Friday, July 30, 2004

Best of the week

Here are the articles and resources that I found most interesting this week.

Knowledge nomads. The article "High Turnover: Should You Care?" from Harvard Business School discusses "knowledge nomads," people in the knowledge economy who move around frequently from company to company. Drawing from an article in American Behavioral Scientist, the HBS article's author says companies should focus less on trying to retain employees with money or perks and more on "re-recruiting" them with challenges and learning opportunities. Retention will then follow. (Thanks to the e-learningpost for this link.)

Positive organizational scholarship. The Michigan Business School is exploring this arena, which their Website defines as a "movement in organizational studies that...focuses on the dynamics that lead to developing human strength, producing resilience and restoration, fostering vitality, and cultivating extraordinary individuals, units and organizations." This movement parallels a similar movement in psychology, termed "positive psychology," that focuses on what makes people mentally healthy rather than unhealthy.

More on reputation. In last week's best of the week, I wrote about some resources on reputation. The Smart Mobs Weblog offers links to two additional resources: a review of the book Reputation in Artificial Societies: Social Beliefs for Social Order and a presentation on gossip and reputation by a professor of sociology and strategy at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.

Dominant and submissive body language "tells." From Dave Pollard's blog "How to Save the World" comes this intriguing entry on dominant and submissive body language cues. Find out which "tells" show someone is dominant and which submissive, the six different types of dominant and submissive signals, usual submissive responses to specific dominant signals and vice versa, and the meaning of various other signals.

"Online Social Networks Go to Work." I proposed some business uses for online social networks like LinkedIn in my "We Learning part II" article. This article from MSNBC interviews some users and researchers of these applications and talks about how people are putting them to work.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Study on online content personalization and relevance to online learning

An interesting study came out from ChoiceStream, a company that sells personalization solutions for online services and others. I thought some of the data could be relevant to e-learning designers.

Some findings:

--81 percent of the users surveyed prefer personal content (although we have to take this figure with a grain of salt considering its source). Is your e-learning solution tailored for individual learners, or is it one-size-fits-all?

--The younger the users, the more interested they were in personalization (and perhaps the more they expected it). The highest level of interest was among 18 to 24-year-olds; the lowest among 35 to 49-year-olds. (The interest for people 50+ was about equal to this latter group.)

--The younger users were also more willing to provide personal information in exchange for the personalized content.

So take note: One-size-fits-all online learning content is not going to satisfy the younger workers who are entering the workplace. The Internet generation (some call them digital natives) is expecting personalized content tailored for its members' needs. (Learn more about digital natives in this Answer Geek article, accessible to ASTD members.)

E-learning designers would be wise to start figuring out how to offer learners multiple options for content level, learning style, and other ways the content can be customized. The good news is that this is much easier online than in a traditional classroom. Can you imagine having to offer one class on the Excel software program for each learning style, for example?

To start you off, here's an article on using multiple intelligence theory in virtual classrooms. (It's available to non-ASTD-members, but requires registration.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Center for Effective Performance advises on making training work

From the best of my inbox:

The Center for Effective Performance (CEP) says that training can increase a company's competitive advantage and shareholder value, but many companies are still providing academic, content-based training instead of focusing on job skills and performance.

A CEP press release says that often workers learn what they really need to know to do their jobs after training ends. (This is known in many circles as informal learning, and makes up, according to some estimates, up to 80 percent of learning within organizations.)

Dr. Seth Leibler, CEO of the CEP, says organizations should evaluate their training based on these criteria:

"1. Training is viewed as the right solution only if the cause of a problem is a lack of skill or knowledge. Training is not automatically developed as the solution for every performance problem.
2. All training requests are analyzed to ensure the right solutions are developed and implemented. In addition to training, all the potential causes for underperformance are addressed: skill, motivational, and environmental resource and supports.
3. Practice situations in training match the actual on-the-job conditions as closely as possible (It’s why off-the-shelf training generally is ineffective.)
4. Learners receive immediate feedback after each practice to reinforce what is done correctly and coaching on what to do differently.
5. Skill checks ensure that learners master all essential skills needed to perform to job expectations before leaving training.
6. On-the-job reference tools (job aids) are developed to provide essential information to performers who only need a reminder of how to do a task."

Want to learn how to maximize your training investment? See this blog entry from last week.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Addendum: Masie Center copyright notice and today's chuckle

Make sure you don't violate the terms of use for the Masie Center e-learning tips e-book, or you'll have "extremely bad luck in life." (See the last line of the very last page.)
Two good resources: not-e and e.
I came across two resources I wanted to share with readers--both provide a lot of helpful information.

Not for e-learning. For those of you doing classroom training or presentations with PowerPoint, this blog entry offers a long list of PowerPoint add-ons as well as free and for-fee tips and training. For example, EmailPresenter lets you email a PowerPoint presentation to someone within an email message (not as an attachment), and Exelsius creates animated Flash movies from Excel data. There are also several resources that talk about how to create better presentations, for example "Really Bad PowerPoint," a whitepaper about what not to do.

For e-learning. The Masie Center,  an e-learning think-tank in Saratoga Springs, New York, has collected 701 e-learning tips from people around the world who submitted them. They've compiled the tips into a free digital e-book with 14 chapters,  including ads. You can download the book (allow some time; it's a big file) or request a copy on CD-ROM, and you can share and distribute the book as long as you don't alter the content or charge for it. These tips are from fellow practitioners in the trenches, so you should be able to find some good information. There's also a list of Elliot Masie's personal tips.


Thursday, July 22, 2004

Best of the week

I'm out of the office tomorrow, so here are the articles and resources that caught my eye this week.


Job outsourcing/offshoring is a very hot topic these days in the United States. T+D will be running two feature articles on outsourcing in upcoming issues, and the lead item in my October Intelligence column will cover it as well. A trend alert I received from the Herman Group this week assigns the impetus for outsourcing to the lack of qualified U.S. workers to fill jobs--in short, to the lack of necessary training and education. The group says that to resolve this issue, workforce preparedness must become a higher priority in organizations and government. Community and technical schools as well as secondary schools will be key in this effort.

The Herman Group says, "Those communities that take action now will be in a much better competitive position to attract employers, draw skilled workers, and strengthen their economies. Those communities that do not will find their jobs going elsewhere---domestically and overseas."

My Intelligence column "Workforce of Tomorrow, part II" discusses this idea of how schools and businesses, as well as community colleges, must work together to prepare the next generation of workers. (You can read the article for free, but it requires registration if you're not an ASTD member.)


International Forum for Women in E-Learning. The United States Distance Learning Association is holding this forum, entitled "Dancing on the Glass Ceiling," on September 13th-15th in Phoenix, Arizona. The press release calls it "a groundbreaking inaugural event for women leaders in distance learning seeking to establish their identity in the IFWE distance learning community. There will be offsite adventures, networking, and time to stimulate new thoughts on leadership, life balance, values, collaboration and global cooperation." It looks like it could be a fun and educational event.

Technology and Human Issues in Reusing Learning Objects. Another good article from the Journal of Interactive Media in Education, written by two authors from the Netherlands. Plan to spend some time with this--it's long and text-heavy, but contains a lot of excellent information. Among other topics, the authors cover six distinct stages in the learning object lifecycle: obtaining or creating, labeling, offering, selecting, using, and retaining.

Reputation and trust:

The Telework Times writes about Stanford University's research on virtual teams and a phenomenon they call virtual mistrust. One suggestion to combat mistrust in virtual teams? Collaboration tools such as videoconferencing.

Internet journal First Monday offers an in-depth article, "Manifesto for the Reputation Society," which examines not only online reputation but also suggests "the potential utility of reputation services is far greater, touching nearly every aspect of society." The authors say that not only people but also inanimate objects and even ideas can have reputations: "The waxing and waning of idea–reputations directly affects their likelihood of implementation, and thus the environment that we all share." Very interesting stuff.

Here's an intriguing site: It enables users to "review, rate, and search [the] database of people's reputations for both business and social purposes." Each person who signs up on the service is rated with a "RepScore" from the input of other people, like an extension of the eBay ratings for sellers and buyers. I haven't had the chance to sign up and see how it works; if anyone does, let me know what you think. This kind of system could be incorporated into an expert management application in companies.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Free whitepaper on maximizing training investments

BNH Expert Software is offering a free whitepaper entitled "From Classroom to Boardroom: Six Strategies to Maximize Impact of Training Budgets and Resources." Written by BNH's president, the whitepaper doesn't push any specific technology solutions until page 25, and just a few paragraphs at that. Not bad. 
Pages 1 through 24 outlay six fairly detailed strategies to make the most of your training funds and help demonstrate the ROI of your initiatives. Seasoned professionals may find some of this old news, but the whitepaper could be quite helpful for people just beginning the process of justifying training expenditures. The introduction reads:

"Since funds for various initiatives (including training) are allocated in the planning phase for upcoming projects, ROI studies on current training programs are of minimal consequence. An alternate approach, grounded in instructional system design and human performance improvement theory, and perfected over a seventeen years stint in the training field, is proposed in this booklet.
Although primarily intended to help organizations maximize the impact of training budgets and resources, the process invariably demonstrates the value of training initiatives. As a result, savings achieved through greater efficiencies can be reallocated to training programs that improve productivity and innovation, or reduce waste, and in-turn help business units and organization achieve their goals."
The six strategies the author outlines are listed below.

  1. Align training with organizational goals.
  2. Improve human performance.
  3. Reduce time to competency.
  4. Select the right blend of delivery options.
  5. Consider internal vs. external solutions.
  6. Duplicate programs that run effectively.

Each strategy is then broken down into more-detailed steps and illustrated in a flow-chart.

Other free whitepapers the company offers include "How to Effectively Manage and Optimize Training Budgets and Resources" and "Selecting the Right Blend of Delivery Options."

Friday, July 16, 2004

promised, here are the Websites and articles that I found the most interesting in the past two weeks. Have a good weekend, everyone.


“What’s Behind the 4-Minute Mile, Starbucks, and the Moon Landing? The Power of Impossible Thinking.” Knowledge@Wharton, a publication of the Wharton School, interviews the authors of a new book that answers such questions as, “How do you make sense of the world in an environment of overwhelming data? How do you transform your organization and the thinking of others? How do you harness the power of intuition?” 

 “Collaboration First, Then Knowledge Management.” This article answers the question, “What is the best way to work together to share common knowledge and drive toward common goals?  ECM vendors and knowledge management (KM) specialists often give the same answer: collaboration solutions. Yes, but towards what end?”   

“Making Sense of Online Learning Weblinks.” A well organized, comprehensive list of e-learning links from Learning Circuits contributor Patti Shanks. (Thanks, Amy Gahran.) 
“The Ecological Approach to the Design of E-Learning Environments: Purpose-based Capture and Use of Information About Learners.” This fascinating article tells “how the ecological approach shows promise not only to allow information about learners’ actual interactions with learning objects to be naturally captured but also to allow it to be used in a multitude of ways to support learners and teachers in achieving their goals.”
“Down with Boring E-Learning!” ASTD’s own Ryann Ellis, editor of Learning Circuits, interviews e-learning interactivity guru Michael Allen. The Contentious blog called the interview “superb” and “lively.”
“The E-Learning Design Challenge.” This Weblog posts descriptions of tricky training needs and asks people to reply with asynchronous solutions. Read the introduction to understand how it all works. 
Other Technology
“This Video Projector Will Fit Inside Your Pocket.” Soon you’ll be able to project high-quality images from your cellphone or laptop. The devices will replace lenses and lightbulbs with holograms. Think of the applications for classroom training.  
“What Should I Do if the Internet Goes Down.” A humorous piece that might make you laugh out loud.
“Weblogs as an Interview Tool.” How to assess an applicant’s knowledge of a subject based on his or her Weblog, as told by the principals of a marketing and technology consulting business in the U.K.  

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Written word update

Here's a great op-ed piece from the New York Times on the study I discussed on Tuesday--the one about the decline in people reading for pleasure.

This great passage from the NYT piece ties reading to education:

"Even more immediate than the crises in health and politics brought on by the decline of reading is the crisis in national education. We have one of the most literate societies in history. What is the point of having a population that can read, but doesn't? We need to teach people not only how, but also why to read. The struggle is not to make people read more, but to make them want to read more."

I found that link via MIT's Technology Review blog. Here's author Mara Vatz's take on the study. Also click on the comments link at the bottom of her posting to read more opinions and thoughts.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Free LMS Webinar tomorrow

Sorry for the late notice, but I just received this information. This Webinar could be helpful for anyone considering implementing a learning management system.

Josh Bersin of Bersin & Associates, an e-learning consulting firm, will present highlights from the company's report "Learning Management Systems 2004: Facts, Practical Analysis, and Trends" TOMORROW (July 15) from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., EDT.

Topics will include
"--a comparison of costs and implementation schedules for three different implementation models
--comparison information of various LMS suppliers, including market share results by revenue, customers, number of employees, size of service organizations, and other factors
--issues impacting the purchase and ongoing use of LMSs, including reporting and analytics capabilities, integration with HR systems, blended learning program management, performance management, and content management."

Sign up for the free Webinar here. You can submit questions in advance by emailing

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The written word is dead. Long live the written word.

Today I learned a sad fact. Americans aren't reading outside of work or school. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, fewer than half of American adults read for pleasure. The number has been decreasing in the last 20 years.

In 1982, 56.9 percent of adults read for pleasure. In 2002, just 46.7 percent did. The decline was most pronounced among young adults: In that age group the figure dropped from 62.1 percent to 47.7 percent. What are people doing instead? Cultural, sports, and volunteer activities--and watching more television.

Education is the factor that most determines how much people read for pleasure, the most- recent data showed. Among adults with a graduate education, 74 percent read for pleasure. Among adults with a grade school education, 14 percent do.

As a lifelong bookworm who learned to read at three years old, I feel strongly about people reading for pleasure. In a learning context, even reading for fun expands our horizons, enabling us to experience things we never would in "real life." We can learn about history, language, culture, and so forth. Being introduced to someone else's ideas can often have a profound effect on our own outlook.

Not to mention that reading's just fun and a great escape. Do your part to promote reading for pleasure. Read with your child, grandchild, friend's child, neighbor's child. The article from the National Academies that gave me the above statistics offers some links and resources to promote reading among young children.

In other news, apparently letter writing is back. The dying art is being revived in corporations, according to the editor of, among people fed up with email spam and viruses. Michael Kanellos says companies are returning to letter writing to make deals, sweet-talk potential clients, and distribute press releases. Even Bill Clinton wrote out his 900-page memoir with a pen, Kanellos reports.

Monday, July 12, 2004

What is training?

Communication and collaboration guru Robin Good (aka Luigi Canali De Rossi) poses the question, "What is your best definition of training?"

Do you agree with his definition? Do you have a better one?

Here is the definition from ASTD's/Learning Circuits's e-learning glossary.

Training: A process that aims to improve knowledge, skills, attitudes, and/or behaviors in a person to accomplish a specific job task or goal. Training is often focused on business needs and driven by time-critical business skills and knowledge, and its goal is often to improve performance. See also Teaching and Learning.

Not perfect, but our stab at it.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Best of the week postponed but another offering made

Because of the holiday and my being out some of the week with a flu bug, I'm a bit behind on deadlines. So I'm going to postpone my best of the week this week. I'll do it either later in the week next week or do a super-duper double one next Friday.

In the meantime, I offer you a free PDF of our recent survey results on training/workplace learning careers. We polled 389 workplace learning professionals. The results answer such questions as, Is the market rebounding for training and workplace learning professionals? Who has the higher salaries-—men or women? Who aspires to be a CLO? Go to the T+D homepage for the PDF.

For a PowerPoint presentation or press release about the survey, visit our homepage for T+D surveys, of which there will be more.

Have a good weekend, everyone!
Even more free Web seminars

They're exploding all over! Here are the latest online seminars that won't cost you a penny.

(Go here and here for more July Web seminars that I posted previously.)

1) "Learn Effective Uses for Optimized Online Video in Your Recorded Events." On July 13th from 2 to 3 p.m. EDT, you can learn "when to use optimized video, why optimized video is effective, and how optimized video can be integrated into your recordings."

2) "How to Boost Web Seminar Attendance." On July 27th from 2 to 3 p.m. EDT, ViewCentral's vice president of business development will discuss "tips for generating more leads and attendance, how a program-centric event plan generates greater leads, and how other organizations have increased their attendance."

3) "Valuing Web Page Real Estate." On July 27th at 2 p.m. EDT, an analyst from Jupiter Research will help you learn "insights from the offline catalogue and retail world that can be leveraged to assign value to Web site pages and elements, key factors behind Web site value and their impact, and best practices to use to evaluate and optimize Web site pages and elements for faster ROI."

4) "How to Leverage Your Training Investment in Web Conferencing." This seminar on July 28th at 1 a.m. EDT will discuss how to best schedule your events, set up online registration and payment options, use interactive tools, and generate evaluations and metrics.

5) Creating Engaging E-Learning: Don't let your Learners Go AWOL." On August 12th at 2 p.m. EDT Susan Boyd (who wrote "Tips to Make E-Learning Stick" for Learning Circuits) will "discuss why learners need to be engaged in an e-learning course, identify ways to engage learners in e-learning courses, and identify ways to design for interactive learning."

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

An intriguing book we probably won't review in T+D

Here's a book you most likely won't be seeing reviewed in T+D magazine: How's Your AQ Today? Corporations Stripped Naked, by former IBM executive Ed Rychkun.

What does AQ stand for? So I wondered as I was skimming the press release, one of many that I received today. Let's just say the A is for a not-very-polite word for jerk. The Q is for quotient.

Despite the flippant title, the book seems to have some meat to it. According to the release, Rynchkun examines whether one of the major qualifications for a successful career is being a jerk. His answer seems to be yes.

The release reads, "An honest look at how to be a jerk and how to deal with upper management, Rychkun examines the social behavior of corporate culture and develops a
theory called the AQ...which measures the direct impact an AQ has on how fast one climbs or falls from the corporate ladder."

The book "reveals how the real professionals—the executives—use a set of secret tricks to hide their incompetence and maintain their positions of power within the corporate hierarchy."

Semi-retired, Rynchkun runs his own publishing company. More info on the book can be found at

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Best of the week

Here are the articles and links that caught my eye this week. I'm posting them today because I'm off tomorrow. (Gotta love a four-day weekend! Happy Fourth, everyone.)

"Blogs in Business: What We Could Do Now." Blogger Dave Pollard writes in depth about how blogs can and should be used in business, including a list of blog-worthy content, dos and don'ts, and a step-by-step plan to implement a business blog. This topic has been covered elsewhere but this is one of the best articles I've seen. Read the comments at the bottom of the article for more thought-provoking material.

"Polite Feedback Sucks." From Allen Interactions comes this irreverent guide to what e-learner feedback really means. For example, "This training had a lot to say" really means "I stopped reading after the 5th paragraph." The article continues its humorous tone as it describes the kind of feedback you should be getting and offers tips for making that happen.

"Generation C." Anyone can be part of this generation. C stands for content; the article analyzes the trend of everyday people turning into content creators. Tools for this are becoming both more powerful and cheaper, letting people put their creative drive to use.

"Selling Girl Scouts on Science." Women make up 46 percent of the workforce but only 22 percent of scientists and engineers, says the National Science Foundation. The Girl Scouts are going to help change that, working with corporations and government.