Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pop-ups within Training courses

Random pop-ups advertising undesirable content/products are more a
feature of random web surfing than of going to a known location for a
specific course.

Unfortunately the web is being destroyed by the "solutions" to unethical
behavior. So, while a pop-up may be a good idea for training, default
browser settings have annulled it as an option.
1. Microsoft has set their defaults to disable all cookies from
non-Microsoft sites. Cookies can be very useful for training that is
taken across several sessions.
2. Microsoft has set their defaults to disable "Active Scripting" (aka
JavaScript) while at the same time enables "ActiveX Controls" (aka the
mechanism by which spyware installs itself on your computer). Without
JavaScript, you have to use plug-ins (like ActiveX or Flash). ActiveX
should be disabled because it is a really bad security risk. It is
designed to seamlessly merge Word, PPT, Excel, Outlook, etc. with the
web/outside world. Of course since you could write a complete operating
system within Word, this opens the door. Java, on the other hand, is
designed to not allow the web into your hard drive, but it is getting
really hard to deploy because the MS operating systems avoid supporting
it. The newer MS-operating systems are easier to lock-down, making it
impossible for a regular user to install the plug-ins.
3. e-mail filters/spam blockers are blocking lots of legitimate e-mail.
Many spam blockers don't let the sender know about the blockage, so
there is no way of knowing if your e-mail is being ignored or if it
never arrived.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tips for creating effective content

eLearning works best when...
1. Content is broken down into 10-20 minute chunks (a "courselet").
Interruptions usually happen faster than that, but 10-20 minutes is the
general concentration span before saturation (or boredom) kicks in.
2. Courses are built so that they can be taken over several sessions
3. Content is searchable so that students can come back to it when they
need details. That is, instead of making them memorize a series of
steps for a procedure, teach them where they can find those steps
written down. When they need it, they should be able to get it.
4. Content is delivered at the student's pace, not the instructor's.
Avoid self-propelled PowerPoint (especially those with flying bullets
and dancing pigs.) Instead provide more web-like delivery (like Google
5. Content shows up quickly - avoid long downloads like videos or a
Flash that has to download entirely before playing.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Creating courses that work well on the web

Wouldn't it be great if LMSs and course
developers got away from the print paradigm (fixed, pre-defined size courses)
and evolved to the web paradigm (size based on end-user
preference/needs). Nothing in SCORM or AICC requires fixed screen sizes
- these are just a compromise because so much eLearning is implemented
by graphic artists (rather than subject matter experts or instructional

It is nice that Flash content can resize, however, I believe it still
has serious accessibility and searchability problems. Blind readers
cannot obtain the content nor can search engines without an external
(XML, for example) dump of all the text. Typically this dump does not
contain the content instructional organization that an HTML-based web
course would contain. For fully sighted students, a search engine that
can bring them to content based on keyword search is an enormous
productivity boost. We should really be tapping the power of the web
(just-in-time research/training) rather than trying to hammer presential
training precepts (fixed size content, fixed seat time, test only at the
end, etc.) in order to have successful eLearning.

Friday, April 11, 2008

advantages of eLearning

Here are some advantages of eLearning:

1. Asynchronous content can be available 24 hours/day. This way, in organizations lie hospitals all 3 shifts of staff can view content during their down time. Also, employees can view the content from home, when a live presenter would be unavailable.
2. If done properly, the content can serve as a just-in-time reference. That is, instead of people memorizing all the procedures, they can learn where to look it up (e.g. a search engine on your training site). Then, they can look up the details as they need them. (Avoid PPT converted to web-viewable content - it is not complete enough for self-paced material or as reference material. Trainees will skip
through it as quickly as possible.)
3. Trainees can view the content over and over until they understand it. Present each topic in 4 or 5 different modalities (e.g. simulation, video, step-by-step procedure, picture sequence, etc.) This way you can reach all different learner. (In face-to-face training the instructor can only address the majority needs.)
4. Content done properly can reach the disabled without needing extra

If you only provide information in an eLearning format, it is important that the content use best of breed web approaches in addition to sound instructional

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Where Wikis fit in

Wikis can work as reference repositories (not as training courses), but
the following is needed:
1. A writing style that everyone must adhere to.
2. A librarian person who can review and delete content that is
3. Discipline by ALL people involved to ensure that content is not
inadvertently deleted or changed to follow one person's opinions.

If the above conditions are not met, the wiki will suffer from:
1. Material will become obsolete from lack of care
2. One or two people will dominate the content
3. A mischievous (or disgruntled) employee can undo or sabotage all the
work done by the others

Where Wikis will not work is as training material. There is no real
flow or instructional organization. A wiki can soon become an
umanageable jumble of random articles and opinions, just like many
collaborative web sites have become.

Additionally, there is no requirement that the trainers create/maintain
the wikis. If the trainers hand off all wiki creation to the subject
matter experts, they will soon find themselves obsoleted, unless they
make a good case for the need for instructional design.

In my opinion, wikis can be useful as an adjunct to training courses.
Similarly, the training courses (if produced as web content rather than
as face-to-face content ported to the web) can become the material for
just-in-time training. A good course building tool will allow a simple
search engine to index the content in the courses. Once you have
searchable material (and a search engine), web courses become true
"just-in-time" training.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Creating a collaborative course development process

Creating a collaborative course development process. While good tools can help, it is fundamental to have a process that properly assigns the various tasks in the collaborative process to the individuals involved. "Good separation of the tasks into those done by subject-matter experts (who should ultimately be responsible for assembly and maintenance of the courses), graphics experts (who are currently responsible for the assembly and maintenance), quality assurance, and other roles will improve the process dramatically."

As for tools, there are two basic types available, including "server-based" tools and "desktop-based" tools.

Server-based development tools, he says, include learning content management systems (LCMSs) and wikis. Yet, while such tools are quite seductive, strong and firm processes need to be put into place in order for them to work successfully, warns Moser.

"If everyone is using a browser-based authoring tool to modify the same collection of course content, there is a high risk of concurrent development resulting in disjointed courses. These tools also suffer when changes are desired to large graphics/multimedia files because they require re-upload of the entire file before any preview can be done."

A desktop approach, on the other hand, is similar to the way in which people typically create and manage complex Microsoft Word or Microsoft PowerPoint documents. Each contributor is given an assignment by the project lead, and these assignments vary from several chapters of text and/or development of specific multimedia to creation of specific graphics and/or designing a course navigation look and feel. Each contributor then uses the specialized tools for his or her tasks (e.g., Microsoft Word for text development; Flash, Camtasia or ViewletBuilder for simulations; and Photoshop, Illustrator or PaintShopPro for graphics). Finally, a desktop-based e-learning or Web-content authoring tool is used to assemble the content.

Friday, April 4, 2008

So what is wrong with the Next button?

Just exactly what is wrong with a "Next" button?  I agree that if it is
the only navigation available, the student is boxed into an
organizationally vacuous course (e.g. PowerPoint). If you don't have a
"Next" button (and a "Back" button), then you just have a collection of
interlinked pages with no instructionally recommended order.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

PDA/Smartphone support for web courses

Each PDA/Smartphone seems to have different capabilities in their
built-in browsers. Some like iPhone have good support of JavaScript, so
it is possible to use HTML-based SCORM courses (like those produced by
the ReadyGo Web Course Builder) directly from the device without the
need for installing another player. Meanwhile Flash-based courses will
be beyond the reach of any PDA/Smartphone for a few more years. I don't
know of any PDA that supports Flash through their browser.

We have posted a course with our experiences (to-date) at

We're impressed by the quality of the Minimo browser (firefox/Mozilla
for Windows Mobile), but unfortunately, our experience is that an
overwhelming majority of end-users will not install new applications on
their cell-phone.