Friday 28 November 2008

When an economic crisis hits eLearning, what do managers have to say about it?

I really need your help here, if you are a conscientious eLearn provider, please add to the discussion (on your blog, forum, here,… anywhere). I came across some old school thinking and solutions regarding eLearning (see below).

There is an old economic tendency that in times of crisis the training department budgets get cut. For more then one reason I tend to disagree with this tendency. When a crisis hits your organisation or company, that is the right moment to rethink training and boost it. The same with R&D (research and development), because it is by rethinking you can outrun your competitors. If something did not keep you from a crisis, something is amiss and new methods can help you overcome them. You need training to get people thinking out of the box (or broaden their box) and you need training to implement new methods that will counter the crisis within the company quickly.

Last week I read an article on the subject in the sciencedaily, which was also listed in and prlog and in innovationsreport (it is a press release issued by Online Educa Berlin - OEB): “The present world’s economic woes are opening up new opportunities for innovative forms of education and training such as informal learning, e-learning and blended learning. Faced with shrinking budgets, the use of learning technologies is becoming increasingly attractive for businesses: This was the appraisal articulated by the consultants and training professionals who responded to an impromptu survey undertaken by the international e-learning conference Online Educa Berlin.”

In the press release there are some nuanced quotes and then a very scary one. A nuanced one from Sue Martin from Global Certification Portfolio Manager at SAP: "In times of tight or zero travel budgets and increasing environmental awareness, the importance of learning technologies has to be given a second look.”
Yes, I agree. A second and in-depth look at training (face-to-face and eLearning) is the way to go. But will eLearning cost less than face-to-face? Well, not sure, certainly not in the beginning of the development. And the myths of eLearning could pop-up again too.

With this in mind I predict a growing need for more qualified eLearning evaluators. They will enable management to get a good idea of what works most efficiently (yes, I am also an eLearning evaluator) and it will result in solid eLearning.

But then the article lists a very scary quote!

Christophe Binot, E-Learning Manager at the French oil firm Total, adds: "The newest solutions make it possible to turn a PowerPoint presentation into a course for a thousand employees within two hours. The ROI outperfoms training in a classroom."

What the HUH!!! eLearning is NOT about turning some kind of stupid non-descriptive, non-assessing powerpoint into a course! Can you imagine the non-interactivity of these powerpoints?! I mean in TWO HOURS! Oh my lord and goddess! How can OEB keep this quote in a press release? They know better than that. Okay he will be a keynote speaker at their conference, but looking at what is quoted here, I can almost imagine what his speech will be about (but I give him the benefit of the doubt, miss quotations have been made before).

Maybe winter is getting to me... darn dark clouded days...

CALL FOR mobile learning PAPERS - Deadline for submissions (2nd call): 19 December 2008

For the mobile enthusiasts out there (and if you have not put in a paper) look below. I am part of the review committee and the conference and speakers looks promising. All submissions are subject to a blind refereeing process:

IADIS INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE MOBILE LEARNING 2009 Barcelona, Spain, 26 to 28 February 2009

* Keynote Speakers (confirmed):
Professor Angela McFarlane, Director of Content and Learning at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK Professor Hiroaki Ogata, Dept. of Information Science and Intelligent Systems, University of Tokushima, Japan

* Conference background and goals

User Created Content & Mobile Technologies: From Consumers to Creators bypassing the Learning opportunity?

Over the pass three years Mobile and Social technologies have featured strongly in the Horizon Report series which examines emerging technologies likely to have an impact on teaching, learning. Mobile devices have progressed from an adoption projection of two to three years in 2006, to a much more imminent adoption prediction trajectory of a year or less in 2008.
Whether earlier the educational value of mobile technologies was thought to be delivery of content to people's devices, the emphasis now has clearing changed to focus on their capabilities that enable users creating and sharing content.

The 'former audience' combines traditional activities such as searching, reading, watching and listening, with producing, commenting, sharing, and classifying its own content. New genres of filmmaking and photography where the message gains ground over the form are developing. The proliferation of user-created content is fuelled by the wide availability of at-hand mundane technology such as mobile telephones, and the wider broadcasting outlets. These are mainly web-based however increasingly user-created content such as videos of breaking news stories feature in traditional broadcasting channels as for instance television.
The increasing range of web 2.0 and mundane technology choices, facilitating the development of user-created content and providing opportunities to meet and collaborate, offers immense potential for teaching and learning. However, the danger remains that the transition from consumer to creator might miss the learning opportunity.

The IADIS Mobile Learning 2009 International Conference seeks to provide a forum for the discussion and presentation of mobile learning research. In particular, but not exclusively, we aim to explore the transition from content consumer to content creator in experiences that take advantage of the learning opportunities this provides.
* Format of the Conference
The conference will comprise of invited talks and oral presentations. The proceedings of the conference will be published in the form of a book and CD-ROM with ISBN, and will be available also in the IADIS Digital Library (accessible on-line).
The best paper authors will be invited to publish extended versions of their papers in the IADIS Journal on Computer Science and Information Systems (ISSN: 1646-3692) and also in other selected Journals.

* Types of submissions
Full and Short Papers, Reflection Papers, Posters/Demonstrations, Tutorials, Panels and Doctoral Consortium. All submissions are subject to a blind refereeing process.

* Topics
We invite researchers, practitioners, developers and all those working in the mobile learning arena to submit work under the following topics:
- Pedagogical approaches and theories for mLearning
- Collaborative, cooperative, and Contextual mLearning
- Creativity and mLearning
- Gaming and simulations in mLearning
- mLearning in educational institutions: primary, secondary and third level
- Informal and Lifelong mLearning
- New tools, technologies, and platforms for mLearning
- User Studies in mLearning
- The social phenomenon of mobile devices and mLearning
- mLearning in developing countries
- Speculative ideas in mLearning: where next?

* Important Dates:
- Submission deadline (2nd call): 19 December 2008
- Notification to Authors (2nd call): 19 January 2009
- Final Camera-Ready Submission and Early Registration (2nd call): Until 2 February 2009
- Late Registration (2nd call): After 2 February 2009
- Conference: Barcelona, Spain, 26 to 28 February 2009

* Conference Location
The conference will be held in Barcelona, Spain.

* Secretariat
IADIS Secretariat - IADIS INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE MOBILE LEARNING 2009 Rua Sao Sebastiao da Pedreira, 100, 3
1050-209 Lisbon, Portugal
Web site:

* Program Committee

Mobile Learning 2009 Program Chair
Inmaculada Arnedillo Sánchez, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

Mobile Learning 2009 Conference Chair
Pedro Isaías, Universidade Aberta (Portuguese Open University), Portugal

Steering Committee
Agnes Kukulska-Hulme, Open University, UK
David Parsons, Massey University, New Zealand
John Traxler, University of Wolverhampton, UK
Mike Sharples
, University of Nottingham, UK

Committee Members: *
* for committee list see here

* Co-located events
Please also check the co-located events:
e-Society 2009 - 25-28 February 2009
Information Systems 2009 - 25-27 February 2009

* Registered participants in the Mobile Learning' conference may attend e-Society and Information Systems conferences' sessions free of charge.

Thursday 27 November 2008

Low resource areas and mobiles: get into online forums for global knowledge dissemination:

Mobile Telephony in Rural Areas’ is the latest virtual forum that is organised by e-agriculture.
The forum has been running for a few days now and it is worth a visit and/or additional discussions. You must register for the forum first. Mobile phones are the success story of bridging the rural digital divide, bringing tangible economic benefits and acting as agents of social mobilization through improved communication. But what are the real challenges that face reaching rural areas, and what are some of today’s most beneficial applications that can help these rural communities, specifically regarding agriculture development?

This Forum examines the challenges that rural communities face in enhancing the benefits of mobile telephony, and looks at some examples of interesting initiatives and good outcomes from around the globe.
There are a couple of experts attending the discussion amongst which Christian Kreutz, who I know always delivers great content and ideas.
The forum is part of a global initiative to enhance sustainable agricultural development and food security by improving the use of information, communication, and associated technologies in the sector. This is your chance to interact with subject matter specialists on the topics of your choice. If you would like to suggest a Featured Forum topic, please send an email to
For more information on online events, we recommend the CGIAR document 'No Travel required', which can be downloaded in PDF format here.

What they write about themselves: E-Agriculture is an emerging field focusing on the enhancement of agricultural and rural development through improved information and communication processes. More specifically, e-Agriculture involves the conceptualization, design, development, evaluation and application of innovative ways to use information and communication technologies (ICT) in the rural domain, with a primary focus on agriculture.
E-Agriculture is a relatively new term and we fully expect its scope to change and evolve as our understanding of the area grows.

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Facebook in case of divorce

Just a suggestion for sociological research in social networking software's.

In a divorce you want to do two things: split up everything of value and leave the past behind while moving on without too much of a hassle. Facebook and other social networking sites make this virtually impossible.

You know how it goes. You split up, you divide books, cd's, movies... and in the next few months you get frustrated because you keep searching for the books, cd's, dvd's you once bought yet no longer can find anywhere. But hey, after a couple of months and some therapeutic talks with friends, you let go of those once treasured items and you go on.

With facebook this is no longer possible! Ex-partners can now suddenly pop-up and start facebooking as well. They - of course - add shelfari in which they mention the books they have read ... and lookie here, some of those titles look really familiar.
They add a profile mentioning what type of people they really don't like (characteristics that look amazingly familiar when you read them). Other also familiar objects suddenly get sold on eBay (this was a gift from my nana!). And to top it off, you suddenly see them linking themselves to people that are 'your' friends. And because your friends are polite, they add your ex-partner to their network. By now you are clicking like mad on your ex-partners profile because you cannot belief your eyes... and as a result you see your ex-life passing in front of your eyes yet once again. By now - if you are a bit of a nervous type - you might be wondering if there is something like a constraining order for social networks?

I am lucky, my ex-partners and I get along just fine. We frequently look each other up (during which time we swiftly take one of 'our' books from the partner's shelves and push it underneath our sweater or coat while exiting quitely). But some of my friends are having facebook-divorce-shivers, inspiring though, I never looked at facebook this way.

Anyone interested in researching the subject? Anyone have other examples?

‘Cartoon by Nick D Kim, Used by permission.'

Tuesday 25 November 2008

QRcodes in eLearning

While QRcodes do break through in the marketing world, it is only slowly trickling into the eLearning world. This is quite understandeable as QRcodes are mainly used with mobile devices (small segment of learning) and within mLearning only a few people explore QRcode possibilities.

“QR Code is a two-dimensional barcode, used widely in Japan. The advantage of QR Code from well-known barcode is larger data capacity (more than 100 bytes, typically) and error correction.” (from: I have been writing on the topic in previous blogposts, but as Online Educa Berlin is approaching, I want to share the presentation I will give at OEB2008 (if you follow the slideshare link, you can also download this presentation).

If you are interested and around Berlin on 3 - 5 December 2008, join me in the MOB21 session on Thursday, December 4, 2008 from 14:15 - 15:45 and it is called 'Extending the Range of the Mobile Phone' in room Tiergarten together with other eLearning colleagues:

Gavin Cooney, Learnosity, Ireland
Voice: The Killer Application of Mobile Learning

Mathew James Constantine, IE Business School, Spain
Mind the Gap – Narrowing the Distance to the Learner

Sarah Cornelius, University of Aberdeen, UK
Real-Time Simulation on the Move: The Learner Context

The overall description of this session: What do you use your mobile phone for? Checking information? Taking photos? Playing games? Presenters in this session will describe all sorts of different applications of the mobile phone in teaching and learning – join them to see just how far you can stretch mobile devices. This session is chaired by prof Herman J. Van der Merwe, Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa.

Feel free to add your QRcode links and hope to see you in Berlin next week!

Friday 21 November 2008

eSCART 2008: the demo of the international online course

I know, I know, it is obvious I like this course. I did write about the final report of eSCART2008, but know we have just launched our demo of the course.

It is a short demo and admittedly it can ask you to download the latest plugins of both Flash and Quicktime, but we are working on the low bandwidth option as I write this.

In the meantime, if you are interested, take a look at the course demo (made with Articulate engage). If anyone is interested in the software we used to develop the whole course, I will gladly send the list.

Thursday 20 November 2008

finding eLearning information through a community

Yes, a critical mind is necessary in this knowledge world.
Yes, knowing how to find stuff is increasingly important.
Yes, there are a lot of us eLearning people floating around the web.

And Yes, a redesigned resource is out there for you to find and stroll through. I use RSS, but frankly it takes time to keep it relevant and up-to-date. And RSS has one thing lacking... it does not tell you what you might be interested in or what topic you need to get into. So now, for those times I don't have a feed (or not yet) on a specific relevant topic, I surf to the eLearning Learning community pushed by non other then Tony Karrer.

Tony has a great eLearning blog called eLearning technology on which he posts his great eLearning (focusing on corporate) insights and challenges his readers regularly through the 'Big Question'. His blog was awarded the best eLearning blog in 2007 by Edublog. Yes, he is an inspiring eLearning pioneer.

So, if you are looking for something eLearning related, surf to the eLearningLearning community, choose a keyword, tool and ... find it.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

eSCART2008: an online course for low resource settings - the final report

Today I proudly post our (= ITM's) final report on the pilot course of our newly build full online course: eSCART2008.

I did write about the subject while the course was under construction, in that post I focused on the pre-survey we gave the learners.

For those interested, you can look at the the full report on the pilot in which you will find our modus of operandi, the changes we have made during the course, etcetera.

In a couple of weeks ITM starts another eLearning course for health care workers in the field specializing in ART (AntiRetroviral Therapy). The response for this course was overwhelming and we were booked immediately. This course was presented in a pilot phase (from IT perspective, the content is already full prove from years of experience but not in an eLearning fashion). We redesigned the face-2-face content so it meets eLearning Quality standards, but we also added specific eLearning features (more interactivity, (limited) social media). The coordinator of this medical eLearning course (and main tutor) is Verena Renggli she will go and work for the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Basel beginning 2009 (she returns to her home country: Switzerland).

We started with a big learner group (over 40) because we wanted to make sure our finishing group would still be relevant... it turned out that 84% of the learners finished the complete course because they were so enthusiastic about the delivered material! We had learners from all over the world (the Tropical world): South-Africa, Myanmar, Cambodia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria... so that made it quite a unique experience as well. An institute is lucky if it has such strong learners.

The pilot phase of eSCART, offered over 3 months, was a full success. Although the course was offered for free, the retention rate was very high (84%) and the course was highly appreciated by the participants. Through offering the course content not only online but also on a CD Rom, problems with connectivity could be limited. The 22% increase in the average score of the posttest compared to the pretest reflects the increase in knowledge of the participants. It is interesting to see that the increase in the score of the pre- and posttest during the face-to-face SCART is similar to that of eSCART (19% increase).
To offer an eLearning course is very work intense. Not only the development and constant updating of the course content required a lot of time, but also the tutoring of the course. The presence of the course and expert tutors was shown to be of high importance for the ongoing learning process and motivation of the students. In future, the group of participants should be limited to a maximum of 25-30 participants per course to maintain a good communication between course and expert tutor and the participants.
However, it can be stated that not only the participants did learn during the course, but also the course and expert tutors, through all the postings (comments, questions and answers to questions of colleagues) in the DF by the participants.

I am proud to be working in such a great, creative and strong eLearning team.

Friday 14 November 2008

Online Educa Berlin 2008: Jay Cross for a whole day of informal learning

Online Educa Berlin in nearing and as such I am building my agenda. I have a couple of sessions in which I will be (partly) active, but for this post I would like to focus on the session Jay Cross is guiding.

On Wednesday 3 December 2008 Jay Cross will be guiding all the participants through a whole day workshop on informal learning (10.00h - 18.00h). During which a couple of volunteers (Graham Attwell, Nicola Avery, Stephen Citron, Peter Isackson, Charles Jennings, Nick Shackleton-Jones, Steve Wheeler and I) will drop in and add their two cents to the topic. The voluntering guides are asked to listen in for five or ten minutes and then tell all the participants who they are and hop into the conversation. Share your thoughts for five minutes or so (nice concept of building a network with outsiders and insiders during the workshop).

Description of the full day event:
An action-packed, informative, hands-on experience of informal learning, Web 2.0, and Learnscape Architecture. The metaphor for the workshop: a high-speed journey over the
Grossglockner Alpine road..
Topics include:
  • how to design and nurture learnscapes, the ecosystems of informal and web-based learning;
  • the explosive convergence of informal learning, the read/write web, internet culture, and new business models;
  • how network effects impact organisations, changing the nature of learning and human performance;
  • case studies of a dozen organisations that are accelerating informal learning with wikis, social networks, collaboration, podcasts, tagging, graphics, and online teams;
  • how internet cultural values such as transparency, rapid prototyping, giving everyone a voice, peer-based decision-making, and openness impact learning and development;
  • how to apply an informal-learning maturity model to successfully bring on-demand learning experiments into an organisation;
  • preparing to deal with the conservative forces of “paradigm drag” by understanding “the state of the art” in Europe, Silicon Valley and worldwide;
  • using learnscapes to increase innovation, improve productivity, become more responsive, serve customers better, and help people grow professionally;
  • what organisational leaders can do to nurture productive learnscapes;
  • reinvent learning as active, collaborative, need-driven adaptation to change.

Each participant will receive a copy of Informal Learning, Rediscovering the Natural Pathways that Inspire Innovation and Performance and of Jay’s new un-book, Learnscape Architecture, Getting Things Done in Organizations, a six-month visa to the Internet Time online repository of learning resources, and membership in an ongoing community of practice.

One remark: you will need to register for this workshop and it costs 390 EUR, but you will get a lot out of it. For more information surf to this link.

If you are free and in Berlin during that period, join this workshop, it will be fun!

Wednesday 12 November 2008

mLearn08: MiLK: students building mobile learning games in higher education by Debra Polson

Debra Polson is a very enthusiastic speaker.

She showed showcases of custom mobile games. Debra motivates students to develop mobile games and they love it!

All of the examples are about Fun first, then Educational. Examples mentioned: Scape (an urban sustainability education tool), Scoot and Milk (the mobile learning kit), I will focus on this last one.

MILK: explore, research, design, publish, play, reflect. (the mobile learning kit)
It is written in php scripting + database technology.

It is all about connecting students, curriculum and everyday environments using simple web and mobile technologies. In half a day they learn all about botanical gardens, creating their own activities and playing it with each other. While testing Milk at Trinity Bay State High (with more reluctant students), the students came up with activities and learned more then they bargained for. One conclusion was that peer assessment is a HIGH motivator. Students wanted to create GREAT games, because their peers would play the game and give feedback on it.

Another example:
MiLK has been used to deliver course curriculum for Master of Fine Arts, Design and Technology students from Parsons, The New School for Design. The collaboration studio course, ‘PLAYLab’ was delivered by leading game design experts Katie Salen and Melanie Crean.

The course was delivered through exploration of three related domains: Game Design, Psychogeography, and Microfictions. The students were asked to develop new gaming concepts for MiLK for play by both students and teachers, propose and develop supplementary platforms or content, and prototype, playtest, and document their research findings.

It is a scaffolding tool for narratives, which makes it really student-centered.

From Milk's website: the MiLK system is custom made for schools. MiLK is basically a set of simple web interfaces that enable individuals (teachers and students) to design and populate there very own mobile games. The milk-building interfaces are designed to work like a simple series of storyboards with areas to upload images and write SMS text. Once the game designers have submitted their final designs, the storyboard content is dynamically sent to registered users mobile phones in a sequence and style the designers have planned. All communications are then stored and displayed on the students milk-journal for later reflection. The milk-journal is a web page generated by the Milk system and password protected. Students can add comments, upload images, send it SMS and MMS messages and share it with other group members. The teachers are also able to track these activities and set some specific assessment tasks.
We have a number of Primary and Secondary schools in both Adelaide and Brisbane currently trialling the system.

Long live Australian creativity!

mLearn08: mobile ePortfolio's by Selena Chan

It was a chaotic couple of weeks in which I learned a lot, and now it is time to send it in to cyberspace.

During mLearn08 there were a lot of inspiring speakers and because of the parallel sessions I could not see all of them, but I would like to share the one's I found inspiring.

Selena Chan (photo by Alexander Hayes) who works at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology in New Zealand gave a presentation entitled "evaluation of a m-Learning pilot - narratives of workplace skill acquisition using mobile phones". This session was inspiring because her learners were bakery apprentices (so not your average mobile learning crowd, yet a very eager set of learners).

Selena is an energetic, but in non-verbal attitude a bit shy speaker. Working on a phd on tracking identity formation.

What really blew my mind was the fact that her apprentices choose their own mobile social media AND that they were not eager to learn in a classical style before they took up this apprentice role at the workplace. So this mobile learning really went into the real student-centered learning cycle as the learners choose what software apps to use and what to put on them and the learners learned without being the enthusiastic classical learners (yes, respect).

Why did they use mobiles as learning devices: they did not have access to computers (the apprentices), but all of them had mobile phones. Ten units standards are used.
Allow students to collect evidence for their work and put this in their m-portfolio.

This educational institute really got into social mobile media as well! An amazing set of tools, that are screened for their usefulness by the institute.
The great thing is also that the apprentice could suggest their own mobile apps. For example:

Multiply for audio (remark for myself: get into this a bit closer)
COMIQ is the favorite of the apprentices for this specific application (just take a look it is GREAT for k12 students... and I :-)

evaluation of the project
  • familiar tools to learn unfamiliar processes: it works
  • extensive support required
  • different ict skills in apprentices are addressed
  • use students' existing social networks so they immediately get into the program
  • cost of web access limits mportofolio concept
  • web2.0 sites usability issues need to be taken into account
  • make no assumptions: let them (apprentices) guide you and really listen to them

An apprentice got 50 dollars if they participated in a trial.
They followed the activity theory framework.

future directions
  • meshing mobile with desktop
  • customisable portfolio platforms
  • peer feedback loop - using mobile phones (at this time this was not the case)
  • richer narratives of lifelong learning.

At the end the apprentices got a challenge test in which the apprentices needed to demonstrate that what they claimed they did was actually real.

Selena is also a blogger, if you are interested in a presentation she gave on this topic as a keynote speaker in 2007, look at this pdf.

How she came to this project is explained in this video in which Stephen Parker interviewed Selena.