Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Immortal Memory

Robert Burns (1759-1796) was one of the most learned low-born Scots of his day, and naturally a champion of the benefits of learning. One of his better known quotes,

Gi’e me a spark o’ Nature’s fire,
That’s a’ the learning I desire

bears testament more to his love of nature than any downgrading of learning.

I could further claim Burns as a champion of evaluation. He was, after all, an exciseman, and working for customs and excise would have sharpened his sense of measurement and learning as, again, better known quotes bear testament:

What’s done we partly may compute,
But know not what’s resisted


The best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft agley.

All of which demonstrates that Scotland’s best-loved son may be cited in almost any cause – and frequently is.

This is the 253rd anniversary of his birth, and tonight I attend the Anniversary Dinner of the Hamilton Burns Club, one of the oldest Burns clubs in the world, dating back to the 19th century and tracing annual dinners back continuously to 1877 (apart from during the two world wars). My good friend David Ogg, as this year’s club president, delivers the Immortal Memory tonight, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, and I wish him well.

More on Burns at and the audio archive at

Monday, 23 January 2012

Digital evaluation

I once attempted a joke about e-learning, following Don Morrison’s suggestion that a measure of an industry, profession or sector’s maturity is the emergence of jokes about it.

In that spirit, the prospects for learning evaluation are discouraging. This is a field that dates back at least 60 years, and the only humorous observation I’ve heard is more a witticism than a joke, that the return on investment (ROI) of ROI isn’t worth calculating.

...yes, I didn’t think it was very funny either.

The thing is, it’s not even true. The advent of digital technology has made learning evaluation more affordable, efficient and effective.

I observed in my book Delivering E-Learning that applications of digital technology to learning have concentred on learning delivery, and not much on the other phases of the classic learning cycle (needs analysis, planning and evaluation). While this remains so, there are increasing attempts to make better use of technology for evaluation. In a few weeks (1 March 2012), Airthrey will publish a paper on this topic, highlighting the use of technology for evaluation planning, data collection, storage and analysis, and reporting.

More to follow, and meantime, contributions to the debate welcome.

Sunday, 15 January 2012


I’ve been making some changes to the learnforever sites. has a new article added, and now includes a books page, featuring my books and links to buy them on I’m also considering adding advertising to that site, but before I do, I’d appreciate any feedback on the changes to this blog.

I’ve added the Amazon Associate links to my books to this blog, but more significantly, I’ve also added Google Adsense advertising, which should be showing to the right of this blog post and directly underneath it. I guess purists may feel it detracts from the aesthetic of the site, but that apart, I’d be interested in any comments on whether it adversely affects your reading of the blog.

My writing work is essentially a sideline to my professional activities, so monetising these sites, as long as that’s relatively unobtrusive, is a way of ensuring I can maintain them. I’d welcome any further suggestions on other ways to monetise.

What do you think?

Friday, 13 January 2012


My direct experience of developing and implementing business strategy has been rather limited. In the past ten years I have set up and run four companies, three of which are still in business (the eLearning Alliance, eXcellence in eLearning and Airthrey), but these were/are very small – at their peak, none reached a turnover of £½ million or as many as ten employees.

Perhaps more significant was my involvement at senior management level in the Scottish Foundation, where I was Director of Training, and the Open College (UK) Ltd, where I was part of the senior management team. In both these roles I influenced and carried out business strategy, but these experiences are now at least one to two decades old.

My interest in strategy has been sparked mainly by the connections between learning strategy and business strategy. My specialist subjects in the final year of my MBA were Marketing Strategy and HR Strategy. And the original title of my second book, eventually published as Delivering E-Learning (see sidebar), was E-learning Strategy.

This led me to the work of John Kay, whom I cannot recommend highly enough, and most recently to the fascinating Good Strategy/Bad Strategy. I love the way Richard Rumelt debunks the linguistic conceit that equates “strategy” with “important” (a similar misuse is “executive”). Following Rumelt’s advice, my latest strategy priority is to pinpoint obstacles to business growth, and work out how to overcome them. Further advice welcome!

Thursday, 5 January 2012


I don't know how accurate today's Daily Telegraph story is, re the HR manager sacked because he ticked the box on LinkedIn saying he was interested in career opportunities (the article reports a 2007 stat that 50% of LinkedIn users tick that box - I'd be surprised if it's not much higher). And, of course, I won't comment on the specifics of a case that is still to be heard...

But if there are any employers who think they can prevent their staff using online professional networking tools like LinkedIn, prevent them publishing their CV online*, stop them publishing information about their experience, skills and accomplishments while in that employment (past or present), legally bind them not to tick the LinkedIn "interested in career opportunities" box, or otherwise constrain them from promoting their employability on the Internet (or elsewhere), then they really do have tiny brains and are doomed to extinction.

* I was bemused, then gratified, to receive last month an email advising me that Visual CV was being wound up, then another email, saying that the service will continue after all. I must update mine.

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