Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A seal of approval for wikis

The venerable RSA, the UK Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce (how'd they fit all that in to 'A'?) has endorsed the use of wikis, according to a press releasey email from Wikispaces. Their initiative is launched under the zeitgeisty sounding OpenRSA. What's more, it all started courtesy of the current belle of the ball:
OpenRSA started as a Facebook group - now with 340 members - after a get-together of about 15 people.

It seems the wiki is working out well:
Participants in events can add their reports, we can embed video, and also take in a
feed from the chief executive of the RSA, Matthew Taylor.

One day all organisations will see and harness the levelling power of wikis as shared workspaces.

Welcome to the party GIMP 2.4!

The GIMP, the brilliant open source graphics package, 43rd most useful elearning tool on Jane's list, has hit 2.4.

It's a good upgrade too. Improvements to the appearance are only the most superficial (but it is a lot prettier). The selection tools, arguably the most frequently used, have been radically improved with drag handles making getting exactly what you're after much easier. The context menus for many of the tools have been improved meaning that greater options are on hand.

If you, like me, are a non-graphics kinda person who can't justify the expense of PhotoShop, but who nonetheless needs to occasionally tweak images with a little more precision than Office Image Manager or MS Paint allow, GIMP will help you.

Download it here.

(Darn it, I can't begin to convey how excited this made me!)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Been caught napping

I've become something of the "rapid" specialist of late.

We have managed to show a client that for their needs rapid development tools like Articulate are what they need to be able to produce quick turnarounds on material that is mostly about presentation (product training) and liable to last minute changes (their industry constantly shifts).

The lightbulb moment has been particularly gratifying since I have thought that they would be better off like this for some time. I'm not a big fan of page turning elearning (who is?) but I'm even less a fan of taking up time to produce page-turning elearning when tools like Articulate and PointeCast allow reasonable results in comparatively little time.

I have subsequently been drafted in to produce other product training type elearning for some other clients of the same salesperson, so pleased have the first clients been with the results. As a result I am getting more and more familiar with the tools and finding ever more interesting things you can do (the Articulate demo piece where it is possible to edit a wiki in a window in a course is quite neat - interesting to see if our developers would match that as easily!)

Yesterday I chatted through what was possible with my new boss. He was impressed by what he saw. Tools like this have until now passed him by (it's not really anything his clients have asked him for). I think pretty quickly understood the challenge that faces companies like us in maintaining value in our bespoke development when off-the-shelf products like those I'm using can give such results for so little labour.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Kirkpatrick - misunderstood again

Acres of screen and print pages have been given over to the relevance or otherwise of Kirkpatrick's model of evaluation. Indeed, so much time seems to be spent critiquing it in the training press that it is easy to assume that everyone knows it, and from the number of voices lined up for and against, that everyone understands it.

Today a colleague received a request to make sure the course he was working on featured Kirkpatrick analysis.

'Well, we can do a "happy sheet" and intra/post course testing,' was the group reply, in an attempt to crudely match the good doctor's schema.

But no! The client wanted a survey at the end of the course that addressed all four levels of Kirkpatrick in one go:
  • what do you think of this training course?
  • have you learnt what you need to know?
  • will you change your behaviour as a result of this course?
  • do you think your performance will improve?
Now, I'm not sure of the background of this particular client, and I have no idea if they are in a training department or not, but someone, somewhere has only made the most cursory glance at the literature here. I think we'll be working with them a little more to straighten this out.

Perhaps, sadly, what it made me think about was just how out of the loop I am when it comes to the whole training cycle. For our clients we are simply a means to an end - nothing more than the design phase of the training - so I never get to learn how the training went down; I never get any learner feedback or statistics.

I used to enjoy the thrill of sorting through the post course sheets (back when I was a classroom trainer) looking for comments (instead of a straight row of satisfactory ticks) and trying to implement changes for the next time to get better. Or the nervous feeling of awaiting the six-month peer review. Still, being an elearning guy now does have its benefit - no more bloody business hotels...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

GetOut of My Space!

The Times ran a short piece in last week's Public Agenda section reporting that the Times HES says that under-graduate students are rejecting attempts by tutors to colonise spaces such as YouTube and MySpace.

According to a poll by Ipsos MORI:
students regard the virtual worlds as a place for entertainment, socialising and information-gathering.

This doesn't really surprise me - the idea of getting a tutor's mugshot on my friends list on FaceBook is as cheesy and toe curling as the supply teacher using "street slang" in an attempt to get down with the kids.

Of course, this runs contrary to another report a few weeks ago in the Gruaniad, and picked up by Donald Clark, stating that an MIT lecturer's iPod videos are doing a roaring trade. I suspect the difference is that, as Donald says, his are quite excellent examples and are being picked up by all comers, rather than the rather tatty, droning automaton working in the local FE college who is looking to fill his/her evenings by starting online relationships with their students...