashionable iPad but even Google have now dropped support for Flash on mobile devices from Android 4.0 onwards. Here’s a video that explains what HTML5 is in 1m 32s.

Note the use of the word ‘hope‘, the phrase ‘working hard‘, and the phrase ‘some day in the future‘. Enjoy.

e-Learning 2.0 back in 2005

e-learning 2.0

Another resurrected post from my old blog ‘A Compound of Alchymie’. This time on e-Learning 2.0. Have we come that far in seven years. Sadly I don’t think so.

Originally posted on 5 November 2005.

Came across this interesting article entitled E-Learning 2.0 by Stephen Downes from the National Research Council of Canada today while researching some stuff on e-learning. It takes a whirlwind tour through the landscape of e-learning and touches on a wide range of related ideas (and especially those in the social computing space) before looking at how e-learning will look in the context of Web 2.0.  E-learning is definitely evolving and with the massed array of social computing tools is likley to become much more collaborative, flexible, adaptable and even chaotic. The question is can we as learners accept this new learner centric approach? It certainly feels different but also really empowering – roll on Learners 2.0.

How much does e-learning cost?

Since I have been exploring the differences between e-learning and online learning I have been using the term conventional e-learning to describe the packaged SCORM course with a built-in assessment. Conventional e-learning has come a long way in the last 10 years and there are now some excellent people developing some excellent courses but this excellence comes at a price. This infographic shows why this sort of e-learning isn’t cheap.

In the UK you are probably looking at a cost of between £10k and £15k per hour of e-learning that has had the full team treatment (2012).

What Does It Take To Create Effective e-Learning - Infographic

Online Learning with Google

Being an online learning expert I’m always keen to see how other people are doing online learning so when I had an invitation from Google to take part in their ‘Power Searching’ online course I signed-up right away. Here’s a walkthrough of my impressions so far.


e-Learning meets Online Learning

Over the last eight years I have worked primarily on e-learning projects for organisations in the private and public sector. Almost universally the definition of e-learning in this market is pretty limiting. It involves the delivery of learning content via a SCORM module accessed via an LMS. In most cases the SCORM module is developed in Flash (so that it supports ‘learner interactions’), includes a quiz to test understanding and is usually around 30-40 minutes long (just enough time to squeeze it in at the start or end of the working day or over a long coffee break maybe). Provided the pass mark is attained in the embedded test the learning is marked as ‘complete’ and you move onto something else. I now refer to this type of e-learning as packaged e-learning. This type of e-learning is very popular with large organisations because it is very efficient:

  • It’s available 24/7
  • It’s consistent
  • It’s quick
  • It’s very scalable
  • It’s easy to manage
  • It’s easy to track

Clearly for large organisations this efficiency has enormous benefits. If you need to make sure that all your employees are up to speed on the latest information security policy then packaged e-learning is a no-brainer.

packaged SCORM e-learning

Packaged e-learning does work (from

But is it very effective? Sometimes yes. If you need your employees to learn something simple quickly then it’s hard to beat a well designed SCORM module but if you need to do something more significant, something more inspirational something that involves real learning then you need something more powerful.

Unpacking e-Learning

So what other types of e-learning are there? Well in the higher education sector the definition of e-learning is substantially different. Here e-learning is used primarily in support of face-to-face lecture delivery. Entire courses are constructed in a virtual learning environment (VLE), the equivalent of the corporate LMS, and used to engage with learners before and after face-to-face lectures and the occasional seminar. Most of the core ‘teaching’ is still delivered offline while the VLE acts like a learning resource centre with each course organised as a structured hierarchy of topics. The VLE is also used as a communication platform with discussions, profiles, calendars, and blogs shared between learners and between learners and tutors. Sometimes VLE’s will also include packaged SCORM modules but this is the exception rather than the rule.

VLE’s are by their very nature more social than a standard corporate LMS. They manage not only learning activities and resources but also a range of communication channels between learners and facilitators. These ‘social’ communications include:

  • e-mail
  • discussion forums
  • instant messaging
  • blogs
  • wikis

To get value from these communication channels of course you need to be learning with others. In most educational situations this is the class or cohort you are learning with and that cohort will be supported by the course tutor.

Online learning path

Online Learning Path in Pathway (from

Cohorts are rarely created in corporate LMS’ because they undermine some of the key benefits of the self paced approach.

Convergence is Coming

The two types of e-learning described are both valid in their own way but we are now seeing a degree of convergence between the two types. In the corporate world there is a lot of interest in encouraging learners to interact with each other and to add a social dimension to their e-learning. In the education sector there is a revival in online distance education where the VLE acts not just as the learning resources centre but as the primary platform for learning delivery. Lately universities and colleges have recognised that there are potentially large numbers of additional fee paying students beyond the physical campus and the VLE is a key enabler in delivering learning to these virtual students.

These shifting requirements are creating demand for new types of learning platforms and existing platforms are being used in innovative new ways. Corporate LMS’ are getting more social while VLEs are increasingly using multimedia assets such as video and interactive SCORM modules.

These are interesting times for learning technologists.

The Online Learning Revolution

How the Internet is Revolutionizing Education
Via: and @EdRels

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