ASTD TechKnowledge Comments

ASTD TechKnowledge Comments

Did the first eLearning Conference of 2009 suffer the same fate as the consumer electronics show in December? Were the numbers down? I asked the conference administrators several times what the attendance numbers were at the annual TechKnowledge conference held last week at the Las Vegas Rio Convention Center. The answer was repeatedly a suspicious “We don’t know yet.” My favorite part of the conference? Tony Karrer’s keynote speech on day two.

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Definitions: Serious Games & Game Based Learning

Definitions: Serious Games & Game Based Learning

A quick search of Wikipedia finds that we need to do some work documenting and updating the definition of “serious game” and “game-based learning” — at least in Wikipedia. Consider this post a call for “all hands on deck!”

The number of groups, institutions and individuals working on the subject of games and learning is growing. Academia has been studying video games and learning for the better part of two decades. Most academics would agree with Wikipedia’s definition of “serious games.” I also like the cryptic “game-based learning” definition that currently exists in Wikipedia: “Game-based learning is a branch of serious games”. My understanding of a geeky separation factor between the two has been that video games are built with complex “game engines” usually costing millions, while casual games or “edutainment” games have been built in Shockwave, Flash, and Java (to mention a few programming languages) sometimes at no real monetary cost. According to Jim Gee, the commercial video game by its very need to competitively succeed in the marketplace has evolved into a strong pedagogical machine. The video game must be challenging and that requires continuous learning (“keep the gamer at the edge of his/her competency level”). I am personally more interested in “game-based learning” (a definition that needs the most work on Wikipedia) since as a subset of the “serious game,” it generally refers to games built for the purpose of teaching a body of knowledge. The eLearning Guild in its research document, “Immersive Learning Simulations”, attempts to group both games and simulations. The guild audience primarily consists of corporate eLearning employees. Here is a brief listing of what might be included in a Wikipedia definition of “game-based learning” throwing a wide net of potential constituents involved in teaching something using games or simulation, however “casual”:

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Which ELearning Conference Should I Attend?

Which eLearning Conference Should I Attend?

eLearning people have noted online that there are just too many conferences from which to pick. Here are some things to think about when you are deciding which conference to attend this year. Questions to ask yourself:

  1. Is there a pre-conference workshop I would like to attend?
  2. Do the keynote speakers interest me?
  3. Review who is speaking at the concurrent sessions. Do they interest me?
  4. Where is the conference located? Should I plan for a conference on my side of the country?
  5. What are my affiliations? Corporate? Academic?
  6. Where am I on the food chain? Designer? Programmer? Manager?

Here are my opinions on various conferences:

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Tips On Handling Subject Matter Experts (SME)

Tips on Handling Subject Matter Experts (SME)

I’ve been following responses to a question on LinkedIn’s eLearning Guild group about working with subject matter experts, or SMEs. Here is my response to some of the ideas other group members posted:

  1. Recognize that how you manage the SME will have a significant impact on the success of your eLearning project in terms of time, cost, and quality.
  2. Inform your SME of the goals of your project and the amount of time it will take to meet them. Provide a mutually-agreed-upon timeline for when you need the SME.
  3. Ask the SME whether his or her supervisor understands the time commitment the training program will require.
  4. Show the SME a sample of a similar eLearning project in order to educate him or her on what to expect from this project. Provide a quick overview of the complexity of the final deliverable, the team effort necessary, and especially, the importance of expert input.
  5. Whenever possible, let the SME react to content. Start with a rough outline that uses a lesson/topic format.
  6. Respect the SME’s time; come prepared with questions that encourage the SME to tell you stories. And above all, listen!
  7. Use a spreadsheet or Word outline template to assist the SME with writing ideas down on “paper”.
  8. Use a web-based team site or wiki as a document repository and as a way to keep the SME informed of all project phases and the roles of other team members.
  9. Aggressively renegotiate deadlines when necessary. Take the lead on communicating with the primary stakeholder when deadlines change due to SME time constraints.
  10. Honor the expert throughout the development process. Tell the development team about the important contributions the SME makes to the project.
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It’s All About The Economy!

It’s all about the Economy!

This is my first blog post since 2005, when I wrote about my experiences playing the video game, XMEN, for a class I was taking at the University of Wisconsin. Last week I became inspired by my holiday reading of David Merman Scott’s The New Rules of Marketing and PR. Well here I go…As an eLearning entrepreneur, I have paid special attention to the overly depressing 2009 economic prognostications. This is my fourth recession. I’ve been self employed as an educational technologist since 1978. I feel that eLearning is going to be one of the winners during this current downturn. More associations (and there are thousands) will begin investing in online learning and will begin to eliminate a few face to face conferences.

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