Friday, December 29, 2006

Making Pie Crust

In his comments to my post You Just Had to Be There.... Kevin McCluskey writes:

I hear what you are saying but it kind of indicates that learning is always the same. synchronous learning is better because of context and the give and take between participants. Others might say that Asynchronous learning is better because you have time to think over ideas before you react. Neither answer is complete because learning is more than either synchronous or Asynchronous methods. To me it depends on the situation. Some times one works better; other times not

All learning and tool choices are situational.

Personally, when I have to design a course, I ask 2 questions:

- What is the ideal way to present this material to ensure optimum learning outcomes for my audience?

- Given the resources at my disposal (time, money, people, space, tools) - how do I need to modify the answer to question #1.

To demonstrate: let's say I have to learn how to make a pie crust.

Optimum learning scenario: I go see Mom and we spend time making pie crust. I can see what she does, feel textures, smell the pie baking and eat the pie - looking for texture and flavor. Dragging a recipe and notes back to my small apartment kitchen, I attempt to replicate the pie crust (practice). The result is then brought back to Mom for critique and we try again. At some point during the process, Mom shows up in my small kitchen to see the environment in which the learning takes place. With enough practice - I make good pie crust.

This process is synchronous. The takeaway (the recipe and notes) allow me to repeat the process asynchronosly at a later date.

Mom lives far away: Mom sends me a recipe via e-mail (I managed to drag her kicking and screaming into the 21st century). I call her while I make the pie crust to ask questions. If both parties had the resources, I would send her mobile pics of the various stages for her to critique. I feed the pie to my friends for feedback. I repeat the process until I find a pie crust I like. What's lost - there is no way to truly communicate appropriate textures without getting your hand in it. You are also missing the feedback loop from an expert on the process.

The initial process is asynchronous (the e-mail) with a synchronous component ("Hi Mom!")

Mom is a terrible cook and everyone you know buys pie crust at the store: I find a recipe for pie crust, follow the directions, and hope for the best. I can also watch a cooking show which will give me more visual information on how pie crust is made and what I should look for. I keep finding recipies and making notes until I find a pie crust technique I like and that my friends will eat. Disadvantage - requires a HUGE amount of self-motivation. And if I tried to tackle this without knowing some basics (like how to turn on the oven) - it might be trickier.

The majority of the process is asynchronous (text and video.

All 3 processes will ultimately result in me being able to make decent pie crust with enough motivation, money (for ingredients) and time.

In other situations - a dominantly asynchronous learning process will provide better results. From what I've observed - asynchronous techniques work best with an audience with prior experience and well-designed tools.

For example, I find software applications easier to learn and teach through well-written text and interactive online tutorials. The student is able to learn at his or her own pace without feeling rushed. A synchronous component for individual questions (such as a chat room or a phone call) allow the student to get past stuck places and gain needed reassurance. It also provides some accountability.

Rick Lillie writes:

Think tools. To me a blog is a tool. Elgg is a tool. Microsoft Office is a tool. Google Docs and Spreadsheets is a tool. The question to ask at any moment is which tool is the right tool for the need at the moment? Which tool will enable the learning need at the moment to be met?

I'm a big fan of using tools - physical, virtual, and intellectual. Who says we have to use them in the prescribed manner?


End notes:
- Mom makes GREAT pie crust. Me - not so much......

- Dr. Lille's blog has some interesting ideas and tools for developing hybrid technology methods. Thanks for the link Dr. Lille!

- Commenters:
If you are a blogger or have a web page, please send me a link at the end of your comments. I get so much valuable information from your comments and I want to share your sites.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

You just had to be there....

Sandra Dickenson, in her post What does an e-learning community look like, describes an experience where she and a group of online learners collaborate on an image modeling how learning works. The group used a combination of chat and the collaboration tool to create the image above.

I’ve shared this image with a few other people - they don’t even think its interesting, let alone feel the powerful emotions and insights expressed in this image. Now that its static and preserved - so much of what it really means is gone - and we can only get that back if/when we do it again. When we got done making this picture — I absolutely had to preserve it — I was on such a euphoric high over what we had just made together.

If Sandra showed this picture to one of the participants of the class, the picture will have meaning and context. Looking at it as an outsider, the picture looks like a colorful collection of scribbles.

This had me thinking about the difference between synchronous and asynchronous eLearning communities.

In a synchronous learning community, in many instances, the process is the point. As Sandra points out, a tremendous amount of learning occurs in the push-pull of conversation. The downside is that these communities, by their nature, are exclusive. The objects that the community leaves behind oftentimes make no sense to anyone outside that community. They are missing the context.

Asynchronous learning communities, such as the blogosphere, generate objects that are meant to be referred to in the future. These objects can be used by the members of the community or by outsiders. The disadvantage is that the community members miss the instantaneous feedback loop. At certain points in any creative or learning process, the push-pull of others ideas in a rapid-fire fashion is necessary for progress.

I will admit that I prefer asychronous eLearning over synchronous eLearning, both as a teacher and a student. I like being able to mull over content and think through responses. I have found in chats, interactive video, teleconferences, and classrooms that the loudest person / fastest typist wins. Synchronous learning, to me, rewards the least introspective. I've always felt that some level of introspection is necessary for me to absorb new material. Of course, I'm a bit of a navel-gazer by nature.

My opinion - the best eLearning experiences , and the strongest online communities, provide both asynchronous and synchronous experiences. Looking at the number of people on the eLearning blogs who are grappling with changes to the field, Brent's Corporate eLearning Talkcast could prove to be the perfect synchronous forum for strengthening the community and providing the synchronous push-pull that helps synthesize and make sense of these changes.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gearing Up for the Big Project

Over the next few months, I will be putting the Moodle install, my training strategy, my presentation skills and my stamina through its paces. I hope to document our Electronic Medical Record upgrade over the next few months.

The main reason for the Moodle install is to help us with a major upgrade to our Electronic Medical Record. This upgrade is, essentially, a brand new program. If we don't get people into training of one sort or another - the entire organization stalls.

To complicate the picture, our organization (the CEO) wants to go live with this new program 60 days after the program is put in our test server. No change management time.

Oh, and did I mention that this program is in controlled release for Beta testing.

And that we are one of the first organizations to even SEE the program.

And there is little documentation...

And the vendor's trainers haven't seen a working version of the entire upgrade yet....

And there are only half-finished movies available for online tutorials.....

You see where this is going.

The training challenge on my plate is to train this new upgrade to 2000 people in 10 business days.

The vendor's recommended "Basic" level for the upgrade is 7 hours of material. We need to add more of the functionality beyond "Basic" to match what we are currently using.

My tentative estimate of training time per person - 5.5 hours. This includes chopping out stuff I hope our end-users figure out for themselves and NO practice time.

We are fortunate that the vendor wants us to be successful and is providing 3 trainers. This will allow the in-house folks (i.e. Arlene the Medicine trainer, Gesine, and me) to continue building training materials, provide support, and finish configuring the system (the trainers also do some system administration).

Our biggest problem is training space. We have 1 12 seat classroom. Our current space strategy - try to get classroom space from the affiliated university during midterms. Those of you who work for universities can stop laughing now....

So below is my first draft of our training / change management plan.

Week 1 - Project Team Training and Preliminary Configuration
- Project Team Training for the IT department from the vendor. Start configuration of system.

- Moodle. I have already opened up a course with vendor-provided information to the rest of the organization. I can't start developing our customized materials until we get the upgrade into our test servers and finish the preliminary configuration.

Week 2 - Change Management
- Start of weekly 2 hour SuperUser trainings. Because we have so many people, the departments are being forced to take more responsibility for getting through the upgrade. Each department (with some browbeating) gave us 2 people who will be the first line support for the upgrade and will provide training for any stragglers. Since we will have about 50 SuperUsers, we are going to place the SuperUsers into 4 cohorts. I will train 2 and Arlene will train 2.

These trainings will give the SuperUsers practice time with the system and give the IT department feedback on the configuration.

- Town Meetings. We are planning a series of 5 town meetings so that the providers and staff can see the system for the first time. We are asking the vendor to be there so they can answer questions (and take the heat) about the changes to the system.

- Moodle. I will be trying to crank out new tutorials. Moodle will be used in parallel throughout this upgrade in an attempt to get everyone their preferred mode of training.

Weeks 3 - 5 - Change Management
- SuperUser trainings continue

- Moodle. I will still be cranking out tutorials for Moodle and encouraging people to take a look.

- Departmental Meetings. The IT department will hold a series of Departmental meetings so that the individual departments can see Moodle and decide as a group how they want to use it. We hope to get workflows out of these meetings as well.

Week 6 - the calm before the storm
- SuperUser Training
- Moodle. I hope to have the tutorials for the upgrade finished.

Weeks 7-8 - Upgrade training!!!!
- SuperUser Training. The SuperUsers will do the final test of the live system with the IT Department.

- Face-to-face. The vendor's trainers will be teaching this course. For week 7 we hope to get 2 computer rooms from the university. Week 8 - 3 computer rooms. I did this knowing that our students will procrastinate. It is mid semester for the university at this point so I'm not feeling nearly as optimistic as the boss about getting the space for 2 weeks running. I'm still working on a plan B.....

- Moodle. I'll be opening a chat function within Moodle for the online users for 4 hours per day outside of business hours each day those weeks. I'll be running daily reports from Moodle to see who has done what on the system.

I'm hoping that lots of people take advantage of the online option. Mostly to keep the pressure off.

Week 9 - Go Live
- Face-to-face. I am teaching 1 Upgrade training per day during Go Live week to catch some of the stragglers who insist on IT-led training. The SuperUsers will be responsible for most of the training and support in their department.

- Moodle. I'll still be running reports on Moodle and offering chat for 4 hours per day outside of business hours within the online class.

- Advanced training. I'm going to offer an advanced class for the more ambitious providers towards the end of that week.

Week 10 - Winding Down
- SuperUsers. The SuperUser training turns into a 1 hour standing meeting to address issues and questions.

- Moodle. I am going to build some advanced tutorials and reorganize the existing training to mirror the changes to our system. All of the tutorials for the old version are archived.

Week 11 - I go far far away for a long vacation.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Adding a Google Analytics Feed to your Blogger

Techie notes (my apologies for the lack of pictures).

Step 1: Open a Google Analytics account. Having a Google account makes this step much easier.

Step 2: Click Add a Website Profile. This link is found in the Website Profiles header on the right side of the screen.

Step 3: Add your site's URL, your country, and your time zone. Click Finish

Step 4: You will be given a box with some Javascript to copy and paste into your blog code. I copied and pasted this into a Word document for safe keeping.

Step 5: Open a new window and log into your blogger account.

Step 6: (I am using Old Blogger), Go to Template > Edit Current

Step 7: Scroll to the bottom of the code. Paste the new code between /div and /body. It should look something like this:

Step 8 : Save the template.

Step 9: Go back to Google Analytics. You should see a message stating that Google Analytics is now receiving data.

I find that it takes about 24 hours to start receiving reports.

Hope this helps.

Becoming an Egotistical Narcissist

Sandra Dickinson, in her comment to my Fear of Blogging post notes:

...the responses to what I have to say are NOT showing up as comments on my own blog. They are showing up in other people's blogs. VERY hard for me to find out about and keep track of and keep going with. So its not just fear in the first place, but some discouragement after awhile, if you can't figure out how to see what the response is.

I'll admit that my reasons for starting and continuing to write the blog are purely selfish. I do this to clear my head. I never anticipated anyone caring enough to read this, much less comment, link, and blog about anything I have to say.

That said, to my surprise and delight, I find myself tapped into a robust community of like-minded souls. This has made me curious. And more narcissistic than necessary.

Strategies I've discovered so far....

The blog reader (currently using Google Reader).... it always surprises me when I find my name in the post. I think it is some other Wendy, until I follow the link and it takes me to my site. BTW: Googling yourself is quite an education, if you are one of the few who have not done so yet.

Technorati - From this, I can tell that Tony Karrer has linked to my blog a lot. :' )

Google Analytics - I started playing with this tool this past week. Very informative and eye-opening (who knew that people from China, Turkey and Burnsville, Minnesota were looking?). Downside - it doesn't keep track of RSS subscriptions. For the curious, I'll add techie notes in another post.

Bloglines - I just started playing with this tool today - hoping to answer Paul Fender's question about my RSS feed. Very cool that it keeps track of how many people have RSS subscriptions to your blog within Bloglines. Wish Google Reader had that features....

I also noticed the BlogRoll feature in Bloglines. Aesthetically, I'm not a huge fan of buttons and links and other stuff on the sides of my blog. I'd rather shout about (and link to) someone's cool idea from the rooftops. But that's just me. I'll probably play with Blogroll over the next couple of weeks.

In my ideal universe, everyone would make their blogs feed-reader friendly, with full posts, so I don't have to click on the site at all unless the blog owner points out an interesting comment stream or I want to link to their post on my own blog. I am lazy.

Speaking of keeping track....anyone out there have any other suggestions for keeping track of what is going on with your blog?

An Open Apology to Brent Schlenker

I just finished participating in Brent's new Talkcast Corporate e-Learning Weekly.

With enough participation - this could prove to be a very active discussion space. Especially since we don't get enough chances to synchronously chat with each other.

And we can only type so fast....

Brent - my apologies for lack of audio. I've been having sound input problems on my laptop and had no mic. I also had a cell phone with a dead battery.

For anyone else who wants to join his talkcast - do the poor man a favor and give him some audio. Call in or Audio Skype. It will make for a more interesting podcast.

Brent - thank you so much for allowing me to participate and for your patience. You handled that with incredible grace.

Have a great holiday.

RSS Feeds

For those who are interested...

On Bloglines and Google Reader I've been successful copying my home page URL and pasting it into the subscribe area of the appropriate reader.

My home page:

I just tested this on Bloglines (dang - who knew I had 19 subscribers...)

At some point I'll getting around to putting in a formal RSS feed thing.

For those of you reading this directly off of my site - thanks for reading.

Recommendation: DEFINITELY try Google Reader or Bloglines. I've been using Google Reader. Blog reading is more efficient this way. The only downside is that you don't get to read the comments or see some of the pretty graphics.

Hope this helps.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Playing Games

For our department's holiday party, the boss took us all to Dave and Buster's. For those of you not familiar with this chain, imagine a large restaraunt filled with video games, some billiards tables, and skeeball.

As I've admitted before, I'm not much of a gamer. Since gaming is the next big thing in instructional technology, I figured it was time to start playing.

During my explorations, I found the following (please excuse my lack of memory for names, it was late and there was alcohol involved).

The Snowmobile game: You sit on a snowmobile with similar controls and race down a hill against other people sitting next to you. This was one of the two games my boyfriend and I kept coming back to. Why? There was a goal(i.e. get down the hill faster than everyone else). The controls were intuitive. I didn't have to do anything fancy if I just wanted to get down the hill. If I wanted to punch people, I had to push 1 bright red flashing button. Mr. Flaky has a mean right hook.

Air Strike: Dave and Busters has you walk into a jungle bunker with 6 seats of this game. You are a gunner on a battleship (Why the restaraunt has you walking into a jungle bunker is a question I didn't think of until now...). You and the other people in the game shoot down as many planes and enemy battleships as possible. I found myself recruiting co-workers so we can shoot planes down together. One of the best team-building exercises I've seen in a long time. I found that my colleagues and I would start developing strategies for getting the enemy. "You take this quadrant and I'll go after this boat..."

The Zombie Shooter game: I think this was based on a movie. You and your friend are 2 teenagers who have to defend themselves from zombies. My boyfriend and I hated this game for 2 reasons: 1) There was no way to turn around and the zombies would attack from behind. 2) The controls were not intuitive. You have to point away from the screen, shoot, then shoot the screen. There were also a lot of buttons on the gun you had to push to do simple things like duck and jump. I panic when I am being attacked by zombies and forget which button controls which action.

Thinking about the experience...I've discovered 3 characteristics that make games engaging for me.

1) There is a concrete goal. You get down the hill faster than anyone else. You shoot all the planes.

2) The time for each exercise is reasonably short. Gameplay for each level of the games I liked took about 3 minutes. You then move on to something else or a greater challenge (depending on the type of game / goal). If I want to stop, I can.

3) Intuitive controls. If I have to think hard about what button to push while I'm playing, I get frustrated. If I have to finesse the controls on top of it, I get even more frustrated. This may be why Xbox, Playstation, and many PC-based games hold little appeal to me. I can't keep track of what button I'm supposed to push when and find myself mashing buttons at random hoping to get the thing on the screen to do something useful. Posessing bad small-motor skills doesn't help.

So if I'm going to design a training game for our organization, I'll want it to have these 3 features. If it won't engage me, it sure won't engage my audience of technophobes.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Five Things Meme

I'll admit I am not a huge fan of chain letters or tagging games.

Since I have not met most of you in person, I think this is a good opportunity to get to know each other.

Thanks Karyn. I am incredibly flattered you though of me.

So here it goes...5 things you may or may not know about me...

1) I worked at Stone Mountain Park as a laser show technician between '92 and '94. I got to play with powerful lasers and large fireworks. A very cool job - if not terribly renumerative....

2) I am new, avid, golf hacker. Best score to date - 118. And that includes only 1 use of the infamous "overhand wedge" (i.e. throwing the ball out of an inconvient spot - like a bunker). Best legitimate (rules of golf) score - 125.

3) My personal goal for this winter - learn how to snowboard without spending time in the hospital. When I ski, I am the snowplow queen - so I can't be much worse at snowboarding....

4) I am a brand new auntie. Matthew Allen Wickham was born on November 30, 2006 at 9lbs and 7 oz. I look forward to hearing about my brother's hands-on learning experience...

5) My History MA thesis was on the cultural use of Ilex Vomitoria in Georgia.

Tag, you're it!!!! (apologies to those who have already been tagged)

Brent Schlenker
Mark Oehlert
Tony Karrer
Karl Kapp
Alvaro Fernandez

Fear of Success

Brent Schlenker sent me another nice comment on my post Playing in the Digital Sandbox that I'd thought I'd share for those of us who read blogs on feeds:

I think Paul touches on something a little deeper and may not even realize it. Much of that fear is NOT based on what if nobody comes, or what if it's a fad. The fear for many is that people WILL come, and people WILL begin to create their own content and make their own connections with the covetted SMEs. Then where will the value add be for those practicing old school ISD? Its the fear of success for many, not the fear of failure.

It takes a lot of courage, both on the individual instructional designer level and on the organizational level, to allow individuals to create content.

If we're serious about being educators, that's the way it should be.

Think about it:

- People learn more if they are forced to put concepts into practice - through teaching, applying the information in other contexts, creating things for public consumption, etc.

- As educators, we are about helping people learn more (right?).

So why are we so afraid?

I'm seeing a growing consensus in our little corner of the blogosphere that our job, as it evolves, is to create environments that motivate people to learn things, rather than content.

This change in emphasis is long overdue.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Badly Needed Conversation

Mark Oehlert and Karl Kapp are having a badly needed conversation between a practitioner (Mark) and an academic (Karl) within the blog comments for Mark's post If You Believe It's Broken - How Do You Change Our Industry/Models/etc.

Read the comments from bottom to top.

Personally, I've noticed that our little corner of the blogosphere makes these conversations much easier. Practitioners get new models and ideas to develop learning. Academics get a better understanding of their models in practice.

I think we've been missing the feedback loop.

Playing in the Digital Sandbox

Paul Fender hints that it's not just the desire for control that prevents us from adopting web 2.0 tools, but fear of failure...

The fear that we’ll stick up a wiki and no one will use it. The fear that we’ll learn how to podcast and it will turn out to just be a fad. The fear that we’ll start blogging and run out of things to say (not a problem for me ). And, as illustrated by the too lengthy story above… the fear that we’ll go out on a limb and others will think we’re not perfect; that we some times make mistakes; that people will think we’re really just full of bu!!sh@#.

What if you put up a social software tool and no one comes......

In my Moodle install, I've put in some forums. I've been asked about wikis, blogs, and chat spaces. And Paul is right, we can't control how our end-user choose to use these tools...or how others feel about us.

If we listen to the end-user, we may ultimately find a more effective use for all of these tools. Or find that the tools aren't worth using. Isn't that the point of this whole "2.0" exercise?

I am fortunate that I work a space where I feel safe taking huge risks - both my work environment and the blogosphere.

So what big risk have you taken recently?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Update: Talk vs. Action

Soon after I wrote my post Talk vs. Action, I received a phone call from the Neurosurgery Manager.

"Wendy, I'm in this Moodle thing! This is really neat!!! Do you mind if I share this with some of the other staff? I have some people who have been trained and forgot how to scan."

This is the entire point behind this project!!!!!

I also noticed that 3 more managers have logged in since that post and looked at things in the system.

Every person who logs in on their own, with no further prodding on my part, is a victory. If they share with their staff - further victory. I want this thing to be one of those "word-of-mouth" tools that people use because it is useful and works for them, not because it is mandated from higher up.

I've been involved in too many implementations where I had to browbeat people into using new software. Having spent the past 5 years serving as the main punisher, the last thing I wanted to do with this project was spend my time pounding on people when I could be helping them. It will be a nice change of pace if I can pull this off.

Physician Reaction

Friday, I presented Moodle to our Pilot Clinicians group. This group consists of the more tech-savvy doctors in the organization. These are the people who help make decisions about the configuration of our Electronic Medical record, make decisions about workflows and point out problems with our system.

I wish there were more than 5 people at the meeting this week, but I got excellent feedback from the group. Even better, they seemed excited.

What made them happy:

- They liked the reporting mechanisms.

- They liked that all of the tutorials were available under specific job titles. (This is the 3rd group that has looked at this form of tutorial organization and liked it, so I am keeping the course categories)

- They liked that I encouraged them to use the system for training their residents and offered to help.

Other questions/comments they had:

- Does this thing have chat capabilities? Yes. And we can sit down and play with the tools to see how best to use them.

- Does this thing have forums? Yes. All of my EMR courses have 2 forums, 1 for questions (and an encouragement for others to answer questions), and 1 for improvement recommendations for the course. These are not gradeable, but can be. The docs thought this was very cool.

- Does this thing have wikis? Yes. I demonstrated one I put together for a project planning area for our upgrade. The wiki capability generated the most discussion.
+ What is a wiki? (This from the doc that is supposed to be the most tech-savvy in the organization. Eeek.)
+ Why can't we see who makes which change right on the page? My answer - It's in the history. The wiki is a living document. Once a wiki is deemed "final", I can help them convert it to documentation.

The exciting thing about these meetings is that people see what I am trying to do. Even better, the "behind-the-back" noise is just as positive. If something wasn't right, I would know about it.

The next trick is to get other people in the organization to take some ownership and help shape the system so that it works for them. A much harder task.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Talk vs. Action

I have been introducing Moodle to the Manager level over the past couple of weeks and watched to see who uses it and who doesn't.

As anticipated, the gap between talk and action is huge. The challenge - figuring out ways to bridge it.

My change management timeframe for this tool has shrunk dramatically since we moved up our major upgrade to January and reduced the time from installation in our test servers to live from the recommended 20 weeks to 60 days (don't ask).

The system has been positively received verbally. I've received some enthusiastic comments during these meetings. Thus far, I have seen only 2 people outside of the IT department log in and play with the system. This includes the senior management (with a whopping total of 0 logins).

Within IT, I've noticed that the new employees are the ones most enthusiastically using the system. Particularly the network folks. This is encouraging.

The applications team looks at it, likes it, and ignores it. They see it as my baby and a distraction to the "real work" - administering our existing applications. They are also incredibly fixated on the idea that we (I) need to have face time with every student. I suspect that their fixation with classroom training is going to diminish significantly as we find that we don't have the classroom space, bodies, and time to train 2500 people in 2 weeks with what appears to be over 4 hours of material just to prevent our organization from grinding to a stop. I may have to leave that particular issue to the fates.

Looking back, I should have involved the applications team more while I was building the site.

Thus far, I have come up with 2 strategies for bridging this gap.

1) All of the upgrade documentation and materials will appear on this site. No more sending stuff via e-mail. They will get the link. Period.

2) People who want to put training material on our intranet will have to put it on Moodle. I'm having this argument now with one of the other trainers as we speak. I always find it interesting that the educators (the ones who lead the change whether they want to or not) are always the most resistant.

I'm surprised by this since an unexpected side benefit to this system is that it has made it easier for me to organize and rearrange my materials. Furthermore, the people who have worked through the tutorials have liked how the information is organized and how they can stop and start as needed.

I'm gearing up to show the Pilot Clinicians (our more tech-savvy MDs) this new system. I will keep you informed......

Further adventures in Customer Service

In a previous post, Adventures in Customer Service, I have complained about software vendors who place critical bug fixes in new versions. Upgrading is a major project that requires significant resources that we don't have. We are going to be doing a MAJOR upgrade starting January 9th and the resources are in the middle of planning and preparing for that project.

OK - it's one thing to break something that makes it easier to work. We can work around that. It's a whole 'nother thing when you break something that, by breaking it, puts your client at legal risk.


Our organization has not made a decision on what to do yet. Current thinking - hope that nothing happens between now and March, when we go live on the new major upgrade.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Welcome to Wendy's Blog - The Current First Time Visitor's Guide

Thank you for spending your valuable time reading my blog. I've been at this (more sporatically than I would like) since September and find that my blog is an ever-evolving beast.

Who I am (the professional self)

I am a corporate software trainer / instructional designer / eLearning specialist / LMS administrator / implementation bully in a health care group in Washington DC.

What I write about...

The blog started as a way to journal my experience implementing Moodle and make sense of changes occuring in technology, education, and business.

If I find an interesting article, video, podcast, book or blog post, I'll write about it. Most of my interests these days are in education, change management, brain science (particularly research on how people learn), productivity, and new technologies. I am always looking for recommendations.

Within the blog, you will also find a diary of my attempts to apply these new ideas and theories into my work as a corporate trainer. As you'll see, I'm not always successful.....

So why the strange title?

The title is based on the Technology Adoption curve. I find that, by nature, I tend not to be an early adopter. Instead, I am usually adopting a technology when it starts becoming popular...and after many of the bugs have been beaten out.

Dirty little secret: my home network is still wired, I don't have a MySpace or Facebook or Flickr page, my cell phone only does "phone", and I don't own a BlackBerry.

These are not the characteristics of an early adopter.

When I started the blog, I thought the blog would focus on technology adoption. It's turned into something much more than that.


I do read them before I post them. I'm a little paranoid that way....

To date, I have rejected 1 comment post for content that was completely irrelevant to the blog and not suitable for public consumption.

Like other bloggers, I blog in an attempt to get feedback from people smarter and more experienced than myself. I am incredibly fortunate for having attracted a group of readers that I carry tremendous respect for.

Why I don't have a tidy list of topics and appropriate posts in this First Time Visitor's Guide....

A combination of lack of time and excess of laziness. At some point, I'll read through what I've written to see if there are any trends.

Besides, I'll probably have another First Time Visitor's Guide in 3 months. This blog will continue to change and it should.

Thank you to Dr. Tony Karrer for giving my blog so much press and for being such a thoughtful cheerleader.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Educators vs. Subject Matter Experts

Recently, I've sat through a discussion with one of our subject matter experts as he attempted to teach me how to perform credit card batch maintenance on one of our systems.

The system itself is quite simple - look at the credit card transactions and make sure they are correct. If they are, click the Submit button. If not, click the Edit button next to the incorrect transaction. Correct the transaction and click OK. When everything is correct in the batch, click Submit. A yes/no decision tree within an intuitive user interface.

I happen to like this subject matter expert. He is knowledgeable about the systems he works with and possesses almost saintly patience. Sadly, by the time the subject matter expert finished explaining how the batch maintenace system worked - I was thoroughly confused.

The "training" went something like this:
- The system is on Internet explorer at X address
- Log into the system
- "If you don't know your user name or password, people generally call me, but they really need to talk to their practice administrator. You know, I really need to enforce this....."
- This is the main screen. (He then provides a detailed explanation of what each button does - whether we use the button or not.)
- 30 minutes later......
- Click Batch Maintenance
- "You really should only have 1 batch, but lots of people have multiple batches so you really need to make sure you have the right batch. I try to tell them to only open one batch, but they don't listen to me. If you have the wrong batch...."

How many "trainings" given by a subject matter expert have you sat through like this?

The majority of the subject matter experts I know approach training as an evil akin to getting a root canal with no anesthesia. As a result, many provide training in the following manner:

1) The expert assumes you come in with a certain level of prior knowledge, either about the system or the process. That assumed level of prior knowledge varies based on the subject matter expert's mood and personality.

2) If the subject matter expert likes you, has time to talk, and/or thinks you are a moron and is taking pity on you (again, depending upon the subject matter expert's mood), they assume that you need to know EVERYTHING about the system, including the location of interesting lines of code or strange factoids about the evolution of the system across versions.

3) The subject matter expert is not concerned with the context in which you are going to be using the system. That is YOUR problem.

From my perspective, an educator's JOB is to make a topic understandable, thereby encouraging behavior change. When we approach training, we:
- Determine the student's actual prior knowledge of the topic
- Figure out what the student needs to know. This includes eliminating the unnecessary from our courses.
- Place that knowledge in a context that makes sense to the STUDENT. Not the developer or the administrator or the expert.

These important steps differentiate an educator's training vs. a subject matter expert's training. These steps are the ones that are lost when someone without an educator's mentality designs and delivers training.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Big Question - Dec 2007

I do a variant of this exercise 3-4 times per year.

This iteration of the Big Question allows me to think about past, present, and future on a more professional and public level.

What will I remember most about 2006?

1) Finally bringing up the last department on the Electronic Medical Record. 5 years of paper to computer conversions in 2 different institutions comes to a close. Not a moment too soon.....

2) Bribing my boss into letting me attend eLearning 2006 and NOT another health care vendor conference. As a result, I managed to escape my isolation from the eLearning industry. More importantly, I found a group of like-minded people both at the conference and in the "blogosphere." It's still nice to have your ideas validated and to know that others sense the same tsunami approaching.

What are the biggest challenges for me as I head into 2007

1) Personal: Implement and train a new program to 2500 people in 90 days. Including configuration and planning. Training time provided: 2 weeks. I hate this trend towards speed with "training" as another part of the implementation checklist. But this is my world...

2) Professional: Brent Schlenker (again) is dead-on. Change management. Not just among the students, but among our fellow professionals. As I've watched and participated in the conversation over the past few months, I think we are circling closer towards workable theories and techniques for incorporating this new paradigm.

What are my predictions for 2007?

1) The sun will rise and set for the next 365 days

2) There will be at least 1 more post from a blogger on blogging

3) There will be at least 1 more podcast from a podcaster on podcasting

4) Educators will continue to fret about how their profession is changing.

To those of you who read my blog, lurkers and commenters, thank you for making 2006 a life-changing year.

Correction: The conference I went to that was so life-changing was eLearnDev 2006 in Utah. I hope next year to make both this conference AND eLearning 2006....if the boss will let me out of my cubicle......

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

There's Gotta Be A Way To Do This......

Thinking about my post "Good Workflow Through Games" and my comments on Dr. Karrer's blog, I am disappointed to find that I am spending more time poking holes and no time fixing them. This griping phase may be part of the process.....

Still, there's gotta be a way to do this.....

Today's Washington Post includes an article on how Madden NFL teaches people the nuances of football strategy.

I'm thinking aloud, please humor me for the following.....

Football, to me, is all about predicting what the other side will do. How will this action cause the other to react.

There are many strategies that a coach uses to achieve the desired result. From what I can tell, these are carefully scripted in advance.

During the game, there are 2 areas of improvisation: the coach who changes a planned strategy mid-game (manager) and the player who reacts during the play (implementation specialist). These actions fall within a range of possibilities determined by the rules of the game and the laws of physics.

Madden NFL has been around a since 1989. With each version, the programmers have added more plays and more variables as football evolves. I suspect the decision mechanism behind this game is incredibly sophisticated.

So what does Madden NFL have to do with developing a gaming program that will assist with business workflows?

I'm thinking that a successful workflow game would include the following characteristics:

- Focus on a workflow that stresses cause / effect. Customer service and sales are the obvious choices. In my context, maybe a game that focuses on the patient experience or whether a piece of information successfully makes it from one point to another. Many of the workflows that I deal with tend not to have an obvious predictive angle so I may have to stretch more than most.

- An easy way to add options as different variables and strategies become apparent. I haven't sat through a process meeting yet where they mapped the current process accurately on the first try.

- Development of limitations to the process. What are the limits of what you do without closing off options? Each piece of the game would have to be carefully defined.

Kids (including my friends) happily spend many hours on Madden NFL. Our employers won't give us that much time. Furthermore, we have to take the next step of taking the solutions learned in the game and implementing them to people. I know that some NFL players play Madden NFL, but I haven't found anyone admitting that it impacts the way they play the game. Yet.

The Middle Manager Meeting

Now that I have the blessing of the Sr. Managers, I am starting to meet with the departmental managers and providers. The first group consisted of the management staff for OB/GYN, IVF, Neurology, Neurosurgery, Orthopaedics, Emergency Medicine, and Psychiatry.

As anticipated, they were not nearly as excited as the Senior Managers. I am a bit nervous since they said very little during the meeting. Admittedly, I only had 15 minutes to present and the Senior Manager's introduction consisted of "You are doing this" rather than any advantages they will see from its use (most importantly, training access).

I've worked with many of these managers during various implementations, so I suspect that I will get more honest feedback later as I encounter them in the halls.

I have more meetings and presentations scheduled during December. As I meet with each group, I have offered to show the system to anyone else they may think would be interested. I'm hoping this subtle buzz-building will help with acceptance.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Good Workflow through Games

It's been awhile since I have run into an article that made me want to drop everything and write. Larry Dignan, in his article "Can game design make your company more efficient?", highlights the work of Edward Castronova, an expert on virtual worlds and economies from Indiana University. In his summary of Castronova's talk at the Terra Nova State of Play symposium, Dignan writes:

Given most technology implementations rely heavily on good processes, game design could enhance returns. Wouldn't it be nice to botch a technology project in a virtual world, fix the problems and then roll it out without millions of dollars being dropped on pricey consultants?

Yeah, that would be nice. However, the skeptic in me does not see this as the utopian process improvement solution Dignan claims (never mind that the "virtual world" solution will still require a full technology implementation project).

The group developing the workflow through the virtual environment will still have to perform their old processes in their "First Life" environment. Like real life process-improvement initiatives, you still need to take real people's time away from their regular tasks (or add on to those tasks), then hope that the members of the group can accurately describe their existing processes and predict how changes in any step will impact that process.

In the gaming environment, the folks doing the workflow adaptation will not only have to grapple with the usual political and change management issues, they will also have to fiddle with the technology. How many of your organizations have multiple unused copies of MS Project or Visio taking up space on hard drives because fiddling with the technology was too time consuming?

Even if things go smoothly, despite ample testing (and a few tears), the transition from virtual process to reality may prove to be just rockier than processes developed using crayons, stickers and butcher paper because it proves to be harder to incorporate new information as the process improvement project evolves.

My personal opinion: For a virtual world process improvement game to work, there has to be enough case studies to create a robust decision tree. The target process should be narrow and the game should be able to address special case exceptions. For example: the workflow questions "What is the best process for handing Rx refill requests?" Special cases include Schedule II controlled substances, short-term refills between appointments, prior authorizations requirement, and refill rejections. There also needs to be an easy way to incorporate new information.

If gaming will be used as part of technology implementation, the technology should be old enough so that there is a library of best, worst, and OK practices for each workflow decision that needs to be made with that technology. The game needs to incorporate both the technology and surrounding computer systems PLUS the human workflows. In my ideal universe, I should then be able to use the end product for implementation training with little editing.

I will admit I am not much of a gamer. I am not a game designer nor am I a programmer, but to my liberal-arts eye, this strikes me as a very tall order.

Are my initial impressions of this idea correct? Is there a better way to use virtual worlds for process improvement?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Senior Management Un-Meeting

It took a number of attempts and rescheduling but I FINALLY introduced our Senior Management to Moodle. This took a bit of politicking on the Boss's part and some formal letter skill on mine. Below is the letter I used to bribe them to put together a meeting:

[Insert wonderful practice administrator name here]:

I have been in the process of putting together a Learning Management System (Moodle) to help us keep track of the tutorials. This tool will be an important part of the upgrades scheduled for next year, including TW v. 11 and FlowCast 4.0.

It will give your staff and providers more access to training (rather than waiting for a week or more) and gives them more learning choices. For users who are in and out of the MFA (Residents and Med Students), they will be able to receive training as they need it, rather than just take 1 June course and not use the system until 4 months later when they are on rotation.

The training in the tutorials, will be more consistent than face-to-face sessions and the users can go back to any tutorial they see fit. You will also be able to get reports showing who has been trained on which material, how much time they spent on particular items, and how they scored.

The tool will not replace the face-to-face sessions we provide.

I would love to have an opportunity to show this tool to you.

Please let me know what dates and times are most convenient for you this week. I hope to open this system up to your staff and providers within the next couple of weeks and would love your feedback.

I look forward to hearing from you.


For the first time in memory, 4 of the 5 practice administrators agreed to meet at exactly the same time! WITHOUT THE CEO!!!!! The 5th I had already given access to and she has been playing around in the system. Of course, this may have more to do with the Boss's "behind-the-scenes" politicking than my persuasive writing skills.

I tend to walk into these meetings expecting to get jumped. They did have a bunch of questions, but they liked my answers. 3 things turned them on about Moodle:

1) Flexibility - We are not wedded to a set structure for a course. I even put together some experimental areas for the PGAs to play. One already has been in the system digging around and manipulating course settings. VERY exciting when someone wants to get their hands on something - then actually DOES so.

I have started putting together some "Project" courses to serve as collaboration spaces for cross-departmental projects. Much easier than e-mailed documents and NT folder permissions

2)24/7 access - Currently, our tutorials reside on our intranet. If the person is not in our building, they can't get to the tutorials. We will have outside access turned on (hopefully) next week. Other big advantage - the managers will not have to wait for trainer availability or for classroom availability for training.

3) Reporting - Managers like reports. One report they all wanted to see us develop: Tutorials scores vs. time in position. (or....if they flunk the course, how quickly do they wash out).

Not knowing anything about the HR system that has just been implemented (only HR knows anything about this HR system - IT was not involved), I want to investigate whether we can hook directly into this mystery system (maybe as a web page) or if we need to come up with some other solution (database course, new fields, etc).

The PGAs also thought that a pre-employment course would be a good idea. Since I mentioned that our reporting will be based on users rather than departments (too much float between departments), we can run reports on 2 accounts (the Novell + the manual account that has to be generated before employment) so that we can get a total picture of that person's activity. (Of course, the issue with the pre-employment course is that we need someone to tell us what should be IN that course. That's a whole 'nother issue....)

As a result of the meeting:
- I have been invited to present Moodle to 20 division managers next week. It appears that course requests and material will be coming to me from the Manager level in our organization.

- I have already opened up Moodle to general access, if the practice administrators want to give the current URL to their end users.

- Vandana and I will be sitting down with the back-end database building reports. We are going to try and get as many of these reports available through the end-User Moodle interface as possible. This should be interesting......

I figure that December and January will be Pilot months. The pilot group will be (relatively) self-selecting. A combination of new employees taken there by excited PGAs and curious, self-motivated current employees. I think this will give me sufficiently broad metrics so that when it really counts (February), we have everything working and the scoring reports most accurately reflect our needs.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Comprehension and Retention - participation

Paul Murphy's experiment
he provides a document that might require some prior familiarity with the topic. I know this is not in the scope of his experiment, but I am curious to hear how well people feel they retain the information in any of the categories if they are not familiar or comfortable with the content. If you decide to do the experiment, please comment and let me know your impressions.

Further instructions from Mr. Murphy:

Please be aware that we want to end up with roughly equal numbers of people in all four categories, but that most people will find it easier to provide on-screen/immediate responses than on-paper/delayed ones. In other words, please try to recruit some people for each category with special emphasis on the later (more difficult to get) groupings as listed below:

1) on screen, immediate answers
2) on screen, day later answers
3) on paper, immediate answers
4) on paper, day later answers

Being lazy, I chose option 1. I wish he provided feedback so I could see how far off I was with my answers.

I know this is an informal study, and I am proud of myself for not "cheating," but I was strongly tempted to look at the survey, figure out the questions, then read for the answers. A more formal experiment needs to limit access to the quiz until after the subject reads the document.

I do hope someone bites and takes Mr. Murphy's recommendation to formalize this for a grant application. I have always sensed there was a difference between how people read and interpret screens vs. how they read and interpret paper. It would be nice to see formal research on these differences. The resulting research could help us create even better online learning.

Comprehension and Retention

Paul Murphy is doing an informal experiment that could shape everything we are doing as eLearning specialists. He needs 100s of people to help. I figure if I can rope myself and 2 others to do this, he will eventually have his statistics.

Directions are in his ZDNet post Comprehension and Retention. The experiment is on my to do list for this evening.

I'd love to hear your feedback on the experiment, both the design and your experiences with it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

"New" Technologies - Blogging

Blogging is just public journal writing. I've had friends who have been doing this "online" since the BBSs in the late 80s. Journaling (with simple paper/pen/scissors/glue technology) has been an educational technique for much longer and a very solid one.

Dr. Marshall Fishwick, during his Popular Culture class at Virginia Tech in the early 90s, gave the best example of an educational journal assignment. Figuring that his students were in tune with the current zeitgeist, he asked us to keep a daily journal with pictures and media clippings. We had to find events in our day-to-day life that directly related to the week’s topic. He had us turn in sections a few times that semester, just to make sure that we were doing the assignment. Admittedly, this led to a frantic evening before turn-in dates hacking up magazines and taking pictures of my drunken friends on more than one occasion. The end-product was a large notebook chronicling the culture of the time and, in retrospect, my own evolution. Because we didn’t share these journals with anyone other than Dr. Fishwick, they became private conversations between the student and professor.

I was fortunate to take the Popular Culture class with one of the founders of that academic movement and its best early practitioner. Most people will never be lucky enough to have direct, face-to-face access to experts at that level.

The public nature of blogging is its strength. The professor can easily check daily progress on the journal and comment quickly on each posting’s relevance. Fellow students can share ideas and resources. Most importantly, it is easier to collaborate with experts around the world. Since I’ve been blogging, I’ve been amazed at the caliber of the professionals who have contacted me as a result of a post.

We have so much access to information and to each other. It would be a shame not to take advantage of it for education.

I don’t know if Dr. Fishwick had his students create early blogs before he retired in 2003. I suspect that if he was alive and teaching today, his journal assignment would have evolved into a blogging assignment. With pictures and video, of course.

Rest in peace Dr. Fishwick, and thank you.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What I Want for Xmas.....

Dear Santa:

I have been a very good girl this year. Really.

All I want for Xmas is a Nintendo Wii.

I know this sounds like a strange request from a non-gamer, but I want to use it for work-type things.


It seems that the new controller may help us become more emotionally invested in the game, thereby making it more realistic. And there's a cool game called Trauma Center:Second Opinion that I might be able to share with my doctors. It's getting good reviews. Oh, and there's a golf game in Wii Sports (comes with the console) that might help my swing. I hope they bring out the next Tiger Woods game on this console.

Thanks for hearing me out, Santa. If I get the Nintendo Wii under my Xmas tree, I promise to be extra special good next year.

Your Friend,

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"New" Technologies - Interactive Video

I have been watching, with some bemusement, the excitement over "new" technologies: interactive video conferencing, blogging, and videos via YouTube/Google Video.

These "technologies" have been around for a long time. What we are seeing is subtle modifications of old themes. Furthermore, I’m not seeing a huge change in the methods people use to educate as a result of these technologies.

This starts a series of essays containing my thoughts on these technologies.

Interactive Video is essentially the old camera-phone idea come to life. Face-to-face discussion over a distance.

I started in Instructional Technology through interactive video conferencing - both proprietary systems (Verizon's MIDLN) and early H.323 IP-based conferencing. The current buzz around interactive video is a result of reductions in time delays (the kung-fu movie effect) and better video display technology (plasma screens and high def protocols).

Despite these improvements, interactive video will continue to suffer from the strange detachment participants feel during an interactive video conference. Interesting classroom management issues also arise with the ability of the students to mute themselves (or you), difficulties seeing who is talking (unless you are looking at a HUGE screen – it’s difficult to see lips move and subtleties in body language), and the need to manage multiple groups of students at the same time.

For school systems with limited resources and topics with few specialists, interactive video permits the use of synchronous educational techniques across distances. That said, I haven't seen any huge advances in instruction as a result of the technology. Savvy educators spend most of the air time with student presentations, discussion groups, and synchronous group projects with one team consisting of members from each of the different sites. Sadly, most of the classes I observed used the classic "talking head" method with the addition of PowerPoint.

The most promising part of interactive video technology, in my mind, is not the conferences over TV sets, but the ability to share other people's computers - editing files at the source, playing with systems, seeing what a student is seeing on his or her computer and asking questions in real-time. WebEx and Microsoft Live Meeting are commercial examples of this technology. I find VNC access and LogMeIn with a phone call (or Skype)to be just as powerful (and much cheaper) if you are working within a network of trusted computers. Facial expressions are the only thing missing from these technologies.

If interactive video is going to be a fully robust educational technology, I see 2 areas for improvement:

1) Technologically figure out a way to decrease the physical detachment felt when using this technology.

2) Change our instructional techniques to best utilize the synchronous nature of the technology. Historically, this technology is expensive – if we are going to use this at all, we might as well use the technology to its best advantage.
The reference link for issues with Interactive Video Teleconferencing is part of the ACM Digital Library.

Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems archive
INTERACT '93 and CHI '93 conference companion on Human factors in computing systems table of contents

Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Pages: 109 - 110
Year of Publication: 1993
Authors Maximilian Ott C&C Research Laboratories, NEC, 4 Independence Way, Princeton, NJ
John P. Lewis C&C Research Laboratories, NEC, 4 Independence Way, Princeton, NJ
Ingemar Cox NEC Research Institute, 4 Independence Way, Princeton, NJ

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Crashing Moodle

Last week, the Moodle server crashed. The initial problem - a line in the config file for the Apache Web server changed. Ta and I still don't know WHY this line changed.

Ta's techie notes follow below:
Here's the events and what was done:

On Tuesday, Moodle crashed due to configuration file change
on Apache.

(this is a standard file name within the server for most Moodle installs - yours may vary - Wendy)

Someone uncommented this line from the configuration file
#tb LoadModule ssl_module modules/

Now Apache loads which drives the website

Today, Wendy made some minor changes, and the server crashed. Unfortunately, in the services for Windows, Apache and Mysql were set to manual mode instead of automatic start on Server boot. So, after setting those services to automatic - Apache and Mysql should automatically start after a server reboot.

Our audit trail showed an internal IP address which turned out to be the server itself.

Ta fixed the problem, but since the crash - the server now has a habit of not finding the page as I do simple tasks: adding files, importing courses, running files. Nothing out of the ordinary and nothing consistent. Most of the time, if I get out of IE and get back in, I can log back in and continue what I am doing. But I have also had to go directly into the server and restart the Apache2 service or the Moodle CRON job.

I'm writing this because I have crashed the server for the 3rd time today. This is bad.

1) I am the only person currently on the server. So what happens when I get 100 hits at a time?

2) My end-users have little patience with technology and I envision phone calls at 2am wondering why they can't get to the tutorials.

Ta and I's current conclusion: our Apache2 install is unstable. We don't know why. I fear it may be our recycled hardware. Ta and I are still researching the issue and Ta will be putting a query on the Moodle Boards.

Any thoughts / ideas are welcome.

Cancelled Benchmarks

The Senior Management meeting didn't happen yesterday. A shame since I showed up to work extra early in my best dress clothes.

This means I have an extra 2 weeks (at least) to tweak the system and load up courses.

I LOVE the Import function in Moodle that allows me to copy courses from other categories. I organized the courses by job description and department. As a result, lots of duplicate courses. Copy / Paste/ Edit. This is how I've spent the past 20 working hours.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The 3 Roles for Future Educators

I had an epiphany on the way home from work yesterday....

I see 3 roles that eduators play that will allow us to adapt to the changes in our environment:

Librarian - Librarians gather, collect, and categorize resources to help you answer the question / do the task at hand.

Editor - Editors help people organize information in ways that make sense, eliminating the irrelevant.

Cheerleader - Cheerleaders motivate and engage the audience.

Trainers and instructional developers play these roles every day - usually in combination.

I know that when I create new training material the first thing I do is figure out what the training thing needs to accomplish. This is an editorial function.

Next, I marshall my resources. Not just books - experts, tools, graphics, movies, web sites, anything I can get my hands on to achieve the goal. Librarians are fabulous resource collectors. With the amount of information out there, we should be too.

Once I have most of what I need, I start organizing the material into something that makes sense to me and, hopefully, to others. Again, an editorial function.

We can then use our cheerleading skills to encourage people to work with us through the learning process. We play cheerleader every time we give feedback, engage the audience, and motivate the student to explore more.

I see the mentoring function we perform as a cheerleader role too. How many of you remember the inane chants from your college football games? The cheerleaders mentored you towards that learning.

From what I've seen - educators are the best at combining these three functions and we can use these skills to insert ourselves into this new world of wikis, blogs, webs, and rapid change.

Go Team!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Free Learning - and you are not involved

Anna Farmer, over at The Engaging Brand lists 8 Free Ways to Help People Learn at Work.

Notice how NONE of the solutions include a trainer, an instructional designer, or any educational development models. No mention of eLearning, courseware, or anything that smacks of a classroom.

Anna's emphasis is on business, leadership, and management. This is where many of our clients (corporate management) see the future of "training" - easy access to information, mentors, and collaborative tools. NOT courses.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


The Learning Circuits Blog: November's The Big Question
Are our models (ISD, ADDIE, HPT, etc.) relevant in the future?

I really hate to say this, but I often see a huge gap between what we design and what happens in the classroom whether we use these models or not. I'm in the (not so) envious position of doing both the design and the training in my organization so my comments reflect my perspective (and, probably, my lack of professionalism) on this topic.

What I design: Courses with concrete measureable objectives developed as a result of detailed analysis of the organization's needs. The courses contain appropriate tutorials, exercises, and tests in a logical order - each section building on the other. I do my best to use good ISD whenever I develop a course.

What happens in the classroom:
- The realization that the student(s) either don't have the prerequisites complete or have already been doing what I am supposed to show them, thereby not needing the training in the first place. - This occurs despite my attempts to get a feel for the student's prior knowledge.

- Interruptions to the class - Since I work with doctors, the patient's are ALWAYS first whether they are in the classroom for me or not.

- Lack of time - "I know that you have 3 hours of material to cover. Can you do it in 1?"

- Addressing issues as they come up rather than in the nice order that I placed them in in the first place - In my mind the first rule of adult education is relevancy. I am more likely to keep their attention if I answer their question NOW than wait 30 minutes.

In some ways, eLearning makes it easier to enforce these models on the delivery end. The next question we want to? The longer I work, the more I realize that the old roles of "Trainer" and "Instructional Designer" are becoming irrelevant.

I know Karl Kapp believes we should start pushing back and demanding more time and attention. However, I work at the mercy of my employers. If I were a consultant, it would be easier for me to push back. I might also find myself without work.

I am also not convinced that an organization's desire for rapid, just-in-time training is a bad thing. With fuzzy corporate requirements, the lack of standard workflows throughout most organizations, and rapid environmental change, employees still have to spend time with others to get current information. Unless we are in the thick of things, there is no way our training will be able to reflect the reality of our students.

Harold Jarche eloquently observed in his response to the Big Question:
Training often worked before, or at least didn’t create more problems, when work processes and organisations were stable. As we move to more networked businesses, training’s weaknesses are becoming evident. These weaknesses are also evident when we don’t really know what the performance objectives are in a constantly evolving society, economy and marketplace.

The one comment I hear more than any other these days from my students is "This is all well and good, but it won't make much sense until I use it in the clinic." This despite my best efforts to mirror the work processes and situations our doctors, clinicians and staff find themselves in daily.

Because the context in which the students use the tools or knowledge we teach changes constantly, our challenge as educators may be to find ways to teach within this environment.

Cognitive and Motor Skills

I view software application training as, fundamentally, a combination of cognitive and motor skills. This line of research will impact the way I design my online tutorials.

Because so many of us read our blogs off of feeds rather than off of the site, I wanted to share Alvaro's comments in a post so that they aren't missed. He was kind enough to share Dr. Wayne Shebilske's response to his interview.

You can find Dr. Shebilske's paper at

Wendy, thanks for such a nice summary. Happy that you enjoyed the interview.

Wanted to let you and your readers know that the US-based professor doing some replication studies based on Prof. Gopher's work came to the site and left a very useful comment, which I copy here

"Your excellent interview with Dr. Gopher reminded me why so many of us have followed his lead in training complex skills. I hope that your interview inspires others. They will find that he is generous with his ideas, time, energy, and infectious positive spirit. Working with him to replicate experiments and extend ideas is both productive and enjoyable.

Your interview includes a reference to an article by my colleagues and me. I want to update the reference and provide a related reference to a Web-based Archive.

Shebilske, W. L., Volz, R. A., Gildea, K. M., Workman, J. W., Nanjanath, M., Cao, S., & Whetzel, J. (2005). Revised Space Fortress: A validation study. Behavior Research Methods, 37, 591-601.

Volz, R.A., Johnson, J.C., Cao, S., Nanjanath, M., Whetzel, J., Ioerger, T.R., Raman, B., Shebilske, W.L., and Xu, Dianxiang (2005). Fine-Grained data acquisition and agent oriented tools for distributed training protocol research: Revised Space Fortress. Down Load Technical Supplement, Psychonomic Society Web-based Archive (see 37,591-601). .

The journal article's abstract describes both:

We describe briefly the redevelopment of Space Fortress (SF), a research tool widely used to study training of complex tasks involving both cognitive and motor skills, to execute on current generation systems with significantly extended capabilities, and then compare the performance of human participants on an original PC version of SF with the Revised Space Fortress (RSF). Participants trained on SF or RSF for 10 sets of 8 3-min practice trials and 2 3-min test trials. They then took tests on retention, resistance to secondary task interference, and transfer to a different control system. They then switched from SF to RSF or from RSF to SF for two sets of final tests and completed rating scales comparing RSF and SF. Slight differences were predicted based on a scoring error in the original version of SF used and on slightly more precise joystick control in RSF. The predictions were supported. The SF group started better, but did worse when they transferred to RSF. Despite the disadvantage of having to be cautious in generalizing from RSF to SF, RSF has many advantages, which include accommodating new PC hardware and new training techniques. A monograph that presents the methodology used in creating RSF, details on its performance and validation, and directions on how to download free copies of the system may be downloaded from

The extended capabilities for RSF include a) being executable on current generation platforms, b) being written in a mostly platform independent manner, c) being executable in a distributed environment, d) having hooks built in for the incorporation of intelligent agents to play various roles, such as partners and coaches e) providing a general experiment definition mechanism, f) supporting teamwork through being able to flexibly assign different input controls to different members of a team, g) maintaining all data in a central database rather than having to manually merge data sets after the fact, and h) having playback capability, which enables researchers to review all actions that occurred during an experiment and to take new measures. Experimenters can design measures before an experiment to test specific hypotheses with a rigorous laboratory task. They can also use playback to discover and explore unanticipated events. Although simpler and more complex synthetic task environments can be advantageous for some goals, Danny Gopher, our colleagues, and I believe that Space Fortress remains an important tool for scientists and trainers. Please feel free to contact me ( for additional help downloading and using RSF."



Monday, November 06, 2006

Are we Overcomplicating our eLearning?

In his comments to my last post, Alvaro pointed to an interview he did with Prof. Daniel Gopher at SharpBrains. Dr. Gopher notes:

The need for physical fidelity is not based on research, at least for the type of high-performance training we are talking about. In fact, a simple environment may be better in that it does not create the illusion of reality. Simulations can be very expensive and complex, sometimes even costing as much as the real thing, which limits the access to training. Not only that, but the whole effort may be futile, given that some important features can not be replicated (such as gravitation free tilted or inverted flight), and even result in negative transfer, because learners pick up on specific training features or sensations that do not exist in the real situation.

For the high-end gaming developers, Dr. Gopher suggests that the emphasis on "realism" may be misguided. He cites a side-by-side comparison between a simple computer game and a sophisticated, graphically rich flight simulator and notes that the simple game was more effective.

For those of us who create low-budget, high-speed eLearning, his findings are very encouraging. His recommendation: analyze the cognitive skills involved, then develop a simulation that trains those skills.

Common sense - but how many times have you seen eLearning that is pretty to look at and useless for training?

Thank you Alvaro for the lead and your nice comments!!!!!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Training Pilots

Clark Aldrich, in Learning Circuits, emphasized the importance of training pilots during the training development process. Lack of training pilot = invitation to failure.

In his comments to the post, Dave Lee outlined the following issues caught by a good pilot program. (I'm going to copy this verbatim because he was so eloquent):

1) False assumptions about content progression. Your SME's already know the answers and have created short cuts for themselves that make them more efficient. The SME's you have review the content now the same shortcuts. When key steps are missing, learners don't get it you have a breakdown that needs to be fixed.

1b) Jargon, jargon, jargon. SME's use it. Learners don't know it. Facilitators often don't know it. (which can undermine the facilitator's credibility.

2) False assumptions about pacing. That activity you thought would take 15 minutes requires 12 minutes of setup and then runs for 30 minutes.

3) Ideas that looked good on paper but just didn't fly in real context. That team activity using hula hoops to teach Venn Diagrams sounded great but what a flop. The older employees spent time showing the younger employees how a hula hoop works.

4) Great activity once the facilitator figured out the poor facilitator guides.

5) Lack of clear link between activities and the learning objectives. Invariably signaled by an insistent raised hand follow by "why would we want to do this anyway?"


I have mentioned before that I am piloting my LMS with the IT group. They are also looking at the tutorials (again). There are 2 issues with this particular pilot group.

1) They are subject matter experts so they are able to make assumptions that shouldn't be made within the context of training.

2) They are computer savvy so they will forgive lack of navigational clarity.

I built the LMS this early with a "self-selecting" pilot in mind. We are not replacing our current strategy now, so I have time to get some feedback. Here is my current thinking:

- We are going to open up the LMS to all users on November 15th. Big announcement and directions for use will be sent to everyone. Hopefully, I will get some self-selected users who will play with this.

- Arlene (the Medicine trainer) will be shown how to use the system and asked for feedback.

- The Pilot Physicians will also be shown the system and asked to log in.

- People who come to me for training will be asked to log into the system. The face-to-face training will be used to evaluate the tutorials and the student's reactions to the content, organization, and technology.

- People who have been using our intranet site to find the tutorials will be redirected to Moodle. All of the contents from the previous site will be in there. I have posted a feedback forum in each of the courses.

- All upgrade information will be posted as a separate course in Moodle. Users will be directed to Moodle so that we get them used to looking in the system for new information. This requires convincing the System Administrator to stop sending the group e-mails.

- I have built some project courses to get our IT group using Moodle as a project workspace. This should reduce the amount of time we spend trying to find documents in multiple folders and reduce the stress on our shared servers. Moodle as Knowledge Management tool.

My hope is that by the time when this system HAS TO WORK (February/March 2007 is the current timeframe) we have good training content and a functional LMS / KM tool.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Question of Relevancy

In my post "Too Much Information..." Anonymous wrote:

I think your question is best addressed by reflecting on what is the best use of your mental and emotional energy. What is the quality of the material you are hectically keeping abreast of? How challenging is it? How gratifying? How much does it demand of you and how much do you contribute to it? If the answers to these questions seem one-sided, then the media is getting the best of you.

He or she is probably right. It's easy to get distracted if you have "infovore" tendencies.

Since I am currently in the midst of serious tutorial production, I find myself skimming through my current string of blogs, newsletters, and podcasts - mostly to distract myself during stuck moments rather than "researching" solutions.

This is not nearly as unproductive as it sounds.

While I was writing my Master's Thesis - before widespread e-mail, widely digitized source materials, and Google Search - our professors encouraged us to put all of our notes on 3x5 index cards. Citation information at the top of the card, the relevant quote in the body. When you were ready to write, you would reorganize the cards into the appropriate order and write your paper based on the cards. The thinking behind this technique is that the paper would practically write itself once you have organized the cards.

Invariably, as I was writing, I would remember a citation didn't seem relevant enough for the effort of putting it on a card. I would then waste a day in the library among the stacks scrambling to find the source. Half of the time, the source was only loosely related to the topic at hand.

I firmly believe that knowledge advances within the gaps between fields. Seemingly "irrelevant" sources contain kernels of ideas that can lead to solutions. This is why I read blogs on multiple, unrelated topics and play with tools that I don't need right now. I may find a use for it later.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Adventures in Customer Service

On Friday, the Boss and I received the following e-mail (names and details have been changed to protect the guilty):

Wendy and the Boss,

The Software development team is pleased to announce the release of Enterprise v10.x.y this week. This latest version of the Software resolves several issues identified by our clients and we want to thank you for your assistance in bringing incident number 166078 to our attention. This problem has been fixed in v10.x.y and I just wanted to take a moment and recognize the great help and cooperation you’ve demonstrated in pointing this issue out to us. The full list of fixed issues for v10.x.y is available on the Knowledge Base in the client area of

If you have not already secured a schedule slot for your upgrade to our latest software version, please contact your account manager. If you have any questions comments or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact the Support team directly.

Many thanks!

Sr. VP of Customer Service.

Now this is a nice piece of marketing. Makes your contributions towards improving the software seem important.

One problem: In the last upgrade they BROKE the thing that this "upgrade" is now supposed to fix!!!!

Furthermore, these upgrades (even the small ones) require planning, resources, and testing. And lots of it.

We are now in a Catch-22. The System Administrator informed me that we are not going to do this upgrade. But the thing that the upgrade fixes is clinically important.

Since it has taken 4 weeks to get this much information from the Software company - I'm hoping we can sit on this issue without too many complaints. At least until we get v.11. Of course - everyone PROMISES that this new upgrade will solve all of our problems. Hahahahaha..............

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Too Much Information.....

I finally figured out why I am now only finishing 1 book a month - RSS feeds.

On my iPOD - 155 podcasts - both video and audio. I get, on average, 10 new episodes each day.

On Google Reader - 39 subscriptions. If I don't read the posts 1 weekday, I have over 100 posts to read. At some point I'll figure out how to create a listfeed to connect to this blog.

On - 38 items. I'm limiting this to professional interests. Add 20 more sites regularly viewed from IE favorites,

eMail - 3 accounts (I'm only talking personal accounts). Average 30 e-mails a day from various newsletter sources. I'm not even including spam or e-mails from friends and family.

This doesn't include TV, Radio, web research, and other forms of media I use every day.

It's a wonder I get outside and talk to anyone.

Does anyone else feel pressure to keep up with all this stuff?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Creating Time-Eating Monsters

Much of this week will be spent making sure what I currently have works. As I work - I find all sorts of other things I should be creating to make this a full eLearning experience. Funny how ideas outpace the time it takes to turn the ideas into reality.

I noticed that we did not have anything resembling a test server for Moodle. Since more than 3 of us use the system now, I didn't want to do some of the final configuration on our live server without testing it first.

A testament to Moodle's scalability - I spent part of Sunday installing it on my laptop. How many commercial LMSs can you install on YOUR laptop? How many would you WANT to?

Now I can do all sorts of things that could destroy the code, the database, or both. First test - customizing the login page.

I hope to start making movies of these processes shortly. I'm checking out Google Video and YouTube. Ideally, I would publish in Flash so I can make them interactive. I know Google Video prefers traditional formats. Again, the ideas vs. time issue.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Issues of Trust

Once the IT team decided they liked Moodle, the system administrator asked, "How are we going to tell whether they are the ones who actually did the test?"

Yes, this is a realistic question. And it's an issue that comes up pretty regularly in higher education e-learning circles.

Attending training is a prerequisite for getting a user ID. Pass the test - get access to our system. I would LIKE to think that our health care providers and employees are responsible enough to do the test without going through the effort of having someone else do it for them. A person who decided to take that route shouldn't be responsible for my (or anyone else's) health care. What other shortcuts would they take?

Besides, I figure cheaters would be easily caught once we get the first help desk call and look at the testing reports. The system is complicated enough that it's easy to pick out someone who hasn't gone through training. What we could do about it, on the other hand, is a different issue and up to the organization.

One solution bandied about - make them come into the classroom and take the course and test while you watch then. My thought: We're dealing with adults (we hope). It's a waste of my time and demeaning to the student.

Another solution - before giving them their user IDs, have them call us up. We can remote access to their computer and have them do a brief exercise based on their department's workflows. Find the patient, open the chart, enter the note, write a prescription, enter a charge. That's what they have to do anyway - and if they did the training, they should be able to do all of that in under 10 minutes. That includes extensive documentation in the note. Some policies would have to be put in place regarding when we can do these testing calls or if managers outside the IT department can proctor this exercise. Again - the trust issue.

The third solution - trust our students to do the right thing and come up with a procedure to deal with the rare exception. I personally like this solution because it requires me to do nothing unless the student has trouble. I also think it shows that we trust our employees. I doubt that we will choose this solution.

We haven't decided what we are going to do yet. Any other recommendations?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Moodle Benchmark #2.5 - Checking in with the Boss

Soon after the staff meeting - I went to check in with the boss to show him my progress.

He is also very happy with what he sees. Bosses like it when they see visible progress. They also like it when the toughest customers are happy.

I have more time to get the system in shape. The senior management meeting has been cancelled until mid-November. This should be just enough time to get all of the feedback from the IT staff, get some tutorials fixed, and be able to roll out the entire system the day after the meeting.

I want enough time to get our end-users used to looking at Moodle for information before the major electronic medical record upgrade. Upgrade planning starts November 1. The test install should happen November 15.

I've been not-so-subtly selling this project for over a year. Every time someone complains to me that they have no time to sit in a classroom with me, or whenever I have a tough time fitting someone into my schedule for training, I tell them "We'll soon have an online system that will let you do this when it is most convenient for you!" I'm hoping that this guerilla change management technique pays off when we roll this thing out.

Moodle Benchmark #2 - Convincing the IT Staff

Thankfully, I work in IT - so it was a matter of convincing my colleagues.

In some ways, this is the most challenging benchmark. They will see things that the average user won't see. Plus, they look at it from an administrative standpoint. They were VERY impressed.

- "You mean this thing is free and I can download it on my own laptop!!!"
- "Wow! This thing looks really easy!"
- "I want to play with the reporting. This looks cool!"
- "I like the project course with the Wikis and Forums and file-loading."

It's tough to get this crew excited about applications - since we seem to spend all day fixing them and/or arguing with vendor support. To see them THAT excited is very validating.

Ideas for improving the system:
- Multiple Admin accounts. Right now we have only 1. We want to keep track of who is doing what with the system. Ta said that she came up with a way to create these accounts. I will post her solution as soon as I see what she did.

- Automated e-mail for new items in courses you are signed up for. I know that you can get e-mails from the forums - but I want to see if this can be done for any new item in the course.

- The ability to take queries and add them to a user account in Moodle so they can run the reports themselves.

- A way to isolate particular courses so that users only see the courses they need.

After the meeting - Ta did another full backup of Moodle. Very important since 2 of them will be playing with the databases.

Some of the IT team have already started working in Moodle - nosing around and seeing if they can break things. By next week, we should have enough information to put the reporting through its paces before presenting to Senior Management.