Blogs: Engaging the reader

Hi Tony,

Thanks for the comments. Upon reflection I think my comments on the top 19 eLearning blogs reflect the fact that blogs are still very new and much like the early websites many people are trying to figure out what the structure of a good blog should be and what content should be presented. Both of these (structure and content) are obviously very subjective and based on the objectives of the blogger.

In my case I have tried to focus on very substantive issues related to eLearning that I think people would find useful. At the moment my focus is on trying to share some of the common mistakes and misperceptions about eLearning. I started my discussion with the issue of risk and I am now moving onto the SCORM standard. Both of these discussions are focused primarily on how risk and SCORM are perceived in relation to the eLearning industry. My objectives are to demystify eLearning and to share some of my lessons learnt with customers/potential customers and developers.

I think the main challenge with blogs is to make them entertaining while at the same time sharing something that may be beneficial to a participant in the eLearning industry. A second challenge is to get people to participate in your blog. So, how to do share your thoughts/lessons learnt without seeming to be the expert (which I am clearly not). Coming across as an expert may intimidate people, lessing the chances of them responding to your blog posts. By the way, you have had great success overcoming this obstacle based on the many responses that you have got on your entertaining and educational blog.

I digress. In response to your question as to what should be discussed in blogs I would say it is very subjective and it depends on the audience that you are trying to attract. I have noticed that many of the current corporate/business blogs try to cover all the bases i.e. covering news, books, tools, articles, best practices, personal news etc. Sometimes this comes across as a little disorganized and it is hard to filter through all the information to get to the meat. Although I like the idea of a blog, I am not sure that it will be that helpful to people unless there is some sort of structure. A collection of unassociated thoughts and ideas is great if you have a lot of time to filter through the posts, but most people don’t have the time to do this. I guess my struggle at the moment is to come to grips with the blogging format and trying to decide what value I can provide to my audience. The ultimate value of a blog is to get people to engage with you and to share their ideas, rather than it being a static medium. I would love to have your thoughts on how you managed to achieve this.


Top 19 eLearning blogs

I had a look at some of the top 19 eLearning blogs as identified by Gabe Anderson. This is a great starting point for identifying great eLearning blogs and many of the blogs are TOP notch. However, I must say that a few of them didn’t impress me. I guess this may be because I am new to blogging and maybe I don’t have the basics down yet. What I found were references to other prominent people in the industry, rather than substantive discussions about important topics in the eLearning industry. In addition, many of the blogs promoted products and tools either by the company or other related companies. Some of the blogs looked like a random collection of ideas, rather than a discussion around a particular topic. Again, I am new to blogging and I am admittedly not connected to the big dogs of the eLearning industry, so I may be missing the larger context as an ‘outsider’. In my opinion, blogs are about sharing best practices, lessons learnt and learning from others.

Having said that, I do think that my observations highlight an interesting dynamic i.e. the thin line between entertainment and learning content. Admittedly the two can overlap, but in some cases that is not the case. Do people want to read entertaining ‘fluff’ blogs or are they looking for substantive discussions regarding the industry? In some cases they may be looking for both and many of the top 19 cater to that very well. Another interesting dynamic that is evident in the use of blogs is the blurred line between the personal and the business environments. This begs the question of how much time you spend in the blog describing yourself and your personal life, rather than sharing information that is relevant to your audience. Again, your personal life may be of more interest when you are a big dog in an industry, rather than a smaller guy. Your thoughts?


SCORM: The basics

Understanding the basics about SCORM is essential to both the eLearning development community as well as for customers who would like to deploy content on a learning management system (LMS). I will start off with a quick overview of SCORM and then I will touch on some of the challenges of developing and implementing the SCORM standard over the next couple of weeks.

Ok, so let’s start with the basics. SCORM stands for Sharable Content Object Reference Model. In essence SCORM is a suite of technical standards developed by the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) as an initiative to develop common specifications and standards for technology-based learning deployed over the internet. These standards enable web-based learning and content management systems to find, import, share, reuse, and export learning content in a consistent manner. In addition, using the SCORM standard allows user tracking and reports to be generated based on learning objectives. Essentially, SCORM standardized the method of communication between eLearning courses and SCORM conformant learning and content management systems.

SCORM currently includes the following ‘elements’:
1) An Application Programming Interface (API) for communicating information about a learner’s interaction with content objects.
2) A defined data model for representing this information.
3) A content packaging specification that enables interoperability of learning content.
4) A standard set of metadata elements that can be used to describe learning content and a set of standard sequencing rules which can be applied to the organization of the learning content.

The objectives of developing SCORM can be summarized by six key words namely Accessibility, Adaptability, Affordability, Durability, Interoperability and Reusability. Let’s touch on these five concepts as they relate to the SCORM standard really quickly.

1) Accessibility -eLearning content should be easy to find based on the classification of the content. Users should be able to locate and access instructional components from one remote location and deliver to other locations.
2) Adaptability -The ability to tailor instruction to individual and organizational needs. Content managers should be able to add new content without much effort or excessive cost.
3) Affordability - The ability to increase efficiency and productivity by reducing the time and costs involved in delivering instructional content.
4) Durability - eLearning content should be durable, regardless of changes or evolutions in technology. This means that new content should be added to existing content without costly redesign, reconfiguration or recoding.
5) Interoperability - SCORM requires that courses can run on different learning and content management systems. This means that instructional components developed in one location can be used or combined with another set of tools or platform in another location.
6) Reusability - Content developers and learners should be able to extract relevant eLearning content such as modules from different courses and reassemble them into a new course, application or context.

The next couple of posts will address more detailed information about SCORM and more importantly I will address some of the technical challenges related to the SCORM standard. Although SCORM is a wonderful idea it is NOT a silver bullet for developing eLearning content over the internet. I hope to highlight some of these SCORM development and implementation challenges over the next couple of weeks.