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Online Learning News – 13 June 2000 issue


A news and idea service of Bill Communications Inc.

Tuesday, June 13, 2000 Vol. 3, No. 12

Move ahead faster with e-learning. It's how you
build a smart force.


1. Behind the curtain: Know those wizards
2. Simulations? Get real
3. UNext: The anti-U?
4. Hit counters
5. Authoring without plug-ins
6. Cries for help: Food and humor?
7. Window shopping: Linux on ThinkPads?



Get to know those wizards, urges Gloria Gery.

The Tolland, MA, performance-support specialist suggests
trainers try creating wizards for workers to use as
performance support on the job.

Wizards are tools that help you configure software,
among other things.

They ask questions with multiple-choice answers. Your
answers tell the wizard how to proceed as you -- and the
wizard -- work to achieve an end.

Wizards differ from tutorials in that wizards lead you
to a tangible work product, rather than merely delivering

That makes wizards good tools for performance support
-- which, distinct from training, helps workers do their
jobs while those workers are on the job.

Good wizardry lets workers skip tedious training in
basics, says Gery.

"Much task and software training is around navigation
and task sequencing," she adds. "Trainers can design and
implement wizards to directly support people through task


It's OK to hand off creation of wizards to others -- if
you stay involved in the creation process, Gery exhorts.

Representation of knowledge -- including field labels,
embedded instructions, examples, considerations or
explanation of consequences "is what we know how to do
well," says Gery. "And technical people don't know how to
do it."

When good wizardry replaces training in navigation and
other basics, Gery argues, it frees training time "for
more engaging and important business learning that is not
available because people are doing all this navigation

Bill Miller, user-interface design specialist with St.
Louis-based investment broker Edward Jones, agrees that
wizards have their points.

Wizards "are very good for dealing with complex business
and system-process rules," says Miller.

"By simply selecting options, a user can perform a
complex task without the need to know the underlying
business or process rules -- the if-then kind of rules."

Miller -- who also runs EPSS InfoSite at suggests these
sites to learn more about wizards:

Gery will preside as chair at OnLine Learning 2000
and Performance Support 2000, which will run
concurrently in Denver Sept. 25-27. Information is



So you want true-to-life simulated interfaces for
training in software applications? Get real, says Roy
Schweiker ( ).

"Have you considered letting them use the real
application, either full-featured or a subset, in a
separate window?" asks the Concord, NH, education

Simulations can be hard to build -- and hard to use.

"It drove me nuts trying to use a simulated
application," says Schweiker, "because you had to use the
product in exactly the same order as the course did.

"If you tried to do tasks in a more efficient order, the
course would choke -- although it would work fine with
the real product."

To be sure, training with the actual product has
its challenges as well -- particularly if it's a
lousy product.

"If the real product is poorly designed, with inadequate
online help, then students could run into troubles,"
Schweiker concedes.

"But, if so, maybe your company should fix the product
before writing training."



How do you grade? the woman asked Don Norman.

"Why do you care?" retorted the president of LLC.

The exchange, following Norman's address at Training
Directors' Forum Conference in Phoenix last week, appears
to reflect the plan for his online business school:

If traditional universities do it, UNext
( calls it into question.

UNext operates online with minimal lectures and no
physical classrooms for the busy adult learners it

The Deerfield, IL, e-learning provider does have
a four-level grading system, but is "still
experimenting" with grades, said Norman.

Privately-held UNext partners with five top universities
-- Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, Chicago, Columbia, and
London School of Economics -- to offer MBA-level courses
to working professionals.

Academic partnerships notwithstanding, Norman
portrayed universities as poor models for education.

"Professors don't know anything about teaching,"
contended the University of California-San Diego
emeritus -- worse, "they don't know that they don't

That classroom staple, the lecture, falters as a
learning-delivery tool, Norman argued.

"You know what a lecture is good for?" he asked. "It's
good for the professor. It's not good for the student."

So how do UNext students learn?

One instructor assigns accounting students to examine
the balance sheets of a few companies. When a student
notices that Dell Computer Corp. inventories are almost
nil, Norman said, the instructor points all students to a
Wall Street Journal profile of the company.

(In what has come to be known as the Dell model, the
company builds computers to specification only after
it receives an order -- so its inventory is effectively


That exemplifies Norman's theory of learning: "You
never really learned," Norman lectured conference
attendees, "unless you got stuck and had to work your
way out of it."

UNext will have 24 courses available by the end of June,
and plans for 100 by year's end -- all business courses
for now.

It plans non-business courses as well, and will
eventually sell courses to individuals. For now it
markets to corporations.

Courses rely on threaded discussion and class projects.
Graphics and audio are minimal. Video is mainly for
motivation, and limited to about a minute in length for
each video file.

Courses require reading, of course, but UNext hasn't
dropped all the trappings of traditional universities: It
snail-mails books and other hard copy to students.

Why hard copy? "The computer screen," Norman explained,
"is a really crappy place to read."


Norman's remarks ruffled some attendees at Training
Directors' Forum Conference last week, leading to sharp
exchanges in the question-and-answer session after
his speech.

Readers, what troubles you about online MBA-level

Q Are MBA courses from a traditional institution
better? Why?

Q Do traditional grades matter? Why?

Q What can a traditional MBA program offer a manager
that online courses can't?

Q What do traditional universities and face-to-face
courses provide that e-learning won't?



A training-intranet administrator wants to "trace the
navigation of visitors as they move from one page to
another, and how long they spend on each page."

NT Server ships with an IIS (Internet information
server) designed for this kind of tracking and reporting,
says John Nelson ( ), a
corporate training developer who is working on IIS

You'll need a server administrator with IIS skills, says
Nelson, Web-based training programmer with First Health
Strategies, a Salt Lake City, health-plan manager.

"The industry offers IIS certification exams" adds
Nelson, "so you can quickly ascertain whether a claimant
has the skills you need."



E-learning has the attention of mahogany row, Brandon
Hall told attendees last week at Training Directors'
Forum Conference in Phoenix.

Hall, a Sunnyvale, CA, researcher, found it noteworthy
that a pre-conference survey of 400 trainers by Bill
Communications Inc. showed 6% of respondents have more
than 75% of their training online.

When he asked how many participants "have a mandate from
senior executives to move training online," a few hands
went up in the room.

"When was the last time," Hall quipped, "that corporate
executives told you to do anything with training -- other
than cut your budget?"

Hall, editor of Technology for Learning Newsletter
(, tracks the
e-learning big picture.

He told Training Directors' Forum Conference attendees:

o A key shift is taking place this year: from
isolated pockets of e-learning within
organizations to enterprise-wide initiatives.

o Information-technology departments worry
about having enough bandwidth to carry
media-rich e-learning, so look for an end-run:
vendors offering to host training externally.

o Also watch for end-runs on your training
department: Managers now can bypass the
training function and go directly to
learning portals to get training for workers.


What are the problems with online learning? Hall asked
his audience. Responses:

o Lack of trust, said one participant. Learners
and instructors don't get personal contact.

o Online learning works well with lower-end skills,
said another, but falls short with higher-level
skills such as those required for making
decisions for a company.

o Still another participant said motivation is
a challenge. Hall agreed: With classroom training,
one kind of motivation will do -- getting the
learner to class. E-learning requires two
kinds of motivation: Get online, and finish
the course.

o A fourth participant, however, said learners
can go to one of 200 courses online at her
organization, select a module, get the
information they need -- and go back to work.
"I think the concept of them completing a course
"is ambiguous," said the participant,

Such issues reflect the relative youth of the e-learning
business, Hall said. Stay tuned for signs of maturity.

So much investor money has been chasing startups and
other vendors that e-learning, said Hall, is "like a rich
teenager that is slightly out of control."



For the reader who wants authoring without plug-ins
("Plugging Along," June 6), a vendor points to:

The same vendor says an example of interactive content
without plug-ins is at:



Here are two more vendors who responded to the reader
question on stirring online learning into the training
mix ("How to add e-learning," May 10):



OLL News says: We can probably rule out a food fight
as a way to help this reader. But what would work?

FOOD AND HUMOR. "Our firm will be upgrading our
Microsoft Office 95 suite to Microsoft Office 2000 in
the near future. We would like to get our end-users
excited about the upgrade and the improvements it will
make in how they work.

"We're having a hard time coming up with promotional
ideas that will get people's attention and interest
without disrupting a fairly formal office environment.
Our main goal is to generate eagerness and firm-wide
acceptance of the transition.

"Humor and food are always well received. Any ideas?"

READERS? If you can help, please send your idea to .

Your subject line: Food and Humor.

VERY IMPORTANT: Include your name and title, your
organization, its location, what it does, and a phone
number at which we can reach you.


Your colleagues may have some ideas for your
online-learning quandary. Please send your
question to . Include
a distinctive subject line.



LINUX AND I.B.M. SuSE Linux of Nuremberg, Germany,
and IBM Corp. announced Monday that SuSE will release
an enterprise-class version of Linux this month for IBM
RS/6000 servers. IBM also announced that it has the Linux
operating system up and running on its next generation
Power 4 microprocessor due out in late 2001. Meanwhile,
the Wall Street Journal reported that Linux, a rival to
Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system, would be
available on IBM's ThinkPad laptops in the third quarter
of this year. Linux advocates call the operating system
an effective alternative to Windows -- but detractors
note that fewer applications are available to run with
Linux than with the widely-used Microsoft operating

DOES TECH TRAINING SELL? A reader asked for proof
that providing training in how to use a product helps
sell that product. Vendor Creative Approaches Inc. points
to a collection of articles on the subject at its site.

SEEING THE SITES. Check here for links to Web
sites suggested by presenters at Training Directors'
Forum Conference last week in Phoenix. Click Training
Directors' Forum Links and Resources from Presenters.

IF YOU LIKE SPEEDING ... Virginia motorists
caught speeding on state highways can take an online
driving course at this site in lieu of a classroom
course. "It was easier to do and cheaper," speeder Sven
Bridstrup, 37, a Leesburg, VA, air-traffic controller,
told The Associated Press. Bridstrup chose the $50 online
course over classroom, which can cost up to $75. He
finished in four hours -- half the time a traditional
course would take.

D.L.O. MEMBERSHIP UP. Digital Learning Organization,
a vendor group, elected Tucson, AZ, consultant Ann
Boland as its president. DLO says membership has grown
to 108 organizations from 70 a year ago, when it changed
its name from Training Media Association.



E-learning -- does it rock, or what? Party with
Little Richard at OnLine Learning 2000 Sept. 25-27
in Denver.

IT'S WEEKLY. IT'S FREE! To receive OnLine Learning News,
go to http://www.lakewoodconferences.comand click "Free
Online Newsletters" and complete the form.

Copyright 2000
Bill Communications Inc.


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