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Online Learning News – 22 February issue


A news and idea service of Bill Communications Inc. (Lakewood)
Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2000 Vol. 2, No. 48


Centra is the #1 choice of business professionals for live
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1. Critical success factors: Watch Costa Rica
2. Your own critical success factors?
3. Lunchtime Web learning
4. Job hunting?
5. Forest, trees, e-learning
6. For emerging Web-heads
7. Window shopping: Why a duck?


What are the critical success factors for online learning?

Two for sure, suggests Nicholas Negroponte. In an interview after
his address Monday at TRAINING 2000 in Atlanta, the director and
co-founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media
Lab said:

o Users should feel fully in control. Too many creators of
online media "think of users as objects to which you're
delivering something," says Negroponte. That's backward, he
argues. Learning should be the object of the learner, not
the other way around.

o Online learning should be simple to use. "There's nothing new
about that," he says.

These factors become still more important in light of the points
Negroponte made in his address to an estimated 4,500 attendees at
the conference:

o Watch Costa Rica. It and other Third World nations are
poised for explosive growth in Internet use. Hungry for
education and job training, says Negroponte, "their attitude
toward learning is, 'We'll try almost anything.' "

o MIT's Media Lab, which helped develop digital video and
multimedia, now is working on a $1 computer. The device,
not yet in prototype, would be made of paper. If it works,
it would revolutionize information interchange worldwide.

What should trainers do about this set of developments right now?

In preparation for a gathering global rollout of online learning,
stick with very basic, simple-to-use computers and other devices
that require minimal user training and work for almost any user.

And, adds Negroponte, "become more multilingual."



The question of critical success factors for online learning
is also on the mind of Wendy Webb, associate editor of
Technology for Learning Newsletter.

Wendy, who is preparing a story on the subject, thinks critical
success factors might include:

o Great online learning must be designed with the learner's
technological constraints in mind. In other words, bells and
whistles don't mean anything unless the learner's system can
support them.

o Great online learning meets specific, immediate needs, and can
be changed as those needs change.

Readers: What in your experience are the critical success factors
for online learning? What must happen for online learning to be

Respond to [email protected] . Please include your name,
title, phone number, organization, its location, and what it does.
Your subject line: Critical Success Factors.

Drop Wendy a copy, please: [email protected] .

TO READ WENDY'S STORY in the April issue of Technology for
Learning, here's what to do:

By Friday, March 3, go to,
click Subscriptions, fill out the form, and click Submit.

If you do that by March 3, you will receive the April issue with
Wendy's critical-issues story. The issue is yours to keep even if
you choose not to subscribe.


What software works for online lunch-hour training sessions?
Readers suggest several in response to another reader who asked
that question.

"We are using MS NetMeeting to do what we call Lunch Hour Learning
at three separate Southern California company sites," says Al
Scsigulinsky ( [email protected] ),
senior project manager at Raytheon Learning Institute in Long
Beach, CA.

Scsigulinsky says his average turnout is 15 students at each site.
"We do use our own multicast server to tie the sites together," he

Amy Sharp ( [email protected] ), a trainer with the technical
publications unit at BMC Software Inc. in Houston, says she uses
PictureTalk ( for sessions with up to
200 technical writers worldwide.

"Lunchtime Web sessions obviously only work for the U.S. time
zones," she says. "Fortunately, this hits nearly all of our
writing community."

Users must download PictureTalk, which BMC Software company has
posted on its intranet. Sharp uses PictureTalk with telephone
conferencing for voice communication, because not all learners
have sound cards or speakers.


"The telephone," Sharp adds, "requires NO learning curve other
than calling into a central conference number."

Her information-services unit maintains the PictureTalk area on
the corporate intranet, with a list of the upcoming sessions.
Trainers contact IS to reserve a PictureTalk time slot, and then
e-mail the subject and time of the session, along with the Web
address, to students. Students must pre-register so the
conference-call service and IS know how many will turn out.

At the appointed time, learners log in, launch PictureTalk and see
the trainer's PC screen. The trainer controls the screen but can
hand it off to a learner as needed.

PictureTalk also allows off-line chatting -- but few use this
feature, says Sharp.

The trainer can see who is in the session, and can save the names
of attendees into a text file. "I usually save the list several
times during a session," says Sharp, "because people frequently
drop in and out."

She recommends that users set their monitors at the same
resolution the trainer is using, so all screens have the same

Or, position your display in the upper left section of your
monitor. Participants who don't reset their resolutions will
likely cut off the right side.


PictureTalk is "a tad slow" to refresh the screen, says Sharp.
"So you have to remember to be a bit slow and deliberate," she
adds. "Always explain verbally what you're doing, and check
frequently with remote sites to ensure that they are seeing the
same thing."

PictureTalk slows down the software you're demonstrating, Sharp
notes. "That's okay, though," she adds, "since it gives everyone a
chance to observe and ask questions."

A caution: "Once you start using this method," warns Sharp, "you
will be asked to repeat the same session over and over!"

Readers also suggest:

And vendors suggest:



A reader asked where to find freelance online-tutor and
courseware-design vacancies. Here are your suggestions:
http://www.dice.comfor information-technology jobs

It's not exactly a job opportunity, but
(, a San Jose, CA, authoring-
tool provider, says it will pay a 15% ongoing royalty plus $100
for the first content it accepts and $20 for subsequent items
of content for those who create training with Qarbon's authoring
tool. Using the tool and signing up for its affiliate author
program are free, says Qarbon.

Finally, Howard Schechter ( [email protected] ), education
director at IntraLearn Software Corp.(
of Northboro, MA, says:

If you do online design, send him your resume. He will give you
a user name and password on IntraLearn's site, and invite you to
post a couple of lessons and learn the system. If you make the
cut, he'll recommend you to clients looking for help.



Eric Parks was "unusually nervous" as focus groups began reviewing
the course-management system he helped build three years ago. This
was his baby they were prodding for weak spots.

The session, however, gave the Fair Oaks, CA, Web-based training
developer a key insight: Online-learning developers must change
their focus over time.

Three years ago, when he helped design the course-management
system or CMS, "we focused on features and functions," says Parks.
"Was it easy to use? Could it pass through firewalls? Would it
perform in countries with poor bandwidth?

"Our focus on functional specifications was commendable -- but we
lacked vision as to what the potential of e-learning could be.
We saw the many trees, but failed to appreciate the beauty of the

His point-by-point analysis of where e-learning goes next is at

We invite you to read Parks' account and offer your reactions.
E-mail your responses to [email protected]. Your subject
line: Forest and Trees.

Please include your name, title, phone number, organization, its
location, and what it does.

Eric's sessions at TRAINING 2000 are "Why Online Learners Drop
Out" and "Extranets: Reaching Out to Touch Learners Globally,"
both Wednesday.



A reader asked about software to help neophytes create computer-
based training.

Connie Woody ( [email protected] ), a graduate student in
human-resource development at Western Carolina University in
Asheville, suggests Trainer5 from Corp. of Cary,
NC (

Woody, whose graduate-level instructional-design class uses
Trainer5, finds it "user-friendly and good for beginners."

Micromedium Inc., which makes Trainer5, acquired
in December and took the Trainersoft name. Trainer6 was released
in January at a price of $400 for the standard edition and $1,500
for the professional edition.

More ideas for new Web-heads: Karen Kanne Ngowe
( [email protected] ), a grad student at Michigan State
University in Lansing, suggests

"The site allows you to design and put up a course for free, an
expanded course for $100," Ngowe says -- or get its software
package, CourseInfo, if you like the format and plan to
use it organization-wide.

"Like any pre-fab solution, it is a bit boxy," she says, "but at
least user-friendly with typical end-user navigation."

Also see Macromedia's CourseBuilder extension software for the
recently released Dreamweaver 3, a Web-authoring tool. Free trial
downloads are at

Meanwhile, vendors also suggest:


If you can offer guidance on these reader questions, please send
your response to [email protected] . Include your name,
title, phone number, organization, its location, and what it does.
Please also use the appropriate subject line.

ALREADY SELF-TAUGHT? "In a public-sector environment, we
have produced a relational-database system on which we must train
end-users. The purpose of the system is to extract information
from various business domains and format it into reports. The
system was rolled out last year. Users are basically self-taught.
What is a good way to structure formalized training at this

DESKTOP SOUND PERCENTAGE? "Is there any information
on the percentage of desktops in the Fortune 500 or Fortune
1000 that support sound? We are curious how many folks would be
'left out of the conversation' if we added this feature to our
online offerings."

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM NETMEETING? "We are planning to host
a series of one-hour live training sessions using NetMeeting.
We would be training research staff in various state offices
to use various tools on our Web site. We would be sharing
Internet Explorer 4 with the trainees' office along with
microphone audio. Has anyone tried anything like this? What
kinds of potentials or pitfalls should we be aware of?"

TESTING TEST QUESTIONS? "I am trying to study the
validity and reliability of our test bank questions. I would like
to know if anyone has knowledge of a good software program that
will actually gather and analyze data on this issue."

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., Self-Taught?) 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.



ALL-PURPOSE SEARCH. Type in a question at this site and
it locates Web resources that may provide answers.

OLL NEWS SAYS: Go ahead. Ask something silly. Jeeves
will conduct a good-faith search and find real information.
If, however, you key in, "Where can I find out how to train
trainers to train online?," the response is a little thin. Ask
Jeeves gives you an idea of how a performance-support system
works -- but don't use it to run a nuclear power plant.

OLL NEWS ALSO SAYS: Ask Jeeves dropped plans for a sex-related
version of its service, possibly using the name Mimi, CNET
reported Friday. So readers won't have Mimi to guide them
in matters of the heart. But Jeeves, says CNET, "will still
begrudgingly point them in the general direction."




Who's up at TDF 2000? Gloria Gery, UNext President Don Norman,
and a panel of CLOs. See


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