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Online Learning News – 2 November issue


A news and idea service of Bill Communications (Lakewood)
Tuesday, Nov. 2, 1999 Vol. 2, No. 32

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Performance Programs:



1. Why mobility matters: Laptops vs. desktops
2. Design, execution, coordination
3. Lugging Word to your intranet
4. Getting them to try online learning
5. Counting on Kirkpatrick
6. Cries for help: K-base? Environment best practice?



If laptops cost about the same as desktops, it changes things
for training delivery -- and makes training design simpler
and cheaper.

So says one reader in response to our query about laptop

Portable prices and maintenance costs are dropping, some
argue. If you factor in productivity gains from mobility,
laptops may cost about as much as desktops. ("Who's cheaper
now?" OLL News, Oct. 26).

That makes a difference for training, points out Mike Russo
(, senior technical instructor
with Toshiba America Information Systems Inc. in Irvine, CA.
(Toshiba makes portable computers and a number of other

Russo, who develops content and authors computer-based
training for computer-telephony integration products,
says that laptops are more effective in presenting computer-
based training than desktop computers.

Why? Passive presentation, with no interaction between user
and presentation except clicking forward and back buttons,
may as well be on a desktop.


But material that walks learners through a process -- such as
changing the spark plugs on your car -- is better on a
portable, argues Russo.

At your desktop computer, away from your car, you must
memorize the process or print it out to carry to your car.

But if the spark plug-change module is on a laptop, you can
download it from Web or intranet, carry the laptop to the
car, and follow the procedures on the spot.

This bears on design as well. "One of the problems with CBT
on desktops systems is that labs have to be done as
simulation on the PC," says Russo. "This is a very time-
consuming and costly venture.

"With a laptop, the student can bring the training to the
equipment. A case in point is the training for an
application. If it is presented on a desktop computer, the
student would have to leave the training piece to try it on
the real application.

"However, if the same material was presented on a laptop, the
student could have the laptop running along side the desktop
system. The laptop would present the procedure and the
student could try it on the desktop system."

Concludes Russo: "I believe that if laptops become affordable
they will not only change the way training is accomplished,
but they will eventually become book-like and take the place
of the technical manuals as well."

Meanwhile, in a move that may help bring down laptop costs
further, a group of notebook PC manufacturers announced
they will standardize portable display specifications to
help alleviate shortages in display units exacerbated by
the August earthquake in Taiwan, reports CNET News.



Design fundamentals, getting learners to finish online
courses, and incorporating online training into your
knowledge-management system are part of the coverage in
Technology for Learning Newsletter next month.

o Margaret Driscoll ( argues that
the real difference between good and bad online learning
is instructional design. The Boston consultant says
good online learning presents content, guides the student
in practice, provides for independent practice by
learner, and assesses how well the learner is doing.

o Jennifer Hofmann, ( an Essex,
CT, online-learning designer, says a key barrier to self-
paced learning is that learners don't know how to learn
without structure and human interaction. Provide a
schedule, with deadlines, and follow up by e-mail
regularly to check on their progress and let them ask

o Eric Parks (, a Fair Oaks, CA, Web-based
training designer, argues that a good knowledge-
management system coordinates training, collaboration
and performance support -- and manages all your learning
resources, online or classroom.

Hofmann's session at TRAINING 2000 in Atlanta is on must-know
points for live online learning. Parks' session is on getting
learners to finish online modules. To register for the Feb.
21-23 show, go to


For a free December issue of TFL featuring more of Driscoll,
Hofmann and Parks, see
Click Subscriptions and fill out and submit the form.

BUT ... you must submit the Web form by end of day Tuesday,
Nov. 2, to receive the December issue. The issue is yours to
keep, free, even if you don't continue your subscription.


Someone asked about "a low-tech solution for converting
Microsoft Word-based user guides with text and screen shots
to the corporate intranet." Saving the file as HTML "renders
the screen shots useless," the reader complains.

More than one of you suggest using Adobe Acrobat. "Conversion
from Word to a PDF file is as easy as writing to the
PDFWriter," says Beth King (, a
coordinator with National Feed Service Management Institute
at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.

"Users must have Acrobat Reader on their computers," King
adds, "but so many documents on the Internet require it, they
should already have the Reader."

Acrobat Reader from Adobe Systems Inc. is available free at The software to convert documents to
Adobe Acrobat, available at the same site, costs $249.


Another wrinkle: Sandy Gambill (, senior
academic computing analyst at St. Louis (MO) University, adds

"What about putting your Word-based user guides up on the
intranet as Word files that would download and open in Word?
Your intranet administrator might have to set a server mime
type for this to work, but should know how to do it.

"You can also protect the word file so it is read-only. This
is found under Tools/Protect Document in all Office



How do you get your crusty veterans to use online learning?
That was the question from an attendee at OnLine Learning '99
in Los Angeles last month.

Here's one idea: Reader Robin Henry (,
grants-administration officer with the Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Commission in Tennant Creek, Northern
Territory, Australia, found experienced workers reluctant to
use online manuals.

Henry devised a series of 10-minute diagnostic tests covering
the standard procedures they should all know, and then
invited the 600 staffers in the division to complete the

They could use what they already knew, or find answers on the
organization's intranet. Participants marked their own tests.

"Those who thought they knew it all and answered from memory
gained a clear lesson," says Henry. "Much of the knowledge
from which they were working was based on false assumptions
and obsolete information."

Henry then asked staffers to try the intranet for policy and
procedural information. "The majority agreed that it was a
much more reliable method than they had realised and agreed
to use it," says Henry. "A few grumbled -- but had clearly
got the message."

One more take: Maybe it's not just online training that
people try to avoid. Could it be training of all types?

Huron Smith ( thinks so. He's based in
Milwaukee as a senior technical writer with DecisionOne
Corp., a Frazer, PA, help-desk support firm.

"Don't misconstrue unwillingness to sign up for a specific
online-learning program as an unwillingness by experienced
workers to embrace technological change," cautions Smith.

"These workers have had many instances of training which
wasted their time and didn't give them the information they

Concludes Smith: "It is not surprising that they would
finally end up taking a position of 'I'm never going to use
this' just to get the new 'training advocate' off their



When consultant Saul Carliner asserted that training guru
Donald Kirkpatrick's four-level approach to evaluating
training won't adapt cleanly to online learning, it set off a
flurry of debate ("Adapting Kirkpatrick Online," Sept. 28).

Consultant Carliner (, a
faculty member at Bentley College in Waltham, MA, stands by
his original take on Kirkpatrick's four-level evaluation of

(The levels: 1-Did they like it? 2-Did they learn? 3-Did it
change their behavior? 4-Did it affect the bottom line?)

In contrast to classroom delivery, Carliner says, tech-
delivered content has five separate learning contexts:
Collaboration, formal education, knowledge management,
performance support, and training.

For detail on these contexts, Carliner suggests his OnLine
Learning White Paper at

The Kirkpatrick model doesn't transfer smoothly to all five
categories of tech-delivered training, says Carliner.

Kirkpatrick accentuates transfer of learning -- did they get
it? This isn't the case with performance support. Rather than
trying to embed knowledge in workers' memory, performance
support tries to guide workers through a task, perhaps only a
very few times -- or perhaps just once, as in loading
software. "Where's the transfer there?" asks Carliner.

In such cases, an adapted version of the Kirkpatrick model
might work. Carliner offers his article, "Demonstrating the
Value of Technical Communication Products and Services," in
Technical Communication, third quarter 1997. It is at

OLL NEWS SAYS: Carliner's presentation Feb. 21 at TRAINING
2000 ( in Atlanta is called
"Future Travels of the InfoWrangler: Career Survival for
Trainers in the Era of Online Learning."



Can you help? Please e-mail with a
response that bears the matching subject line, e.g. Knowledge

Please include your name, title, organization, where it is,
and what it does. Please also include a phone number at which
we can reach you to confirm information.

No attachments, please. But include a Web-site address if it
will be instructive for readers.


"We are at the point where we would like to develop a
knowledge database for our employees and eliminate all of the
hard-copy reference materials that they use to service
customers. It would be set up as part of our intranet.

"We are at the concept stages only and aren't sure of the
best method to use to develop the design and flow of the
information. There is so much that would have to be included,
so we are looking for other companies that have developed an
internal knowledge database. Where would you suggest we


A sociologist and human-resource development consultant in
South Africa asks for guidance in "development of an
environment-management system best-practice training manual.
Can you refer me to suitable Web sites?"


Up next: TRAINING 2000 ( in
Atlanta Feb. 21-23, with Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu,
MIT's Nicholas Negroponte, anthropologist Jennifer James,
Fortune's Tom Stewart, TV's Ben Stein and 275 sessions.

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Copyright 1999
Bill Communications Inc.


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