Are books for learning?

BooksNot an entirely silly rhetorical question — in our work world of endless data aggregation and analysis, the reading of books remains a curiously solitary and hard-to-track enterprise.

It’s easy enough to hand someone a book. It’s easy enough to require a signature acknowledging receipt and even demand answers to a compliance question or two to check headline-level comprehension.

But it’s hard to do anything with a book approaching a deep and actionable, let alone shared understanding of the content without classes and clubs — meaning that costly in-person conversations in and around the act of reading are still what makes reading, at least the extended kind, real and useful.

But for the corporate world, the idea of reading as a purely personal pursuit may be changing. Three developments — e-book readers, the advent of technology-mediated social reading and the X API (nee Tin Can) — together make books cost-efficient, communal and reportable in new ways.

e-book readers are now ubiquitous and cheap. Even general-purpose iOS and Android tablets support the e-pub standard. New services like Zola make reading a compelling group exercise (it’s very cool). Established services like Lulu let any company build its own libraries for private, on-demand distribution. The X API means that the reading of a book can be recorded by chapter and task in any competency framework a company may need.

Books Redux.

Mooconomics

An excellent post from John Cochrane (The Grumpy Economist) on what works about online learning.

Read it here.

The flipped classroom discussion is particularly good and has implications for corporate training strategies.

Worth a look.

 

The revolution has begun

mEKP_logo_finalRecently we introduced a new product, mEKP. It’s different. mEKP gives you the power to carry gigabytes of technical documentation, learning, career and personal development support, licensing and certification records, podcasts, video and a whole lot more — all in your pocket.

It’s secure. It’s multi-platform. It is, as Brandon Hall says, disruptive. This particular revolution began quietly but make no mistake, it’s already making waves. Think of this scenario — 2,500 teachers in a poor country, each with a mEKP stick giving her or him a year’s worth of professional development training, daily lesson plans, class handouts, various kinds of support collateral — all without Internet connections to the schools.

Change happens. We think (we hope) we’re contributing to some good change in the world.

Click here for more.

A different drum

drumbeat_logoThe good people over at Mozilla set up a spin-off called Drumbeat, essentially a peer to peer, open source, learning and development environment.

Two Drumbeat projects caught my eye.

The first, Universal Subtitles, is both a technology development project and a global learning initiative. To date 772 people have contributed to this project. Subtitles clarify a lot, even song lyrics in one’s native language. Speech-to-text transcriptions and follow-on translations (this is the universal part) cost money and take time. Easy, user generated subtitles mean that videos in one language can be leveraged out to any number of languages easily.

It’s a very cool idea with lots of implications for making video-based learning that gets pushed out globally.

The second project that caught my eye is the P2PU School of Webcraft, which aims to make a “vibrant, peer-led system to help people around the world easily access and build careers on open web technology.” The project bills itself as “the ultimate curriculum for open web developers” with  “a community endorsed certificate to show off your skills” and is an outgrowth of a course held via Peer2Peer University. The first intake starts in September. The proposed syllabus includes:

* Web 200: The Anatomy of a Page Load
* Web Development 101
* HTML5
* Building Social with the Open Web
* Reading Code
* Semantic Markup
* Organic SEO Basics
* What is PHP
* Drupal Basics
* Building Social Web Applications with Drupal
* Beginning Webservices with Python
* Designers Tackling The Web
* Principles of Project Management
* Introduction to System Administration
* Web Accessibility
* Designing for Education: : How to optimize the user experience.
* Extension Development
* Interactive games for the open web
* Scripting 101

This is serious stuff. It bears watching.

The cost of managing your content vs. same-old, same-old

Fig1CmapAboutCmaps-largeThe high cost of creating a management framework for content becomes quickly apparent. The effort, which can be messy and frustrating, requires not only a lot of an organization’s internal time and attention but also a fair amount of help from outside consultants. Just doing an initial inventory and creating a governance structure to move forward with proves painful, time consuming and expensive for many organizations.

The irony of course is that the cost of doing nothing — just letting everyone continue to write Word documents, PDFs and PowerPoints and make rapid e-learning courses on an ad hoc basis (again and again, based on the same or very similar content) — often proves far higher to the organization than the cost of change.

However, the cost of doing nothing, unless you audit it in sophisticated ways, is invisible. The wasted time, mistakes, duplication of effort and poor quality output don’t come out of anyone’s budget. The inefficiency is personal to employees and not counted anywhere as the organizational expense it is.

The larger and more sophisticated the organization, the greater the cost discrepancies become over time. When scope is understood to include communication and training around company policies, procedures, product and service documentation, work instructions, regulatory requirements and quality assurance processes (let alone topics like sales, marketing and investor relations), then the cost of doing nothing and the risks associated with doing nothing (or not doing enough) start to get high.

The risk and cost curves associated with not putting together an enterprise-wide content management framework trend up over time. The associated efficiency curves trend down.

At some point the lines cross.

As a training professional you would ideally have made your move before the lines cross. That’s the hope anyway. However, it is rarely the case. As a practical matter, it is only when senior management start to see the cost of content chaos that something happens.