Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

30 April 2008

eLearning Strategy

Clark @ 10:40 am

I’ll be presenting on eLearning Strategy for the ASTD LA Chapter’s Special Division on eLearning on the 21st of May (virtually). I’ve also just presented to the Best Practices Institute (but you have to be a member to see the archived version). It’s similar to how I’ve presented it before, but I keep adding new thoughts.

The notion is still the same performance ecosystem, but I made a point of searching out more on eCommunity at the eLearning Guild’s last conference to augment my knowledge. Can’t promise it’s improved the presentation yet (that’s the problem, they always want the deck weeks before the actual presentation, and my thinking isn’t static).

I’ve talked before about how Marc Rosenberg and I carve up the space differently, but agree on the main principles. The one thing I add is mobile, but I’m sure he’d rightly see that as a different channel for the underlying support. There is no one ‘right’ way to carve it up, but I still find my framework useful.

I’m seeing more interest in this from a corporate perspective. As I think I’ve mentioned, I’ve used this framework increasingly to help understand the context in which an elearning initiative sits. And using it to look at broader strategies for elearning for organizations. Harold Jarche also points to an initiative we did with an organization and the framework was very much in my mind as I tossed out answers. Maybe there’s one for you. Maybe we’ll see you at the ASTD LA chapter meeting?

27 April 2008

Fantastic Gaming (long)

Clark @ 8:11 am

In the Serious Games discussion list, Richard Wainess posted a thoughtful and eloquent reply to my request for research on the value (or not) of fantastic settings, in which he argued about the necessary learning design depth required in game design. I’m primed for the discussion since I’ve just been in the process of designing a learning game with a team. I thoroughly agree with him, and I’d highly recommend you find and read his response except for the fact that it appears there’s no archive. However, I had assumed the issues he’s suggested, and penned this (slightly modified) response:

I think you’re missing the value of fantastic settings in effectively adding on top of what you say. We could set a task (e.g. negotiation) in several real-life environments, including with a car dealer, with the boss for a raise, with the kids about bed time (bad idea), etc. Or we could set it in space, for example, negotiating with suppliers for equipment, with civilizations for territory, with buyers for products, etc. Once we ensure we’ve put the necessary skills into the game, across differing contexts, and added the post-game reflection, is there a potential benefit for having a more compelling storyline? That trades off positively against the less direct transfer?

Yes, it takes different contexts to abstract and generalize, but let’s not neglect the value of motivation. So I agree it absolutely *has* to encompass the essential skills across contexts (broad enough to generalize to all relevant situations, and to no irrelevant ones). But there’s more than just that. My hypothesis is that embedding them into an exaggerated storyline may enhance the outcomes more than a real-world setting (and the more so the more general the skill).

If it’s not a storyline that the learner cares about, they’re not going to engage like they will when it really matters to them (e.g. the car *they* want to purchase). So we need that motivation, that emotional engagement as well. And that’s when we’re going to want to align the cognitive and game engagement. When people really have to perform, they have external motivation. Don’t we want to embed that in the experience as well?

I suggest that once we get the educational process down and vary the settings in context, that increasing the motivation through a compelling storyline that both is a meaningful application of the skill and is a storyline that the learners care about, will increase the outcome measure more than an more realistic, and dull, exercise. It’s testable, and I want the answer rather than just relying on my intuition (which will suffice for now; I too am trying to meet real needs, not just satisfy academic interests, but I’d feel far better knowing the answer one way or another).

My feeling is, rightly or wrongly, that not enough people get the depths he talks about, and on the other side, the argument I make above. I’d like the answer, but in lieu of that, I’m going to stick with my belief. (And later, Richard responded about how my response made him smile, as he’s starting just this research.)

A further claim from another respondent said that we just need to make the next Oregon Trail, which spurred this rejoinder:

If you don’t have the academic underpinning that Richard argues so eloquently for, all the cool window-dressing won’t lead to a thing. If you’ve infinite resources, you can iterate ’til you get the outcomes you suggest, but I’d prefer to draw upon principled bases and shorten the development process by systematically combining deep learning design with creative engagement design.

It almost appears that the few good edutainment titles were more a case of “even a blind pig finds a truffle once in a while” (a botched metaphor, to be sure, but personally relevant as how my friend described me finding my wife) than the result of a real understanding; there are too many bad titles out there. I don’t want to trust to chance that NASA’s MMO will be effective, nor burn through too much $$ to ensure it. I’d like to use what we know to help do it reliably, and repeatably. We owe it to ourselves and to society to demonstrate that serious games are a viable learning vehicle, not a hit or miss (or money sink) proposition.

Ok, so I’m opinionated. What did you expect? I didn’t spend, off and on, 25+ years doing learning game design to just throw up my hands. So, am I off my rocker?

25 April 2008

Notes on my game Espresso Learning session at the Guild’s Annual Gathering

Clark @ 2:31 pm

I didn’t blog it, since I *was* it (3 times), but Brent did. Here’re his notes from the session.

24 April 2008

Like riding a bike…

Clark @ 5:30 am

(Sorry for the delay, I don’t like to wait this long between blogs, but as soon as I was back from the Guild conference, and catching up with the backlog, I was off to a gig.)

We’d gotten our kids bikes, but we don’t have an ideal situation for it. Our backyard is wood deck, pebbled concrete, steep driveway (cars have had trouble getting up), and (semi-) landscaped hill. Our neighborhood is similarly largely vertical, and even the cul-de-sac is small and still somewhat with a grade. My son got on top of riding while at his cousin’s, but my daughter never did.

However, there are lots of bike paths in the flats down the hill, and my wife really wanted us to do some bike rides together. In the past couple of weeks we bought some new bikes for the kids that suited their current sizes, didn’t put training wheels on for the daughter, and tried to get them both used to the new bikes.

In the cul-de-sac, my daughter did a couple of shots of riding with us running along behind holding her up, and managed some, but never got very comfortable nor skilled. So, this past Saturday, we went down to their school playground and had them ride around.

My wife started with my daughter, and next thing I know, my daughter’s riding around on her own! Her story is that Mom let go without telling her so she thought she was ok. My wife’s story is that daughter yelled out “let go” so she did. Regardless, suddenly she was peddling on her own, turning, everything. And with a huge grin on her face; she was so thrilled! As were we.

So Sunday the family took that bike path. And I was the one with a grin on my face.

The lesson was that with the right tools, motivation, support, and environment, learning is magic. Are you making your learning experiences like that?

17 April 2008

Guild Keynote: Stefan Sagmeister

Clark @ 7:09 am

Stefan Sagmeister’s a renowned designer, and gave us a talk about what he’s learned and how it’s influenced his design. Or rather, more how what he’s learned has driven a number of design projects. He started with the type of stuff his studio does: music business design (a music building flexible logo approach), socially responsible design (helping TrueMajority.org demonstrate Pentagon spending in context, with creative approaches including the pig car train and the topsy-turvy bus), and corporate design (an embossed organic hierarchy, e.g. flowers, as a vehicle for different lighting treatments to illustrate a lighting company corporate report).

The second part of his talk started with talking about how creative organizations use reflection to maintain innovation. This was an interesting contrast to a discussion in the first day of the Learning Management Colloquium where Lance was arguing with a audience member about whether reflection was necessary (!?!). Obviously, I’m all for it; in times of increasing change, execution of established patterns won’t help, and you’ll need to innovate, and reflection is a component of that.

From his reflections, he had a list of statements or mantras that he then had used as the basis for a number of commissioned works with a wide variety of representations, from words created out of a variety of materials to huge manifestations of the prose. There was quite a variety, some of them seeming to overlap a bit in the content of the phrases, and sometimes in the approach taken. Some were very clever plays, however, on the concepts. A billboard that faded illustrated letting go of issues, and a visual web that you got ‘tangled in’ as you passed by reflected the problems of lying.

Not specifically about learning, the issues of creativity and reflection were valuable and inspirational. My last mind map, at least for this conference:

Sagmeister Guild Keynote MindMap

16 April 2008

Learning Management Colloquium: Bob Dean

Clark @ 1:42 pm

In addition to the Q&A with Patrick (and Steve Wexler on the Guild research), the other thing I wasn’t involved in was Lance’s thought-provoking interview with Bob Dean (who I’ve blogged about before). He came in as a representative of the CLO role, and threw out more TLA‘s than you can shake a stick at.

In talking about what he was looking for in his role, he said “universities are one of the least innovative solutions” in reference to many corporate approaches. What he wanted was a Talent Development System (TDS), which is much more than an LMS. I didn’t get a chance (but I’ve pinged him) whether the performance ecosystem was close to what he had in mind. It would include competency modeling, online performance review, yellow pages, profiles, and career development history. Talent’s the new way to view the learning role, it appeared, and he suggested their needs to be a Chief Talent Officer (CTO, which is why I’d suggest it might be Chief Performance Officer, CPO, not to step on the toes of IT).

I did get to ask him, in light of the increasing change, whether competency models would be out of date too fast, and whether he was thinking it would be closer to 21st century skills (learning to learn, etc, the type of curriculum I think we need). He basically agreed, indicating there might be core skills and new skills. Interestingly, talking about their (recruiting firm) 19 C-suite competencies, he thought that they weren’t needing to change, but the 5 or so priorities that they ask their clients for are!

As before, he was still enthused with learning experiences, and as before I fully agree. He talked about Continuous Development Experiences (or CDEs), and it’s not a bad notion: viewing learning as an ongoing process instead of a punctate series of events. Now that’s a role for mobile learning to augment.

He was not focused on ROI, but on Return on Visibility (ROV), where how the efforts were perceived were what carried weight. He reckoned that by the time the numbers were available they were on to other things, and getting programs done was what was important. In contrast, I remember Ellen Wagner once saying that “if you aren’t measuring it, why bother”. Still, it appeared to be the context that they aren’t looking to him for measurable results.

I note that, given Marc’s talk yesterday and Bob’s today, it’s clear the new strategic concept is ‘alignment’. The notion is that learning (or talent) initiatives need to be geared towards organizational goals. I think it’s obvious, but clearly to be buzzword-compliant I’ll have to get better at tossing the word around ;).

Overall, Lance did a good job handling the interviews , the colloquium seemed valuable to the audience, and fun for me. Well done!

eLearning Guild Keynote: John Patrick

Clark @ 7:37 am

Today’s keynote was John Patrick, talking about the future of the internet and implications for learning. There was a lot of the former, and unfortunately not enough of the latter. He made some great points, specifically that we’re only tapping 5% of the potential, citing a number of examples of where people were dropping the ball (what a great deal, getting paid to whinge about bad internet experiences :), and also about what was possible with coming developments. Here’s the mindmap:

Patrick Keynote MindMap

In followup questions (part of the learning management colloquium), he talked a bit more about learning to learn (a pet fave of mine): that, generationally-independently, some get it and some don’t. I asked the obvious question: given that the internet has so much knowledge, but (as he claimed in his talk) that folks don’t necessarily have good internet skills, would the obvious implication be that the role of formal learning be about how to learn to learn with internet resources? His answer was discursive, unfortunately, but an interesting opportunity would be a software ‘net-surfing’ coach that watched your net strategy and provided guidance.

The opportunities of ubiquitous internet access are exciting, certainly, but I think it will take some smart ‘voting with eyeballs’ to really make a change. I’m an idealist, but I also recognize that individuals are satisficing, not optimizing, and people are still buying shoddy product (why are people still buying Coors?). How will we get the necessary cluetrain going? Odd thought: ridicule.

15 April 2008

Learning Management Colloquium: Day 1

Clark @ 5:53 pm

After the keynote, the Learning Management Colloquium started with an introduction by Lance Dublin, then ‘deep dives’ by Bryan Chapman, Michael Echols, and Marc Rosenberg. This is a separate stream within the Guild’s Annual Gathering, though this year it’s open to everyone. I’ll be representing ‘games’ in the Espresso Learning session tomorrow.

Lance started talking about Web 2.0 and management, with the increasing information overload and how kids these days are coping with prosumption and democratization of content, and that we had to take advantage of these approaches to cope. He created a distinction between informal and non-formal learning, arguing the latter is what we can actually control, and should be thinking of. I think Jay Cross wouldn’t mind separating out the measurable from the ineffable, but would suggest we should still be thinking of things we won’t necessarily track including things as broad as designing floorplans to promote interaction (such as Sawyer talked about in today’s keynote) as well (and probably quibble about the importance of tracking).

Bryan Chapman talked about learning technology infrastructure, and in the audience interaction pointed out how broadly divergent were the LMSs used, more commonality in authoring tools, and then divergence again in virtual classroom tools. Also evident was that people confused portals with knowledge management. My real takeaways were the recommendation of having a high-level, cross-business unit performance council and standard-setting group.

Michael Echols next talked about ROI. He had a refreshing perspective, basically using a control group or baseline contrast to evaluate ROI. His ROI formula is statistical:

ROI = (delta-cost)/cost

where delta is new performance metric – old performance metric. It’s a nice contrast to the Kirkpatrich ‘chain of argument’, where your improvement is based upon measured comparisons at each level, and arguing that they’re connected. On the other hand, it requires having that baseline or control group!  Still, delightfully principled.

Finally, Marc Rosenberg gave his usual, but still important, spiel about elearning needing to be more than courses. His list of elements has a different cut than mine – he has six elements: ILT, WBT, Knowledge Management, Performance Support, Community of Practice, and Experts, where I have a different six: eLearning (w/ Advanced ID), Performance Focus, eCommunity, Greater Integration, and Broader Distribution, leading to a full Performance Ecosystem. We agreed afterwards that the lines aren’t clear cut and each served our purposes.

eLearning Strategy

First thing in the morning I had a Breakfast Byte on eLearning Strategy that was well attended, and presenting my models seemed to be well-received with nods when I queried whether it made sense and several thanks afterwards. I was clear that it wasn’t an answer, just a framework to be customized, but has proved valuable for me. Overall, a valuable first day.

eLearning Guild Keynote: Keith Sawyer

Clark @ 12:32 pm

Today I’m at the eLearning Guild’s Annual Gathering. Yesterday I was part of two different pre-conference symposiums, one on Immersive Learning Simulations (read: serious games) and Mobile Learning, and today we started off with a keynote. I mind-mapped it, which I sometimes do, and here’s the result:

Keith Sawyer Keynote Mindmap

Overall, I confess I was a wee bit underwhelmed, as some of the talk was that a constructivist approach fostered more innovative folks. Well, yeah. However, there were some good points, and he told a great story about the real history of Monopoly.

The main good point was debunking the myth that innovation is individual insight, and his research on creativity shows how teams iterate over time to create new ideas. He also pointed out a couple of ways to facilitate creativity, which included building layouts (pointing to his book, ahem), and re-assigning staff as a systematic organizational policy.

There were also some good details about making effective learning (see the subtrees from the ‘challenges’ node in the mind map, above), including identifying a relevant problem, supporting active learning, fostering effective collaboration, and creating shared artifacts.  Most specifically, the details underneath these were more depth than you often get.

Of course, the question is whether the talk was relevant for the general audience, not me (after all, I too have studied creativity, and the learning sciences). My informal poll seemed to support my view, but the eLearning Guild is making some good efforts at linking in social tools, so there should be lots of reactions being tracked. Did you see his presentation? If so, what did you think?

10 April 2008

Course technology and assignments

Clark @ 12:24 pm

In the recent ITFORUM discussion, I had an opportunity to revisit the assignment strategy I had developed last time I taught an online course, and I thought it worth repeating here:

I had a philosophy that the major components to successful retention and transfer were for learners to connect the learning to their own life, to elaborate the material conceptually, and to apply the knowledge practically. Consequently, I had them: keep journals (e.g. blogs) with three posts per week about their own reflections on how the course materials were relevant in their lives; post answers to my posed conceptual questions on the discussion board and comment in a elaborative way on someone else’s post (the prior post to theirs, except the first person who commented on the last post); and the group assignments applying the knowledge to a posed ‘real’ problem (no hesitation about ‘exaggerating’ the importance of the situation when possible ;).

It seemed to work, as their final report (a separate task) generally correlated with the quality of the work above and overall their understanding seemed to coalesce to the desired level.

There are problems with group assignments, when some students don’t contribute sufficiently, but these days tools like wikis track who’s done what (for example, in the CentralDesktop workspace I’m working with a few colleagues on a next-gen organizational learning approach), so it should be possible to evaluate it.

Central Desktop Contribution Tracking

It’s nice that the tool diversity supports different cognitive tasks, and then the only question is whether/how to integrate them together.

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