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.

The Associated Press does some e-learning (and does it very well)

A fantastic article I just read on Yahoo News about the volcano in Iceland included the interactive multimedia piece you can click to below.

It’s clear. It anticipates and answers all of the major questions, including the “Why should I care?” question we all ask ourselves in the first three seconds. It tells the story in a logical way and features an easy to figure out user interface.

If you needed compliance reporting, you could use this as is — just add an invitation, tracking and a knowledge-check/acknowledgement question at the end. Though probably not intended to be, this is, I think, a great example of rapid e-learning at its very best.

Congratulations Associated Press.

Click here to see the multimedia piece (will pop up in a new window).

Reading the signs

Typical eye movement across a page
The track of a typical eye movement across a screen or page of text

I am in the middle of a series of signage articles on Slate. The first article in the series, The Secret Language of Signs, is worth reading and got me thinking in a number of different directions.

One road it sent me down was the idea that we are always looking for signs that reinforce our feelings of exceptionalism, be they political, professional or personal. Being special seems to be a psychological imperative.

In the learning and development world, we go so far as to grant post-graduate degrees in instructional design, incorporating ideas from graphics, psychology, organizational behavior, adult learning theory and various bits of technology research and development, among other specialty areas.