Wednesday, July 25, 2007

OpenOffice Impress - a rapid tool?

The open source movement supports pretty much all we have to offer. It is entirely possible to create blogs, wikis, elearning courseware and even LMSs for free.

To design your projects you can replace Adobe with a range of sophisticated desktop apps such as GIMP, Nvu/Kompozer, Inkscape, Audacity and so on. If you aren't entirely ready to leap on line for your documentation handling courtesy of the likes of Google Docs, you have one very powerful option, OpenOffice.

I've just noticed that OpenOffice Impress, the counterpart to the well used 'authoring tool' PowerPoint, has the option to output to Flash directly. has anyone used that feature? How easily can this be "SCORMed"? Anyone tried that?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Facebook - a group for us, and thoughts on its value

While I'm still not sure how, or indeed why, Facebook could or should be turned to educational purposes, I'm still interested to see if it can.

To that end I've joined Elizabeth Murphy's 'Facebook as a learning tool' group. There's some discussion on there with most people arguing that it can be put to good use. However, the one comment that has struck me came from Nicole Cargill-Kipar who says:
Perhaps, then, the question is if we actually want to encroach into the students' social spaces.
Quite so. Does every new space have to be bent to elearning's needs?

Of course, this approach comes from the Education sector. I've more experience of the corporate space. I would feel uncomfortable, both as a manager and as a user, using Facebook as a networking space bringing together my personal and private lives. After all, one of the great joys of FB is having it unearth people you had long since lost touch with, wherever they are (I've had two such people contact me in just the last 3 days), but I'm not sure that I want to be linking these same people with the folk who sit at the next cubicle at work.

But what if corporate intranets used the same approach to building online relationships organically? Of course, this would really only work in large organisations - in my own company for example I don't think it would be make much sense - I'd have achieved all my meeting and greeting pretty much by the end of the second day.

But it's in this larger corporate sense that I could really see the social networking model having value as a place for informal learning and discussion. For example you could post queries to your friends, much as you might in person anyway, but you wouldn't have to open yourself up to the entire organisation, as you might on an open forum. Your time meeting other new inductees would bear fruit for much longer than those first few days.

I'm still not sure that I see how content would be pushed via the FB model, but as a place to share learning, I can really see how the model has benefits, even if FB itself may not be the place to do that.

Shifting up a gear and getting rapid

At my company we are finally beginning to see a shift towards calls for rapid elearning options coming from our clients, or other clients being won over by what we show them we can offer to speed up their turnaround if they adopt rapid tools for certain parts of their output.

This is all to the good. The pressure cooker of bespoke development does no-one any good if the basic situation is that content cannot be finalised until only days before the final rollout of training is required. It even less useful if the content is apt to change AFTER the training begins, as it does with one company we work with. Collating changes, forwarding them to developers, testing the results, getting sign off, LMS testing and finally integration can ome in days after we might otherwise fire up PowerPoint, tweak the offending content, distribute for sign off and publish to SCORM output. Its a no-brainer.

By far the most convenient approach for us in these circumstances is the tried-and-tested PowerPoint to Flash route (Breeze, Articulate, PointeCast et al) as it allows the SMEs, mostly experienced classroom trainers beside their elearning roles, to get on with collating and editing content, while we can help by ensuring standard appearances and the optimum use of the tricks and workarounds that disguise the output's humble origins.

This approach is increasingly becoming attractive for dealing with that part of elearning that we do where we are dealing with straightforward knowledge transfer - performing the function that a memo may have done in the past, but with the trackability afforded by an LMS. This is not what I would hold up as a shining example of the benefits of elearning, but some clients feel it necessary and for them it is a huge advantage. I suspect that if many elearning practitioners are honest, they'll admit that they've seen this before - after all, it comes out of the same place as much of the compliance work that forms a huge part of the demand for elearning in the corporate environment.

I'm pleased as this allows our clients time to lift their heads up from the worry of gathering content that in the grand scheme of things is ephemeral, and instead they can begin to focus on that sort of content that makes for real benefit for their learners - and by cutting time on what is really, in terms of the final outcome, the 'little stuff', they are able to free budget to tackle the 'good stuff'. And that's a win all round.