>E-LEARN thoughts – Thursday AM

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To start the day, Curt Bonk from the University of Indiana was the morning Keynote speaker. Touching on his session from Monday he talked a lot about the sharing of knowledge, particularly Open Courseware, Open Source tools and the like.

I was amazed at the sheer volume of academic materials available online. One project of note was the OOPS initiative from Lucifer Chu from Taiwan, where he is translating all of the MIT open courseware into one of the dialects of Chinese as a largely volunteer project.

Heinz Dreher from Curtin University in Perth, Australia, showed some of his efforts with a natural language grading/marking tool. I have to say that, as a veteran of the multiple choice examination world (MCP, ITIL, etc.) I welcome the inclusion of natural language assessment in the e-learning world. While still largely a prototype, I think it holds great promise for the corporate world.

The folks from the University of Saskatchewan talked about their work on Learning Object Content Management systems. Wow. Simple, clean, and lots of interesting features to really glean worthwhile information about learner activity, and to stream learner paths, while working in a LO environment. Their LORNET efforts are part of a national initiative focused on telelearning using learning objects. I can’t wait to tinker with their environment.

Next up before lunch was a panel session on Future Trends in Learning, Technology and Standards, and one of my favourite speakers, Wayne Hodgins, was on the panel. Wayne is always a great speaker and entertaining as hell. I had the opportunity to hear his keynote address at the Microsoft Certified Trainer conference in New Orleans in 2000. Awesome stuff. Even though Wayne tends to be looking anywhere from 5-100 years out, its still thought-provoking to see some of the patterns and trends illustrated in some of his forecasts and planning.

What struck me was that Wayne is right-on about the need to remove the “e” from e-Learning. Learning technologies tend to overwhelm the importance of pedagogy (echoing Curt Bonk) and that there needs to be a better focus on “personalized learning” versus “ubiquitous” learning. Sheer volume of information is useless without context, audience, medium, and timeliness. Needless to say I have much to think about when I return to the office. We also need to address, he says, “un-learning”…that is, how to transform previous learned behaviour and enforce new behaviours and new patterns of action for better results. (Shades of what I experienced trying to break the traditional mould of applications training.) His final comments was that the personalization of learning cannot be something that we thrust upon the user. Too much choice is as deadly as not enouch choice. Personalization must be user-centric, rather than what I’ll call “negative option marketing”

As usual, a really fantastic panel session, although I admit that the speaker from Simon Fraser really had a hard act to follow and his content was somewhat pale in comparison to Wayne’s.

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