my bonnie lies over the ocean – mixing metaphors part 2

8 03 2004

so at the end part 1, i was standing on the edge of a chasm. it’s enoromous! so huge that there is an incredible ocean of water in it! (note the subtle shift from one metaphor to another one.)

that ocean, for us, is the realm of elearning. and it’s a pretty vast one. to simplify, let just suppose that corporate elearning is only involved with three primary fields – education, business and technology. each are, in their own right, huge sets of knowledge, theories, practices, experiences and organizations. elearning is not only involved in these three areas, but we are pushing the far reaches of each of these disciplines. on the technology side, elearning professionals are trying and implementing mobile technologies, rss feeds, blogs and wikis and doing things to relational databases that are just unmentionable here! on the business side, we’re talking about metrics in ways we would have never dreamed possible, we’re participating in a real transformation of the hr function, and we’re getting so close to our internal business partners that at times you can’t tell us apart. finally, in education, we are focusing on the informal nature of the majority of human learning, we are looking at how to imbed learning opportunities into the day-to-day workflow, and we are teaching business executives to be educators.


(note: i’m not particularly thrilled with the above diagram of the concept i’m laying out here, if you have suggestions for a better way to represent this content, please email dave!)

keeping up with all of the innovations and ideas is quite the task. but the innovators and early adoptors of elearning have, frankly, revelled in the complexity. (see future post about the charts and diagrams we create!) but i’ve learned the hard way that the folks in the early majority and late majority don’t like the complexity and will disengage if their need for clarity and simplicity of message is not met. This is not a fault in them. it’s the way things work. the world of elearning, like the world in general, is not going to get easier. so it becomes important that the innovators and early adoptors figure out how joining in on our efforts can seem easier and approachable to those new to our field.

the first step is that we have to step up to the plate and look for areas that we may be creating complexity where it doesn’t need to exist. i’ve had to go back to a definition of communication i learned years ago, but obviously haven’t been practicing in my day to day efforts:

communication has occurred only when the message is understood by the receiver.

if the person i’m trying to communicate with doesn’t undersand my vocabulary or the concepts underlying my message, the person to blame for a communication break down is me.

so, now that we’ve looked at the wide, deep ocean of elearning, i’ll look at providing swimming lessons in part 3. please comment on these ideas by hitting the comments button below. does this make sense? am i just whacked? is there anybody out there? if you need to reach me directly email dave.

bottom line per…[former] gap cio ken harris

4 03 2004

bottom line per…gap CIO ken harris

ok, for you non-gappers, this is an article in which a former cio of a major corporation outlines what the important metrics to measure are.

for my colleagues in learning and development – hey! our name is in the paper! (well, kinda sorta.)

seriously, ken’s right, ultimately what matters is how anything any of us does improves the bottom line. in retail that is almost always customer satisfaction. in this interview he points to the direct benefit training has had in impacting the customer experience in a positive fashion.

hey j la! as soon as you can get that grin off your face, get back to work. you only have, what……..2.5 million stores to go????? (hehehe, good work kid!)

crossing the chasm – mixing metaphors part 1

3 03 2004

recently in a conversation with a colleague i asked why she thought the adoption rate of e e learning has been low at start up in the past month. i had already picked out the easy explanations: “these things take time,” ” they’re busy with a lot of other things” etc. but my colleague said to me that perhaps people are intimidated by all there is to learn. it thought about it and quickly realized she’s right. there’s already a lot of stuff on this blog and I’ve only just begun.

well, i have to tell on myself because, in my mind at least and probably out loud, i drew on the old self-deprecating one-liner “well if a bozo like me was able to learn this field then surely these bright people can too.” that’s just a cop-out from doing the real work of communicating the field of elearning to newcomers. helping people learn new and seemingly alien languages and landscapes is hard work. period. and helping people learn about elearning is just an inescapable part of my job.

first, i think it’s important for us all to look at where this field is today. elearning has grown at an astounding and fear-generating pace. practically none of the tools we use today existed 10 years ago. in a clear demonstration of rogers’ diffusion of innovations curve the innovators built the ideas, tools and vision of what learning could be and the early adopters began cobbling together a marketplace out of thin air.

now we see the hundreds of elearning companies starting to merge. as geoffrey moore so clearly points out in his book crossing the chasm, we are facing that critical point in the adoption of innovation cycle where elearning will need to become more scalable and clearly defined in a “what do i get out of it if i take a chance mentality.” that is a characteristic of the early majority.


companies and even entire fields like elearning will have their ability to change their message tested to the breaking point as they move from a world of innovation and complexity to a reality of reliability and meeting customer expectations. some companies will make it over this chasm. others won’t. will elearning become the dominant paradigm that so many people believe it will? or will it come be know as that fad at the turn of the century that failed?

so….here we stand at the edge of the chasm. a vast ocean of ideas and technologies lies before us. how do we even begin?

in part two i’ll give a suggestion of how to approach elearning and all that it is. if you have any questions or comments on this post please click on the comment button below and share your thoughts or concerns. If you feel i’m missing the boat on making things clear, let me know, that’s the way I’ll learn how best to do my job. as always, if you want to reach me directly just email dave.

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training vs. learning

2 03 2004

the cover story in the december issue of t+d magazine was the future of the profession formerly known as training. (sorry, can’t do a hyperlink ’cause the web version is only for astd members.) in the article, the author reports the result of a survey conducted by astd which asked people in our profession how they thought our profession should be identified. only 32.4% of the respondents included the word “training” in their answer. (workplace learning and performance was the largest single answer at 31.9%)

so are we trainers? are we professionals who help people learn? are we performance managers? in my bio in the “about me” section of this blog, i identify myself as a learning professional. before i get into my reasons for that, let’s look at a few definitions. (weren’t we taught that rhetorical devise in middle school? or did we learn it?)



pronunciation: (trA’ning), [key]
1. the education, instruction, or discipline of a person or thing that is being trained: He’s in training for the olympics.
2. the status or condition of a person who has been trained: athletes in top training.

1. of, pertaining to, or used in or for training: a training manual.
2. intended for use during an introductory, learning, or transitional period: a training cup for weaning a baby; a training bra.

“training.” dictionary.
© 2003 family education network.
30 jan. 2004


pronunciation: (lûr’ning), [key]
1. knowledge acquired by systematic study in any field of scholarly application.
2. the act or process of acquiring knowledge or skill.
3. psychol.the modification of behavior through practice, training, or experience.

“learning.” dictionary.
© 2003 family education network.
30 jan. 2004

these two definitions point to one of the reasons iprefer to think of myself as a learning professional. training is something that is done to someone. (“is being trained” “has been trained”) learning is something that one does. i think most of us have experience, many of us on both ends of the transaction, that has shown us exactly who is in control of the educational situation – the learner! An award winning teacher could teach herself blue in the face and fail to teach her pupil anything if he wasn’t interested in learning it.

the reverse situation is true too. some of you have heard my story about my accounting 102 class in college. my roommate and I were both taking principles of accounting our freshman year. through the entire first semester, class consisted of listening to the professor read the textbook outloud! i mean, come on! accounting basics is already a boring class to go through, but this professor took boring to the ultimate limits. (of course, in my memory his voice was monotone too. but i’m not sure about that part!) as the second semester was about to get underway i asked my roommate if he was going to go to classes. he replied “i guess, why?” i explained my scheme to him. since the professor didn’t require attendance as part of the grading system (it would surely have violated the geneva conventions on the welfare of prisoners!), i was going to skip all the classes except the exams. at the end of the semester i finished the course with a score of 110 out of 100 (yeah, i even got the extra credit questions right). you’d be very hard pressed to convince me that i was taught that content. but, since it was my major, i had a reason to want to learn it.

i like thinking of myself as a learning professional because it reminds me that it’s my job to help the learner along his or her chosen path. not a path of my choosing.

a second reason i like thinking of myself as a learning professional is the fact that it simultaneously allows me to recognize that i’m a learner too. if i think of myself as a teacher who teaches what i know to others, i feel like i’m facing the wrong direction. if i think of myself as a learner who is helping other learners learn, then i feel like i’m heading toward the future.

well, that’s enough of me. hit that comments button and let me and the other readers of this blog know what you think. as always, if you have any suggestions for topics for this blog, email dave.

note to gap colleagues: i have a hard copy of the t+d article if you’d like to borrow it.