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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Trip to Axiom

Visiting with alumni Carl and Jen at AXIOM.

It is always good to get out and about and visit old friends and meet new ones. Yesterday I presented on the topic of "Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning" at AXIOM Professional Health Learning. There I caught up with a couple of alumni and got to see some interesting and fascinating projects they are developing.

Here is a copy of the slides I presented at the event.

They also mentioned that taking an online class at Bloomsburg is less expensive and more targeted than traveling to a conference. So if you are interested in targeted learning for less than the price of a learning conference, consider taking a course with us. Check us out at our Department of Instructional Technology web site.


Catalog of Recommended Books, Games and Gadgets
Recommended Games and Gadgets
Recommended Books
Content Guide

Friday, February 20, 2009

What are the Technology Goals of Higher Education?

Within the last few years many higher education institutions and systems have invested heavily in technology and have raised the bar in student expectations for online student services and online learning opportunities.


Because systems and schools that fail to offer state-of-the-art online learning opportunities and accompanying services over the next decade will lose students who routinely use commercial applications such as, PayPal and Facebook to browse catalogs, pay bills and network with one another. Digitally savvy students demand these same conveniences from their educational institutions and now have the choice of taking online classes from public and private institutions anywhere in the world.

So what is being done through technology. Well, the goals of many technology investments include the following:
  • Creation of online course offerings, collaborative environments and even online clubs and activities.
  • Providing life-long learning resources and experiences for students, staff, faculty, administration, college leadership and alumni;
  • Support and enhance information collaboration and knowledge sharing;
  • Provide a standards-based technology architecture across colleges or systems;
  • Provide wireless access to students across the campus environment;
  • Consistent and convenient data integration for back office system such as finance, billing and purchasing;
  • Increase educational capacity and effectiveness through shared IT resources
  • Provide 24/7 online student services;
  • Develop an academic culture of rapid, constant change and continuous improvement;
  • Shift to modern technology infrastructures (hardware and software) which are scalable and interoperable with existing and foreseeable technological innovations;
  • Increase recruiting yield with more effective targeting of recruiting dollars;
  • Increase admissions productivity with more inquiries and applications processed by fewer staff;
  • Increase financial aid productivity with more financial aid applications processed with fewer staff;
  • Optimize course scheduling to allow more classes and events to be scheduled with a smaller inventory of classrooms;
  • Shift to web-based financial aid systems to allow students to submit applications, view and accept or decline awards, and view transaction balances online;
  • Shift to web-based course registration to allow course enrollments to be transacted and course grades to be posted online;
  • Shift to self-service human resources systems that allow employees to self-manage their paychecks, benefits, vacation, and sick leave accruals.

Does this cover everything? Did I miss something? Does this "feel" accurate? Are higher education systems really there?


Catalog of Recommended Books, Games and Gadgets
Recommended Games and Gadgets
Recommended Books
Content Guide

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

E-Learning Seen as Bright Spot in Training Industry

As recently announced by Bersin & Associates, in the United States, corporate learning and development (L&D) expenditures dropped by more than 11 % in 2008. It seems likely that the cuts are will continue in 2009. The organization continues to report that the spending has fallen from $1,202 per learner in 2007 to $1,075 per learner in 2008. Training staff resources are also dropping: Companies overall averaged 3.4 training staffers per 1,000 learners, down from 5.1 per 1,000 in 2007.

However, there may be an e-learning bright spot. I have heard from alumni, colleagues and others in the field that expenditures for e-learning actually seem to be on the rise or are holding steady. I've heard of a couple of organizations that have "outlawed" travel but are now focused on e-learning to meet learning needs of employees.

E-learning is being seen as a way of providing training to employees even though it is cost prohibitive for the large gatherings of employees to get together for training because of travel related costs.

One colleague told me she is hearing that synchronous learning is picking up because organizations were "headed in that direction anyway" but the current economic situation has accelerated the movement.

So, one bright spot in the economy may be an increase in e-learning.

Catalog of Recommended Books, Games and Gadgets
Recommended Games and Gadgets
Recommended Books
Content Guide

Monday, February 16, 2009

12 Year Olds Running Self-Directed Teams

Catching a shark in RuneScape.

Discussion with my son a few years ago.

“Dad, I want you to know the second clan meeting went better than the first,” my son unexpectedly announced one day.

“What, a clan meeting?” was my response, “clan, what do you mean clan?” I was nervous.

“I formed an online team in Runescape, we call it a clan.”

“Oh, of course.”

“We have six members but need someone who can cook shark.” He stated matter-of-factly.

“Cook shark?”

“We have someone who can catch shark; we need someone who can cook it. In our first meeting, we didn’t have any goals or tasks. Nobody knew what to do. It was a waste time.”

“Cook shark?”

“The second meeting was better; we assigned tasks and appointed someone to be third in charge. We picked someone who didn’t speak much to bring her into the group. We also assigned some one to create a logo.”

Here was my 12 year old son in charge of six people who he never met, setting goals, delegating tasks and assigning roles as well as posting help wanted ads for “shark cookers.” He was running a self-directed work team, virtually.

These are the skills he needs in a world were he will be a member of several virtual teams working with some people he will never meet face-to-face.

Catalog of Recommended Books, Games and Gadgets
Recommended Games and Gadgets
Recommended Books
Content Guide

Friday, February 13, 2009

Impact of Tough Times

This month's ASTD big question is What is the impact of the economy on you and your organization? What are you doing as a result? I wish I could say my bonus this year is only going to be $11 million instead of the usual $22 million but I don't work on Wall Street...I do not receive bonuses in good or bad times.

So, here at Bloomsburg University, where I am a professor, it is a state run university. Bloomsburg is part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), with 14 universities and more than 112,500 students. It is the largest higher education provider in Pennsylvania and cuts are being made. (Penn State is not one of the 14 state universities. It is state affiliated, not state owned.)

First, our Chancellor, John C. Cavanaugh, announced 128 positions at the 14 PASSHE universities and in the Office of the Chancellor will not be filled during the current fiscal year. Additionally, salaries of all non-union employees also will be frozen for at least six months.The salary freeze will affect approximately 1,500 managers, administrators and other non-union employees across the State System.

Second, PASSHE’s Board of Governors in October agreed to a request by Governor Edward G. Rendell to return $22 million of the state funding the State System expected to receive this year. Those returned funds will help the Commonwealth address an expected $2.3 billion budget shortfall in the current fiscal year. The $22 million is equal to 4.25 percent of the nearly $520 million PASSHE expected to receive as part of the 2008-09 state budget.

So, the impact is large on the organization and I feel that more budget cuts, hiring freezes and program reductions might be in the future as we are entirely state funded.

One thing that we are doing as a departmetn is increasing our recruitment efforts. We want potential students to know that a career in instructional technology is still a lucrative and viable career option and that companies are moving to e-learning in tough times.

We have a number of initiatives to use social media to further our outreach which are low cost and, we hope, high impact.

We also are stepping up our work to let potential students know that we still have Graduate Assistantships which help cover most of all the tuition for our year long program to take some of the sting out of returning to school to further career choices.


Catalog of Recommended Books, Games and Gadgets
Recommended Games and Gadgets
Recommended Books
Content Guide

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Creating an Online Game for Middle School Kids

As part of a National Science Foundation grant with a team consisting of members from Hofstra University, Santa Barbara City College (working with Jim Kiggens and his team), Bloomsburg University, SUNY Buffalo and a independent company called Whitebox Learning I am involved with creating a game to teach middle school student math and engineering concepts and ideas.

We have spent some time struggling with creating the right concept for the game. We initially had it be a wilderness survival type of game but it was too hard and artificial to inject formulas and problems into that environment. We want the game to be multi player but had to deal with issues of what to do if a student is absent and how would he or she make up work without holding back the team. It seemed that we were at a dead end.

Finally, the team worked and came up with a solution of having the students be contestants trying out for a survival game. The one small change allowed us to make some interesting modifications that now makes the concept of the game much more fun and exciting to middle school students. Now they are competing in groups of 4 to see who will be the "host" of the survival show. As a host, they need to know a lot of information so they go through "training" which will introduce a series of mini-games and educational nuggets that they must learn and/or master to earn points toward being the host. We are still in the design phase but I feel like our re-conceptualization of the game was a big step forward.

Here is a video created by some of the team members based on our old concept but you can get an idea of the environment in which the game will take place from the video.


Catalog of Recommended Books, Games and Gadgets
Recommended Games and Gadgets
Recommended Books
Content Guide

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Random Thoughts on 3D Learning Environments

Think about it, the internet is just over 5500 days old.

When we pause to consider this fact it is almost impossible to imagine how much change this technology has brought to Society, Business and Learning and how much more it will bring.

Similarly, as we enter the age of the immersive internet, or 3D internet, it is equally impossible to underestimate the impact the 3D web will have on learning, business and society. The transformation of the Internet from a static, one-way conduit of information into a three-dimensional world in which people, as avatars, interact, work and collaborate together will profoundly change business and learning. As we enter the age of the immersive internet, it is important that we pause to consider the significant transformational impact it will have.

The three-dimensional web is being driven by a new generation of learners who are entering the workforce with a different focus, mentality and learning style than any previous generation. A mentality forged by playing video games and interacting in 3D worlds such as Second Life, Active Worlds and

According to Steve Prentice of the Gartner group, By the end of 2011, 80 percent of active Internet users (and Fortune 500 enterprises) will have a “second life”, but not necessarily in Second Life (what he is saying is that they'll all have 3D worlds).

One great example is Wells Fargo's Stagecoach Island.

Another is the world mokitown sponsored by Dailmer.

Do you know of any others?

Catalog of Recommended Books, Games and Gadgets
Recommended Games and Gadgets
Recommended Books
Content Guide

Monday, February 09, 2009

Advantages of 3D for Learning

Some thoughts on the advantages of 3D environments (virtual worlds) for learning.

Advantages of 3D Immersive Learning
  • Learner cues on visual, auditory and spatial elements of 3D environment which leads to better recall and application of learning.
  • Learner rehearses on-the-job behavior in an environment as close to job environment as possible. (Realistic learning environment)
  • Allows learners at a distance to be in the same place to practice behaviors (not just online at the same time).
  • Learners become emotionally involved in the learning due to realism.
  • Experienced learners can explore more possibilities of dialogue than in a scripted simulation.
  • Sense of “being there” for the learner.

Advantage of 3D Worlds Over Virtual Classroom
  • Learners stay more focused (not as likely to check email).
  • Learners are immersed in learning environment.
  • Learners must act and behave as if in actual environment.
  • Integrates learning into environment similar to which it must be applied.
  • Learners are vested in avatar and in situation.
  • Learners are placed in the appropriate context to apply the learning.

Am I on the right track? Is anything missing? What do you think?


Catalog of Recommended Books, Games and Gadgets
Recommended Games and Gadgets
Recommended Books
Content Guide

Friday, February 06, 2009

Two Wisemen

What does it take to be wise? It has to be more than knowledge, it has to be more than just experience, it is more than just training, but all those things are required as a foundation for wisdom. Then you need to add insight, creativity, looking at things through the right lense and a certain type of focus. It also requires a quiet conviction that you can prevail and you are right.

I think all of these traits define two recent heros. One is Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III who managed to land a US Airways Airbus A320 safely on the Hudson saving every single passenger.

Few people thought this was even possible. An article in Wikipedia states:
In December 2002, The Economist had quoted an expert as claiming that "No large airliner has ever made an emergency landing on water" in an article that goes on to charge, "So the life jackets ... have little purpose other than to make passengers feel better." This idea was repeated in The Economist in September 2006 in an article which reported that "in the history of aviation the number of wide-bodied aircraft that have made successful landings on water is zero."
For the full article click here.
Of course we all know that a wise and skillful pilot did what so called experts thought was impossible. Experts are not necessarily wise.

The transcripts have been released and I admire the calm and curt manner with which he spoke with the tower who hadn't fully grasped the situation and were trying to get him to some runway. Finally Sully simply said, "Unable." He brought to bare his flying wisdom and acumen and safely landed the plane safely in the river...seemingly impossible and not even part of the discussion from the tower. They never though of the water as an option...only runways. Sully is a wise man.

The second person is Henry Markopolos who was repeatedly rebuffed by the Securities and Exchange Commission in his efforts to blow the whistle on Bernard Madoff. In fact, Mr. Markopolos is still giving SEC tips they are are not able to determine for themselves.

Yet, Henry never gave up. He kept pressing the point and during the process even feared for his life because of the type of people and the amount of money he was dealing with. When asked how long it took him to figure out Madoff's fund was a fraud, he responded "about five minutes." He looked at the literature from Madoff's firm, noticed an impossible straight line trajectory of returns (no peaks or valleys) and concluded that the type of behavior indicated on the chart was not possible and was fraduelent. Did others not see it? They looked but didn't see.

He then investigated for about 4 hours to confirm his instant assessment and he concluded that mathematically the returns were impossible. Then he meticoulsy gathered the evidence and delivered to the Securities Exchange Commission who then refused for whatever reason (the cynic in me says corruption, the optomist says incompetence) refused to investigate it seriously.

Learning and development professionals cannot create wise individuals but we can work to provide a platform and a basis for the wisdom to grow.


Catalog of Recommended Books, Games and Gadgets
Recommended Games and Gadgets
Recommended Books
Content Guide

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Book on 3D Learning Environments: What Do You Want From It?

Standing in a virtual book store requesting input on "Learning in 3D" book.

Tony O'Driscoll and I have teamed up with Pfeiffer and are writing a book tentatively titled Learning in 3D which will discuss how to create and deliver effective learning through virtual worlds including implementation, design and evaluation.

My questions to you are:

  • "What would you like to see in this book?"
  • "What questions do you want answered?"
  • "What types of case studies would be of interest?"
  • "What should be the focus of the book?"
  • "What do you want to tell us about a book like this?"

We certainly have ideas but would love any and all input, advice and/or direction you'd be willing to give.

Please leave a comment below.

Three lucky people who comment will be given a free copy of the book and will be mentioned in the preface.

Catalog of Recommended Books, Games and Gadgets
Recommended Games and Gadgets
Recommended Books
Content Guide

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

What Learning Professionals Can Learn From the Steelers

Having grown up in the Pittsburgh area during the Steelers first run at four Super Bowls, I am a born and breed Steeler's fan. Loved seeing the team get number six!

So why are the Steelers so successful and what can Learning and Development professionals learn from the Steelers.

First, one of the things that Ben Roethlisberger said to his team in the final minutes of the game when he walked on the field and got into the huddle hoping to to march down the field was "’s now or never, I told the guys all the film study you put in doesn’t matter unless you do it now.

The lesson is that all the training and practice and studying doesn't really matter unless you can deliver. We Learning and Development professionals need to put much more emphasis on job performance than on having exciting e-learning or fun activities in the classroom. In the final analysis, it is performance that matters, nothing else. Instruction means nothing if the learners can't perform.

Second, when asked “What was the call on the last play of the game?” Roethlisberger responded half-jokingly. “Drop back. Scramble right. Scramble left. Find someone open.”

The lesson is that Learning and Development Professionals have limits in what we can do. We can design the material as effectively as possible, we can cross all the t's and dot the i's but in the end, it comes down to the learner's willingness to apply the learning to their situation. Their willingness to perform and, at time, their ability to improvisationally apply the lessons learned to the situation.

At some point, the learner is responsible for his or her own learning. We can't train every possible contingency, we can't train for everything, in the end the learners need to want to learn and apply their knowledge to their situation. We can only take so much credit...or blame. The rest has to go the learner who needs to figure out how to apply what we provide to them to their unique situations. Just like Ben.

Third, the Steeler Franchise is successful and consistent. The team has been around for thirty years and only had three head coaches. But have won six Super Bowl. When other, less successful franchises are switching coaches every two or three years.

The lesson, consistent focus provides success. Often learning professionals jump on the latest fad without keeping the underlying fundamentals of good instructional strategies and effective instructional design. Focusing on a consistent application of instructional design methods provides success. The technology may change but the strategies for providing learning opportunities have not changed. We must always apply the right instructional strategies no matter the available technology. If you do instructional design correctly, the learning will be consistent and successful.

So, there is a quick look at what the Steelers can teach instructional designers from a fan of both. What other lessons do you think the Steelers can teach instructional designers?

Catalog of Recommended Books, Games and Gadgets
Recommended Games and Gadgets
Recommended Books
Content Guide