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Online Learning News – 31 August issue


A news and idea service of Bill Communications (Lakewood) Tuesday, Aug. 31, 1999 Vol. 2, No. 23

Go! OnLine Learning '99 and Performance Support '99 in
Los Angeles Oct. 17-20 (


1. E-books? 'Read my blips'
2. Pages that change: Training promise
3. Consensus-building: Should you risk it online?
4. Cries for help: Too much reuse? MS Word competency?
5. Window shopping: Word to XML, secure quizzes, Mozart



Electronic books excite you a little, judging by the number of responses we received to our inquiry about how print books stack up against e-books. But you're worried about the screen freezing in the middle of a hot part.

First, the positives: You like the idea of e-books for manuals and texts that require frequent updates. And research is easier online.

"I use a lot of reference material that can be searched online, allowing rapid access to what is otherwise a slow, tedious process," says George Molczan ([email protected]), a senior manager with telecommunications provider General Communication Inc. in Anchorage, AK.

You like the idea of e-books facilitating searches for definitions, examples, instructions, tables and links to related material, within an e-book or on the Internet.

And you especially like the prospect of video and audio links. "Imagine a bird-identification online book complete with bird songs!" says Brenda Hahn ([email protected]), information-technology instructor with York Health System in York, PA.

Aden Stewart ([email protected]), faculty coordinator for access technologies at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary, says SAIT is delivering the first year of an engineering-technology program by distance learning. Consequently, he's mulling e-books to replace the print materials SAIT ships to students.

Stewart envisions e-books for introductory course materials or for technical information that quickly becomes obsolete.


But you have lots of reservations about e-books.

For one thing, print lets you can wander. "In a graphics program, you may wish to 'flip' an image, says Dan Enright ([email protected]), a team leader in Web-based training with Corel Corp. of Ottawa. "A search on 'flip' may not produce anything. But reading the chapter on bitmap manipulation will mention the 'mirror' feature."

Speaking of flipping, instructional designer TereLyn Eisma Hepple ([email protected]) with SBC Communications Inc.'s Center for Learning in Farmer's Branch, TX,, points out that flipping through an e-book won't be easy for slow computers. It takes time to build each screen.

Of a handheld e-book reader that debuted earlier this year, Eisma asks: "Can you take it to the beach? Where's the power supply and Internet access? Can you run it on an airplane when the pilot asks you to turn off all electronic devices? Can you spill coffee, tea and cocoa on it?"

Long passages of text are best on paper, not on-screen, argues Michael Willis ([email protected]), president of Chicago training firm Paragon Solutions Inc. People read 30% more slowly from a computer monitor, he claims. And, Willis adds, "reading is a linear and more passive experience as opposed to an interactive one" -- scarcely doing justice to a computer's interactive capacity.

Monika May ([email protected]) agrees. The customer trainer with MCI WorldCom in Colorado Springs, CO, says books and computers cater to different audiences. Book readers want a quiet place to curl up. Computer users, she says demand interaction. "They need to be entertained," says May. "They have a very short attention span."

But other learners will want print. Computer trainer Cheryl Dalager ([email protected]) with workers' comp provider RTW Inc. of Bloomington, MN, says most of her end users prefer a print manual.


You're also wary of having to coddle technology. Print books "can be dropped, rained upon, read in the bathtub and survive the ravages of children," says SAIT's Stewart. And compatible platforms? Not an issue on paper. "A book printed in 1919 is as readable as one printed in 1999," says Stewart. "A book printed by McGraw-Hill can be read as easily as one printed by Penguin."

What about margin notes? With print, "You can write in it," says Everette Keith ([email protected]), training manager with EDS in Detroit. "I am always making notes in a book's margin. I also like to read what others have written in books as they get passed along."

But never say never. If the cost of electronic book readers drops to $100 -- and if they come with six hours' battery life -- "we would have competition for paper," says Molczan.



"In the olden days (oh, about two or three years ago), a person could learn a few HTML tags, develop some simple Web pages with clip art, and hang out a sign as a Webmaster," writes Patti Shank in the October Technology for Learning Newsletter. "Not so today."

Web-based training developer Shank ([email protected]), who will lead several sessions at OnLine Learning '99 ( in Los Angeles Oct. 17-20, says that static pages have lost their spark.

The focus has moved to dynamic pages -- which customize themselves according to the profile of each visitor to the page.

Such dynamic pages hold great promise for learning. "Imagine having an online educational program select and load specific content and multimedia objects from an online database, depending on your status as a learner," writes Shank.

ONLINE LEARNING SAYS: For Patti's full treatment of the subject, go to click Subscriptions. Fill out the form and submit it by Thursday, and the free issue you receive will be the October edition, with her article.



If you're looking for consensus, is online the wrong place? Do you need to meet in person?

That's one reader's response to another reader's question about a consensus feature in collaboration software.

Last week, we noted that collaboration programs often allow polling ("Polling Your Participants," OnLine Learning News, Aug. 24). But consensus goes deeper.

Stuart Lesley ([email protected]), senior system analyst with SSI International, an Alexandria, VA, consulting firm, offers this analysis:

1. "If the matter is controversial, getting everyone into the same room to talk out the issues is almost indispensable. If the issue is hot, then I would also recommend a facilitator.

"Use answer 2 for the majority of your meeting and discussion efforts, and save your face-to-face for the critical times.

2. "To disseminate information, set up a mailing list server. This method uses e-mail to share information among a group of e-mail addresses. This is a fairly low-tech method, and if you keep your e-mails in ASCII format and your attachments small, any e-mail client and Internet service provider should be able to handle the load."

The down side: "Someone will have to install the listserver software and configure it," says Lesley. "But it is easier than setting up a Lotus Notes or MS Outlook chat."

Also on consensus-building software, other readers suggest this site:



Can you help? Please respond to [email protected]. Use the subject line of the particular question to which you're responding (e.g., Too Much Reuse?).

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.


"We have approximately 23 CD-ROM titles currently in use. We do not build our courses internally. We have them built by development vendors. In each of our courses we use a request- for-proposal process. Within the request, we ask the vendors to give us their proposed creative treatment.

"With one of our vendors, their answer to the creative treatment is to reuse a game they have created for us. They have used the game in three of our courses. In the last two courses, their answer to creative treatment is using the game.

"When is reusing media too much? Is there a rule of thumb that is used in the industry?"


"Who do you recommend as a resource for competency criteria on MS Office Suite products? We're looking for the definition of the levels of competency, as well as a measurement tool."


"I'm building an intranet site to be a managers' online information-support system, to include tools, tips and information for managers. This is cognitive, not skill-based, learning. We will use this as a platform to channel managers into online and Web-based training, if that's what they choose.

"Has anyone been down this road yet? I'm looking for partners to share experiences and resources."


"We are interested in logistics and supply-chain training in Europe. Could you be so kind as to advise some training companies specialised in this field."



WORD TO XML. Arbortext Inc. of Waltham, MA, says its Epic 2.0 XML-based software supports two-way conversions between Microsoft Word and Extensible Markup Language (XML), a Web language that allows pages to customize for individual visitors.

AUTHOR AND PUBLISH FREE. Asymetrix Learning Systems Inc. of Bellevue, WA, says its site now lets anyone author and publish a course at the site free and collect royalties when the course is sold through the site.

BLACKBOARD ROLLOUT. Online-learning platform provider Blackboard Inc. of Washington, DC, said NextEd Ltd.will license Blackboard Inc.'s Blackboard Campus software platform for use on NextEd's international server network that reaches students in 13 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa. NextEd offers 72 university courses on Blackboard's open-software platform and plans more than 400 by January 2000.

SECURE TESTING. Question Mark Corp. of Stamford, CT, released a secure Web browser for delivering exams and tests over the Web. In the Perception Secure Browser, the menus, icons, control keys and the right-click options have been removed. It links to a specific URL, whereupon navigation is limited to the links from within the Web site.

WEB-CONFERENCE TRIAL. PlaceWare is offering a free 30-day trial of its Web conferencing service.

MATH AND MUSIC. Gordon Shaw, the physics emeritus at the University of California-Irvine who announced in 1993 that college students reason better after listening to a Mozart sonata, now says that math scores for second graders who learn piano and play an interactive game called S.T.A.R. rose 27%. Shaw calls music "a window into higher brain function."



Exhibitors! Show your stuff at Performance Support '99 Oct.
17-20 in Los Angeles. See

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Copyright 1999
Bill Communications Inc.


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