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Online Learning News – 1 February issue


A news and idea service of Bill Communications Inc. (Lakewood)
Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2000 Vol. 2, No. 45


At TRAINING 2000, visit ONE TOUCH Systems (booth #801). Enterprise
e-learning at the speed of change:


1. XHTML: Training via -- er -- refrigerator?
2. Prices: Under construction
3. Trashing motivation
4. Rituals of online learning
5. Where are we, all griping aside?
6. Cries for help: CD template?


Just when you thought you were getting a grip on HTML, here comes
XHTML. Now what?

The new Web language has been around, but it hit the news last
week as the World Wide Web Consortium, an Internet standard-
setter, gave XHTML protocol its blessing.

XHTML will mean changes in how you design and deliver training.
To wit: "How many people have written for a refrigerator before?"
quips Saul Carliner ( [email protected] ), who teaches
information design at Bentley College in Waltham, MA.

XHTML lets handheld computers, cell phones, TVs, auto-navigation
systems, and, yes, refrigerators, communicate with Web servers.

A technician crawling around a complex machine can use a palmtop
to check blueprints written in XHTML.

And, conceivably, back home, that technician's refrigerator can
check with a server and suggest what food item to throw out before
said item crawls away on its own.

XHTML is "a steppingstone" to dynamic content, says David S.
Metcalf II ( [email protected] ), based in Merritt Island, FL, as chief
learning technologist with RWD Technologies Inc., which provides
technology training and document-management services.

The new language lets authors create their own metatags. "This
will help with the identification of specific learning objects,
and help training developers reuse the same code for presentation
of different content," says Metcalf. "This should make training
developers more efficient in the long run."

XHTML should also eliminate some of the excess "spaghetti code"
characteristic of HTML. "New elements like

can be used to
divide code into logical segments that are easier for people to
read," Metcalf adds.


XHTML is backwards-compatible -- Web developers needn't rewrite
their pages in the new markup language. And most browsers will
read XHTML documents without an upgrade.

Nevertheless, Carliner and Metcalf suggest trainers get to know
XHTML, predicting that it will become commonplace before long.

XHTML means content can appear on more devices and in more media.
Currently, HTML primarily works on PCs. XHTML will work on
handheld computers and cell phones.

"We can't display complex graphics on cell phones," says Carliner,
"and I doubt that many learners want to take a 90-minute course on
one. But we might be able to provide job aids and other types of
performance support closer to the workplace."

XHTML may mean documents coded in in extensible markup language,
or XML, can be published both online and in print. Rather than
converting Web-site code to a desktop publishing system, trainers
might write material just once and produce several versions.

"This is easier in theory than in practice," Carliner cautions,
"and just because it's printed in two media doesn't mean that
either version is written in a way that's best suited for the
different media."

Can trainers stick to good old HTML? Yes, for the time being. But
organizations will migrate to XHTML as the standard, Carliner and
Metcalf predict.

And XHTML lets trainers do things they can't do now. If workers
come to expect delivery via cell phone -- will your old HTML
courses show properly on a cell phone's display?

One of the most important long-term results of XHTML, adds RWD's
Metcalf, will be easier transition to online-learning content and
delivery systems. "By building the components on a stable, but
extensible, structure," says Metcalf, "it will be easier to
implement the new learning-object definitions."


What should you do about XHTML right now? Get to know it. "The
good news is that it can be an easy transition to start," says
Metcalf. "Training developers can begin reviewing the
specifications and adding in some of the new codes that make their
jobs easier."

Advanced HTML users can try the Tidy tool from the World Wide
Web Consortium at
convert existing HTML documents to XHTML 1.0, says Metcalf.

However, "I would not recommend running this on anything but a
test site at this point," Metcalf cautions. "There is a good bit
of configuration required to make sure you get everything right."

How much retraining will XHTML mean? "For many," Carliner says,
"the new standard won't require much more retraining than the
upgrade from one version of Word to another."

"But," Carliner adds, "the potential it offers requires a
re-thinking of the way we provide performance-improvement

RWD's Metcalf says information about XHTML is at:

Carliner's sessions at TRAINING 2000 include "Future Travels of
the InfoWrangler: Career Survival for Trainers in the Era of
Online Learning" on Tuesday, Feb. 22. Register for the show at



What is the right price to pay for e-learning? Stay tuned. The
answer is still under construction.

A study of 35 vendors shows that course price per hour per student
ranges from 11 cents to $1,000 or more, says study co-author
Brandon Hall, a Sunnyvale, CA, researcher and editor of Technology
for Learning Newsletter.

Hall attributes the huge disparity in part to lack of standard
terminology. For example: The word "course." Is it a two-hour,
self-paced Web course? Or is it 20 hours with a live-instructor?

Study co-author Nancy Bartlett ( [email protected] ) knew
the subject would be complex, "but it was even more complicated
than I thought," she says. "We found seven models that various
vendors are using to price e-learning."

Moreover, individual vendors use as many as four different pricing
models. In short: "It is very difficult for a training manager to
make a clear, valid comparison of the pricing," says Bartlett.

Shoppers should press vendors for clarity on terms and language:
Does per-user price factor in all those who have access? Or does
it mean those who actually use the course?

But don't waste your breath asking about an average price. "There
is no average," says Bartlett. "You could come up with a number,
but it would have no meaning."

More results from the report will be in the March Technology for
Learning. To start a subscription with the March issue, go to, click Subscriptions and
fill out and submit the form.

To receive the March issue, please complete and submit the form
by Thursday, Feb. 3.

You can order the full 99-page report at $895 from

Hall's session at TRAINING 2000 is "Best Practices in Multimedia
and Internet Training, Monday, Feb. 21. Register at



Maybe you should never say "always." As in, "Online learning
always works when the learner is motivated to learn."

That's what Howard Schechter ( [email protected] ) averred
("Online always works -- if ...," Jan. 4). Since then, other
trainers have disagreed sharply with Schechter, who is director of
education with IntraLearn Software Corp. of Northboro, MA.

"Claptrap," barks Jack McCarty ( [email protected] ), instructional
system specialist with the Army Medical Department and School at
Fort Sam Houston, TX.

McCarty calls U.S. military learners a "motivated bunch," and
agrees that motivation is "a very large factor" in e-learning.


Large factor, yes -- "but not one which can't be screwed up by a
boneheaded choice of delivery medium or a self-absorbed instructor
or presenter," snaps McCarty.

"I've seen more than one set of distance classrooms empty before a
class was complete," McCarty adds, "because of bogus instruction
overcoming the motivated students' B.S. threshold."

Online learning designed and delivered well almost always
works with motivated learners, McCarty acknowledges -- but don't
forget that computers crash, microphones go dead, broadcasts show
up in funny colors, and Internet congestion turns video jerky.

Take all that into account in your design and delivery. "The
responsibility for learning rests heavily on the learner," McCarty
concludes. "The mantle of responsibility for delivering something
learnable is ours."



One more take on motivation: "Of course motivation is critical,"
says David King ( [email protected] ), a Denver training
vendor. "It always has been. It always will be in any environment
in which learning is a discretionary activity."

King argues that what he calls "rituals of learning" must migrate
from classroom to new delivery methods. Rituals, he says, "go to
creating an environment in which the student is motivated to

"It is the job and responsibility of the teacher or trainer to
provide those rituals and environment, in short, to motivate the
students whether or not the material is delivered in front of a
classroom or over a monitor.

"It is also their responsibility to choose the appropriate
delivery method," summarizes King, "and not rush to one or the
other because it is new or exciting."

OLL NEWS ASKS: Rituals? Hmmmm.

Q What are the traditional-classroom rituals you have seen that
most effectively motivate learners?

Q How do those rituals translate to online instruction --
if they do?

Q What motivating rituals have you seen emerge independently
in online learning?

Please respond to [email protected] . Include your name,
title, organization, where it is, what it does, and a phone at
which we can reach you. Your subject line: Rituals.



"In the November/December 1985 issue of Training Directors' Forum
Newsletter -- that was numero uno, the first issue -- I used this
space to take a shot at a brand new 'Wowie, this will change your
life' training technique sweeping the world: Fire walking."

That's longtime Training Directors' Forum Newsletter editor and
contributor Ron Zemke writing in the current Web-only TDF

Zemke has seen "any number and manner of goofy training ideas
aimed at making individuals and teams faster, better, smarter and
more creative." Among them: whitewater rafting, bungee jumping,
and even bear wrestling.

Even so, "a lot of very encouraging things have happened in our
field in the last 14 years," says Zemke, whose complete article is
at the Web site.

"Today's tomorrows are so scary -- yet so promising -- I sometimes
can hardly wait to go to bed," he concludes, "so I can get up and
unwrap one of them."

Zemke's latest book is "Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of
Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters in Your Workplace" (AMACOM,
1999, $25). He will lead sessions at TRAINING 2000 on "Coaching
for Service Improvement" and "Training Managers to Manage in the
Cross-Generational Workforce," both Tuesday, Feb. 22.

You can register for the show at



"I heard that there is a CD-ROM template for creating a teaching
CD-ROM. From my understanding of this template, one copies the
template to the hard drive and fills in the content specific to
the course. Are you aware of such an animal? I'm seeking some type
of guidance to structure my creative ideas for an interactive

S.A.P. WEB-BASED TOOLS? "I'm looking for information
regarding the training of SAP end users. I know about SAP
Knowledge Management Solution. But I'm looking for any other
Web-based tools that I could use."

If you can offer guidance, please send your response to
[email protected] . Include your name, title, organization,
where it is, what it does, and a phone number at which we can
reach you. No attachments, please.

Use the appropriate headline (e.g., CD Template?) as your
subject line, please.

ARE YOU STUCK? Your colleagues may have some ideas for your online
learning-related quandary. Please send your question to
[email protected] . Include a distinctive subject line.




CONGRATULATIONS to Neva Rath of Colorado Springs Utilities, winner
of two airline vouchers (value $750), through a special OnLine
Learning News and TRAINING Magazine promotion for the upcoming
TRAINING 2000 Conference & Expo in Atlanta. For more details on
the event, and to register, visit


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