Tuesday, July 31, 2007


I've gotten some fantastic feedback on my Effort vs. Return post.

Tom Haskins - I think an added issue here is the openness to different kinds of return for the effort. There are numerous intangibles that depend on the receptivity of the person. Those of us amenable to "masochism" will get more value from our efforts than those with a low tolerance for pain, ambiguity and disorientation.

There may also be differences in how long it takes someone to read, write and reflect -- that could make participation more costly/less valuable.

Tonya - I agree with Tom. I think it really depends on what type of return you are after. If it's page hits, and you get only two or three, then you're likely to be disappointed. However, if it's the fact that you are contributing to the whole web 2.0 concept then even if you never get a comment, it's worthwhile.

Dr. Bob Cherry - I'm finding it hard to "get" blogs (almost certainly my failing)I am beginning to feel they are very one way - the "lecture" of web 2.0. Equally Facebook promises much, but the control that is exerted seems almost oppressive. Arguments and discussions die in the absence of an audience or worse - obliterated completely by a profile owner who likes to keep things tidy. Interestingly. I walk down the corridor at work - everyone says "hi" and wants to talk (a real menace sometimes). On Facebook and blogs the social/professional interaction seems much less vibrant .
These comments got me thinking about the importance of personal expectation when adopting a new technology - particularly Web 2.0 technologies.

What DO you want out of it?

When I started blogging, my goal was to get a lot of stuff out of my head. Forcing myself to write for public consumption, I figured, would make me process my ideas more effectively and think things through more carefully.

Because my goal was simple, and seemed to best match the strength of the technology, I got instantaneous return on investment. I've found a fantastic processing tool for all of the new stuff I'm learning and a reason to try new technologies - if only for blog content.

The public angle, in my mind, is absolutely invaluable in forcing me to think through my opinions. I've abandoned numerous blog posts because, as I wrote, I realized my position was idiotic. The posts you've never seen have actually had more educational value to me than some of the posts you do....

Even though a blog is a public forum, I really didn't expect anyone to read it unless I told someone. The amount of quality feedback I've received, in comments, blog links, e-mails, was unanticipated and a pleasant surprise.

As much as I hate to admit this, it is the feedback and knowing that others ARE reading this, that has kept me from abandoning the blog and going back to the journals of my pre-blogging days.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

1st attempt - Popfly Mashup

This is a really goofy Popfly mashup search on elearning and technology.

I'll comment on my experience with this shortly.....

Effort v. Return

Chuqui has an excellent point about all of the tools we use:

Social networks only succeed when the value they return a value that is worth the investment -- in this case, the primary investment is time. What the value returned is depends, everyone will define that differently, but there has to be a commonality here that this investment is worthwhile. This lack of return is likely one reason why so many blogs get abandoned; after the initial rush of enthusiasm wears off, people realize that it's, well, work, and takes time and energy (and for many folks, for little return). So they drop out.

It comes down to one core issue: time management...Because the bottom line is, there are only so many hours in a day, so many days in a week, and if you don't budget them, you'll come out the other end wondering why you were so busy and didn't accomplish a damn thing...

The reason why I've maintained this blog for almost a year (has it really been that long?!?!?) is because the return on this particular investment has been significantly greater than the time and effort put in.

The reason why I abandoned Twitter and Ning is because the return on investment wasn't high enough, fast enough.

Facebook is starting to show some promise as a possible way to put all of my stuff together, but I just haven't had the time yet to investigate this further. What's kept me linked has been people engaging me in this environment in ways that didn't happen in the others.

Considerations of effort vs. return will be critical with ANY tool we ask our end-users to adopt. Will the return on investment be high enough and happen fast enough for it to stay in the toolkit once the patina of novelty wears off? Or will it wind up in the junkyard with everything else?

BTW - you should also read Chuqui's follow-up post on this issue. Thankfully, I may never have the problem these folks do....

Friday, July 27, 2007

Working with Green Shoes

It's that time of year when I realize that all of my shoes have become too smelly and abused to be worn. This year, I've decided to stick to comfy shoes. This may be an old age thing, but I would like to walk when I get older.

All of my shoes are black (save for a black and white pair of saddle shoe golf spikes and 1 pair of brown heels). I see cool shoes in interesting colors on other women, yet I still buy boring black.

In an attempt to get myself out of this rut, I bought a pair of Army Green Crocs (just like the ones pictured above). And yes, they are just as ugly in real life. Since I work in health care, I can get away with wearing these to work. A good thing since these things are super duper comfy.

I've discovered a few things about having these shoes:

- It helps me relate to all of the nurses, docs, and residents who also wear Crocs. There seems to be a "Cult of Crocs" among health care professionals. They tend to pay more attention to what I'm saying as a result. I forgot how important "relatability" is when teaching.

- Because these shoes are green - I have to think harder about what I wear with them. I sense that many end-users have the same issue with subtle interface changes. Things they once did before on auto-pilot (like putting on shoes) now require more thought (Does this shirt go with those shoes? Are black slacks a good idea?). Until the end-user is able to go back to auto-pilot mastery, they will be uncomfortable. Some will get there more quickly than others. I know I am still agonizing over what to wear with my army green shoes.....

- I am inordinately proud of now acquiring a modicum of style - even if it is now the style of a 7 year old..... I don't understand why my co-workers are still threatening to submit me to What Not to Wear....

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Using My IT Buddy

I received an excellent example of the value of IT friends within an organization.

Yesterday, I talked to one of the members of our network team. The conversation started with borrowing sugar (all we currently have in our office is Splenda, Equal, and Sweet and Low - YUCK!).

As we talked, he saw the Google Sidebar on my personal laptop.

So you've found Google Sidebar?

Yeah - I'm thinking of using it as a possible training resource tool here. Whaddya think?

I love Google Sidebar. Very cool tool. I have it on my home PC. I'm really concerned about how the computers here are going to behave with it. Half of them are crawling as it is. And, from what I can tell, Google Sidebar seems memory-hungry.

Hmmm.. you gotta point there. It would be cool to be able to put the resources where they need it. Maybe build some Gadgets that have useful feeds from the FDA Drug Recall alerts, Short tutorial links from our Moodle site. Maybe a tutorial search.

Yeah - I've been playing with the Gadget tool. It's a bit awkward. But I like your idea. With as slow as our systems have been since the upgrade, I'm afraid it may be a bit much.

Had I thought about our ongoing slowness and performance issues BEFORE talking to the network guy? Of course not. Is he right? Yup.

Since speed is such a priority in our organization - at all angles - doing anything that will slow down the computers (or anything else) is a no-no.

It won't stop me from playing with the idea. As I build, I hope to find a workaround that won't be as network and PC intensive. I suspect I'll get the help to take care of the slowness issue if my proof of concept is solid.

Where HealthCare is Headed

Eye opening article in the Washington Post.

My takeaway - time for the docs to get less sloppy about their data input...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Customization and the Organization

After eLearnDevCon, I'm looking at ways to push learning / help content in ways that are more available to the end user. I like the Google Sidebar and Gadgets idea. I know how to build stuff using Google's currently available tools, but I want more.

For instance, I want to be able to push brief instructions through the Sidebar.

I also want a place to share interactive flash files without folks having to log into my Moodle server.

I'm thinking that mashup tools might help....

Dion Hinchcliffe has provided a brief review of 17 Mashup tools
. In the process, he addresses why it's been difficult to place these tools in a corporate environment (to date).

So what’s typically missing from today’s mashup platforms to make them both useful and desirable in the enterprise? While no one knows for sure, since mashups are just starting to be considered seriously in many organizations, it generally boils down to
1) deep access to existing enterprise services and data/content repositories,
2) SaaS-style Web-based mashup assembly and use,
3) assembly models that are truly end-user friendly with very little training required,
4) a credible management and maintenance story for IT departments that must support a flood of public end-user built and integrated apps, and last but certainly not least,
5) mashup products that address important questions about mashups and enterprise security. None of these are particularly easy to solve, which is most likely why mashups haven’t been most prevalent before this.

Issues 3 and 4 should not be underestimated. Especially for those of us not blessed with a computer-savvy end-user base.

I'm noticing the trend in all forms of software is towards end-user controlled customization. Ultimately, this is a good thing. But I see 2 things needing to happen before an enterprise can take full advantage of end-user customization:

1) The IT folks need to learn to trust the end-user. (Yes, we locked up end-user customization on our Electronic Medical Record because we knew support would be a nightmare.)

2) The end-user needs to take responsibility for troubleshooting his or her customized object. This means that the end-users will have to become significantly more computer-savvy than most want to. At least in my organization.....

From what I can tell, the overarching trend is a move towards more personal responsibility. It's one thing to implement a tool on an individual level. I take full responsibility for my own learning and tool implementation. And, fortunately, I'm given the freedom to do so without much gripping from management (so far). What is lost in the conversation is the amount of cultural shift that will have to happen in an organization to successfully implement these tools on an enterprise level.

Most folks are in organizations that (consciously or unconsciously) subscribe to blame-models of management. Employees are actively discouraged from taking responsibility. Way too much energy is spent CYA.

Generations of this behavior on BOTH sides need to break down to fully leverage these new technologies. Management needs to start actively rewarding initiative. Employees need to start taking responsibility for themselves and their careers.

A tough thing to teach if the corporate culture works against you.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Day 3 - Presentation Day

I'm a little behind on this post. 2 Red-eyes in 1 week has messed up my sleep schedule.

The tough thing about presentations is that you usually only get 1 shot. Thankfully, the folks at eLearnDevCon gave me 2 for the Captivate sessions.

Session 1 was 80% Captivate users. THis seriously disappointed those who expected me to teach them Captivate during the session - particularly this one old man who seemed really out of his element. I have a feeling he didn't understand 3/4 of what happened in the conference.

I kinda let this guy get to me.

One of the attendees came up to me after the session for moral support:

You know - he was really out of line. You shouldn't have let him get to you. We got some GREAT information. And you did a great job adapting to everyone's questions and the flow of the session.

Such is the risk you take when you open up the sessions. I had a plan, but I wanted to make sure the majority got what they needed. I figured you ought to take advantage of the face-to-face format - questions and interactivity.

Taking the feedback from the first session, I made some adjustments. The second session went more smoothly - in my mind. Of course, I also didn't get the same level of give and take as I did the first session. Partially because everyone was in post-lunch coma. Partially because it was the last session of the conference and everyone was thinking about their travel plans. Still, it was well attended and I got some great feedback.

At the airport, I ran into a fellow presenter. We were kicked off our US Air flight onto a SouthWest flight for the leg to Las Vegas.

Yeah, my first session was pretty rough. I felt much better about the second session.

Even after rehearsing, I found that it is tough to predict how that first audience is going to react....

For those of you who are experienced presenters, do you have any tips for making the first presentation less nerve-wracking?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

So how is it going to help THEM

“What pressing problem is this going to solve?”

I probably needed to write this first, but I thought of it third.

When you ask this question, don’t ask what pressing problem of YOURS is it going to solve.

Another conference-goer, who also works in Health Care, mentioned that she was thinking about using a wiki for tips, tricks, and workarounds. My thought is that it would go over like a lead balloon. The doc would much rather call a person right then and there and find the ONE way to do something than dig through lots of options.

Why do I think this? I’ve already built something just like it and it went over like a lead balloon.

The best approach, from what I can tell, is to ask what pressing problem do your end-users have that Web 2.0 technologies will solve.

Are they having a difficult time keeping track of the latest versions of material?

Are they having a hard time finding internal resources on particular topics? (Again, in the beginning, try to keep it non-controversial. If the access is problematic enough – you’ll get buy-in on more controversial topics).

Are they having difficulty sorting through hundreds of e-mails on various topics?

I’m certain you have other questions and ideas.

My comment to the conference-goer, and something I am trying at my own organization, was that she should look at the projects and committees the doctors work in.

Health care organizations use committees to develop organizational policies. This is where I think a wiki would be most helpful - a working area that allows the group to keep up with the decisions made within that particular committee. After the committee completes the work – they can easily lock and distribute the finished product.

If you find a tool that also allows chats and remote access, then records it within that space – the docs don’t have to worry so much about making meetings if they are running behind in clinic. The only thing they will miss is the free lunch.

Again – it’s up to the end-users. Show them how it helps THEM, then let the end-users decide whether it’s worth it. If they reject it, ask why and listen carefully. They may be perfectly happy with what they are doing now. And that’s OK.

And that's truly the whole POINT behind Web 2.0. It's not up to US to tell them how to use the tools.

Starting Small

I’m a big fan of guerrilla change management. This is how I’ve been implementing Moodle.

Read more....

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cultivating IT Friends

I received some great feedback regarding our session on Web 2.0. The overriding comment I received was

“But how can we do this at work?”

Jeff and David from MetLife commented:

We have issues with legal, confidentiality, and the IT Department. We know it’s coming, but it’s tough to see how to get from here to there in our environment.

I concur. For many of us, it is a lot easier to see how we can incorporate Web 2.0 technologies for our own learning than it is to see how to implement it in our work environments.

I see incorporating any new technology, whether it be eLearning technologies such as Wikis or intellectual technologies like new classroom courses, as an implementation project. Of course, my focus and experience is in application implementations.

Over the next few posts, I’ll throw out some things I’m trying as I try to move our organization kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Tip 1: Cultivate a friend in the IT Department

I’ll be the first to admit that I am in a better position than most. I work IN the IT department – so it’s easier for me to establish the relationships necessary to build an internal wiki / blog / social networking system. It’s very important to cultivate a good friend in the IT department if you are going to do the Web 2.0 internally.

Why you should do this:
1) Even if you have solid technical chops, most of us are not network people. You need their help to get everything configured for your organization’s network.

2) These people are going to be your technical support as your project scales up. It’s good to get their buy in before planning anything too big.

3) Most like to play with cool toys and will give you honest feedback about the tools and potential uses. Heck, many of them are probably already using Web 2.0 tools in their personal life. It’s not the tools they are worried about – it’s the end-users…..

4) Many tend to be early adopters. If they get excited about your project – they’ll spread it to the early adopters in your organization, then they’ll tell 2 friends….

My advice for cultivating a good friend in the IT department:

1) Restart your application and/or computer BEFORE calling us. And don’t act exasperated if we ask you to do it again while we are on the phone. We’re just making sure that everything is cleared out of the caches.

Advanced skill: Troubleshoot the problem first and let us know exactly the steps you took before you had the problem and the error message you received. We are aware that gremlins live in the system and occasionally like messing with end-users. If we can’t recreate the problem, it’s OK. The gremlins are just temporarily scared.

2) Don’t be that person who forgets their password every week (we know who you are).

3) We like to have people say Hi to us every once in awhile and not follow it up with “While you’re here….”

Personal pet-peeve: The people who do the 1 sentence worth of small talk then attacks with their problem. Save your breath….just tell me what you need.

4) We LOVE when people ask our opinion about techie things. Most IT folks are complete gadget and tool freaks and spend inordinate amounts of time researching new stuff. When wooing IT friends, ask about techie toys that are not related to work.

5) Red Bull is quite popular among techie folks these days. We also like junk food.

When you find your quarry – figure out their personal likes and dislikes, what they do outside of IT, and their strongest skills.

Listen carefully when an IT person says “no.” It’s not just the personal work of setting up the system they are considering, but also the support. Actually, it’s the support issues that concern most of the IT folks I know. It’s nice if you have the technical chops to go out and install cool new tools on your office machine – but as soon as that machine breaks, we know who you are calling….

They may also be concerned about the way that program might interact with mission critical applications. Case in point: our Electronic Medical Record is easily broken by conflicting Active X controls from other programs. This makes the IT department nervous about implementing new tools without THOROUGH testing of the EMR after installation. Testing takes time that we generally don’t have.

They may also be concerned that once they get it up and running that you will stop taking responsibility for the project and just dump the thing on IT. It's really important that you know how to take care of your tools. Get the administrative passwords for your tool and learn how to configure the thing. This will give you much more control over what you are doing.

If you convince the IT person to put your Web 2.0 tool in their test environment, offer to help with the testing. Also, make sure you have a plan B in place – just in case your program causes problems with the mission critical application.

As the MetLife guys said:
You know, if we’re going to do this, we may need to do it outside of our firewall.

And that may not be a bad solution….

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Day 2 eLearnDevCon - Exquisitely Frustrating

The thing I love and hate about conferences like this is the number of great ideas I’m given. I love the intellectual and creative rush of seeing other people’s work and how they did it. I hate that I have no time to go play and attempt to implement some of these ideas in my own world.

So here’s my list of things I want to do over the next year or so as a result of what I saw today. If I accomplish ONE of these things, I’ll be a happy camper.

1) Build one educational game.

Mark Henry gave some really solid advice for planning and designing an educational game. He uses a fairly common process improvement practice as his planning strategy – capture the current workflow (and ask the people who actually do the work rather than the managers), then strip things down to the necessary.

His example – Apple’s 1978 Lemonade Stand. A simple and elegant simulation of entrepreneurship. Play it and let me know what YOU think you learned.

Here are some of my notes from his discussion:

Capture and Model the Business Practice
- Start with flowcharting the practice/process at a high level.
- Identify all of the relationships within the flowchart. The who or what does what.
- Also identify any external factors
- List what collected, manipulated, and passed on by those relationships (find the inputs, processes, and outputs)
- Gotta be able to articulate all of the pieces otherwise developer can’t help.
- Do for ALL of the pieces
- Gotta be as MINUTE and as detailed as possible.
- Take 1 item and list all of the possible variants / versions of that item.
- Identify what is within and outside of acceptable standards for those components. Take the variable – what happens when you deal with that variable. Converting into rules to run the simulation.
- Discover the casual factoid. What determines if those components are within or outside of acceptable standards? WHY do these variables behave this way? Why for these rules.
- Map all this out. Discuss with CURRENT WORKERS to validate. NOT MANAGEMENT. These guys are in the trenches.
- Adjust and update your model based on that input. Refne and revalidate until you’re satisfied.

- If you did your job modeling LOTS of info. Now - strip down to what is necessary.
- How do you know what is necessary?
o What does the audience have DIRECT influence over. The basis of the cause / effect. (Basis of the user interaction)
o What will effect them. What parts do they NOT have influence over but will effect their effort. (Game variables and algorithm)
o How important it is to the business that the student, understand, appreciate and have ability to CONTROL the cause and effect.
- Create model

Once all this is done, create a real quick and ugly prototype for proof of concept.
- Get comments from the trenches. Revise and validate until you have a finished product.

I walked out of that session truly inspired.

2) Seriously upgrade my Flash and ActionScript chops.

Adam Brown did a very fast-paced demonstration of ActionScript 3.0. I’ve done a little bit with Flash MX 2004 and ActionScript 2.0. Nothing terribly complicated. And I’ll admit that most of my ActionScripting has been of the copy / paste / and troubleshoot variety.

That may not change, and Adam is a die-hard hard-coder, but I figure that if I can improve my Flash chops, the technical quality of my tutorials will improve dramatically.

3) Figure out how to build Google Gadgets from scratch with feeds from my Moodle tutorials or some other source.

It would be really nice to build a robust desktop help tool for the Electronic Medical Record we use. The Google Desktop Sidebar may provide an option for delivery of the brief tutorials and materials at the point of need rather than forcing the user to navigate away from the program.

I have to think about the design. I’m learning that straight text may really be OK.

It looks like there’s some XML and database stuff involved. I’ll probably ask Dick Carlson for more information. He talked about how to build this beast briefly, but I was too busy playing with Google Desktop and didn’t pay as much attention as I should have.

I call this the independent Hands-On learning seminar….

4) Figure out how to build learning for mobile phones

Well, maybe not learning so much as checklists and references. Of course, this may require that I finally break down and get a “real phone”. You know, one that does camera, texting, internet and, oh yeah, phone….

Side note: I did get a chance to see the iPhone in person at Monday night’s dinner. The coolest thing about it – the graphics….. The touch screen, however, makes me uncomfortable. In practice, I’ve found touch screens finicky. Not having particularly solid small motor skills doesn’t help….

Overall – the technical presenters have been very honest about the strengths and limitations of the tools they use and have shared some good workarounds.

I hope to do just as well during my sessions.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Day 1 eLearnDevCon - Keeping it Simple

From what I've seen from the presentations today (not including mine), one overarching message I've heard - keep it simple and don't scare the learner.

The emphasis is on easing people into the technology.

Thomas Reinartz's presentation provided an excellent example of this process.

He discussed a study looking at the differences between online learning vs. classroom learning. He had a very technophobic audience (teachers).

To mitigate their hesitancy with the technology, he eased them into it during the class. So - week 1, he had them do a straight text exercise. Blog, Wiki, other tool. Whichever they found easiest, but they had to post it online using one of those tools. Week 2 - online journal with pictures. Week 3 - add images. Each week, he encouraged people to learn something new. He also made interaction within the environment MANDATORY. This way, they HAD to use the tool.

By midsemester, they had developed small communities (he found 4 person groups worked best) around the tools and the technophobic students looked forward to using them. Even better, at the end of the course the students felt they knew more about the material.

The next semester, When the professors went back to a more "traditional" format (face-to-face lecture), the instructors discovered that the students disengaged early and even claimed they knew LESS about the material than before the class.

Throughout the course, even though it was almost all online (save for a 3 hour "bootcamp" session), the professors focused on whether the students used the technology and the quality of the content. They emphasized that they did not care about the appearance. The goal was engagement.

I think engagement is the key for those of us not blessed with an audience of techies.

You don't need to build fancy. In the mobile learning session I attended - A.J. Ripin, the presenter, noted that text worked perfectly well. Text is less likely to cause technical hiccups. Also, many users are perfectly fine with reading text, particularly on a mobile when staring at reference information. Movies, flash, etc are great - but wireless protocols and mobile devices still don't quite provide the speed to really make it work flawlessly at all times.

Of course, I work in a DC healthcare environment with regular interference from the machines, pagers, and the MAN. Plus I've had iPAQs thrown at me because of dropped signals. So I guess I'm jaded.

Getting Started with Web 2.0

Just finished presenting with Brent Schlenker at eLearnDevCon 2007. I had hoped to put together a video of the presentation. Of course – I had the camcorder set on Video Card rather than video tape. Hence – no movie. I love technology…..

Brent and I literally met each other 10 minutes before the presentation. I think that made for a more interesting interaction.

I’ve been excited (and somewhat nervous) about this presentation since I roped him into doing this.

Brent and I come at blogging and web 2.0 technologies from very different perspectives. The optimist and the pessimist. The social butterfly and the antisocial introvert. I hope that the contrast came through during our talk.

We got some interesting questions and I wish we had more time to really engage.

Wikis: How do you incorporate this into the organization? How do you handle people giving misinformation?

Brent’s take – the openness is the healthiest and best thing about this technology. You start having more constructive discussions as an organization and can start addressing issues productively.

My take – start small. Non-threatening content. Project plans, schedules or something like that. Few people – you and a few co-workers. Word will start getting around. People will get more comfortable, then you can start tackling more controversial topics and add more people.

Blogs: Don’t you fear people saying bad things about you?

Brent: They’re gonna do it anyway. The contacts and networks you create are infinitely more valuable.

Me: I was very nervous about that. But the eLearning blogosphere is so friendly and filled with people who WANT you to succeed. That’s what surprised me. Especially since I still see blogging as a personal processing tool. I’m STILL surprised people read my blog.

I’m hoping the takeaway from the session was the value of the network that you can build using these technologies.

I’m thinking next year, a session on ideas for incorporating these technologies in a corporate environment and overcoming corporate fear would be a really good thing.

Thankfully, the Rapid Intake folks did screenshot and sound recording. I hope to get my mitts on the recorded session and post it here so that you all can at least hear the conversation.

Friday, July 13, 2007

They Are Letting Me Out!!!!!

Once a year, my employer allows me to go to a conference. This year, I am returning to eLearnDevCon at the University of Utah as a Presenter!!!!!

I have an embarrassing confession to make.

I haven't presented at a conference since 1996. Some Southeasten Indian conference thing at Middle Tennessee State University. I compared the flora of Eastern Band Cherokee territory with the Oklahoma Cherokee reservation. If I remember correctly, I think I concluded that the environments were similar and that the Cherokee could find most of the stuff they needed for "medicine." Exciting stuff, huh...

I'm more excited about this one.

On Monday at 10am - Brent Schlenker and I will be discussing how to get started with Web 2.0 technologies. The evangelist and the follower. Even if no one shows up, I am looking forward to this conversation.

It will be more interesting if you come!

Wednesday - I'll be presenting solo on using Adobe Captivate 2.0 - focusing on templates and software simulation. I'll also talk about considerations when importing the end product to an LMS.

I'm looking forward to meeting you!!!!!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

ISO: Free Interactive Flash Thing

Here is the spiffy tool I am looking for:

A YouTube / Google Video service for Interactive Flash files.

Oh yeah - gotta be free.

And I'd like to be able to post it on my blog (just like YouTube / Google Video)

I think it would be neat to be able to share our stuff without having to develop an entire web site.

Anyone know of such a beast?


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Startup Weekend

Through Scott Rosenburg I found Startup Weekend - an attempt to start a company, figure out what to build and build it in one weekend.

Guess what - they failed.

Here's what I found so disturbing about this project - it wasn't about building a quality product for the end user. It's about creating something as fast as humanely possible and "selling" it. And guess who lives with the end result if successful....the suckers who were dumb enough to buy the product.

I've discovered that there is a cowboy mentality in technology. The drive to build stuff faster and "better." "Better," in this scenario, may mean cleaner code, a cool new (though not necessarily useful) widget, a neat-looking (though not necessarily user-friendly) interface. It may not (and usually doesn't) mean a product that is bug-free and end-user friendly. It also does not include any consideration of the long term support of the application, widget, or what have you. The focus is on the launch.

What vendors forget is that real people have to live with the design decisions they make and the bugs in the system long after your "launch". Real people have to answer to angry, frustrated users. And these people are your CLIENTS.

What I found interesting is that they questioned whether 70 people should be involved (rather than 5).

I suspect this is the ignorant non-programmer talking, but what they should have questioned is whether creating a major program to sell to lots of people over a weekend with no idea what they were building in the first place was a good idea to begin with.

Yes I am aware that lots of good programs are built by a skilled, dedicated computer programer over a weekend. But they worry about monetizing the thing after the fact and after it goes through some testing of some sort (through their own use, through putting it out on developer boards for people to play with, etc). And that programmer generally goes in with an idea of what they want to accomplish (at least, all of the programmers I know do).

Only then do they worry about logos and t-shirts.

I pray that Startup Weekend does not become a trend.....

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Another Way to Look at the Issue

In his comments to Conflicting Trends - Tom Haskins has reminded me of something that I rail about and yet have forgotten in the thick of battle:

Learners may demonstrate more buy-in if the tools are assembled into a customized combination or personalized sequence of tools that puts a spin on the resources: "we care about you", "you are more important than the tools to us" or "we're responding to your unique needs".

It's so easy to make the tools more important than the people. Partially because you have more control over the tools you develop than the people who use them. Partially because tool development provides more concrete evidence that you have accomplished something.

Tom also points out that the tools I am developing are external to the learner's needs.

If the learners had to first come up with a question, problem or need "from inside", then their request would answered in a very different context from getting reminded to use available tools.

This is when I wish I had the technical chops to come up with a solution within the applications I am working with.

I saw an interesting model for this within the GE Centricity (formerly IDX) Flowcast 4.0 upgrade. Centricity is a common enterprise healthcare business application that handles scheduling and financial functions.

In this product, the designers have put workflow reminders beside the workspace. The end-user can follow the steps and links to the appropriate pages to complete each task. From what I've heard from the sales folks, the organization has control over the content of these workflow reminders: what should go in each field, where you should look on the insurance card, exception processes, decision assistance, etc.

If this thing works as it sounds like it does, it is a HUGE step towards a comprehensive, internal performance support solution. And something I wish I had access to in the electronic medical record I work with. It would make all of these tutorials I'm building a moot point....

And that's what training is all about, isn't it? Helping our students improve using whatever means possible....

Friday, July 06, 2007

Pleasing Multiple Audiences

Tony Karrer, in his comments to Conflicting Trends asked me to lay out the multiple audiences I am supposed to please with the online training I am developing.

I hope this exercise helps me because I am becoming overwhelmed with conflicting needs and lack of time (again) to do what needs to be done.

Stakeholder Group 1: Existing users within my organization who have suffered through the upgrade and are having issues with parts of the product.

These people are looking for quick how-tos to perform simple tasks. They are not looking for complicated tutorials - or even a movie. The preference for this group of stakeholders is not movies or documents but a human being (me) shadowing them for the entire day and ready to leap at their command. 1 of me - 2000 of them.

You can see why I am trying to build materials for them. Especially since our attempts to train "advisors" (to use Tom Haskins' word) has turned into 63 people who know how to give the other 1934 people my contact information and not much else....

Tony's right to point out that my comment "people who use online reference are not in it to think" is not particularly fair (though I did pull that quote directly from a member of this stakeholder group and I've been feeling really cynical). They are just looking for the fastest, best solution to a problem. No more, no less.

Unfortunately, because of the needs of the other stakeholder groups, I'm not able to get to the topics they are interested in quite yet....

Stakeholder Group 2: Resident, Fellow and Med Student Training

This time every year we have a new batch of residents and med students. With a few exceptions this year, I have been able to get everyone through the face-to-face portion of the exercise (though this requirement is more to make the attendings feel better than anything useful for the residents). These folks then scatter to their various sites and return months later having forgotten everything we told them.

The training for this audience needs to be comprehensive to their current workflow. Research, Documentation and, for some, Order Entry. The organization is working to make the resident workflows and expectations consistent across all attendings and departments. Until that happens, I have to somehow build modules that I can easily customize for each group. Somehow....

Stakeholder Group 3: New User Training (staff)

The CEO really wants us to develop a comprehensive online training program for the staff. He feels that this will make the training more consistent across the board and give us access to reports to see how well the training works. I'm with him on this one. The rest of the organization, however, is not. The management team (and the employees) beneath him feel that there has to be "human contact" and a classroom experience for real learning to occur.

There is also the lack of standardization issue across departments (even across individual providers) that makes developing a comprehensive online training program challenging at best.

Stakeholder Group 4: The CIO

The CIO has visions of making the IT Department a profit-producing part of our health care organization. Not just a department that sucks up money as administrative cost. To that end, he has started selling our services to outside groups. Computer and network administration, application access, etc. With the same 15 people he started with.......but that's another story I don't want to get into right now....

One of the services he wants to sell to outside groups are the training tutorials that I have been building. I currently have a deadline of August 1 to develop at least 1 bug-free set of comprehensive tutorials that another organization can use for their own upgrade training.

Because he wants to sell this to outside groups, the tutorials have to be very generic. A tricky proposition since the application covered by the tutorials is incredibly customizable. To the point that the end-user can make the application behave as he or she sees fit.

I've been basing the tutorials on what our organization has set up by necessity. However, I can see that these tutorials can only be used short-term. Then the organization who purchases these tutorials will have to create their own materials to match their configuration and processes. Hmmmm.......

Stakeholder Group 4a: The outside organization who uses an earlier version of the application.

These tutorials have to be geared towards how to adapt what currently exists to the new system. Lots of information about how familiar parts of the program change in the context of a standard workflow (such as documenting a patient visit)

Stakeholder Group 4b: The outside organization who is going live on an EHR with this version.

I could probably crib materials from the Resident and New User trainings for this. But the modules have to be smaller and the workflows more customizable by the end user....
Right now, I've been trying to design these tutorials so that the end-user/student can create their own path through the modules. I have a series of Visio flowsheets hanging on my wall for defining which tutorials need development, how small the chunks should be, and navigation options.

Sadly, I find myself so focused on building the individual tutorials right now that I am having a hard time seeing how the whole will be educational....

Monday, July 02, 2007

Conflicting Trends?

I need some clarification of what I am witnessing in the eLearning environment. Please let me know if I am completely off base here. And pardon me for my rambling...

Looking through my Google Reader over the past few months, I am seeing 2 seemingly conflicting trends.

Trend 1) Build performance support tools. Short how-tos / reference materials at the point of need. These tools aren't "instructional" per-se. Help when you need it.

Trend 2) Build instructional tools. Tools that are truly educational using the most advanced brain research and design methodologies. Tools of this nature are more like "events". Objective-based, skill-based. Hang out for an hour or two and play...

I'm certain that these 2 trends are not mutually exclusive. That one can build an instructional strategy that incorporates the best of the 2 worlds.

I know that my professional environment wants me to focus on trend 1. Essentially, becoming an online documentation specialist. Make it easy, make it quick, and one day put it all someplace where we can get to it fast. It's not about instruction or permanent "learning" so much as it's about access to resources. The "learning" is knowing where those resources are kept.

I know that my natural leaning is to build trend 2 - particularly for the residents. The ability being able to evaluate how well they can perform whatever it is they need to do. Something more objective-based.

I'm seeing the tug-of-war in the ever-shifting requirements for the online tutorials I am building.

Build short resources - no one is ever going to use it. And they are not in this to think. Just show them how to do it, and let them go.

But the residents need training, so we need to build a full training deck.

However, they aren't really going to learn how to use it until they are in the clinic.

We want to sell the tutorials to outside parties. Make sure other organizations can use it for training. It should be instructionally sound.

But we want the docs to be able to eat their lunch while they watch....

I suspect my confusion is a result of having too many stakeholders with conflicting agendas wanting a piece of my work. Still - I see the same tug-of-war in the e-learning blogs.

Maybe if I focus on mini-games...... short game like things that have them perform the task they need to "learn".

But so much of what they need to do is in the context of a process....

How can I combine the pressure for resources and allowing people to find stuff for themselves vs. creating things that are truly "educational?" Are my attempts to "educate" actually a need for control in disguise and I should just give up altogether?

Am I completely off base here?

Thanks for your help.....