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

1 February 2017

Other writings

Clark @ 8:04 am

It occurs to me to mention some of the other places you can find my writings besides here (and how they differ ;).  My blog posts are pretty regular (my aim is 2/week), but tend to have ideas that are embryonic or a bit ‘evangelical’. First, I’ve written four books; you can check them out and get sample chapters at their respective sites:

Engaging Learning: Designing e-Learning Simulation Games

Designing mLearning: Tapping Into the Mobile Revolution for Organizational Performance

The Mobile Academy: mLearning For Higher Education

Revolutionize Learning &  Development: Performance and Information Strategy for the Information Age

They’re designed to be the definitive word on the topic, at least at the moment.

I’ve also written or co-written a number of chapters in a variety of books.  The books include The Really Useful eLearning Instruction ManualCreating a Learning Culture, Michael Allen’s eLearning Annual 2009,  and a bunch of academic handbooks (Mobile Learning, Experiential Learning, Wiley Learning Technology ;).  These tend to be longer than an article, with a pretty thorough coverage of whatever topic is on tap.

Then there are articles in a variety of magazines.  These tend to be aggregated thoughts that are longer than a blog post, but not as through as a chapter. In particular, they are things I think need to be heard (or read).  So, my writing has shown up in:


Learning Solutions


The topics vary. (For the eLearnMag ones, you’ll have to search for my name owing to their interface, and they tend to be more like editorials.)

And then there are blog posts for others that are a bit longer than my usual blog post, and close to an article in focus:

The Deeper eLearning series for Learnnovators

A monthly article for Litmos.

These, too, are more like articles in that they’re focused, and deeper than my usual blog post.  For the latter I cover a lot of different topics, so you’re likely to find something relevant there in many different areas.

I’m proud of it all, but for a quick update on a topic, you might be best seeing if there’s a Litmos post on it first.  That’s likely to be relatively short and focused if there is one. And, of course, if it’s a topic you’re interested in advancing in and I can help, do let me know.

21 December 2016

Employee Experience

Clark @ 8:05 am

Principles and Approaches for L&DOne of the recent trends has been about ‘customer experience’, focusing the organization on a consistent and coherent customer experience from first exposure through to ongoing product or service use. And this is a ‘good thing’!  I’ve participated in the efforts of an organization to achieve it, and can see the real benefits.  However, I want to suggest that just as important is the employee experience. This is the goal of a true performance ecosystem and an aligned culture.

Richard Branson, the successful entrepreneur behind the Virgin brand, argues that the only real way to deliver great customer service is to have really happy employees.  And I think that his argument is plausible.  We know that when people are engaged, there are good outcomes like greater retention.  Happy employees is a necessary step to happy customers.

We also know that when we’re creating a learning culture, we get both more engaged employees, and better business outcomes.  That is, when employees have purpose, are given autonomy to pursue their goals, and are supported towards success, they’re happier and more productive. Also when an organization works well together – sharing because it’s safe, tapping into diversity, being open to new ideas, and supporting reflection – innovation can flourish.

And, I’ll argue, that when the tools are ‘to hand’, employees are happier and more productive.  When you can:

  • find necessary tools and resources
  • reach out with questions
  • provide answers
  • represent your thinking
  • share your work so others can align and contribute
  • collaborate
  • experiment and analyze

all with ease, working is optimal.  That is, employees can achieve their goals effectively and efficiently.

Spending cycles to optimize this, to develop the infrastructure and the culture, is an investment in a long term benefit to organizational success.  I believe the two components of the organizational culture and the technology infrastructure are the critical components to employee experience.  And optimizing those has benefits that cross the organization.  That strikes me as an important strategic focus; what’s your take?


30 November 2016

Content aggregation

Clark @ 8:05 am

At the recent DevLearn conference, I had a chance to present in xAPI Base Camp on Content Systems.  This is a topic I’ve been thinking about since working on an adaptive learning system back in 1999-2000. And I think it’s now an even bigger big opportunity.  In the course of responding to an interested attendee, I aggregated this list of my (non-blog) publications on the process, and I thought it might be useful to share them here (from most recent to earliest):

Talking about  lifecycle and opportunities in the Litmos blog

Perspective from visiting the Intelligent Content conference in eLearnMag

The possibilities and necessities of adapting to context in Learning Solutions magazine

New ways of looking at learning content in Learning Solutions magazine

Moving from text to experience for publishers in eLearnMag

A discussion paper including granularity and tagging in the IFETS journal

contentelementsWhat you see is a transition in focus.  From thinking about content objects at the right granularity and with the right tagging, I transition to thinking about strategy for content publishers. Ultimately, I have shifted to looking at the learning industry and opportunities to adapt learning to context (which includes location, current task, current role, and more).

While I think that adaptivity is a ways away, I also believe that the initial efforts in getting more rigorous about content strategy, engineering, and governance are a worthwhile investment now. The benefits are in less redundancy, tighter design, tracking, and greater flexibility.  The long term benefits will come from analytics, adaptivity, and contextualization.  I reckon that’s an opportunity that’s hard to ignore. I’ll suggest that it’s past time to be thinking about it, and time to start acting.  What about you?  Are you ready?

18 November 2016

Karen McGrane #DevLearn Keynote Mindmap

Clark @ 12:27 pm

Karen McGrane closed the DevLearn conference talking about adaptive content. She had addressed mLearnCon in the past, a great presentation, so my expectations were high.  Plus, given that I riffed on background integration in my ELearning strategy pre-con and then content strategy as a session in the xAPI camp the next day, this is a talk I was eager to hear (congrats to the eLearning Guild for putting the topic on the table).

In this entertaining and illuminating session, she made the point that responsive is better than customizing to screen, and adapting is hard, so responsive is a good starting point.

Karen McGrane Keynote Mindmap

17 November 2016

Tony DeRose #DevLearn Keynote Mindmap

Clark @ 9:41 am

Tony DeRose opened the second day of DevLearn with a geeky (and intriguing) presentation on the links between math and story in making animation.  With clips and anecdotes he showed how it works, and inspired about how they’re connecting this to STEM.

Tony DeRosa Keynote Mindmap

13 October 2016

Infrastructure and integration

Clark @ 8:04 am

When I wrote the L&D Revolution book, I created a chart that documented the different stages that L&D could go through on the way.  I look at it again, and I see that I got (at least) one thing slightly off, as I talked about content and it’s more, it’s about integration and infrastructure.   And I reckon I should share my thinking, then and now.

The premise of the chart was that there are stages of maturity across the major categories of areas L&D should be aware of.  The categories were Culture, Formal Learning, Performance Support, eCommunity, Metrics, and Infrastructure. And for each of those, I had two subcategories.  And I mapped each at four stages of maturity.
Let me be clear, these were made up. I stuck to consistency in having two sub areas, and mapping to four stages of maturity.  I don’t think I was wrong, but this was an effort to raise awareness rather than be definitive. That said, I believed then and still now that the chart I created was roughly right.  With one caveat.

prethinkinginfrastructureIn the area of infrastructure, I focused largely on two sub categories, content models and semantics. I’ve been big on the ways that content could be used, from early work I did on content models that led to flexible delivery in an adaptive learning system, a context-sensitive performance support system, and a flexible content publishing system. I’ve subsequently written about content in a variety of places, attended an intelligent content conference, and have been generally advocating it’s time to do content like the big boys (read: web marketers).  And I think these areas are necessary, but not sufficient.

rethinkinginfrastructureI realize, as I review the chart for my upcoming strategy workshop at DevLearn, that I focused too narrowly.  Infrastructure is really about the technical sophistication (which includes content models & semantics, but also tracking and analytics) and integration of elements to create a true ecosystem.   So there’s more to the picture than just the content models and semantics.  Really, we want to be moving on both the sophistication of the model, and the technical underpinnings of the model.

We’ll be discussing this more in Las Vegas in November. And if you’re interested in beginning to offer a richer picture of learning and move  L&D to be a strategic contributor to the organization, this is the chance for a jump-start!


4 October 2016

Site Learnings

Clark @ 8:06 am

So I was talking with a colleague, who pointed out that my site wasn’t as optimized for finding as it could be, and he recommended a solution. Which led to an ongoing series of activities that have some learnings both at the technical and learning side.  So I thought I’d share my learnings about sites.

This being a WordPress site, I use plugins, and my colleague pointed me to a plugin that would guide me through steps to improve my site.  And so I installed it. And it led me through several steps.  One being improving some elements about each post. And some of these had some ramifications.  The steps included:

  • adding a  focus word or phrase
  • adding a meta-description
  • post recommendations for including focus word in the first paragraph
  • adding images
  • and more

I reckon these are good things to be consistent, but while I sometimes include diagrams, I haven’t been rabid about including images.  Which I will probably do more, but not ubiquitously (e.g. this post ;). The other things I’ll work on.  BTW, I am also getting advice on readability, but I’m less likely to change. This is my blog, after all!

One other change was to move from posts by number (e.g. ?p=#), to having a meaningful title. Which is all well and good, but it conflicted with another situation.  See, one of the other recommendations was to be more closely tied to Google’s tools for tracking sites, specifically Search Console.  Which had other ramifications.

So, I’ve put Google tracking code into all of my sites, but the code on Learnlets was old.  I’d put it in, and then my ISP changed the settings on my blog so I couldn’t use the built-in editor to edit the header and footer of the site pages (for security). Which meant I had to find the old code and replace it with FTP. Except, in all the myriad files in a WordPress site, I had no idea where.

Now, I’d try to do this once I’d gotten all my sites tied into Google Analytics, including searching the WP file folders, and browsing a number, to no avail. And I’d searched for guidance, similarly to no avail.  I tried again this time, still to no avail. I even found a recommended plugin that would allow you to add code into the header, but it didn’t work.

Specifically, even though my site was registering in Google Analytics, it wasn’t validated with the Search Console. I tried a number of their recommended steps, like adding a generated .html file into the site and putting a special txt message in my DNS record via my domain name host. (And if you don’t know what this means, it’s not really essential except to note that it’s clearly at the very edge of my deteriorating tech skills. ;)

I finally got on the phone to my ISP, and he gave me the clue I needed to find the right file with the header. Then I could download the file, edit it, and re upload it.  Which is always nervous to me: changing a core and ubiquitous file for your site that could totally stuff things up!

Well, long story short, it worked. I’m now registered with the Search Console, with current  Analytics code. Though, in the process of changing my url style for my blog, it is now generating 404 errors on pages that use the old mechanism (it seemed to work okay on some newer ones, but apparently is falling apart on some older ones).  It’s always something.

So, the important thing: tech stuff ends up being complicated, but what helps are the same innovation (aka informal learning) steps as always. Persistence, a willingness to experiment, a suite of approaches, and a network to fall back on.  And also, if you’re using one of my old URLs, it may be a problem to track down!  This may well be a problem in my own referring sites (e.g. the Quinnovation News page).  Two steps forward, one step back.  Here’s to change!

29 September 2016

Workshopping what’s needed: going deep on elearning

Clark @ 8:04 am

Are you ready to really try to make a change in what you’re doing? It’s past time, both at the level of our elearning design, and at the level of elearning strategy.  And now you have the chance to do something about it, because I’m holding workshops addressing each.  In different places with different goals, but each is a way to proceed on going deep on elearning.

going deep on elearningIf you’re interested in the Revolution, in looking at what L&D can, and should, be, you should join me in Las Vegas at the DevLearn conference and sign up for my pre-conference workshop. On Monday, Nov 14th, we’re going to spend the day getting seriously into opportunities of the performance ecosystem and the strategy to get there.  We’ll look at the need for not only optimal execution but also continual innovation, what is required, and how the elements work together. Then we’re going to work through assessing where you’re at, where you’d like to be, and give you the opportunity to pull together your own strategic plan. You’ll leave with a roadmap forward for your organization.  This is your chance to get a jump on the future of L&D.

If getting serious about elearning design is your thing, you should join us on Wednesday, Nov 30 at Online Educa in Berlin. It’s past time to stop producing elearning that’s ineffective. Here, my workshop  is focused on going deep on elearning.  We’re going to spend the day unpacking the details that make (e)learning really stick, and the design revisions that will accomplish it. We’ll dig into the cognitive, but also the emotional aspects that affect the outcomes.  You’ll practice the skills, and then work on steps that you can practically incorporate into your practice.

If you want to really sink your teeth into either of these important topics, here’s your opportunity.  I hope to see you at one or both!

21 September 2016

Collaborative Modelling in AR (and VR)

Clark @ 8:04 am

A number of years ago, when we were at the height of the hype about Virtual Worlds (computer rendered 3D social worlds, e.g. Second Life), I was thinking about the affordances.  And one that I thought was intriguing was co-creating, in particular collaboratively creating models that were explanatory and predictive.  And in thinking again about Augmented Reality (AR), I realized we had this opportunity again.

Models are hard enough to capture in 2D, particularly if they’re complex.  Having a 3rd dimension can be valuable. Similarly if we’re trying to match how the components are physically structured (think of a model of a refinery, for instance, or a power plant).  Creating it can be challenging, particularly if you’re trying to map out a new understanding.  And, we know that collaboration is more powerful than solo ideation.  So, a real opportunity is to collaborate to create models.

And in the old Virtual Worlds, a number had ways to create 3D objects.  It wasn’t easy, as you had to learn the interface commands to accomplish this task, but the worlds were configurable (e.g. you could build things) and you could build models.  There was also the overall cognitive and processing overhead inherent to the worlds, but these were a given to use the worlds at all.

What I was thinking of, extending my thoughts about AR in general,  that annotating the world is valuable, but how about collaboratively annotating the world?  If we can provide mechanisms (e.g. gestures) for people to not just consume, but create the models ‘in world’ (e.g. while viewing, not offline), we can find some powerful learning opportunities, both formal and informal.  Yes, there are issues in creating and developing abilities with a standard ‘model-building’ language, particularly if it needs to be aligned to the world, but the outcomes could be powerful.

For formal, imagine asking learners to express their understanding. Many years ago, I was working with Kathy Fisher on semantic networks, where she had learners express their understanding of the digestive system and was able to expose misconceptions.  Imagine asking learners to represent their conceptions of causal and other relationships.  They might even collaborate on doing that. They could also just build 3D models not aligned to the world (though that doesn’t necessarily require AR).

And for informal learning, having team or community members working to collaboratively annotate their environment or represent their understanding could solve problems and advance a community’s practices.  Teams could be creating new products, trouble-shooting, or more, with their models.  And communities could be representing their processes and frameworks.

This wouldn’t necessarily have to happen in the real world if the options weren’t aligned to external context, so perhaps VR could be used. At a client event last week, I was given the chance to use a VR headset (Google Cardboard), and immerse myself in the experience. It might not need to be virtual (instead collaboration could be just through networked computers, but there was data from research into virtual reality that suggests better learning outcomes.

Richer technology and research into cognition starts giving us powerful new ways to augment our intelligence and co-create richer futures.  While in some sense this is an extension of existing practices, it’s leveraging core affordances to meet conceptually valuable needs.  That’s my model, what’s yours?

13 September 2016

Augmenting AR for Learning

Clark @ 8:01 am

We’re hearing more and more about AR (Augmented Reality), and one of it’s core elements is layering information on top of the world.  But in a conversation the other night, it occurred to me that we could push that information to be even more proactive in facilitating learning. And this comes from the use of models.

The key idea I want to leverage is the use of models to foster is the use of models to predict or explain what happens in the world. As I have argued, models are useful to guide our performance, and in fact I suggest that they’re the best basis to give people the ability to act, and adapt, in a changing world.  So the ability to develop the ability to use them is, I would suggest, valuable.

Now, with AR, we can annotate the world with models.  We can layer on the conceptual relationships that underpin the things we can observe, so showing flow, causation, forces, constraints, and more.  We can illustrate tectonic forces, represent socio-economic data, physical properties, and so on.  The question is, can we not just illuminate them, but can we ‘exercise’ them. ?

Imagine that when we presented this information, we asked the learner to make an inference based upon the displayed model.  So, for instance, we might ask them, presented with a hypothetical or historical situation to accompany the model, to explain why it would have occurred. Similarly, we could ask them to predict, based upon the model, the outcome of some perturbation.

In short, we’re not only presenting the underlying relationship, but asking them to use it in a particular context.  This is what meaningful practice is all about, and we can use the additional information from the AR overlay as scaffolding to support acquiring not just information but the ability to use it.

Now, motivated and effective self-learners wouldn’t need this additional level of support, but there are plausible situations where it would make sense.  Another extension would be to ask learners to create a particular change of state (as long as the consequences are controllable).  While the addition of information in the world can be helpful, developing that understanding through action could be even more powerful.  That’s where my thinking was going, anyway, where does this lead you?

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