Formal or Informal Learning? A fresh look at 70:20:10

Report on 70:20:10Good Practice have published a really useful report on the 70:20:10 framework. It covers both the pros and cons and also looks at some of the competing (but very similar) approaches such as Dan Pontefract’s 3:33 from his book Flat Army. Definitely worth a download and a read (you have to tell them about yourself before you get your hands on the report but it’s worth doing).

Next Friday 28th November we are running an E-learning Network event on ‘Social and Informal Learning‘ and will have a session on 70:20:10 from Charles Jennings and Charles Gould. Places still available at the ELN Web Site.

Get the report here: New Perspectives on 70:20:10

Why social learning won’t work

social and informal learning

This post follows on from the post on ‘Social Learning and Knowledge Management‘ which compared both approaches on the assumption that they are attempting to achieve the same outcome – people in organisations sharing their knowledge, and learning from each other in order to improve performance.

In the L&D world social learning has become a bit of a fashionable fad. It’s not hard to see why. With increasing pressure to do more for less, and with the improved adoption of learning technologies the conventional formal classroom approach to learning feels a little outdated and is very much top down rather than bottom up. Social and informal learning based on the 70:20:10 idea and utilising some cool social media technologies seems like a no brainer for our 21st century digitally connected workforce. But though it appears pretty straightforward, getting learners to learn informally from each other (and let’s face it they are probably doing that already) opens up a Pandoras box of challenges for the organisation in general and for L&D in particular.

Knowledge management (KM) people often talked about knowledge management being an oxymoron. Knowledge was by its very nature difficult to tie down – explicit knowledge was tricky to codify and tacit knowledge was even more elusive. It’s true that managing an organisations knowledge was a big ask but in my view KM failed for more pragmatic reasons and those reasons are key for us to be aware of if we are going to have a chance of making social learning work. Here are nine things we need to address if we are going to have any chance of making social learning work.

1. KM was time consuming

KM required time and sometimes substantial effort on the part of those people who owned the really useful knowledge. KM was time away from the ‘real work’ and KM activities always looked bad on your time sheet.

2. KM suffered from a poor reward and recognition framework

In the early days there was substantial support and encouragement to invest time and to share stuff but once people realised that sharing wasn’t good for them personally all that altruism slowly drained away.

3. Many more people took rather than gave

In practice KM involved knowledgeable people (usually the experts) sharing stuff with less knowledgeable people. Most people realised it was easier to take rather than give. A few underwent the pain while the mass got the gain but this imbalance was unsustainable and the experts soon stopped sharing.

90-9-1 rule

 

4. KM was technology driven

KM was hijacked by ‘big IT’ and the vendors sold a misguided vision of a knowledge sharing utopia. You can imagine how it goes: ‘Buy our system and KM will be sorted in your organisation.’ Of course they were wrong. KM needed much more than a re-packaged document management system to succeed.

5. KM was encouraged and facilitated by a dedicated team

Most organisations employed people to support and encourage knowledge sharing (I was one of them). The idea was that these people would act as the catalyst for others to participate and that KM would then grow organically. However once KM lost its initial shine and failed to deliver on its early promises the KM teams were quietly axed. The reason often given was that ‘KM was now embedded in the business’.

6. KM wasn’t embedded in the business

In practice KM was never really embedded in the business and the KM team was seen as a sort of annoyance that could be dropped when appropriate (not unlike the position that L&D finds itself today).

7. The technology wasn’t up to the job

In 2000 we didn’t have social media. We hardly had a satisfactorily functioning internet. KM systems were primarily about information and document storage, and search. In an effort to connect knowledgeable people within large organisations they also included people profiles and discussion forums which were used by communities of practice (COPs) and communities of interest (COIs). The idea was that if you couldn’t find the answer in the knowledge base you could contact someone who could help, or ask a question in an appropriate community forum.

8. KM focused on explicit not tacit

Paradoxically KM focussed on the explicit (the know what) where there was least value, rather than the tacit (the know how and why) where the value was much greater. Explicit knowledge can of course be valuable – especially to novices – but the really valuable insightful stuff tends to stay locked up in expert’s heads.

9. Sometimes the knowledge within the organisation is not enough

Sometimes you need fresh thinking. Connecting your experts may simply result in more of the same or similar solutions. Sharing beyond the silos and boundaries of the organisation can be so much more valuable that sharing within.

In the third and final post, ‘How social learning can work‘,  I’ll explore some of the ways we can address these challenges and get social learning working for us.

Designing for Learning

A social learning guru once suggested that my company name was misleading since it was impossible to design learning. Her  argument was that learning is something that happens instinctively and that you can’t design it or force it in any way.

Was she right? Is it not possible to design learning? Maybe not but we can design for learning.

Designed for Learning

We may not be able to design the actual learning that people do but what we can do is design a resource, an experience or an intervention that encourages, stimulates or facilitates learning – and this applies equally to the classroom and the online environment.

When clients buy e-learning they often start by giving us a list of learning objectives. Our task as learning designers is then to design a resource that will result in learning by those who go through it. Ultimately clients want their learners to have all learnt the same thing, but in practice what they learn will depend to a large extent on what they already know. Learners will have different ‘aha!’ moments as they work their way through the learning material.

As learning designers our key role is to design scaffolds for learning. We take information and knowledge and present it in ways that help learners make sense of it all and which help map the new knowledge to their existing knowledge. To do this we use a wide range of devices, tactics, and strategies.

Sometimes these devices, tactics and strategies are embedded in learning design methodologies. Sometimes they are just intuitive approaches honed over years of experience in helping people understand stuff.

Learning design isn’t rocket science – every day teachers design learning experiences within a classroom environment. They aren’t designing the learning but they are designing the activities and interventions that will encourage and stimulate learning.

And this takes us back to social learning. Social learning is clearly not designed learning. Social learning does happen naturally. However left to its own devices it’s very inefficient and virtually impossible to manage or monitor.  For social learning to be truly effective the environment (technical and cultural) needs to be right and this will need the hand of a designer in its widest sense.

 

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, Scoop.it 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:

Finding

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

Filtering

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.

Grading

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.

Synthesising

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

Summarising

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

Signposting

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

 

Social Learning the Skillsoft Way

Social Learning has been big in 2012 but like any new fad it’s not clear to everyone exactly what it is. For me it looks very like knowledge management revived (see Social Learning and Knowledge Management) and it’s important not to confuse social learning with learning with the help of  social media (see What is social learning?). This infographic provides a vision of social learning the Skillsoft way. One problematic aspect of the social learning utopia is the Nielsen 1-9-90 rule:

Jacob Nielsen coined a theory called the 1-9-90 theory that says out of every hundred people who join a community or network – 1% actively contribute – 9% contribute from time to time – and 90% are lurkers.

Nielsen was describing behaviour on the internet and one would imagine that the figures would be better for an internal community but from my experience in KM it’s often a dedicated few that make the greatest contribution and after a while they just stop giving when everyone else appears to be taking. See this post from Paul Dunay for an interesting discussion on the 1-9-90 rule for internal communities like Yammer.

Click on the link below the image to open the PDF and you can then click on elements in the PDF to learn more.

Social Learning Infographic

Link: Skillsoft Social Learning Infographic

Social Learning and Knowledge Management

The Nonaka and Takeuchi Knowledge Spiral

The Nonaka and Takeuchi Knowledge Spiral (click on the image to learn more)



For about five years around the turn of the century most of my days were spent helping clients manage their knowledge. Back in 2000 knowledge management (KM) was really big. Every year I’d head off to Amsterdam for the obligatory industry conference, KM Europe. We even had our own home grown conference, KM UK, with pretty much the same people but with less impressive venues. Then suddenly things went quiet – KM Europe was suddenly cancelled in 2005, KM UK limped along (and is still going today). KM had lost its way. The promises hadn’t been fulfilled. Of course KM just didn’t disappear overnight – it just degraded gracefully. One client, a very large UK multinational, shed their KM teams and announced that KM was now ‘embedded in the business’.

KM still goes on but it’s likely to be on the margins and not essential for peak organisational performance whereas in 2000 KM really was positioned as a game changer.

So what happened? That’s a good question and one which this post is my first attempt at exploring why KM failed to deliver on its early promises. And why do this sort of navel gazing now? Because knowledge management appears to be making a comeback but this time it has a shiny new suit and it’s called social learning.

The KM wave was initially driven by big tech – the idea that an organisation could somehow manage its knowledge was attractive in an economy where knowledge was as important as capital. But knowledge was elusive and the most valuable forms of knowledge refused to be stored in corporate databases. The response from most practitioners was a more people centric approach. The valuable knowledge resides in people’s heads so the best way to surface it is via conversations in communities – communities of practice and communities of interest.

Before I go into why I think social learning and KM are very closely related let’s take a very quick tour of the fundamentals of KM.

 What is Knowledge Management (KM)?

“Knowledge management (KM) comprises a range of strategies and practices used in an organization to identify, create, represent, distribute, and enable adoption of insights and experiences. Such insights and experiences comprise knowledge, either embodied in individuals or embedded in organizations as processes or practices.” Source: Wikipedia

Just like we love to debate the actual meaning of the word ‘learning’ KM people loved to debate the meaning of the word ‘knowledge’ and in particular how knowledge is different to ‘information’ and ‘data’. The knowledge pyramid graphic (see below) was seen frequently in KM circles. Most KM people used to work in ‘information management’ so you can see why the definition was so important. I don’t want to go into this debate here but one really critical thing to understand if you have any hope of applying KM is the difference between explicit and tacit knowledge.

Knowledge Information and Data



Explicit and Tacit Knowledge

Explicit knowledge is knowledge that can be codified in some way (written down, stored in a visual, or embedded in a process). Explicit knowledge is good because although it is created by people it can be stored in a system. In our case a KM system but more of that later. How does explicit knowledge differ from information? Good question (see the debate on information versus knowledge mentioned above).

Tacit knowledge is knowledge, sometimes called know-how, that resides in people’s heads and is hard to codify (write down). Why is it hard to write down? Usually because it is either complex or contextual or simply because those who have it don’t actually recognise its value (unconscious competence).

Systems Centric or People Centric?

The rise of KM was largely driven by the desire of organisations to capture as much explicit knowledge as they could and store it in a system so that it could easily be shared with others. This systems centric KM became dominant in the early days because it was fuelled by considerable investment from big tech who were re-positioning their information products as KM systems (OpenText, Documentum, Autonomy etc.). The problem facing systems centric KM was the fact that it relied on people to make it work. How could organisations get their people, and in particular their ‘experts’ to share what they knew?

To address the people issue we had people centric KM. This view of KM recognised that if people were to share knowledge it had to be both explicit and tacit and the best way to do this effectively was through direct communication in networks. Specifically networks that were created around a specific topic or area of interest or practice. These networks became known as communities of interest (COI) or communities of practice (COP). In fact the  term COP had been around before (see refs below) –  it was simply co-opted into the language of KM.

The Perfect KM System

The perfect KM system combined both the systems and people centric approaches and acted as a store for explicit knowledge and a connector for tacit knowledge. If you didn’t know something you logged into the KM system and did a search and that search would either tell you what you wanted to know or it identified someone who would have the answer. BP called it their ‘yellow pages’ and even spun a commercial product (called unsurprisingly ‘Connect‘) out of the ground breaking working they did in KM.

KM had sorted knowledge sharing. In future, organisations would be less reliant on people who knew key stuff but didn’t share that stuff effectively. In practice there were lots of problems when it actually came to making  KM work in practice and unsurprisingly most of those problems revolved around people’s behaviours and attitudes to sharing what they know.

In my next post, ‘Why social learning won’t work‘, I’ll look at what went wrong with the KM dream and why understanding why KM didn’t deliver on its initial promise has some useful lessons for those of us attempting to introduce social learning into organisations.

In the third and final post, ‘Why Social Learning Will Work‘,  I’ll explore some ways we might be able to get social learning working for us by starting small and looking for quick wins.

Learn More:

 

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.

Knowledge Management in 2005

A Compound of Alchymie

 

I was going through my old blog on Typepad tonight and came across some interesting posts from 2005/2006 on knowledge management (KM). I’m writing an article on KM and Social Learning but before I post that I thought this post from November 2005 is a nice summary of where we were with KM back in 2005.

Posted originally on ‘A Compound of Alchymie’ on 25 November 2005

There was a neat little piece by Carol Lewis on KM in The Times Career Supplement on 17th November.

It went along the following lines (italics are my comments):

Big Brained Bosses
It’s not just the grey matter of those at the top that is of interest. Knowledge management (KM) is about managing the knowledge we all possess to further the aims of our firms.

The bit about futhering the aims of our firms is insightful – and begs the question what’s really in it for us – I mean us busy knowledge worker bees?

Sounds suspiciously like thought control to me
“Knowledge management is unfortunately a misleading term – knowledge resides in people’s heads and managing it is not really possible or desirable,” says the NHS (www.nelh.nks.uk).

No point doing KM then. But the NHS seems incapable of taking it’s own medicine (it runs numerous NHS KM projects). Maybe it sought a second opinion? Actually a brief look at the NELH website shows that, like most of us, the NHS uses IM and KM pretty interchangeably.

So what the heck is it?
It is to “know what you know” and profit from it, according to www.brint.com.

There’s that profit thing again. Is it the organisation that profits or the individual? That’s a tough one.

Is knowledge the same as information or data?
This is a key dispute in KM – that all too often it is data or information management masquerading as KM. See TD Wilson’s the ‘nonsense of knowledge management’.

That old chestnut. Has it ever been properly resolved? TD Wilson’s paper tests the KM thing to breaking point.

Does anyone use it?
According to Bain & Co (www.bain.com), KM has had a chequered career. Long heralded as an essential management tool in the information age, it has grown in popularity. Bain’s Management Tools 2005 survey says that 54% of companies use it – compared with 28% in 1996 – but that satisfaction with KM is not as high as with other management tools such as benchmarking or business process re-engineering.

I’m guessing they mean 54% of big companies, but then maybe KM only really ‘works’ in big companies?

Fad or fashion?
There are high hopes that new generation of KM systems will deliver greater satisfaction. Systems that automatically analyse e-mails and documents for useful content and associations are being developed by a variety of companies. There are privacy issues but if they can be overcome KM could finally live up to the hype.

So the saviour is ICT? But isn’t that a solution to our information management problems? Maybe we need a thought control device after all – with a thought control drug developed by those clever KM people in the NHS. Then KM might really take flight.

What is social learning?

social learningSocial learning is the shiny new toy of the e-learning world. But what exactly is social learning and why has it become so popular? Interestingly the first of these questions is hard to answer since it’s effectively an emergent label – in other words lots of people are using it to mean slightly different things. More of what those things are in a moment.

Why has it become so popular? Because it somehow injects some of the buzz around social media into boring old online learning. Think learning on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and you get the idea why it seems like the obvious next place for e-learning to go. Forget the dreaded corporate LMS – welcome to the world where learning online will be social and fun!

But before we get carried away let’s establish exactly what social learning means. Well there appear to be two main views on this. One is that it is simply any learning that is somehow facilitated by or uses tools from the world of social media. So microblogs, screencasts or wikis are social media tools that can be used in a variety of ways to help people learn. In addition to providing tools to create learning content these tools or platforms can also be used to share learning with others. Think watching a video about time management on YouTube and tweeting about it to your co-learners. Lurking deeper in this viewpoint is the idea that learners will be encouraged to create learning content themselves – what is known on the web as User Generated Content (UGC).

The second seems to suggest that social learning is the fashionable new term for ‘informal learning’ and ‘knowledge management’ (KM) – in other words learning from each other rather than from a teacher or trainer. By informal learning I mean all those myriad ways in which we learn in the workplace outside of the formal training course (either F2F or e-learning). According to the 70/20/10 rule, 70% of all learning in organisations happens outside of formal learning interventions. Jay Cross’ excellent book is a good overview of what sort of things happen in this largely hidden domain. Most people will also have heard about knowledge management. Ten years ago it reached its apogee and though the concept is sound – people sharing what they know within an organisation – in practice it never really delivered. Why? Because people don’t really have the time or often the motivation to share, and even if they do share it isn’t always in a form that is digestible by others.

Of course one could argue that the most ‘social’ form of learning occurs in a face-to-face workshop.  The term social learning however is being used primarily in the context of online learning  though one could happily make the case for blending online and offline ‘social’ elements. Maybe social learning will sweeten the pill for those traditionalist L&D people who still see e-learning as the route to mindless boredom.

So is social learning just a phase or is it here to stay? Well some respected voices in the online learning world have become almost evangelical in their pursuit of the social learning agenda (see some key viewpoints below). In addition most e-learning companies are jumping on the social learning bandwagon, if only to appear innovative. This is especially true of platform vendors who are all busy ‘transforming’ their LMS’ into social learning platforms. For content developers the social learning camp represents a bit of a challenge. Will organisations continue to spend upwards of £10k an hour on e-courses when they can simply tap into all that free informal stuff that’s already washing around in the business?

I recognise the attraction of social learning. And its true that there is tremendous potential in encouraging and facilitating learning from each other. However having worked in the knowledge management space for over 10 years I’m sceptical that social learning will bring about the revolution that it promises. Does social learning give us a unique opportunity to re-invent KM? I think it might do, but we must learn the lessons from KM – which as can be expected – were more about people that about processes or technologies. In the next article I will look at social learning and how it compares with KM, and draw some conclusions about the lessons we learnt.

For those who are unfamiliar with KM I am also planning on a guide to KM for the unitiated.

The social learning evangelists:

Learning Technologies 2012 Show Review

Learning Technologies 2012

I’m always so late with my post event blogs, but then they say that you should always leave some distance between the experience and your reflection on it. This one is especially late because my website was hacked via some rogue WordPress plug-ins.

I have been attending the Learning Technologies Show (I’m not describing the conference here) almost since it started back in 1999. In the early days it was dominated by learning platforms and systems – primarily LMS’ but also KM and Talent Management systems. Since then it has re-balanced somewhat in favour of content, and these days even the technologies are so much more accessible (and affordable). In particular, the rise of DIY authoring tools and learner friendly LMS’ combined with the focus on learning content has resulted in an event that is as much about learning (or at least learning content) as it is about technology.

I spent two days at the show with a part of each day on the WillowDNA stand. I managed to see some of the free seminars on the floor of the show but didn’t get the chance to participate in the conference. Last year there was some criticism that the conference and the show were out of step but then this is a problem with all conference/show combinations. Emergent ideas don’t productise very well – there needs to be healthy signs of an emerging market before savvy entrepreneurs will risk their cash.

Here are some of my reflections of the show.

e-Learning Content

All the key bespoke content developers were there including Kineo, Epic, Brightwave, Line, Saffron and IMC. Sponge were also there with a refreshed stand and the same yummy sponge cakes. A new player on the content development front was Purple Media – the stand was modelled on the cabin of an airliner – it looked good but suffered a little from putting form before function (just like their painfully slow Flash driven website – which degrades ungracefully on an iPad). Information Transfer had the most elegant stand complete with tulips and a sort of fung-shui feel in the midst of the chaos going on all around.

Off the shelf vendors included SkillSoft and Jenison. SkillSoft were a little cagey on whether their massive back catalogue would work successfully on mobile devices but Jenison’s categorisation of their content into Shapers, Express, Pathways etc. was a useful attempt to direct buyers to content that would be appropriate for different learning contexts and form factors (see my recent article on m-learning).

LMS’ and Platforms

On the LMS front there was a return for the two old boys – Saba and SumTotal. Certpoint were there as were Upside, NetDimensions, Kallidus and Coloni. Most encouragingly there were a variety of flavours of Moodle on show from Kineo, Epic, Webanywhere, Aardpress and Traineasy. I have always liked Moodle for its trainer centric approach so it’s great to see it finally coming of age in the non-education sector. Willow’s Pathway product is actually a sort of ‘Moodle lite’ aimed at the non-education market. So far it’s been really popular with developers of continuous professional development programmes (CPD)

Authoring Tools

Don Freda demonstrates Articulate Storyline

Don Freda demonstrates Articulate Storyline

As far as tools go the usual favourites were there including Adobe, Lectora, Seminar, Zenler, Luminosity and this year Articulate had their own stand manned by Don Freda and Gabe Anderson. They were demonstrating Storyline which as expected was creating a real buzz. They were handing out a Storyline brochure which includes a URL to download a FREE 30 day trial but also when I tried it you only get to register your interest. I’m guessing that Storyline will be available very soon though. The update to Studio is also in the pipeline but I got the impression that we won’t see that until Q4 2012. Kaplan ran mini-classroom sessions taking people through STT Trainer and Content Point (Atlantic Link) but these didn’t seem particularly busy. I just sense that now Mike Alcock has left the business Atlantic Link is going nowhere quickly.

I did a quick demo of Zenler with Rakesh Vallil. Zenler is a really good alternative to Articulate if you have limited budgets. I’m going to evaluate the latest version soon and write an accompanying blog post.

Mobile Learning

Of course mobile learning was high on lots of people’s agendas with mobile authoring solutions from a wide range of vendors but the solution that most impressed me was Epic’s GoMo. This authoring tool takes a straightforward approach to authoring for mobile devices. Articulate’s Storyline is also going to be able to publish content to mobile devices but it will do so on the iOS platform via the special Articulate app. I am on the Storyline beta programme but we have yet to see the ‘publish to HTML5′ option in the beta release. It’s not clear yet whether all the functionality that is available via Flash (Articulate’s standard publishing format) will be available on iOS and whether if publishing for a Flash enabled tablet whether Flash will still be recommended over HTML5.

Video for Learning

The rise of video as a ‘learning channel’ was also apparent at Learning Technologies with the biggest splash made by Fusion with their impressive mini-theatre focussing on 70/20/10 and informal learning through the medium of video. Fusion is the brainchild of ex Fuel CEO Steve Dineen and their ‘informal learning’ platform offers a refreshing change to the standard SCORM centric LMS.

Live Online Learning

Redtray are a custom content developer but their stand this year was majoring on CloudRooms – their own virtual classroom product. Clearly Redtray are confident that 2012 is going to the year that live online learning takes off!

Social Learning

There was some talk of this new ‘paradigm’ in the show but little evidence that any vendor had really developed anything approaching a full social learning solution. I guess that the interpretation of social learning is still a little vague in many people’s eyes so it’s difficult to pin down what features a social learning platform might provide. At LT2012 Fusion were probably closest to the mark with their Fuse product and I’m keen to investigate this, and the whole concept of social learning, more closely in 2012.

Fusion Universal is the first company to design a performance and support solution that addresses the whole 100% of learning. Up until now, nearly all learning suppliers have focused on only one component of the 70/20/10 principle – usually the 10% formal course part. www.fusion-universal.com

Of course the proponents of social and informal learning approaches will hate the idea that the concept could be ‘productised’ along the lines of a traditional LMS or KM type system but there is definitely a gap for a ‘learning sharing’ platform that really combines the best of formal and informal learning approaches.

Follow-up articles planned:

Review of Epic’s GoMo m-learning authoring tool

Evaluation of Zenler authoring software

Social Learning Unconfused

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