Thursday, January 17, 2008

Think about it - is online different then classroom

A big problem with online training is that people are not
really modifying their approach to fit the new media. I've given this
analogy before, but it bears repeating. Have you seen clips of early
television? They had cameras trained on a symphony orchestra playing
music, followed by cameras trained on radio announcers reading stories.
This was television's effort to move to the new medium with as little
modification as possible. Many people felt that it was not worthwhile
to buy televisions because they didn't provide more than radios. So why
do you want to move your live training to the internet? If cost is not
an issue, the participants should be happy to travel to your location
and match your schedule. However, I still know lots of companies that
are budget conscious - I just want more people to have access to training.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Thinking about SCORM

People have interpreted SCORM for more than what it can do. The
underlying assumption regarding SCORM seems to be that you are using an
LCMS and that you want to do output-side reuse (rearranging existing
compiled content rather than recompiling the course). Frankly, this
will not work. How many times do you take printed documents (especially
with each line already numbered) and physically cut/paste them to create
a new document? Taking the built course modules and trying to cut/paste
them into a new course is exactly the same process.

Reusability works when you can create a new document based on previous
assets. I am using the word "assets" because this is the SCORM term
used in SCORM 2004. I think the "asset" idea for sharing is much more
sensible than the SCO idea. There are assets that you may want to use
among several SCOs (e.g. a multi-page glossary, a page of FAQs, a single
graphic). This concept was missing from SCORM 1.2. Reuse among courses
should generally be done at the asset level, rather than at the SCO level.

The tool I work with (ReadyGo) is designed so that you can easily re-use
a sub-page, a page, a chapter, an entire course, a FAQ page, an
individual test question, a look-and-feel template, a glossary, a
certificate template, a tracking configuration, etc. Notice that
"look-and-feel" and "tracking configuration" can and should be re-usable
and transferable independently of the content. While not technically
"content", the content would be un-usable (or just basic text) without
them, and they should be viewed as components of the course equivalent
to text or individual graphics.

The re-use process consists of selecting of copy/pasting from one course
to another within the authoring tool from the outline view (or as
Christie mentioned, from the TOC). Then, you regenerate the course,
thereby creating content with a consistent look and feel, consistent
page numbering, a new table-of-contents, etc. (In ReadyGo, the
appearance is generally separate from the content, thereby allowing much
greater re-use.) With an LCMS approach, re-use consists of rearranging
components that are already built, possibly using different authoring
tools, different appearances, etc. This can easily result in disjointed
"ransom note" courses.

The SCORM philosophy will work best if we go back to its original
purpose which was to ensure that you could re-use existing (compiled)
content from one LMS to another; not from one COURSE to another, or from
one authoring tool to another. Right now they are caught between trying
to ensure that a course will work well on any LMS (therefore, it pretty
much has to be static) and the Web 2.0 concepts of content aggregation
in real time from multiple sources (thereby breaking LMS-independence)
Note that the LCMS approach may even be negative - can you move your content from one LCMS to another, or to another LMS, even as already-built SCORM modules?

People are much more efficient when they use input-side reusability
(prior to generating/printing - as exemplified by desktop applications)
rather than output-side (LCMS SCO reuse/physical paper cut/paste).
Otherwise, we'd see a lot more adoption of server-based presentation
(equivalent to MS-PPT), document (equivalent to MS-Word), spreadsheet
(equivalent to MS-Excel), project tracking (equivalent to MS-Project)
tools with output-side reusability.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Outsource vs in-house

Since the dawn of Data Centers IT managers have wrestled with the question: Should I bring the application in house or should I pay monthly fees for someone else to manage it. This age old problem is even more important then ever. Software companies have embraced managing software for their customers. In the old days this was called "timesharing" today it may be called SOA (Software as a Service), Hosted Solution, or Application Service.

  • Outsourced/Service: The advantage of this approach is less setup. Disadvantages include potentially high total cost (if done on a per-user basis), limited access to result data and potential lack of security (because data is hosted on someone else's server).

  • In-House Hosted:Advantages include a fixed software price, more control over look and feel, and "total control" over result data. More setup is required with this approach but the process is faster because the author does not need to do everything through a browser.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

New technolgies and eLearning

New technolgies represent a very powerful way of doing things. A good application that shows the power is Google suggest. "As you type, the browser goes back to 'Google' and gives you suggestions as to what is available to fill in."

The main problem with new technologies found in Web 2.0, is that they are solutions in search of a problem to solve. "The SOAP/AJAX technology solves the problem that if someone fills in a blank on a form, you may want to give him feedback (from a remote server) without reloading the entire Web page. Basically, it lets just one part of the form be updated based on information that is retrieved from a server in real-time. This is only really needed if you can't incorporate the information into the Web page when it is being delivered to the student. So, you could create a single page, for example, that gives results from various search engines as the user inputs information into one field."

The biggest downsides are ...
  • In order to develop content that uses this, you need to be a "power programmer." You need to be able to code the Web pages to use the AJAX approach (basically, each piece of your Web page can go off to a different server and ask for information when the user clicks, mouses over or types in that piece of the Web page); you need to be able to write and debug the server-side component(s) that provide the information; and you need to make sure that these behave nicely.

  • Not all browsers support this type of architecture yet. In the newer versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer, you have to use an ActiveX component. This opens you up to security issues. (The AJAX ActiveX component doesn't, but allowing ActiveX does because an ActiveX component can do anything to your computer once it is allowed.) Older browsers won't handle it, so you need to make sure your page "appears well" with older content.

  • If you are going to provide services, you will need to publish a description of your interfaces so that the power programmers can use them. You'll also need to ensure that there is no way to breach the security of your "services."
If you can find good applications that require the communication/feedback in almost real time -- that AJAX provides -- you may find that traditional approaches will work just fine."

Monday, January 7, 2008

Using ReadyGo to turn content SCORM Complient

I have been asked by a number of organizations the following: "We are searching for an editing/creation tool that will allow us to transfer our raw content into a SCORM-compliant module that we can then give to our partners for their LMSs. We are looking for an 'off-the-shelf' application that can be purchased."

If the user is able to copy and paste existing content, you should consider ReadyGo Web Course Builder (price is $499 per developer). The software is template-driven -- thereby providing "inherent instructional design" and freeing the course developer from extensive visual layout work (without losing the flexibility of implementing proper Web layouts).

With a simple menu selection, courses can be regenerated for AICC (about 15 different variations already created), SCORM (about 20 different variants based on different LMS capabilities available), no tracking, e-mail based tracking, or tracking through ReadyGo's Server Side Testing module. Depending on the in-house custom LMS interface, it might even be possible to add an interface to that system cost-effectively."