Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Book review

I am indebted to Richard Wright, Head of Learning for a medium sized global business based in Devon, England, for contributing the following review of my latest book, Delivering E-Learning, on Amazon:

“This book has been all of the following: a great read, a toolkit, a handbook and an inspiration. I am extremely happy that I chose this one out of all the other e-learning books. For anyone who needs to understand e-learning at work from a strategic perspective, I cannot recommend this book too highly. The references for further reading and research are excellent”.

The original review may be found here.

Thanks, Richard!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Digital learning tools

There's an excellent resource at the online Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies, which lists and explains digital tools to support learning, many of them free.

The list is compiled annually by Jane Hart (left) who runs the centre, and is a compilation of tools recommended by users from all over the world. Each user (134, so far) submits their top ten tools, and these are compiled into a list of the top 100, and the top 25 categories.

The top 25 are listed below:

1. Web browser
2. Social bookmarking tool
3. Blogging tool
4. RSS/Feed reader
5. Micro-blogging tool
6. Email
7. Instant messaging
8. Personal productivity tool
9. Mind mapping tool
10. Presentation tool
11. Presentation sharing tool
12. Online office suite
13. Web conferencing tool
14. Course authoring tool
15. Screen capture tool
16. Demo/screencasting tool
17. Web authoring tool
18. Wiki tools
19. Image/photo tools
20. Audio/podcasting tools
21. Video tools
22. Personal dashboard
23. Course management system
24. Social networking tool
25. Integrated social media platform

Visit the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies to view the contributors, the top 100, an explanation of the top 25, including clarification of which tools are free and which have costs, a presentation and an explanatory article.

Saturday, 13 June 2009


It’s not often that online learning gets discussed in the mainstream, and I must admit I missed the Governor of California’s most recent pronouncement. I caught up with it on primetime TV last night on the BBC, when it was discussed on Have I Got News For You. Well, not so much discussed as ridiculed, albeit for the wrong reasons

Arnold Schwarzenegger has advocated greater use of online learning in schools. His actual statements make perfect sense. For example,

"California is home to software giants, bioscience research pioneers and first-class university systems known around the world. But our students still learn from instructional materials in formats made possible by Gutenberg's printing press"
(from USA Today)

However, he made the mistake of emphasising the cost savings of replacing textbooks, allowing critics to focus on claims that he is only proposing this to save money, and to caricature his position as “getting rid of textbooks”.

This underscores a point I have made many times before, about advocates of digital technology in learning needing to focus on the real benefits. Sadly, it also highlights the uphill battle we face in getting traditionalists to accept that there are now new ways of learning, which are often better than the old ways. As far as the Have I Got News For You panel were concerned, the arguments for online learning were terminated.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Mapping the scope of learning and development

CIPD has a new initiative to re-define and re-explain the HR profession, comprising a map of the profession, which is intended to replace the profession’s competence framework. I am convinced this ostensibly administrative activity will lead to many positive new developments, by prompting people to think about HR issues in new ways. One thing it’s caused me to think about already is the creation of some sort of map of the scope of learning and development.

For example, how should we define the relationships between learning strategy, knowledge management, talent management and development, and corporate universities? These are all areas I’ve worked in, and yet I’m not confident that the new HR map will help clarify their relationships.

According to the information released so far, the map will include ten professional areas, eight behaviours and four “bands” or levels of competence, ranging from “entry level” to “HR Director”.

The 10 professional areas are:
1 Strategy, insights and solutions
2 Leading and managing the function
3 Organisation design
4 Resourcing and talent planning
5 Organisation development
6 Learning and talent development
7 Performance and reward
8 Employee relations
9 Employee engagement
10 Information and service delivery

For a learning and development strategist, I can see relevance in 1, 2, 5, 6, and to some extent 4 and 9. But it looks like the map will identify learning and development only as a sub-set of HR: it is that, of course, but it is also something more, with overlaps into the sphere of educationalists and others. I think I’d like to see a more expansive and inclusive map of the learning and development profession, but I certainly await further information with interest.

The map/diagram shown above is from here.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Learning on the move

Many learning and development professionals argue that mobile phones or personal digital assistants (PDAs) are not useful devices for learning. Their rationale boils down to complaining that the screens are too small.

You don’t have to adopt superfluous jargon about “mobile learning” to take the opposite view. I’ve always thought that learning is more about communication than about information, and there’s no doubt that phones and PDAs are powerful communication devices. But even the small screen argument is looking increasingly irrelevant.

I’ve only had a handheld device with a good-sized colour screen for five years: before that, I had one of those tiny green-tinged monochrome screens on my phone, and carried a separate PDA. But the real revolution has only started for me in recent weeks, as I have acquired an iPhone. The screen may be just 3 inches by 2 inches, but that is ample for all sorts of activities, including sending and receiving email, playing games and even watching movie trailers.

I don’t want to get into Apple/Microsoft wars: I’m sure there are equally impressive MS-based alternatives to the iPhone. But I’m amazed by what my new handheld can do, and it reinforces my belief that much more learning in the near future is going to be conducted via devices we have hitherto regarded primarily as just phones.

If I can read email, I can read learning materials; if I can send email, I can complete multiple-choice tests; if I can play games, I can undertake interactive exercises; if I can watch movie trailers, I can watch educational video clips. I can browse the web. I can make best use of my handheld via tailored apps designed specifically to be used on it. And I can communicate with a tutor or mentor by phone, text and email. This is not just me getting carried away with my new piece of kit – the age of learning via handhelds has definitely arrived.

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