Thursday, January 31, 2008

List of stuff to think about - LMS implementation

We have an opportunity to start from scratch with this new LMS implementation. The difference between what we are doing here and what I did with Moodle is that there are many more stakeholders. In addition - our compliance group is incredibly interested in using this tool for tracking mandatory trainings and running reports.

So it behooves us to get the setup right.

Now that we (finally) have our site up and running, we have enough technical information to start making decisions.

Below is my list of configuration decisions we need to make decisions on before we turn this loose on the rest of the organization. I kinda did this informally when I set up Moodle (because it was me and Ta and if I goofed, I was the only one affected by it). Can't be that cavalier this time. The folks who should be asked each of these questions are in parentheses.

What other questions should we ask?
Any other issues we need to consider when setting this up?
Other recommendations?

Thanks again for your help!
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Background

Our organization is going to use our main enterprise system of record to import the user accounts (we hope - there's some weird politics that just came up with that issue). The course structure is fair game and up for negotiation. Here are a few things we need to consider:

- The LMS builds custom reports based on individual user IDs OR pre-defined groups.

- Reports for a series of individuals not in a pre-defined group will have to be manipulated manually through CSV / Excel.

- Goal for setup – to minimize the amount of manual manipulation required for reports.

Questions to ask regarding User and Group setup:
- What stakeholders will need to be involved as we set up these groups? (Management + LMS Team)

- How automated will the Group setup be (mapping Enterprise system fields to the LMS). (Internal Enterprise group + Vendor)

- How automated will the Group administration be? If there is a change in the field, will it automatically reassign the user to the appropriate group(s)? What impact will this have on scoring? (Vendor)

- If a user has changed jobs, are they automatically removed from the old groups and reassigned to new groups? (Vendor)

- Who is responsible for any manual changes and what process will we need to go through to confirm these changes? (Management)

- Can deactivation be an automated process through the Enterprise system or will it have to be a manual process through the LMS? (Vendor + Management)

- If manual – what is the process for determining who has left the organization? (Management)

- Will there be a regular review of the User pool to clean up any non-users? Policy for deactivation after x months of inactivity? (Vendor + Management + Enterprise group)

Questions to ask when setting up Curriculum and Course structure
- What will our Course naming convention be for Custom courses? (Mangement + LMS Team) This will be very important for custom Captivate items. I came up with one potential naming convention based on what was already in place for the old home-grown system.

- What stakeholders need to be involved? (Mangement + LMS Team) We've already started to pull in the Soft Skills training group. I have a sneaky suspicion our Compliance folks are going to want to see this sooner rather than later.

- How are we going to organize our catalog? (Management + LMS team)

- Who will determine how our curriculum is organized and what should be in each curriculum going forward? (Management)

- Who will be responsible for configuring and importing custom content into the LMS? (Management)

- Who will be responsible for developing educational plans for each employee? (Management)

- Who will be responsible for assigning that educational plan within the LMS to that employee? (Management)

Reporting

The reason why we are implementing an LMS in the first place. It sure ain't for education (though interestingly, I've already gotten 3 questions today about online learning materials.....)

- Who should have access to run reports? (Management)
- What policies should be in place for determining who has this access? (Management)
- Are there particular custom permission types we should set up that are standard (e.g – this person can manage users and their curriculum, but cannot run a report)? (Vendor + Management)
- What stakeholders should be involved in this decision? (Management)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Repurposing Wordpress

funny pictures

Repurposing case boxes....

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I've been trying to figure out ways to create an easily searchable database that contains links and allows me to make comments for my weird little perfume hobby.

I'm not a database programmer, so I was having a hard time figuring out how to put this beast together using Access.

And then...EUREKA!

Blogs have tags - therefore I can search.

Blogs allow me to comment on things - so writing stuff up is easy.

And blogs have the advantage of allowing public commentary.

Then Harold Jarche mentioned somewhere that he uses his blog as an informal library of the stuff he learned.

Hmmm.........

I had a Wordpress account I wasn't doing anything with - so I figured I'd explore this idea further...

Wordpress as interactive database.

I think I have enough stuff in here for proof of concept.

Sakecat's Scent Project

I know most of you don't care about perfume (it's OK - I fully understand), but look at it in terms of other ways this idea can be pushed further...other applications....

Then come back here to my REAL blog and let me know what you think about the idea.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Food for Thought

Because I am still trying...despite evidence that it's not working (see lack of content on this blog).

Food for thought via George Siemens from The Atlantic.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Sporatic Blogger

I know I've been sporatic lately. Don't worry - there's lots of material brewing in the next few weeks.

- A lot of my free time has been spent repurposing a blogging tool for my nefarious purposes. I'm almost ready to unleash it on the world and give instructions how I did it. Just a little more time.....

- The LMS project is starting to (slowly) make progress. I'll discuss it at length once I get past one final hurdle to progress.

- Project Management Tools. 'Nuff Said.

- Tomorrow is a big meeting on the student employment project that has been with this department for over a year. We all hope it will end soon. Just one more iteration....

- I should have more news on the Compliance project in the next week or so.

Most of the rest of my time has been spent redesigning old trainings and developing Trainer's guides so that any one of us can pick up the guide and at least muddle our way through. That wasn't interesting enough to write about, but if someone wants my 2 cents on how to create one of these monsters for a software application I'll be happy to write something up.

Figured it would be better to stay quiet than to bore you.

See you on the flip side.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Message to the Google Analytics Developers

Christy was kind enough to break down my statistics.

What I find interesting is that each time either of us look, we get different numbers. I don't think that is related to my site suddenly becoming more or less popular within 24 hours.

Me and programming have a tenuous relationship. I've been known to destroy entire programs in 3 keystrokes. Plus I have spent many years training on badly coded applications. As a result, I'm not entirely comfortable with putting lots of little pieces of code that may conflict with each other in my blog template (see Karyn's comments in Dr. Karrer's post).

I like Google Analytics. It's pretty and gives me information on site hits quickly.

So here's what Google can do for bloggers who are more interested in subscribers than site hits - consolidate feed statistics from various subscription services (Google Reader, Feedburner, Bloglines, etc) and add it to the pretty pictures and stats that already reside in Analytics. This will give us all information on who we are REALLY reaching.

Thanks!

Wendy

The Legal Training for Staff kickoff

Disclaimer: All names and players have been masked. There is not a Legal department (by that name) at the university where I work. And the folks who do that sort of thing are not involved in this project.

I speak for myself - not the University where I work or my co-workers. This is just one person's perspective....
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I finally had a chance to meet the players for the Legal Training for Staff (LTFS) project. The names I give them are not their real names.

Soft-Skill Training Director (Stacy) - She's been doing this for years. I was impressed by both her openness and understanding of the difference between eLearning and classroom learning. She's going to be the one leading the project.

Soft-Skill Instructional Designer (Sydney - or Sid for short) - eLearning is a new initiative for the Soft Skills group. Fortunately, this woman came on board with significant programming chops. She's familiar with Captivate. Has done some jury-rigging in Flash. And has dug through some of the code in the Java files. We seem to come at this project with similar skill levels - just different application experiences.

The Mid Level Mucky Muck for the Legal Department (The MuckyMuck) - Apparently, he's been talking to everyone he can grab attempting to convert this course to eLearning for 6 years! He HATES teaching the course and is open to any changes for this to work in the new environment. His big deal is reporting. Or, as he put it -

There is absolutely no point in doing this exercise unless we can run reports and see who has done what.

The Mucky Muck's Right Hand (RH) - He is the one tasked with being our Subject Matter expert. He comes at the issue with a slightly different perspective from the MuckyMuck based on his education - but he is also very experienced in the field. He also seems to be open to our recommendations.

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Stacy, Sid and our team met the day before the kickoff meeting to make sure we were all on the same page. To our relief, they saw the same problems with the course as we did.

When we all walked into the conference room to meet with the Mucky Muck and RH - we came in with some idea of the roles our departments will play. Stacy will lead the project. Sid will do most of the Captivate work. Our group will help get the material into our new LMS (a whole 'nother story that I'll update in a future post) and serve as a sounding board for the instructional design.

This is the first time I've been to a kickoff meeting where the players didn't know each other that well. In prior jobs - project kickoff meetings consist of the boss telling the employees "here's what we are going to do" and the employees doing it. Scope, objectives and timelines are already determined.

This particular project is more open-ended. Partially because this is the first project of its type (from what I can tell) - an eLearning conversion using multiple training departments. The other reason for it's open-endedness is because everyone at the table understood that there had to be a major redesign of the course.

The MuckyMuck wants that course to be expanded into a curricular series. He wants to ultimately take all of the various trainings pertaining to Legal stuff and create a job-specific curriculum for each employee. He then wants to be able to pull reports to prove that the employee took and passed the curriculum.

I think this is entirely reasonable (actually, the training groups were happy to hear that he wants to split the course into more job-specific buckets). But more complicated issues came up during the conversation. Who is going to be responsible for determining the correct curriculum for the employee? Who is going to get the reports?

This is where some re-education comes in. The MuckyMuck is thinking that the LMS will do all of this stuff automatically for him. The problem is that there is a policy piece that has never been addressed at an organizational level. The LMS can't help unless some basic decisions have been made. I don't think he wanted to hear that right then.

The Legal department seems to understand that we are staring at a long term project with multiple components. I'm personally thinking 1-3 YEARS before all of the pieces are in place. And we are probably staring at more committees before this is all said and done.

For our next meeting - scope determination and organizing the project plan.

This could get very complicated very quickly.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Because Dr. Karrer Wants to Know.....

I'm going to cite Seth Godin's thoughts on the matter as I embarrassingly bare my Google Analytics to you all.





Oh - and I have 29 known subscribers. To my knowledge - none of the subscribers are family. And because of some directions I gave a long time ago - I suspect at least one other subscriber isn't counted (Hi Paul - miss your blog!!!)

I'll admit to not being very good (OK - I'm absolutely HORRIBLE) about collecting site metrics. I never redirected my feed to feedburner. Haven't collected any other metric tools. Haven't marketed the blog. Write posts sporatically. All of the DON'Ts of professional blogging.

One of my cousins read the blog once. His exact words - "Your blog is really interesting Wendy." Too bad mere text does not express sarcasm very well...

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Update:

Wendy, I think you have a lot more subscribers than 29. Did you mistype that maybe? Google Reader shows 289 subscribers for your Feedburner feed, plus an additional 31 for your blogspot feed. I see another 32 subscribers in Bloglines. I'm sure you have some other feed readers too, so you probably have between 350 and 400 subscribers.
- Christy Tucker


Nope - I didn't mistype that. That was the # I received from Feedburner. It's still 20 more than I expected.

Hey Christy! Can you do those of us who are lousy at keeping track of our statistics a favor and write something on how to find and keep track of our statistics. That would be an AWESOME post. I might even be motivated to do something about my lousy record-keeping. And this way, we may have a fighting chance of giving Dr. Karrer better numbers.

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Update to the update:

Hey Wendy, I'm an idiot. You do have probably about 60 subscribers, but I misread and counted another feed when I was looking at my Google results earlier. I feel so sorry--300 really seemed like a much more reasonable number of subscribers to me. Does it make up for my ineptitude at all that I think your blog is so wonderful that I just assumed you had several hundred subscribers?

I'm doing a post now to explain how I'm finding the numbers. At least I know why the numbers were so far off now.

Again, sorry for being so far off on this!


Christy - absolutely no apology needed! Even with the compliment. I actually found your original numbers both shocking and frightening. My first thought when I read your original comment - "Oh S*#%, I need to learn how to write!"

60 subscribers is still 50 more than I would have anticipated.

I'm really looking forward to your post and thank you for not freaking out as I make our comment conversation public.

Besides - these types of conversations, with cool people in the field, are one of the primary benefits of blogging. One I never considered when I started this 17 months ago.

Wendy's 1st Law of Application Training

When training an unfamiliar application for the first time - a major technical problem will occur.


Ah yes....first time in the classroom since November(ish) and Wendy's 1st Law of Application Training comes into effect.

This time - 3/4 of the mice in the classroom didn't work. Worked fine outside the application on these computers. Not in the application I was training.

Figures.

Oh yeah - and it was a full classroom too.

So what did Wendy do?

"Hey - let's figure out keystroke commands TOGETHER!!!!"

Oddly - I think it worked. And allowing more time for the students to play with their own stuff rather than covering some of the syllabus helped a lot. The 2 ladies who were nervous about computers got the simple steps they needed within their own forms and some individual attention. The others got to ask some questions and seemed pretty excited that they got to learn something their colleagues didn't know.

Lesson learned: keep an eye on the objective. How you get there is up for negotiation.

I knew those Improv classes I took in High School would do me good some day....

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Advocating for the Student

Cammy Bean reminds us once again that we have to justify our existence occasionally.

I talked about this a very long time ago (has it already been over a YEAR?!?!) in Educators vs. Subject Matter Experts. Reading Cammy's post and staring at the beginnings of a new training project have started to crystalize my thinking. Even better - the training that we will be converting is a soft-skills training.

We're going to call this - the Legal training for staff (not it's real name or topic).

The Legal Training for Staff (let's call it LTFS - the University LOOOOVES acronyms) is an instructor-led classroom training taught by the Legal Department (also not the real department). The Legal Department wants to convert the training to an e-learning tutorial. To start - they sent us their current PowerPoint and script that they use when delivering the training.

41 slides and notes.

Now, I have not attended this training, nor do I have any idea about how long delivery takes or how some of the topics are handled in the classroom. I do know that if I was handed the PowerPoint cold (like I was), I would not have a clue about what was taught. And I have a real funny feeling that the students aren't getting much out of the training as it stands.

The regular trainer for this course is a mid level mucky muck for their department. A subject matter expert who has been with the university for almost as long as I have walked the earth. He has eaten,slept, and breathed this topic and all things surrounding this topic for a very long time. He obviously knows what he is talking about.

But I have a feeling that this doesn't translate to the student - someone like me who DOESN'T eat/sleep/breathe this stuff and only has to know it to stay out of trouble.

Why did I get this impression?

- What are the objectives really? - There are some objectives - but why is one of them "communicating the existence of the department?"

A better objective, in my mind, would be to focus on why the department exists in the first place and what they do to help YOU. To evaluate - the students should know why they would contact that department.

All of the objectives in this training really should be reconsidered and rewritten so that the student has a better idea of what he or she is going to accomplish in the course.

- Organization - just reading the PowerPoint, I suspect that if the notes for the slides were read cold, the students would not understand WHY they were talking about a particular topic or how they got there or where they are going and how it relates to the objectives. I had to go back and re-read slides after slide 4. Not a good sign....

- How many examples do you really need? Now, I don't know how these examples are addressed in the classroom. It appears from the script that there is at least some cursory attempt at discussion. But when I hear the instructor say...
Now I would like to show you 15 typical daily transactions that have occured and I would like to talk about some of the [legal] difficulties....

my first reaction is to run out of the classroom screaming. Of course, that wouldn't be professional. Instead, I would probably do my best to stifle a groan.

BTW - that quote is directly from the PowerPoint notes (with the topic changed, of course).

Oh yeah, and did I tell you that the examples are in the middle of the training before discussion of resources to help solve the issue? Or which resource I should use for each circumstance I may encounter? Or how to make that determination?

Maybe we could use one of them as a pre-evaluation at that point?

Those examples would make fantastic practice fodder. The students can then learn what resources are available, how to use the resources appropriately, when to contact the department for further assistance, etc.

I seriously doubt that all students will run into all 15 situations during the course of their career, but going through a randomized selection (of maybe 5?) - they can at least practice.

Remember: this is just my cold evaluation of this particular course using just some PowerPoint slides.

There is obviously a lot of solid information in the course. The subject-matter expert knows his stuff. But this example made clear to me why Instructional Designers are so important, and why I am not worried that Subject Matter Experts are going to take these cool Rapid Development tools and shove me out of a job. First, most Subject Matter experts (at least the ones I have met) don't have time to play with the cool rapid development tools.

Second, and maybe more importantly, Instructional Designers can advocate for the student. They can help order the material so that it is easier for someone not as knowledgeable as the subject-matter expert to get one step closer to the expert's level of expertise. And isn't that why we train people in the first place?

I am meeting these people next week with another training group who is more experienced in soft-skills training. I hope to get a better feel for what actually happens in the classroom during this training, their perceived success, any gaps they have noticed and what the department is really trying to accomplish.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Getting Motivated

It's that time of year again....when thoughts turn to the inability to fit into one's pants....

I've been working out sporatically since Grad School. For the past 3 years - workouts have consisted of occasional spurts of self-motivation (mostly working out at home) followed by long stretches of inactivity.

OK - so it's pretty apparent that self-motivation can be a tricky thing. I need some form of accountability to get off my butt and do something healthy.

It can't be my boyfriend whining about how fat I've gotten (which he thankfully hasn't done. He wouldn't be walking among us if he had...)

It can't be Mom bragging about her weight loss (I'm proud of her and thrilled to see her so happy, but part of me still wonders if an alien has invaded her brain).

It can't be my friends (most of whom also work out sporatically and help me engage my vices).

Nope - has to be an external, objective source. Preferrably with a balance of punishment and reward.

In answer to my prayers, my workplace has started participating in The President's Challenge. The motivator here is that I don't want to embarass myself in front of my new co-workers. There is also some sort of reward system attached as well - though I'm not entirely certain what the reward is yet.

The program is the adult version of the Presidential Physical Fitness Award . Instead of being forced to run 400 meters and banging your head on the floor performing sit-ups as fast as you can, you have to log how much exercise you have done in a day and how strenuously you exercise. The goal - 5x per week, at least 30 minutes per day.

The emphasis is on just getting out and doing it. The second level is for those who are already active and disciplined.

As I decided to participate, I realized that my biggest motivational problem is that I don't have any concrete goals (besides wanting to fit into my jeans again). I'm not overweight - more out of shape. And setting goals like "I want to be able to throw the average body weight of my graduate committee 15 feet" just doesn't work for me anymore. Without goals, I find it very tricky to benchmark my success. Without those benchmarks - it's tough to stay motivated. And those benchmarks have to be worthwhile and achievable.

The President's Challenge provides both a goal and some accountability.

It's one thing to do something because "it's good for you." But that often isn't enough for an activity that takes longer than a couple of hours. Think about the success of your "voluntary" eLearning initiatives. Heck, think about the success of the "mandatory" ones. What's really motivating them to finish the course?

Friday, January 04, 2008

Beginners Mind

I may have said this before - but the greatest thing about my current position is that I no longer have to be an "expert" in whatever it is I'm supposed to be teaching.

Signal vs. Noise pointed to a New York times article about how expertise can hinder innovation.

I had a feeling I was becoming too "expert" in Electronic Medical Records and was beginning to run out of patience for the repetitive questions any new user would ask when something is not user-friendly. I also found myself creating more shortcuts in the training the longer I worked with this particular application and becoming more resistant to ideas about how to teach because I've done it for so danged long.

Going through the often painful learning process and giving up the "expert" hat has helped to clarify the material I am developing for the University. I am the one asking the repetitive questions to the experts. I am the one "breaking" the system.

Giving up the "expert" hat has made it easier for me to see new ways to help the learners. Objectively evaluating what you are doing is tricky when you've been teaching variations of the same class (whether online or in the classroom) for many years.

I'll admit - not knowing what I am talking about is incredibly unnerving. For control freaks like myself - it's a tough position to be in. But so much of what we talk about in these blogs is about helping learners learn. NOT "delivering material." NOT being the expert who knows all.

I'm finding that my fellow learners are getting more out of me pointing to resources and legitimately NOT KNOWING than they do when I just tell them. And this particular crew (faculty and staff) has been amenable to doing a little more legwork than I'm used to making them do. As a result, the follow-ups have been more useful and the learners still feel like I'm helping them. Even better - the learners have been very good about calling me back and letting me know what they found. We all win!

Wish I could keep this "new person" hat longer....

Thursday, January 03, 2008

My Crystal Ball is Fuzzy

Mad respect for those who can get their heads around trends in eLearning and predict what 2008 will bring.

I suspect my lack of forward vision is directly related to the major changes that have occurred in my career recently. Tough to predict the future when you are not entirely certain what is going on in the present.

I'm still seeing noise about community, social applications, visual thinking and games. Still seeing lots of navel gazing about definitions (web 2.0, 3.0, community) and what to do next.

I don't have the mental bandwidth to contribute to those conversations right now. I'm still trying to figure out how to log into the applications I'm responsible for and where I can wash out my tupperware without decimating the bathroom sink (no sink in the "kitchen" at work).

I reckon the only thing I can do to contribute is individual action. Continue my somewhat unscientific and haphazard attempts to build learning thingies that work - ideally for the learner. Keep learning about all the new and spiffy tools (both material and intellectual) out there and play with them to see if they serve a need. Participate in the wide world of the educational blogosphere and, hopefully, increase my real-life participation. And share what I discover along the way.

It's really no different from what I did last year. But it led to some amazing places - I figure I ought to stay on the path to see what's next.