ACM / eLearn Magazine on Second Life for Learning

The Association for Computing Machinery (acm) publishes eLearn, an online magazine about Education and Technology. Just a few days ago they published Another Life: Virtual Worlds as Tools for Learning, by Jay Cross, Internet Time Group; Tony O’Driscoll, IBM; and Eilif Trondsen, SRI-Business Intelligence.

Quite a coincidence, since I unknowingly published an entry about that here last month. Given this article and the interest emerging amongst members of the Masie Consortium, I think SL and Virtual Worlds are going to be a big trend this year, and maybe even a big elearning reality. Earlier this week, I learned of a forward thinking bank in Europe that is also looking to Second Life as a means to support its training efforts as it expands. I’ll share more on this as it develops.

Training Video Gets New Life and a Second One too

On February 16, 2007 I hosted an Adobe eSeminar on Machinima as a tool for developing training videos. Tom Crawford explained how one can co-opt video games or re-purpose them for creating cheap, effective training videos.

Using something like The Movies you can short-circuit the painful process of shooting "real" video. You also skip the painful process of morphing your own SMEs or yourself into 3D artists/animators. Instead you can cast, script and "film" in the virtual sets. It is a great way to spend $20 USD and a few hours to develop mini vignettes to bolster the reality of your elearning and add life. It is a cool idea that text does not do justice to, so I’ll link to the seminar recording as soon as I can.

Speaking of adding life to training, I just received a note from Kris Rockwell of Hybrid Learning Systems about using Second Life for learning, including a HUD (heads-up display) add-on that lets learners easily blog about their Second Life experiences with geo-stamps of where they were in Second Life at the time/place of the entry. A quick YouTube demo of the SL Blog HUD is online.

Check out the Sloodle site for more info on use of SecondLife for learning education and training. Sloodle is a sort of mash-up of the Moodle open-source learning environment and the Linden Research Second Life virtual world.

UPDATE: Catching up on my reading, I see that my friend Professor Kapp has posted an entry on taking ESL in SL. It usually takes an AICC meeting to get that many confusing acronyms in a sentence. Anyway, check out his post on the experience as a learner and observer.

Captivate 2 bug: FTP breaks SCORM packaging

If you use the current release of Captivate 2 to make elearning intended for an LMS, then do not use the built-in FTP. Likewise, do not use the current Captivate 2 release with FTP and PENS.

When the FTP box is checked, Captivate 2 makes invalid SCORM 1.2 and invalid SCORM 2004 packages. Under these conditions Captivate 2 puts the required zip-archive root-level files like "imsmanifest.xml" down in a directory structure 4-5 levels deep.

   Captivate 2 Elearning Output published with FTP
Captivate 2 Invalid SCORM output published with FTP

   Captivate 2 Elearning Output published locally
Captivate 2 valid SCORM output published locally

This means that when FTP is used, the resulting zip file that gets transferred to the server is NOT valid, whether it is SCORM 1.2 or SCORM 2004. Adobe was notified of this issue last Fall and confirmed the problem. At the time of this post I can not find a tech note about this issue.

The workaround is to not use the built-in FTP. Instead, use the Publish Dialog to publish for Flash (SWF), select the "Output Options" to Zip files and under "Project Information" select the desired eLearning output format for your package. Finally, after Captivate publishes the zip package locally, use a third party FTP tool or other LMS import capabilities to transfer the valid SCORM package to the LMS. This will give you a better shot at having the package import into your LMS (or LCMS).

   Captivate 2 Publish Dialog settings for local publishing of packages
Captivate 2 Invalid SCORM output published with FTP

Two final notes on this topic. First, this bug means PENS doesn’t really work. The work around there is to "trick" Captivate 2 by publishing to one FTP address, and then configuring the Captivate PENS settings to use an alternate URL that has a valid package staged by other means. For anything other than testing the capabilities of an LMS server, I wouldn’t bother with this approach– it sort of defeats the intended simplicity of PENS to manually FTP and publish twice to order to get a single package to an LCMS/LMS.

The second note is that there may be other issues with Captivate content communicating to an LMS. I’ve received private email from one content developer about some issues and heard from another contact that other settings may not work as intended/advertised. I’ve yet to verify these, but will post more information once this can be confirmed or denied.

Stability and Evolution in Standards for Elearning

Late last year the ADL reached agreements with several other elearning standards organizations, including AICC, IEEE and IMS. The agreements allow the relevant work of those groups to move forward with SCORM as this portion of the ADL effort transitions to a new stewardship organization.

This is a significant achievement. It indicates the maturity and stability of SCORM, yet also recognizes the criticality of on-going maintenance and refinement. The SCORM 2004 specification is also being formally submitted to ISO, where the technical committees will review it and allow member nations to vote on it. In 2007 we will see more SCORM work being done within other standards work groups and organizations.

The February IMS meeting in San Francisco is an important transition as SCORM moves into this new phase. On February 7 there will be a workshop that is open to the public for discussion of IMS-related work with SCORM. ADL representatives will be presenting and facilitating discussions on how the groups can work together, and on content packaging, a key technical component shared between the organizations. Content packaging includes the organizational and metadata "wrappers" for shareable content objects and is a critical feature for supporting reusable learning object strategies. The ADL will also present information on CORDRA, an architecture for structuring searches and sharing across repositories, and Simple Sequencing and Navigation within courses. See the IMS website for the agenda information, IMS membership is not required, but there is a meeting fee for attendees.

During March there will be a kick-off meeting for a new stewardship organization to coordinate SCORM evolution and maintenances. The meeting will be held in conjunction with the ISO/IEC JTC1 SC36 meetings in London. This meeting about the stewardship organization is preliminary. An official charter and transition is likely to take until the Spring of 2008. Those interested in participating in this meeting or the stewardship organization committee in general can directly contact the ADL or request that I forward information.

Elearning Events Calendar Updates

I added several 2007 events to the Elearning Events Google calendar, including:

  • SALT New Learning Technologies (Jan 31 – Feb 2)
  • ID+SCORM (April 5-6)
  • IMS Learning Impact (April 16-19)
  • Energy Industry CBT Alliance (April 23-25)

I have entries clear out until the end of November 2007. However, oddly there are no May events (?yet). If you know of an event (in May or not) send an iCal invite or email message to

Link: Elearning Events Calendar

Lies, Lies, Lies… and Learning

Larry Israelite is the editor and one of the authors of Lies About Learning. I came to know Larry through Elliott Masie and the Learning Consortium, and I love his frankness on this subject, starting with the subtitle of the book, Leading Executives Separate Truth from Fiction in a $100 Billion Industry.

In the book, Larry and the gang take on a bunch of lies and myths, sometimes alternating sides, but always making strong statements. For example, Murray Christensen on Personalization: Learners Are Essentially the Same. Heresy you say? Last year, I saw a few presentations from Will Thalheimer on use of learning styles (or the "lie" about learning styles), and I have to agree, though I am not as courageous as Dr. Thalheimer with his $1000 USD challenge to the first person to demonstrate meaningful benefits from using learning styles in an instructional design.

Back to the book- I’ve lived and seen some other favorite lies from both the side of the consulting/vendor organization and the customer side of the fence, like:

  • This is the team that will work with you on this project (at an early sales meeting; who know where these people will be staffed then).
  • (All) the content and materials will be custom built for you.
  • … and from the client side, We have full support for this project and our SMEs will be available whenever you need them.

What about you? Are your pants on fire? Is your nose as long as a telephone wire?

To hear, discuss and share more lies… and how to actually learn from them, check out the free seminar on Lies About Learning this Friday, January 19.

Lies About Learning January 19, 1:00PM Eastern [GMT -05:00] Register here

The seminar looks like it will be a good discussion of some key topics. You can also get the book from Amazon- Lies About Learning. Note that is not an Amazon Associate link so I get squat for the referral, other than karma.

Effective learning is more than Flash interactions

Learning is more than Flash interactions. Transfering and transforming information into strategic skills, knowledge and performance is more than instructional design.

Too often we use ADDIE and elearning like a defibrillator— perhaps rescuing the organization during the current "crisis," but doing little or nothing in terms of the big picture planning for preparation, ongoing "treatment", coaching/support and transition to sustained independent performance. Crisis solved. But what about the heart patient with an exercise-free, high-cholesterol, high-stress lifestyle? Would the medical community just move on and wait for the next incident?

The temporary innoculatory effect of booster shots of elearning may work well enough for the tactical "uptick required" compliance training. I understand and appreciate that. Some of it can even be fun, interesting or thought provoking. The tools keep getting better and raising the bar for aesthetics and interactivity. Rapid elearning and the existing ADDIE models of instructional design work extremely well for compliance training and performance support. I really like engaging the subject-matter experts as active contributors to distribute and accelerate production and implementation. Getting the training out there, on-time and accurate is critical. Especially for compliance training and critical updates to already-proficient performers.

However, I’d pose this question, What organization would cite its mandatory compliance training as a key differentiator or competitive advantage? I think that instructional design at its best is a means of creating new, higher and sustained levels of performance through learning. If so, it (ISD) would seem to provide the biggest competitive advantage when the content supports innovation, like dramatically different or new processes for the learner/performer. That sounds more like change management or some sort of intervention, doesn’t it?

Last summer Dr. Michael Allen posed the question What’s Wrong with ADDIE? in a podcast available here. A few weeks ago I had a peek at some answers to that question during his presentation at Learning 2006. His approach leverages research on making lasting changes in behavior, including breaking addictions or sustaining a medical regimen (ie, taking your pills). It also brings in learning theory and cognitive research to view training in a larger context. I believe using this approach for the right needs will be far more effective than simply specifying higher quality audio & animations and more frequent drag&drop interactions.

If this line of thought intrigues you, please consider registering for (or subsequently viewing the recording of) this week’s eSeminar,

A New View of eLearning Design: Reforming the Perpetrators of Bad Behavior with Dr. Michael Allen of Allen Interactions
Friday, December 1, 2006 1:00PM – 2:00PM US/Eastern
Register here

I look forward to seeing the next evolution of this revolution and hope to see you online during the event, adding your own questions and insights.