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Online learning news – 26 August issue


A news and idea service of Bill Communications Inc.

Tuesday, August 29, 2000 Vol. 3, No. 23

Learn to put your corporate training online. Online.
Skills you need in just 4 weeks, from the online learning
pioneers. See


1. Beyond courses
2. Cheap again
3. Kids and usability
4. Screen resolution: Yes
5. Budget guidance for training
6. Cries for help: Collaboration tune-out?
7. Tick, tick, tick: London proposals?


Are you thinking what Greg Priest thinks you're

Priest, chief executive of SmartForce PLC
(, believes trainers
are looking beyond issues such as which e-courses
to pop into what learning-management system.

He thinks your eye is turning to the big picture:
applying e-learning to your organization’s business

That's the rationale behind the SmartForce deal
with Docent Inc. ( announced
last week, Priest said in an interview with OnLine
Learning News.

The pact undergirds SmartForce's 1,300-course library
with Docent's learning-management system.

Such alliances create one-stop sources for e-learning
services, and may raise some of the fog over the
e-learning landscape.

"The overall industry's confusing now," Priest
acknowledged. "Buying a learning solution is a
complicated process."


The deal is part of a persistent partnering pattern
among e-learning firms. Two recent examples:

o DigitalThink Inc. announced earlier this
month that it would develop and deliver
multi-language Web-based technology training
to customers of Electron Economy Inc., a
Cupertino, CA, e-commerce firm.

o Saba Software Inc., also this month,
allied with Niku Corp., a Redwood City, CA,
professional-services provider to co-market
Internet-based learning.

In the SmartForce-Docent duo, Docent brings learning
management. Docent, of Mountain View, CA, helps its 150
customers track enrollment, payment, course development
and delivery of Web-based training.

SmartForce brings content. The Redwood City, CA,
business -- formerly called CBT Systems -- offers its
2,500 customers e-courses in technology, business skills
and project management.

But SmartForce has gone beyond courses. Two years ago,
100% of its business was content. Now, said Priest, it's
about 50%.

In short, SmartForce's 400 sales reps are pushing
related services, not just courses. "I'd like to see
every single customer that we have moving beyond simply
purchasing a course from us," said Priest.

Along the way, trainers with a traditional definition of
training may face some changes, Priest argued. "A fair
number of people," he contended, still look at training
"in pretty narrow, product-focused way" -- courses and
learning-management systems.

More trainers now ask, claimed Priest, "What is my
strategic objective? My financial objective?"


Q Are you ready for the big-picture,
business-solutions approach that Priest describes?

Q Or is a course-by-course approach to buying training
still useful? Why?

Q Are e-courses strong enough that you can turn
your focus to other matters?

Q Do vendors ever misunderstand working trainers'
day-to-day needs? In what way?

Tell us about it in a mailto:[email protected]
under the subject line Beyond Courses.

Please include:

o Your name and title.
o Your organization's name.
o Your location -- what city, suburb or town?
o Briefly, what your organization does.
o A phone number at which we can reach you.


Spark knowledge in your employees.
Element K, the knowledge catalyst.


One more idea for delivering classes online for cheap,
in response to a reader question:

o Try Angel, suggests Sandra K. Dapoz
( [email protected] ). Angel is a free online
course-management and course-creation tool from
Indiana University's CyberLearning Lab
( Dapoz is
a distributed-education project manager at
Indiana University's Kelley School of Business
in Indianapolis.



A reader asked about sites with information on usability
testing of Web sites for kids.

Beth Archibald Tang ( [email protected] ) reports "not
much information out there, apparently, for usability
testing for children."

Search the word "children" at Web guru Jakob Nielsen's
site ( It has "a few bits," says
Archibald Tang, Web designer with Caliber Associates
( in Fairfax, VA.

The Nielsen site recommends that testing for sites
targeting both kids and adults should include kids in the

Archibald Tang also points to these sites:
(Search "Fred Moody.")
"When Kids Use the Web" is a study by faculty at the
University of North Texas and University of Michigan
detailing what kids and adults have in common in their
Web-searching -- and how they differ.



Should you design your e-learning for 640x480 pixels,
800x600, or some other resolution?

"Yes," says Diane M. Aull ( [email protected] )
in response to that reader question.

"You should design courses that work well at any
resolution," explains Aull, partner with
(, a Clayton, NC, Web-based
training firm.

"It sounds as though some people are trying to design
Web-based courses the same way they would design a
handout on paper or a CD-ROM course, where they exert
some control over the size and layout of the display"
Aull adds.

"This is simply not true on the Web. For instance, just
because statistics show a certain percentage of people
are browsing at a given screen resolution, this doesn't
mean that they have their browser window maximized.

"In fact, people using the higher resolutions rarely
maximize their browser windows."

Another problem with designing for a given resolution:
"This generally assumes that all learners are going to be
using a visual browser," says Aull.

Tricks that designers use to achieve a "perfect layout,"
warns Aull, "can also serve to break reader-type browsers
used by visually impaired people."

Designing a course that is inaccessible to employees
using such non-visual browsers is "unfriendly," says Aull
-- and it can have legal implications under the Americans
with Disabilities Act.

Moreover, if any user so much as changes font size in a
browser, it could "wreak havoc with your carefully
crafted course display," she adds.

In short, designers must create pages "that will display
their content gracefully at all reasonable resolutions
and font sizes on all popular operating systems and all
reasonably standards-compliant browsers -- including
browsers that don't display graphics," she summarizes.

Such a generic approach will mean a "dramatic difference
in your frustration level," promises Aull.

"You get to spend more time on developing compelling and
accessible content, and less time tweaking frames, table
layouts, and transparent GIFs -- in an ultimately futile
attempt to precisely position every page element."



Q What are some standard fonts, font sizes, and other
settings for such a generic approach to Web design?

Send your answers in a mailto:[email protected]
under the subject line, e.g. Generic Settings.

Please include:

o Your name and title.
o Your organization's name.
o Your location -- what city, suburb or town?
o Briefly, what your organization does.
o A phone number at which we can reach you.



How much of a new-technology project's budget should go
to training? Is there a standard formula?

In response to that reader query, Jacques Lecavalier
( [email protected] ) points to

Training's share of a project's costs ranges from 1-30%,
suggests an article at the site entitled "ERP training
stinks" from the June 1 issue of CIO Magazine.

"I encourage the questioner to read this entire article"
before deciding on an information-technology or
enterprise-resource planning training budget, says
LeCavalier, based in Kelowna, British Columbia, as senior
consultant with Montreal training and performance-support
firm le groupe Mentor inc.


Sessions at OnLine Learning 2000 in Denver that address
budgeting include:

o "Getting Started with Online Learning," a one-day
pre-conference workshop (additional cost) with
Doug Foster of, Sept. 24.

o "Successful Strategies for WBT" with consultant
John Redmon, Sept. 25

o "Leveraging SME Resources with WBT" featuring Karen
Smith, president of Computer Education, Sept. 27.

Go to http://www.onlinelearning2000.comfor more about
the Sept. 24-27 show.



Readers? Can you help with the following questions from
your peers?

COPYRIGHT? "I have designed and developed some training
programs that I would like to somehow protect as my own.
Does anyone have any information on how to copyright
training materials? Where would I begin to look to find
out more on this topic?"

STREAMING VIDEO? A reader with a government
agency has what he describes as "a rather successful
interactive-TV training program -- satellite network,
using OneTouch technology."

The reader is "considering adding streaming video
on the Web for those who can't receive our TV signal.
Does anyone have experience doing simulcasts? I'd be
interested in costs, vendors, user reactions."

COLLABORATION TUNE-OUT? "I’m tasked with reducing or
eliminating the need for live, classroom-based training
on our software products. With a mix of CBTs and virtual
meetings on the Web, we’re supposed to train end-users
who aren't Windows-savvy how to master our health-care
software for use in their clinics.

"Along with our CBTs, we’re currently using a virtual
meeting-software package that allows the students to view
the instructors' desktop on their own machine.

"We can share applications and documents and pass
control to one student at a time, but communication and
team-work are sorely lacking -- it’s tedious, no matter
how we slice it.

"Is anyone else out there currently using a
collaborative tool that more effectively emulates live

"I fear our students tune out fairly quickly for lack of
interesting interactivity."

Readers? If you can help, mailto:[email protected]
with your ideas under the appropriate subject line, e.g.
Collaboration Tune-Out.

Please include:

o Your name and title.
o Your organization's name.
o Your location -- what city, suburb or town?
o Briefly, what your organization does.
o A phone number at which we can reach you.


Your colleagues may have some ideas for you. Please
mailto:[email protected] and describe your dilemma.
Include a distinctive subject line.



VNU Learning seeks formal proposals for breakout
sessions at OnLine Learning 2001 Europe, set for
Feb. 13-14 in London.

Deadline for applications is Sept. 22. More information
is at the site listed above.

Presentations should cover European-specific e-learning

VNU seeks case studies, panels, learning differences and
strategic approaches.




Go in-depth on e-learning.
Register for pre- and post-conference
workshops at OnLine Learning 2000. Go to and
click Schedule-Program, then click Workshops.

To receive OnLine Learning News, go to
click Free Online Newsletters.


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