Wednesday, 17 November 2010

inspiring mind maps

I'm currently working on a workshop displaying the presentation capabilities of mindmap tools. 

The three tools I've used for presentations are;

1) - web based, collaborative, basic (free).

2) - a map of web 2.0 tools - web based, range of useful features even with the free version. The premium version expands the feature set.

3) Buzan's iMindmap - PC based, but does have an iPhone app.  As far as I'm concerned this one has it all, and stays true to the underpinning theories of Tony Buzans mindmapping principles. It works both as a brainstorming tool, as you would expect, but also then turns a mindmap into an impressive  presentation. In presentation mode it looks not too dissimilar to PREZI, zooming in and out of nodes as you traverse around your mindmap. It even exports the map to a Powerpoint version.  The best I've used bar none.

As you can see from this example my techniques improved markedly after attending an approved Buzan mindmap session.  If you adhere to the principles, it really does help improve memory, recall, and trigger ideas off from all areas of your grey matter.

The best I'd recommend for teaching and learning was one I reviewed a few years ago, called mindgenius.  The ability to export skeleton maps to word documents allowed students to rapidly work round ideas, then export nodes as word subheadings. Ideal planning tools for both visual learners and anyone coping with dyslexia.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

E-portfolios in HE

Useful video by a colleague of mine discussing the benefits of e-portfolios

Monday, 25 October 2010

Totally Totara

Totara is the name of a new venture between Kineo + Catalyst IT - A leading open source company based in New Zealand, Australia and the UK. Catalyst are one of the core Moodle developers and have one of the largest Moodle development teams. Joining this are the Flexible Learning Network - An innovative New Zealand based e-learning company that leads the Mahara e-portfolio project, the most popular open source e-portfolio system world-wide and often used in combination with Moodle.  Full press release here.

Totara will offer bespoke flavours of Moodle customised (as they do currently) to the corporate LMS market, integrating training tracking, etc, and now add personal learning plan in the shape of Mahara.  IMO, HEIs & FE Colleges could benefit from these new ideas of Moodle / Mahara integration.  This new venture also reinforces the increased awareness  and uptake of Open Source solutions across the globe.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

ipad Vs iphone4

iphone 4 image

I found these stats in the image  capabilities of the new iphone. I knew they had improved since Vs 1, but was surprised to see by how much. BTW, the new iphone 4 also has a front camera as well as the back one.
iPhone 45.0 MegaPixel2592x19361280x720Back-Facing
iPhone 4VGA640x480640x480Front-Facing

see this site for full technical spec':  & more here:

Before I mention my new iphone4, I 'd like to point you in the direction of 3 ipad reviews to bring you up-to-date on the best gadget of the century :

Now back to my new work iphone4. I took delivery of it yesterday.  Out f the box, it's less curvy than my old (orginal version 1), but on first inspection the interface is much improved. The most obvious difference is the obligatory 4 digit passcode needed to accces it. Not a bad idea. 
I re-instated my itunes account to begin download new apps. More about those on following posts. 

I tested the camera and video functionality yesterday and was impressed by the ability to shoot video and images from the same app. Not sure of the quality yet, but I do know there's an imovie app that enables simple video editing on the move.  I'll try that soon. ~   I've just downloaded the first images and; I'm very impressed at the quality (much improved - see above).The video clips I shot yesterday are also very good quality - apart from the fact that I shot them in portrait format - and I should have used landscape!  I'll upload one of those  videos to vimeo and embed it in this post shortly. But again the video quality looks outstanding for a mobile phone :OD

Now to add the Blackboard and Pabblepad apps. I'll update you on those and others in the near future. I'll also put up another post about the video capabilities of sed iphone, soon.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

the attitude or the technology?

Just noticed this short article on Wired Campus 

So I've just copied it >>>

"Faculty members and information-technology staff members alike say technology is useful for teaching and learning, but professors take a narrower view of what technology belongs in today's classroom, according to a report released on Monday by the technology company CDW Government Inc.

Eighty-eight percent of the 303 faculty members surveyed said technology was essential or useful for student learning, and over 60 percent said they used electronic materials in their teaching, according to the report.

The most popular tools cited by professors were e-textbooks and online documents, with faculty members reporting far less enthusiasm for other electronic tools. Under a quarter of faculty members surveyed use wikis or blogs in their teaching, and only 31 percent of professors surveyed considered online collaboration tools "essential" to today's classroom, compared with 72 percent of over 300 IT employees surveyed.
That suggests an interesting gap between technology staff members and professors when it comes to how smart classrooms need to be. How wired should teaching spaces be?

It's only a short article but really resonates with the situation here in the UK education arena. i.e. some see the benefits of the technology, and strive to create environments to nurture 21st century learning expereinces. This is often hampered by differeing levels of support (both IT and senior management) .

The comments about the reluctance to grasp the significance of collaborative platforms also does not surprise me - sadly.  The thread of comments posted under the article could have been penned by any UK educator - which is also quite scary. I advise you to read them - very insightful to see the interpretation of technology enhanced learning from differing perspectives. I especially like this comment :

If you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

My advice is to get back to basics and work from curriculum up - redesign to incorporate these (collaborative) learning methods - or they'll always be bolt-on. And also ensure the support mechanisms are in place - implementing technology is so about the people and so not about the "systems"
Use the JISC infokit to help redesign your courses - you know it makes sense !o) , it really is very good :

Transforming Curriculum Design and Curriculum Delivery through Technology

Friday, 9 July 2010

Bb merger frenzy

Bb - ellumninate- Wimba - become one!

Blackboard (VLE)  announced this week a pair of acquisitions in the “synchronous learning and collaboration” software business - Elluminate Inc. and Wimba Inc. - for a combined $116 million in cash. 

The provider of enterprise software for the education market said the two companies combined provide services to more than 2,600 institutions in the K-12, higher education and professional education markets.

Wow, this is big news.  But is it good news or bad news?  That of course depends on your stance.  If you have Elluminate or Wimba already, could you be facing the support debacle that transpired after Blackboard took over WebCT a few years ago.   Not good, and I think Bb are stil suffering the fall out from that poorly managed merger.  Let's hope they've learned their lesson?

So where does that leave Bb now? In a very strong position I'd say. My take on it is that the corporate and education sectors  are using VLE's much less given the rise of web 2.0 apps and of course the rise of Moodle giant slayer. This fall in their bread and butter market and the impending explosion of live webinars would have certainly dented share dividends.  Corporate training budges are being routinely decimated in this economic climate, which now makes it a neccessity to use webinars (Connect Pro, Dimdim, Wimba and Elluminate, etc) to train many staff with them leaving their home or office. Mi££ions can be saved.

Of course those just wanting  Elluminate or Wimba as a stand alone product may face a price rise? Or those who need them to plug into other VLEs may be thwarted in the future - by being forced into using Bb just to get Ellumniate or Wimba? Who knows? Or will one of these tools go to leave just the best from Wimba & Elluminate, that would not be such a bad thing?

Uncertain times, but definitely a bold and visionary move by Bb to keep it's market share by investing in synchronous technology - now we (well most) have the bandwidth to exploit these tools.

BTW,  if you need an alternative webinar tool like , visit my page on all things webinars.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Tin eye

Just been told about this new "image plagiarism" tool :  It helps you reverse search for an image. Useful also for catching up on the results of those Friday afternoon Photoshop tennis sessions (

Friday, 25 June 2010


Today I had a bit of fun "reviewing the new and; very funky logiech SPHERE webcam. Not the most technically indepth review, but as you can guess I liked it. Oh and BTW it was recorded using the simples Iflip video camrea. The face tracking function kinda works, if U don't dance around the office! Ideal for those webinars?

review of logitech sphere webcam from kevbrace on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010


I attended a lecture by Professor Phillip Long ( one author of the 2010 Horizon report) last week. Read the full story on a new Aston blog : -

Plenty of links to look at - and especially on sharing course material ( as he was one of the instigators of the MIT Open courseware initiative.

Monday, 26 April 2010

irubric & rcampus

After trawling through another of my regular Google Alerts on e-portfolios this link caught my eye.  It began as an interesting link to a web based tool to create a set of rubrics for assessing e-portoflios: called irubric . Very neat idea, for those just embarking on the use of assessed e-portfolios.  And for those (like me) who are not exactly sure what a rubric is :
 rubric is a scoring tool that's generally used for subjective and authentic assessments. In subjective assessments, rubrics help create a certain level of objectivity. As a result, learners are more clear about the expectations prior to assessment and are clear about their areas of weakness and strength after the assessment. In authentic assessments (which are usually subjective), rubrics help educators communicate and assess levels of performance.

Moving on to Rcampus - from the above irubric pages, I noted that they host e-portfolios and courses (like a VLE) all for free :OD - why pay more?   Looks V good (at first glance)  For more info watch the vid : 

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

distance nursing

At last, a positive report on a real success story of how distance learning can really make a difference to education. Lead by the UK's most experienced distance learning organisation.  Take note all - distance learning actually works if well designed (using synchronous + asynchronous modes) and very well supported.

Read the full story.>>>>>>>>>>

"...The quality and consistency of support provided on distance-learning programmes is crucial to minimise dropout rates. On the OU nursing course, students are assigned a tutor for each module they take, while another supports individual students throughout their four-year period of study. OU-trained personal mentors, typically a registered nurse, support and assess students in the workplace.

"The workbooks direct your learning, but you got a tutorial every month by video link. We also met our tutor face-to-face once a month with the rest of the group," says O'May. "There were also phone tutorials, emails and online forums. It worked fantastically well."
From 2012, the OU will offer nursing degrees as part of the government's policy to make nursing training degree-standard. But entry criteria will remain the same so that healthcare workers seconded by their employers are still able to study for the degree."

Monday, 19 April 2010

LEAPing ahead

JISC have recently (March 2010) issued a new briefing paper outlining the latest advances in the LEAP2A standards.

"Leap2A is an open specification for transferring learner-owned information between different systems. e-Portfolio tools and systems are now widely used by learners to present evidence of learning, achievements and abilities for many purposes, including application for a job or university, assessment or professional accreditation. During their studies, these learners may invest significant time and effort in collecting, selecting, reflecting on and presenting the information included in their e-portfolios, so it is vital that their work doesn’t disappear or become unusable as learners move to another college, university or into the workplace."

Two large eportfolio platforms are already on board/helping to develop; Pebblepad and Mahara.

Read more and dload the paper....

while I'm on the subject of eportfolio's, there's a neat little PLE Vs VLE blog post (with commoncraft inspired video) by Steve wheeler (Plymouth Uni)

Friday, 16 April 2010

e-safety tips

I attended a very informative e-safety CPD session the other week. All based in Second Life. It was a standard type session using PPT (see below), but enhanced with some videos and peppered with live chats discussing topics in question. Thanks to Jane Edwards and Carol Rainbow for running the engaging and informative session.  We advise that organisations put some guidelines and protocols (see links below) in place for staff and students, don't just ban everything as knee jerk reaction to the onslaught of web 2.0 use. 

View more presentations from kevinbrace.
Related e-safety links:
Just passed onto me : Reading University have developed a suite of resources, (a game & exercise) that help to understand how to manage your digital identity. Called This Is Me.


Just found out that etherpad has been finally shut down - but now replaced by Titanpad.  It does exactly the same as etherpad, i.e. real time collaborative editing. Kind of like a wiki - but "live"  - scary, but fun.  

There's also - which Iwas told is now a fully Open Source version of the now defunct etherpd? Not sure of that tho'?

So also , which is also fun and works like post it notes  in your browser - again in realtime - and shared.

Nb. Google purchased etherpad technology to make google Wave. Which is nice. And I've just been informed that the old etherpad team are working on Google doc's.  Which we also like :OD

Online Learning Task Force

I've just skimmed through the March 2010 update of the HEFCE Online Learning Task Force.  Makes for some very interesting reading.  Basically it boils down to 3 things that need to be adhered to;
  • Do the market research (who is doing what well, & learn from others mistakes), the OU is obviously a good model to learn from, and conversely so was the UKeU!!  Often I see HE going "off on one", blissfully ignorant of the good practice that's gone before by others who've done this well (Ultraversity is a good model, as it Sheffield College Net trainers courses, so is Oxford Brookes, to name but a few). Professor Gilly Salmons 5 stage model & emoderators books are a good place to start.
  • "Traditional" distance courses are built around a vocational model, relying heavily on adult leaning and work based motivational needs (see also Maslow). Paper behind glass would form the basis of this experiences. This model is a cost saving model.  I'd guess very little moderator/facilitator interaction or even less peer2peer engagement.  Good online/distance learning takes time to nurture & support and promote student centred & active learning. It is not cheap, and requires skill & time to design and support. I repeat, it it not a cheap alternative to F2F delivery.

  • And finally, this interim report acknowledges that effective pedagogy and the supporting organisational infrastructure is the key to successful online/distance learning.
  • The technology is here, now all we have to do is catch up. See also USA, North America & Australia for exemplars of effective distance learning :O)

Snippets from the report.....

Online learning: the current picture in the UK....This research suggests that:

a. More should be done to provide a simple taxonomy of the wide range of
student experiences that currently fall under the broad title of ‘online distance

b. The vast majority of online distance learning offered by HEIs is focused on
postgraduate-level provision.

c. Most online distance learning can be identified as professional development,
or as having a strong vocational focus.

d. It can be challenging for potential students to find out about online distance
learning courses, with information often hidden in complex institutional web-sites.
Where details are available, they frequently fail to provide the full range of
information that a potential student needs to make a decision about studying

e. We need to improve the market intelligence available to give a clearer picture
of the position of UK online distance learning in an international context.

and further more :

We have examined what lessons the UK HE sector can learn from previous online
learning ventures, whether successful or ones that no longer exist. ...some interesting points noted so far include:

1. It is important to clarify the purpose of the venture, including a viable, robust
business model.

2. Building on existing success tends to be most effective: in general it seems
wise to grow in, and from, subject areas and markets where institutions have an
established reputation.

3. Clear leadership and ownership is required to maintain strategic focus and
avoid an attitude that online learning is an ‘add-on’ or peripheral activity.

Finally these excerpts caught my eye:

  • It is also clear that technology platforms are not a barrier to success. The OLTF does not intend to dedicate significant attention to this area. We intend to pay more attention to business models to ensure sustainability and cost-effectiveness, and to pedagogical good practice to support academic quality.
  • ...the importance of good pedagogy to the design and delivery of excellent online learning, recognising similarities and differences between on-site, blended and fully online models different organisational structures and business models that are used to support the development and expansion of online learning for the benefit of newer entrants..

Friday, 9 April 2010

E-Portfolio Watch

An eportfolio offers a rich reflective tutor/student feedback loop, which promotes effective learning. The e-portfolio continues to grab the attention of many academics in HE, FE, and Work Based Learning (WBL).  Our recent webinar on WBL1, which we ran with Stanford University covers this use of eportoflios in some depth. Their  community of practice offers a wealth of useful resources2.  Complimenting an existing VLE with an individual learning plan3 (ILP), or adding a link from VLE course to a personal e-portoflio (Mahoodle4), are now being recognised as effective practice.  Susi Peacock’s e-portfolio page5 at Queen Margarets University, reinforces the need to plan, pilot, and offer a contuining suite of support mechanisms to all stakeholders. This level of support will help to ensure a healthy adoption of e-portfolios.   E-portfolios offer efficient communication channels personalised to the learner needs, that no other “platform” has managed to crack. JISC continues to update the online infokit6 on effective practice with e-portfolios, by adding new case studies. See also our comprehensive wiki page on the subject7.

Useful links:

E-Learning lessons from the private sector

My attendance at the biggest UK coporate e-learning event earlier this year promised to be full of pragmatic tips and inside advice from companies1 still suffering from recessional induced cuts in training2 budgets.  What I discovered was a refreshing undercurrent, whereby companies are adopting new technologies, such as; Huddle3 and blogs4, to create internal knowledge sharing communites. These types of innovative approaches e.g.Dare2Share5, were spreading like a viral ad, as most in the UK are reappraising their underacheiving Learning Management Systems (LMS), or adding (free) Web 2.0 tools into the mix.  Companies such as PriceWaterhouseCoopers were making significant training savings using live webinar tools6 such as Adobe Conenct, or Elluminate.  Technolgoy is being used to save money, improve both business and training effiencies, but it’s needed a recession to literally force this! BECta7 in conjunction with the Towards Maturity project8 have released two new related reports on Work Based Learning. They both stress the importance of measuring impact9 and sharing effective practice10 to help us all implement and embed ILT effectively.

Useful links:



    Thursday, 8 April 2010

    Creating an ePortfolio with Wikispaces

    This is how to do it. Nice & easy. Web 2.0 = PLE. Why pay more, when the web does it for free. And note this is not using any HTML/scripting, it's just editing, copy , paste, insert, link. No more difficult than using a word processor. Neat solution to creating a simple e-folio :oD.. 

    I tried the same with my CMALT folio recently using the now defunct Google pages.


    The blurb of this book caught my eye, initially sounded like a rant to begin with, but looks like a useful read into the future of connected learning via the internetwork. 
    "The future lies in personal learning networks and paths, learning that blends experiential and digital approaches, and free and open-source educational models. Increasingly, you will decide what, when, where, and with whom you want to learn, and you will learn by doing. The university is the cathedral of modernity and rationality, and with our whole civilization in crisis, we are poised on the brink of a new Reformation."

    DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education

    Office Add-in for Moodle

     Just stumbled across this... what a fab idea? Does this mean we can now author some simple  (interactive)  learning objects (i.e. drag & drop) in MS Office & bang them directly up to Moodle?  Or is that a bad idea? Puts the terminology "rapid elearning" in a whole new light :OD

    The Microsoft Education Labs team have just launched the Office Add-in for Moodle (or should it be the Moodle Add-in for Office?). This launch builds upon the success of the availability of the Microsoft Live Services Plug-in for Moodle which launched last July. 

    The idea behind the add-in is simple. Now, when you got to Open or Save a file in Office 2003 or 2007, you can select to ‘Open from Moodle’ or ‘Save to Moodle’ directly. This makes it easier for your users to use Moodle natively, and hopefully will encourage them to make better use of your Moodle installation. (If you have a SharePoint-based learning platform, you get similar functionality in Office 2010)

    The “Office Add-in for Moodle”

    View Slide ShowUploading files to Moodle is now much easier.  The Office Add-in for Moodle (OAM) is an add-in for Microsoft Office (versions 2003 and 2007) that allows teachers to open and save Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents to a Moodle website. Today, teachers who use Office and Moodle have to switch back and forth between their web browser and Office applications.  With the OAM, teachers can create, open, edit, and save Moodle documents from within the Office applications.  You no longer need to use your web browser when working with Office documents stored in Moodle.
    So what do you need in order to start using the add-in?  OAM does not require anything to be installed on the Moodle server (note we only tested against Moodle versions 1.8-1.9).  Anyone who is the teacher or owner of a Moodle course can install the add-in and access their documents.  Once installed, the add-in adds two menu items to your File menu (Office 2003) or the Office Button menu: Open from Moodle and Save to Moodle.  In order to browse course files on your Moodle you will need to first tell the add-in the address of your Moodle and the credentials you use to log in.  Once added you can view the list of courses you are enrolled in.  Naturally, students and others can access the content directly from Moodle as they normally would.
    We focused on teachers and content specialists first, since we know most documents posted to Moodles come from teachers. We’ve gotten some requests already about adding support for students and assignments, but we want to hear from you.  So check it out, and let the EducationLabs team know what you think and if there’s anything you want them to work on.  In order to get this beta tool in your hands right away and to get feedback before this gets fully locked down, we decided to roll this out before embarking on synchronization with other add-ins and other Moodle functionality. 

    It’s worth browsing on the Education Labs site for other projects recently released
    imageFind out more about, and download, the free Moodle add-in
    Read other posts on Moodle on this blog

    View article...

    Monday, 29 March 2010

    Helen Talks to TED

    Helen Barrett talks about eportfolios.  Geoff Rebbeck from Thanet College is quoted in this.  Well done Geoff, your ideas are an inspiration to us all - even to Helen Barrett the spiritual mother of all 'folios!

    Meanwhile on a vaguely related ESCalate article; Tracy Johnson, a lecturer in study skills and a qualified personal coach, asks if Personal Development Planning can fit easily into the academic curriculum or whether it resides more comfortably within the employability agenda.

    Friday, 26 March 2010

    Good CoP

    Free book :OD

    In 2009 the Australian ePortfolio Project < > conducted a series of semi structured interviews from 14 online communities across the globe.  This research project was designed to elicit a picture of the types and methods of engagement afforded to these "virtual" eportfolio communities of practice (CoP).  RSC East & West Midlands very own virtual eportfolio CoP < > was discussed in terms of platform types, level of management/ facilitation, and participation engagement.

    This type of facilitating and supporting subject specific "forums" either F2F, online, or both, has long been a strength of the JISC  Regional Support Centres, and we were merely continuing the good work already being carried out across the UK by all RSC's.  The very nature of the online domain to support embryonic CoPs presents many new challenges, in terms of maintaining a manageable balance between facilitation, engagement by its members, and choice of platform. We were influenced by local successful CoPs, specifically as the elearning Best Practice run by Helen Walmsley(former RSC member),  .

    This collaborative venture between myself & Ben Williams (RSC East Midlands) also prove that cross RSC projects are essential, by reaping the benefits of sharing effective practice both internally and externally. It is hoped that others may learn from our experiences when considering supporting similar CoPs in their own areas.

    While I'm on the subject of eportfolios, I saw a demo of in-folio the other day.  It's been funded by JISC Techdis and developed (by the RIX centre)with UK specialist Colleges. I was impressed at it's ease of use and straight forward interface. Two years in the making, it goes from strength to strength, and was mentioned that it will be released as Open Source.

    They have even developed an innovative image based log in function to assist those who cannot type. This project alone looks like it has potential to made logins easier for many (to eliminate the bane of multiple passwords) :

    Wednesday, 17 March 2010


    Are you a Maharan?  For those n00bs, who are wholly unaware of the parlance I've broken into, a "Maharan" is a dedicated follower/user of the Mahara eportfolio platform. Mahara is another best of breed Open Source learning platform (like Moodle), that has been developed in Australia/New Zealand.  Mahara has experienced meteoric rise to fame (again similar to Moodle) across the globe, due to its relative ease of use, ability to integrate into other systems (Mahoodle or MaGoogle), and the growing acceptance of personalised of learning.  The reason why I'm telling you this, is that I've just reviewed a very good book that's just been published by a good friend of mine Derrin Kent, and his dedicated team at UK Bewdley based TDM ltd.  Derrin is an all round good guy and is very experienced at levering ILT/e-learning solutions for Work Based Learning, Colleges and local companies using Moodle or Mahara for teaching or training.

    That experience Derrin has amassed is precisely where the scenarios that support each chapter of Mahara 1.2 ePortfolios are drawn from.  Derrin and his colleagues at TDM, have really gone out of their way to make this book appeal to all levels of interest and experiences, not just with eportfolios, but ILT in general.  It is written in a relaxed, yet informative style which draws the reader into trying out the bite-sized exercises, which form the lion's share of the book. At every step each chapter builds confidence, gives clear illustrations, and positively reinforces the theory by real world scenarios. The reader is constantly encouraged to "have a go hero", buy jumping online to a Mahara sandpit, to learn by doing.  Each step is explained and the chapters check learning, fully explaining the jargon and provide good examples of exactly why and how Mahara could (and should) be used.

    The first chapter, really set the scene explaining eportfolios in general, and the final chapters move into more tutor and administrator levels of Mahara deployment.  But as a mere "user" myself I found these latter chapters equally clear and informative – especially the sections on using Mahara as a very capable e-assessment tool.

    What really sets this book apart from the plethora of computer manuals was the first appendix that guided the reader into the essential aspect of planning and piloting an e-learning platform, to ensure all stakeholders are consulted, and a robust evaluation plan is factored in.  The final appendix even goes as far as covering basic installation of Mahara for those brave enough to try. But by the time you've dipped in and out of this book, you will want to.  A thoroughly good read, that can be enjoyed by anyone interested in the potential of eportfolios and a must for those who have Mahara and want to exploit its suite of features. 

    On its own (either hosted or locally run) Mahara offers a robust set of features that pitch it up against most VLEs for shear practical teaching and learning e-solutions. But... if you do co-join Mahara and Moodle (single sign on), then Mahoodle can offer quite a powerful and flexible Open Source solution suited for most training and teaching needs.

    Well done Derrin and all the TDM book authors, for a well crafted and very informative book.

    Tuesday, 16 March 2010

    Why projects go Wr0nG

    I recently attended a webinar run by the elearning network + ALT entitled "Why eLearning Projects Go Wrong". The recording of the ALT/ELN Why eLearning Projects Go Wrong webinar which took place on the 17th February is now available via the ALT Open Access Repository at:

    above screencast was recorded by myself just to illustrate how Prezi can be used effectivly as a presentation tool during an online webinar. In this instance we were using Elluminate. Anyhoo back to the meat of the webinar.

    Rob Hubbard kicked us off. Rob is a memeber of the eLN, and runs his own company

    Robs many years of experiences in designing and executing bespoke elearning solutions for large compaines was spot on the mark in terms of promoting a plethora of pragmatic tips to guide us through the maze of designing an e-learning "product" that satisfies a clients spec'. Rob ran through a set of pitfalls to avoid whilst running his prezi "slides";

    • Work closely with stakeholders, as their time to review is critical - ensure they understand the entire process,
    • ensure that stakeholders understand the time needed to review the project steps at critical sign-off stages. Book these review stages in their calendars, be explicit about scope and range of "agreed changes",
    • ensure ALL stakeholders are identified and have indepth knowledge of their required input/review at each stage of the design. Document ALL comm's with them in a central place accessible to all – Robs uses basecamp for this (web based) project management of key stages, decisions, and all project doc's,
    • unstuff! - use a method like Kathy More's - action mapping - identifying what needs to be acheived – which ends up at content - keeps it (planning meetings) focussed,
    • has the "thing"/tool/ training package/ changed behaviours - made money / increase in sales, etc? Measure the business metrics. And does it fit with marketing and other promotionals?
    • test on target market – it is fundamental to adopt true user centred design process – do not be tempted to shortcut this stage of the inital design process – do so at your peril!
    • Identify learner needs - active, real world based, skills ,etc.. put yourself in your learners shoes - identify tangible outputs - that could be measured!
    • Implment a multi stage (sign off) process of protoyping and final output - identify a gatekeeper at the client end, to keep everyone in the loop. Test, test, test, on a sample of target users - to feedback users comment into the final design.
    • Adopt a "Plain "English" approach to writing copy + screen design (rememeber less is more for the web), ie. writing for screen and for elearning efficiency & learning efficacy.
    Next up was David Wilson of elearnity

    David also has many years experience of managing large scale e-learning projects. Davids tips complimented Robs;
    Issues emanate mainly around execution - design and delivery - but also around the output - i.e. what's in it for me. 

    • 4 main points of going wrong Alignment, outcomes, adoption, and execution. See also the Towards Maturity research which backs this up. Alignment is key - if this is wrong, everything else is skewed and will not work (backed up by Towards Maturity research).
    • Most elearning is built for compliance (bigger companies) - so elearning is looked at as "boring", as most peoples experiences are primairy concerend with consuming legalities/rules, etc - not interesting!! i.e. most elearning is paper behind glass / click through pages of text + the occaisional self assessment. Dull dull dull.......
    • Drivers and barriers for acceptance and utilisation - need to be identified and designed in - often they are just ignored. Is e-learning the answer at all, and indeed is it a learning problem in the first instance? Is it just a communication issue?
    • Initiative overload - end users being bombarded by new stuff - need to decide how and if to implement.
    • test test test on target platforms and people!! Especially when using other vendors to built the end product.
    • Adoption: support from line managers to actually learn whats been created! Marketing and; relevance and; currency.
    • Outcomes: measuring success ,how to anaylse ROI? Evalaution evaluation evaluation is key. How has the knowledge being retained and used down stream, most elearning companies shy away from this and factor ROI around design and delivery of the project - not measuring improved business performance. n.b. again the Towards Maturity report backs this up.
    Finally I pushed for any advice on the touchy subject of useful evaluation of such projects. I suggested that we could use the Kirkpatrick Model ??: But I was somewhat rebuffed as to it's usefulness. The answer I received was "it kind of works" - but at a higher level - not useful for business metrics - ie. performance improvements. So I did not really get a satisfactory answer for this, but I guess that this two companies needed to keep somethings back, to retain a competitive edge? Unless - this is such a grey area, (read expensive) - no one really knows/can afford to correctly evaluate multimedia type projects???? Answers on a postcard please :OD

    Above all a really useful webinar for those who are
    designing, and implementing any for of elearning into a large organsiation. It struck me how the whole process was simialr to managing any multimedia projects, including websites. From a project management perspective, effective (client) communication is key, as is robust user centred design.

    From an end user perspective, desinging rich engaging material is the key. In fact we discussed adopting a much more social, collaborative, reflective, real world, type of expereince. Much
    like Rob Hubbards own RED course, or by adopting the approach.