My tools for managing MOOC information abundance in #change11

September 21, 2011

Last week there were some great articles posted that focused on the “how to” of the course…how to participate in a MOOC, how to set up the social components, etc. So, I decided to follow the advice and get set up properly with a few tools to help with information tracking and participation. Here’s what I’ve set up so far:

Google Docs: Created a document to list the key articles or other resources I’ve read,along with any quick notes, sorted by week and topic. Also creating a sort of “dumping ground” document for random thoughts, copy and pasting stuff, etc. I’ll make these public once I have them a bit more focused and organized the way I like them.

Delicious: I started bookmarking course and related URLs on Delicious. I love the ability to use tags and bundles, and I’m especially looking forward to experimenting with the public and networking part of Delicious, both within #change11 and beyond. You can view my bookmarks here.

Twitter: Still a bit cynical about it’s usefulness, but I figured this will be a good chance to give it a fair try. Hopefully best practices will emerge! Twitter fan? Ping me and say hello – @kevinshadix.

Google Reader:  I’ve been using this for my RSS reader for a few years. It does a lot of things well, but one thing I find REALLY annoying about Google  Reader is that I can’t save posts that I’ve read. I’ve heard there are better RSS aggregators out there, like News Gator and others. Any recommendations?

This Blog: This is an on-again, off-again blog I started a few years ago. This MOOC may be the  kick-in-the-pants I need to get going with regular postings. Though I will also be posting on non-course topics, I will definitely post reflections, ideas, lessons-learned, and so on from my course experiences.

That”s all I have so far. I’m also interested in exploring and experimenting with other useful social media/networking tools, such as Flickr, SlideShare, and others.

What about you? If you’re in this MOOC, or have experience with any others, what tools did you find especially helpful? Any tips, best practices for the tools I listed (or any others)?

Bedtime here in Seattle, WA. Long day ahead – good night, good luck, and happy MOOCing.


3 Reasons Training Departments Should Use their Social Network Tools

June 13, 2011

In a recent cafe chat with a few training/design peers, someone mentioned how their organization’s learning unit purchased a social network suite, but that it largely went unused a year after implementation.  While this puzzled her and me, others in the group protested that no one has time  to blog or other social network “stuff.” Really? I think that’s a crock. Intuitively and experimentally, I know how powerful social networking can be for learning (both personal and team/organizational). But how do I argue that to others who aren’t convinced?

Here are my top three thoughts on why we should be using social networking within our learning organizations. What others are there?

Reason 1: We need to enhance our ability to connect and network within the Learning function.

Our Jive-empowered network brings a variety of social media and networking technologies to the enterprise level, giving us an opportunity to harness the power of blogging, threaded discussions, virtual groups and more—all within the safe confinements of the firewall. With these tools, we can connect, collaborate, and share with one another in ways not possible with meetings and coffee chats.

The discussion tools give us an excellent way to share a thought or question, and get responses from people not just in your office, but in offices around the country/world.

“Groups” and other features provide an easily accessible, relatively easy way to create online communities of practice.   Members can post questions around fuzzy concepts, share links and documents, collaborate on a project, or share best practices.

Reason 2: We need a better way to distribute and access our wealth of knowledge.

In Company X we have a lot of smart people with a lot of knowledge about a lot of things. There is tribal knowledge around how we get things done, as well as role-specific know-how and a wide array of special interests. Typically, we share this kind of information in day-to-day conversations, emails, or via documents stored on Sharepoint or some server located who-knows-where. This knowledge is difficult or impossible to access.

The Learning Network offers a number of significant benefits for knowledge sharing over those traditional methods. Here’s a few:

  • Knowledge sharing on the network is not constrained by time and place. Someone in Japan can just as easily participate in a conversation as someone here at the SSC.
  • Knowledge housed on the network is searchable. Categorized topics and the thoughtful use of tags in blogs and articles makes content searchable and retrievable for future reference. You can’t exactly search last year’s water cooler conversations, can you?
  • Full participation is enabled. Anyone can create and share their own content just as easily as they can respond to others’ contributions. You don’t have to wait for a scheduled meeting  or a facilitator, leader, or domain expert to start a conversation. Have something to say or a question to ask? Want to share a great idea from an external Web site or favorite blog? Just log on and start writing!

Reason 3: We need to leverage and enhance our opportunities for informal learning.

Social media and networking tools also allows us to leverage and enhance informal learning. Most workplace learning doesn’t happen through formally prescribed courses, coaching, or learning paths. Rather, most learning happens through informal conversations that occur on the job, in the break room, between meetings, and so on.  This can be sharing a quick “how to,” or a vetting out of new concepts, ideas, and challenges. With the Learning Network, we can bring some of these conversations online, giving us more avenues to learn and share.

So, that’s what I think. What say you? Are there other good reasons for training and development departments to use their own social tools more? Or why not to?

Two Useful Visual Communication Tools

August 9, 2008

I’m always happy to find tools that aren’t just cool, but actually improve my productivity or ability to communicate more effectively. Here are two tools I discovered just this week.


From the folks that brought you Camtasia and Snagit comes Jing– a very nifty screen capture application that has me salivating. Techsmith describes it as “an always ready program that instantly captures and shares images and video..from your computer to anywhere.”  Videos or images taken of your desktop can be uploaded to screencast.comand linked to from your blog or wherever. You can also save files locally or send it out immediately via email or instant messenger. Sweet.

In terms of It’s raw functionality, Jing is a bit like a scaled down version of SnagIt and Camtasia. But the value-add here is how it improves your workflow. As the FAQ puts it, Jing is designed to be “fast visual communication shared with others in a variety of locations.” So while I wouldn’t use it for for a technical writing or software training project, it is an awesome way to quickly take a picture or video that I want to share with a colleague, the IT help desk, or my Aunt Virginia. You can also annotate the images with text, highlighting, arrows, and other nifty things. All in a manner of seconds. Extra sweet. That’s just the kind of scrappy, seamless workflow I want.

I often question the “ease of use”  and speed that software companies brag about in marketing spin. So I’m gonna test out how easy it is to quickly add a insert on this page a screen capture of my current desktop, along with a simple annotation. OK…here I go….

Yup. That was pretty easy! I was able to snap a picture of a custom region, annotate it, upload it, and paste the embed URL (which was saved automatically to the clipboard) — all in about 2 minutes. Nice.

PowerPoint’s Slide Show Pointer Tool – Great for Storyboard Sketches

When I’m doing instructional design, I storyboard a lot in PPT. Usually I’ll mockup a screen layout and make some attempt at describing an image that I want an artist to create for me. Wouldn’t it be easier if I could just draw a crude stick person, instead of searching for lame clip art? Yes it would! Well, now I know how to do that right in PPT. I don’t even need to switch to another application. Here’s how:

  1. Switch to Slide Show mode.
  2. Go to the slide you want to design.
  3. Right click.
  4. Point to Pointer Options.
  5. Select a style (I like Felt Tip Pen).
  6. Use your mouse and cursor to sketch your image.

Now exit out of slide show mode.

You will be asked if you want to save the ink annotations. You do.

Voila! The slide now has a nice, simple sketch that you can use to communicate your idea with your artist, programmer, or whomever. Below is a sketch I did in just a few seconds. A big benefit of this approach is that I don’t have to switch to another application. I also don’t have to save the image to a folder somewhere and then insert it. It is saved automatically right in PPT. That’s a big time saver. In the example below, I want to convey to the media guy that I want an image indicating that a badly written report is not useful to the audience and ends up as total waste. For our team, a simple picture tells a story easier than describing it in text.

Another benefit is that a sketch like this could be used in a rapid prototype to share with a client. They’ll get the idea better than they would with just text-based storyboard, and you potentially save cash by not wasting expensive graphics time in case they don’t like the storyboard.

My 48 Hour Rapid e-Learning Challenge

June 19, 2008

One person. One course. 48 hours.

Time to put rapid e-learning to the test. I recently got an assignment to create an e-learning course and it needs to be done fairly quickly. I need to get it done in a few weeks and I don’t want to spend more than 6 hours a day on it. On the downside, the course goals are a little fuzzy, there isn’t much existing content, and I am writing the content and developing the course on my own. On the positive side, I have a lot of autonomy to design what I want.

Here’s the plan:

I will use the Articulate suite to build the course (a tool I have used for one previous course). Because of the tight timeline, I will rely mostly on relatively simple approaches but (hopefully) engaging instructional strategies that a single, non-programmer/action scripter can do alone. To that end, I’m drawing a lot of inspiration lately from blogs like Cathy Moore (e.g. how to add emotional impact ; dump the drone), Tom Kuhmlan’s Rapid E-Learning Blog, and Jane Bozart (especially her Better Than PPT book).

Goal: A fully functioning course in 21 days (and no more than 48 hours). By “fully functioning” I mean ready for beta testing, not necessarily final release.

  • Days 1-5: content outline, design/strategy, storyboard in PPT, document my processes.
  • Days 6-10: finalize storyboard, write screen content and script, identify graphic/media
  • Days 11 – 15: Build all course screens and interactions
  • Days 16 – 20: Record audio, test, release beta for review
  • Day 21: Kaizen (improvement) – Review process for what worked, what didn’t. Look for areas of waste and inefficiencies, Improve and document process for next project.

Along the way:

In addition to developing the course, there are a few other things I will do:

  • Document lessons learned and best practices.
  • Track metrics and track data to help with future improvement projects.
  • Develop project management and process documents that can be replicated.
  • Update this blog minimum three days per week: include discoveries, general experience, review of software, etc.
  • Search out other blogs, product support site for help, and post questions as needed.

That’s it….ready, set…..

Do you have any ideas for getting set up and started on a WBT rapidly? War stories, best practices or things to avoid….any comments are appreciated. Comment here or e-mail me.