New Paradigms for Course Delivery

The Ministry of Instructional Design

The Ministry of Instructional Design

As I write this I am participating in two exciting courses. Each course is an example of how new paradigms for course delivery are coming to the fore in this online world. I will probably write more about both of them in the near future, but will kick off today with just a simple explanation of both courses.

Rapid eLearning Development
LearningAge Solutions has developed an online course about Rapid eLearning Development. I am a participant in the pilot group: I don’t have a course fee to pay, but have committed myself to giving weekly feedback so that the course can be fine-tuned.

The “Ministry of Instructional Design” (LearningAge Solutions)

Part 3D computer game, part social network, part collaborative learning, the ReD course will teach you how to build effective elearning and informal media using leading elearning author tools.

Designed by Rob Hubbard of LearningAge Solutions with input from some of the smartest people in the elearning industry including Clive Shepherd, Jane Hart and Patrick Dunn. This is a course unlike any other,  designed to show how great elearning can be and built using tools that you too can master.

The way that this course is created/structured is smart and inspiring (regardless of the content which is good too). The course is made from a loosely coupled set of (mostly) free online web applications.

The core of the course is a private Ning network which has links to all the other parts of the course. This is the place where participants do reflective blogging and where people hand in their assignments and comment on other people’s assignments.

Mindmeister is used for mindmaps that contain the learning objectives for each module, ClassMarker contains a couple of knowledge checks/assessments, Dimdim delivers the web conferencing functionality and there is a 3D game made with the gaming technology from Thinking Worlds.

To me this type of course design shows that it is not necessary to assume that one single tool should deliver the full learner experience. It is perfectly viable to use a collection of tools and use each for its strengths. Once I have finished the course I will post a bit more about my experiences.

Connectivism and Connective Knowledge

This is the second year that George Siemens and Stephen Downes (actually my two favourite learning gurus) organise the  “rather large open online course” Connectivism and Connective Knowledge. It is their attempt to destabilise the concept of a course.

The course is open to anyone. You attend freely if you do not need any university course credits, or you pay if you do. The course is decentralised (or maybe “loosely federated” is a better word): the two facilitators set out reading materials and organise a couple of webcasts every week, but the meat of the course is to be found in the discussions that participants have (online in Moodle forums) and the reflections that participants post on their blogs.

A single tag, CCK09, is used by all participants for their posts. This pulls the all the course activity together and makes it easy to find course related postings (e.g. on Twitter or in the blogosphere). By connecting to people with similar interests, it is possible to go on a tangent and explore the things that you want to work on in relation to connectivism and connective knowledge.

A daily newsletter is sent out. This is an edited version of the aggregated posts and discussions and includes commentary by Stephen Downes. Just reading the newsletter is already incredibly valuable.

I tried to actively participate in this course last year, but was not able to keep up with it. It requires a lot of discipline to study this way: there is no passive consumption of information. Instead it requires a lot of effort to select what you want to read and post your reflections. I hope I will be able to do better this year (although things are already not looking good right for that to be the case)!

Learning 2008: Wrap up of day 2

Here are some more things that I thought were though-provoking, interesting, relevant or funny on day 2 the Learning 2008 conference:

  • Out of Control

    Out of Control

    One of my personal heroes was speaking today: Kevin Kelly. He is one of the founding editors of Wired Magazine and has an incredible depth and breadth of knowledge about technology in this world. A couple of months ago I read his wonderful Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, & the Economic World. He wrote it in the early nineties, but he was so ahead of the curve that it is only now that people are really starting to get the implications of what he was writing about. In this conference he spoke about his general outlook on technology. He is an optimist and thinks that technology will be a solution to many of our problems (this is also the basic premise of Wired Magazine). If the current technology isn’t working, then what we need is better technology. He even goes so far as to say that technology isn’t morally neutral, but morally good. It is our duty to bring technology to the (developing) world. When it comes to learning it would be interesting to see how we can become more individualised (compare the snowflake effect mentioned in an earlier post) and still leverage the increased power of the group. His recommendation to businesses who want to turn themselves into learning organisations is to start by becoming a teaching organisation. Learning and teaching are symmetrical.

  • I attended a discussion led by Aaron Silvers titled “Rapid Development: Operational & Strategic Impacts”. Most people in the US use Articulate to author content. How do you maintain your content when you use a lot of audio and video? Does video production have to be expensive? Aaron has been using a lot Flip cameras in his company. Devices like this can change the way we create content. My ex-colleague Marcel de Leeuwe has just bought a similar device and has used it to interview me (in Dutch) about my thoughts on the conference: a very quick method that still produces decent quality. Nigel Paine (former learning officer at the BBC) was later in the day talking about how these small video cameras were used by the BBC to capture small nuggets of knowledge or wisdom inside the company. These were then shared and could be rated. This became a big resource which was used a lot and created some true workplace heroes.
  • The session led by Russ Sharp of the BMO Financial Group was interesting for two reasons. Firstly because he told us that the BMO’s LMS is Docent 6.5. They have a license till 2013, but have just heard from their vendor that there is no upgrade path now that they have merged with SumTotal. To me this is another clear indication of why you should try and find open source solutions for your problems: you can be sure that doesn’t happen to you when you are the master of your own software. Russ did not become a pessimist though: he sees the coming years as a chance to reorient the company on their learning strategy. He toured the US visiting companies (like Sun and Cisco) to see what they were doing and looked at 3d worlds, social networking, user generated content, etc. His most important lesson: different businesses have different solutions and there is no silver bullet.
  • In the closing session of the day Masie interviewed Nick van Dam, the Global Chief Learning Officer of Deloitte Touche. He explained the fascinating new HR philosophy of Deloitte. They are in the “Human Capital” business: meaning that they do not have software or hardware to sell, but are all about the people. They need to “grow people fast” and can only do this when they allow people to “customise” their own career. It should be possible to keep on changing your career plan: slow down and work less one year and then speed up the next. This will be the only way that they can Deloitte will be able to keep their employees. Nick also heads the global nonprofit e-Learning for Kids foundation. They are dedicated to putting free and fun e-learning materials on the Internet for children aged 5-12. Pay them a virtual visit: they have some very creative stuff online.

That was all for day 2. Day 3 will be the last day already.