In a recent article for The Chronicle of Higher Education, SCORM’s limited value to eLearning and training has become more high profile.

The Chronicle reports:

Some higher-education leaders say a little-noticed technical note in a new $2-billion federal grant program could make it difficult for colleges to use the money to build free online course materials.

The issue centers around a single line of the 53-page grant guidelines for the program, known officially as the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grants Program: “All online and technology-enabled courses developed under this [program] must be compliant with the latest version of Scorm (Sharable Content Object Reference Model).”

As many of us in instructional design and eLearning know, SCORM has little to do with actual learning. Instead, SCORM represents a technical specification to help ensure that eLearning content survives different systems and upgrades. In order to take advantage of SCORM, learning has to be structured and meta-tagged appropriately so that it is retrieveable, or shareable.

The shareable factor is what I believe the government is after here. However, while much of eLearning emphasizes self-paced asynchronous training. Higher education rarely falls into this category. At the minimum, this highlights the basic difference between training and education. I believe the notion that one institution could build a SCORM-certified course and have it distributed and taught by another institution may in fact be flawed. Others may disagree with me. In either case, I would question whether the assessments are in fact aligned with the objectives and instructional methods for the content when the courses are shared. By way of the IMS GLC Public Forum, Rabel offers an extensive and deep analysis of the flaws of this thinking and follow-ups here..

Some may argue that what is being asked here is to generate generic learning content, that is content that lots of people need.  Labeling content as ‘generic’ is also flawed. All learning content has a built-in theoretical perspective for how teaching and learning should occur.  What SCORM most certainly fails to include is any identification of pedagogy or instructional methods. So, to believe that one faculty member’s philosophy of teaching that would be inherent to a SCORM-certified course is congruent with another faculty member’s philosophy of teaching fails to recognize the unique teaching skills of the individuals. I certainly do not assert that I could organize, teach, and assess the same course content the same way as another faculty would, which is what SCORM-compliant content would require.

What do you think? Can higher ed content be SCORMed?

If you have the chance, I encourage you to take a quick look at Christopher Pappas’ slide deck from Slideshare.net. In the deck, you’ll see a list of 10 open source applications targeted specifically for elearning in 2011.  A number of these tools have been around for a couple of years, including eXe and Xerte. Both of these offer some options for learning objects and/or SCORM integration.  Others are certainly new to me and ones that I’m going to be checking out.

[slideshare id=6429822&doc=top10opensourcee-learningprojecttowatchfor2011-110102104551-phpapp01]

Have you used any of these tools?  I sure like to know how you’re using them and what you’ve decided on their value.  I’d like to share your experiences with my students.

Project management for elearning, training, etc. involves the intersection of instructional design with project management processes.  The IPECC project management model involves 5 stages:

  1. Initiating
  2. Planning
  3. Executing
  4. Controlling
  5. Closing

This type of project management is directly in line with Six Sigma, total quality management processes, and continuous improvement process that organizations may already be implementing. My IDT 7095/8095 course will be working through these stages, as well as the instructional design stages, in order to produce successful elearning products.  Here are a number of resources for understanding and teaching elearning project management.

Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
Image via Wikipedia

I had the distinct honor to be included in Connie Malamed’s list of 12 Unique Blogs Are Written By Professors over at the eLearning Coach blog.  To follow the Oscar sentiment of “It’s an honor to be nominated,” it certainly was an honor to be included on Connie’s list.  It was equally humbling to see the others on the list as well, such as George, David, Scott, and Michael.  (I do know it sounds a little shallow to also hear “It’s an honor to be included with the other nominees,” as well.)

I am friends and colleagues with many of the folks on this list, so thanks for thinking of me, too, Connie.  I see many of these folks as making significant contributions in formal and informal publishing to the areas of instructional technology, elearning, instructional design, and teacher education.  In their blogs, you can see that these guys use the blogs to connect with their professional communities, but they also use their blogs within their teaching.  So, you can see these guys are models for me in many ways.

Who else do you follow and use as a model?

Blue-PencilIn a few presentations I’ve given, I have mentioned that I sometimes require instructional design and technology students to write blog posts.  For example, in my graduate course on elearning and project management, my Masters and doctoral students write blog posts on specific topics.  I’ve had audience members sometimes come up to me afterward and ask me about the requirements I use with these blog posts, and I usually provide some general guidelines for them.  However, I decided I would go ahead and list here what my requirements are, so everyone can see how I try to encourage blog posts to receive comments.

ProBlogger logo (suggestion)
Image by Oyvind Solstad via Flickr

Much of my understanding of how to do this, admittedly, has come from Darren Rowse at Problogger.net.  Darren and his trusty group of guest bloggers provide professional experiences of blogging and blogging for income.  While I’m not trying to get my students to become professional bloggers, what Problogger teaches is directly related to creating a professional learning community (PLC), a community that comments, and a community that cares about teaching one another.

Where I’m trying to go

Here are a couple of points I try to make with this assignment:

  1. Our profession is a community.  You have something to teach and something to learn.
  2. Bloggers are a community.  Referencing others’ posts encourages the community.
  3. Posts should have an opinion and direction.  People respond to these.
  4. By referencing and responding to other bloggers’ posts, you have to justify and relate your ideas. This is where the higher order thinking comes in.
  5. Including media enhances the post.
  6. There are good ways and bad ways to be a guest blogger.  The structure and format here includes ways to be a good guest blogger.

Here is a list of some of my students’ posts:

  1. K-12 Education: Moving from the Schoolhouse to the Superhighway
  2. The Perfect SCORM: Is there an impact to elearning or not?
  3. SCORM, standards in e-learning, and the groceries truck
  4. 5 things Facebook can teach us about elearning

Blog Requirements

Here is my list of requirements for my students’ posts:

  1. Write a blog post relevant to instructional design and development and elearning.
  2. Your post should be between 250 – 350 words.  (Doc students, this doesn’t include the references.)
  3. A list of topics can be chosen from _____ .
  4. Write your post in a word processing document. Skip a line between paragraphs. No paragraph indents.
  5. Submit it as an email attachment directly to me at _____ .
  6. Each paragraph in your entry should include at least one link to another blogger’s site.  These should be integrated as appropriate in your post.  These links should not be listed.  Consider agreeing, disagreeing, expanding or piggybacking off another blogger’s post. These links should be evidence of your thinking for this post.
  7. Your post should have a snappy/sexy/opinionated/pointed title.
  8. If appropriate, include a Web address to another media, such as a YouTube or TeacherTube video. Be sure to include a sentence that references/introduces your media.
  9. Your post should have a link to a copyright free and relevant image, such as from Flickr Creative Commons. Be sure to include the attribution information as well.  Include the image like this:
    • Image available from <insert URL here>
    • Image courtesy of <insert username> at <insert URL here>
  10. Include a brief (100 words or less) biography about you. Include descriptions of your teacher preparation, your work with children, what you’re currently doing and what you would like to do in the future. Be sure to include your name. Write this in third person.
  11. Include a list of at least 3 keywords to describe your post.
  12. Monitor your post to see if others have commented. Reply when they have.
  13. The post should be conversational and informal but free of grammar and spelling errors.

Are there other requirements that you would include or suggest for students when blogging?  Add them in the comments and let me know.

mlearning-minstructionI am concerned that mLearning is headed down a similar path to eLearning.  The saying, “There’s an app for that,” seems to reflect this sentiment that all mlearning is equal.  No matter what you’re trying to teach or how you’re trying to teach there seems to “an app for that,” and mlearning is what we’re going to call it.  And this is where I think we start to mash-up the meaning (pun intended).

Mobile learning, or mlearning, has become an umbrella, or catch-all, term for just about anything related to teaching and learning with mobile technologies.  However, using the term so liberally, dilutes the meaning, and it fails to recognize the inherent pedagogical stances that individuals are implementing. There are in fact a number of definitions of mlearning, including the following:

Some of these focus on the technology; some focus on the learner. Interestingly, though, I couldn’t find any Google hits for “define: mobile instruction” or “define: minstruction,” and an open search for “mobile instruction” didn’t really get anywhere either.

A Dead Horse?

This argument isn’t new.  For example, eLearning has had the same problem.  While many individuals will argue that eLearning encompasses corporate training, online and distance education, and even the dated CD-ROM based instruction, the reality is that many corporate eLearning developers have admitted to me that approximately 80% of their instructional development is dedicated to creating linear instruction, or “page turners.” The purpose of many of these modules of instruction is focused on compliance, that is documentation for regulatory agencies.  So, while the purview of learning is controlled by the learner, it seems counter-intuitive that this type of instruction be called eLearning.

Admittedly, though, many universities and K-12 virtual schools are offering courses that are asynchronous and learner-centered and are focused on the needs of the learner.  So, facilitated courses can approach the concept of eLearning.

A Concern for Precision

It is important to mention that I am not belittling or condescending any of flavors of instruction.  Instead, I want to emphasize the need to be specific in identifying the pedagogy we are choosing to use. My overall concern is that we are aggregating widely different instructional strategies, classroom or technology management strategies, and even instructional content into a single idea.

For example, we seem to be equating the following:

This just can’t be right. Are you comfortable with any definition of mobile learning? Is everything mobile learning if it involves a mobile device?

theoryDuring a session last week at AERA on theory and practice in instructional design and elearning, I piped in with a comment about folks who I thought were doing theory better than those of us in higher education.  In fact, I thought these folks were making theory not sound like theory at all.  They are providing to a large audience of practitioners through their blog posts a wealth of applicable knowledge and skills in very digestible ways.

My comment must have struck a nerve.  After the session, I had three or four folks come up to me wanting the names of the folks I mentioned.  This morning, I got email asking for the names, too.  So, I thought I would drop these names into a post about folks that I read for instructional design and development.  Folks who I think have a lot to teach my student and myself about instructional design.  In no particular order:

Tom Kuhlmann at Articulate
Tom works for Articulate in their user community division.  He spends a lot of time writing posts about graphic, visual, and message design, particularly using Powerpoint (because Articulate is a plug-in to Powerpoint).  But he also writes some ridiculously practical posts on instructional design.  Some of my favorite posts are:

Cammy Bean & Kineo
Cammy Bean works at Kineo, a firm focused on design and development.  Cammy is the VP of Learning Design and writes posts at her own blog. In fact, the last post on Cammy’s blog is an interview with Tom Kuhlmann.  Small world.  Kineo, however, writes short elearning tips.  These gems are gold.  I sometimes disagree with their interpretations of some theories, but the posts are valuable.  Ones from Kineo and Cammy that I particularely like are:

The Learning Circuits Blog
Every month The Learning Circuits Blog hosted by Tony Karrer, CEO/CTO of TechEmpower, presents a “BIG Question” to the elearning community.  Practitioners, academics, and consultants alike offer up their interpretations and responses to the “BIG Question.  I’ve used the “BIG Question” in my own classes for students to consider their responses in comparison to others in the field. Some of the most interesting and favorite questions of mine:

<Insert Shameless Plug>Viral-Notebook
I thought I might insert a few of my students and my own posts that really garnered some interest and interesting view points as well.

That’s enough for now.  I’ll create another post with a few more later, though.  What other blogs do you read that represent theory and practice in the field of instructional design?

Tonight is the project showcase for my IDT 7095/8095: Developing Interactive Learning Environments II course.  The overwhelming majority of this course is based in working with a “live” external client.  At the beginning of the semester, student teams select clients from proposals I have received.  Then students work all semester with the client to analyze, design, develop, implement and evaluate a solution to the proposed problem.  As part of the showcase, student teams will present an executive summary of their projects’ problems, solutions and evaluations. This semester there are four strong teams.

CBL Designs repurposed text-based instructional job aids for shortening maintenance currently in use at most Long John Silver’s restaurant locations. This redesign incorporated the use of multimedia to attract and motivate learners from 16-25 years old. Their client is Maredith Adsit, Training Developer for Long John Silver’s Restaurant, based in Louisville, Kentucky.  CBL Designs combines the expertises of Kristy Conger, Amanda Bevis, and Jeremy Larson.

Design Domicile created a Web-based course to teach written and audio medical terms in Spanish used in a clinical setting. Their client is Dr. William Brescia, the Director of Instructional Technology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center – College of Medicine.  Design Domicile’s primaries are Carmen Weaver, Stacy Clayton, and Joey Weaver.

Innovative Design Taskforce developed Web-based, self-paced, and on-demand training that equips subject matter experts at International Paper to write adequate and well-structured assessment items.  Deborah Adams, Manager for Enterprise Learning Services, is their client.  Innovative Design Taskforce employs Terica Butler, Federico Gomez, and Dot Hale.

Top Stone created a refresher course for Leadership Values for managers to review instructional material and modeling videos through AutoZone’s learning management system.  Their client is Kevin Thorn, the LMS administrator at AutoZone.  Top Stone’s team includes Linda Sadler, Luther Bradfute, and Suha Tamim.

In addition to the primary project, students are also learning project management.  We follow Lynch and Roecker’s (2007) Project Managing e-Learning: A Handbook for Successful Design, Delivery and Management, which is based on the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK).  In addition, we supplement with the Fast Forward MBA in Project Management, which has a wealth of examples and templates built in.

On top of the instructional design models from previous courses, including Morrison, Ross and Kemp and Dick, Carey and Carey, we emphasize rapid prototyping as a development model. So, you can see that students are doing a tremendous amount of work and learning.

These are my Jumptags for February 9th through March 17th:

University of Memphis
Image via Wikipedia

IDT 7095/8095 Project Showcase
6:00 PM – 7:30 PM,  April 22, 2009
Location: 301 Ball Hall

Dear friends,
I would like for you to add April 22 at 6:00 pm in 301 Ball Hall on the University of Memphis campus to your calendars.  Within our Instructional Design & Technology 7095/8095, project teams will be presenting synopses of their projects for this semester in a Project Showcase of live clients.  Their work represents approximately $15,000 – 20,000 worth of instructional development.  In the showcase, each team of students will present a 15-minute overview of their project and product. This is a professional presentation, and the content of this presentation will represent an executive summary of their projects.  I particularly encourage current students in our programs to attend in order to have a stronger vision of the requirements of the course and how your coursework prepares you for this course.

This semester there are four strong teams.

Design Domicile created a Web-based course to teach written and audio medical terms in Spanish used in a clinical setting. Their client is Dr. William Brescia, the Director of Instructional Technology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center – College of Medicine.  Design Domicile’s primaries are Carmen Weaver, Stacy Clayton, and Joey Weaver.

CBL Designs repurposed text-based instructional job aids for shortening maintenance currently in use at most Long John Silver’s restaurant locations. This redesign incorporated the use of multimedia to attract and motivate learners from 16-25 years old. Their client is Maredith Adsit, Training Developer for Long John Silver’s Restaurant, based in Louisville, Kentucky.  CBL Designs combines the expertises of Kristy Conger, Amanda Bevis, and Jeremy Larson.

Innovative Design Taskforce developed Web-based, self-paced, and on-demand training that equips subject matter experts at International Paper to write adequate and well-structured assessment items.  Deborah Adams, Manager for Enterprise Learning Services, is their client.  Innovative Design Taskforce employs Terica Butler, Federico Gomez, and Dot Hale.

Top Stone created a refresher course for Leadership Values for managers to review instructional material and modeling videos through AutoZone‘s learning management system.  Their client is Kevin Thorn, the LMS administrator at AutoZone.  Top Stone’s team includes Linda Sadler, Luther Bradfute, and Suha Tamim.

Along with the IDT faculty and the project clients, I hope you can make it.
~michael