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OnLine Learning News – 4 July 2000 issue


A news and idea service of Bill Communications Inc.

Tuesday, July 4, 2000 Vol. 3, No. 15


E-learning rocks! Burke, Gery, 230 breakouts, and
Little Richard!


1. Authoring vs. programming
2. Market fireworks? Stay cool
3. Cries for help: Online office hours?
4. Window shopping: Web-design how-to, online 360



Which authoring program is best for creating online

How about none of them?

A number of you suggest setting aside authoring tools
and instead creating e-learning by using programming
languages such as Java, JavaScript and HTML.

Others, meanwhile, leap to the defense of authoring
tools, arguing that their benefits outweigh their cost
and other demands.

The debate caught fire last week in ITT Connection, an
OnLine Learning News sister publication ("Why you should
lose your authoring software," ITT Connection, June 29).

It all began when a reader asked for advice on a good
beginning authoring tool.

John Nelson ( [email protected]) responded with
a suggestion that the reader use programming languages

Authoring tools "add a thick layer of technology that
offers few benefits in exchange for the headaches of
supporting it," said Nelson.

Locating a developer with expertise in an authoring
tool, or training a developer to use an authoring tool,
"is more complex and time-consuming than the simple task
of finding someone with proven Web-programming skills,"
added Nelson, who is computer- and Web-based training
programmer with First Health Strategies, a Salt Lake City
health-plan manager.

Instead of authoring tools, Web-programming
advocates suggest using tools such as Java and
JavaScript -- programming languages that extend the
capabilities of HTML, which is the underlying universal
language of the Internet.

Readers have strong feelings about this, on both sides.
First, the pro-programming crowd:


Drop authoring software? "I think it is a great idea,"
says Matthew E. Mooney ( [email protected] ), a Web
specialist in agricultural economics at Purdue University
in West Lafayette, IN.

"The learning curve is steep with authoring software,
and the size and bandwidth issues are pretty big -- not
to mention cross-platform and delivery issues."

Mooney worries about what he calls the "anyone-can-
create-a-Web-site way of thinking" that authoring tools

"Anyone can create a basic site," Mooney agrees, "but it
takes something a lot more than that to make a strong
instructional site."

Another response: Travis Tucker ( [email protected] )
says his department is just moving into Web-based

"The thought of getting up to speed on an authoring
system is somewhat unnerving," says Tucker, manager for
leadership development at EDD University, the university
for the California Employment Development Department in

Bandwidth is a worry, with 300 sites around California
-- many shared with entities other than state
government. That represents a serious infrastructure

"Finding solutions that don't require the fastest
connections will help us get everyone in our organization
up to speed on the skills and knowledge necessary to do
their jobs," reasons Tucker.

"HTML is straightforward, and Java and JavaScript should
allow us to include basic interactivity necessary for our
WBT's success.

"If there is a specific piece that can't be done in
HTML, Java, or JavaScript, then perhaps we can use an
authoring tool."

Justin Rounce ( [email protected] )
says his unit has created "several hundred hours" of
online training using HTML, Java, JavaScript, DHTML
(dynamic HTML), Flash and Shockwave.

Flash, he notes, "significantly reduces the amount of
JavaScript required, if utilized correctly."


"Now, let me throw another iron into the fire," adds
Rounce, documentation and technology based training
manager with Schlumberger Oilfield Services in Sugar
Land, TX:

Rounce thinks "the days of HTML as an authoring
environment are seriously numbered. If I were starting
from scratch, I would opt for XML," he says.

Extensible Markup Language or XML is a Web standard for
exchanging data that proponents say will speed online
transactions and training.

Here's how pro-authoring practitioners react:

"Dropping my authoring software? I don't think so," says
Fred Wilson ( [email protected] ), training
director with Glenayre Electronics, a Duluth, GA,
voice-mail and paging manufacturer. "At least not until
tools are built that can take its place.

"My staff and I have spent the time to learn and extend
our present authoring system and are now quite
comfortable in using it. Our authoring software will work
quite nicely from CD, local machine, network and the Web.
Why change?"

Wilson says he has authored in HTML and JavaScript.
"Ramping up to replace our present authoring software at
this time would seriously extend the time for current and
future projects," he argues.

"I was never able to duplicate programs in HTML or Java
that are currently in our library."


Authoring tools provide "lower-cost, quicker turnaround
time, and more effective results," says Deserie
Valloreo-Booth ( [email protected] ).

"We purchased an authoring tool so that we would not
have to hire programmers to develop our Web-based
training," says the knowledge-management project director
with Nielsen Media Research in Dunedin, FL.

"The cost of hiring just one programmer with these
skills far exceeds the cost of the authoring software
-- including training costs on using it."

Authoring tools, she says, allow "quicker turnaround
time between needs assessment and delivery of training.

And putting the trainer in control of producing the
training "makes for more effective training," she says.

Authoring-tool drawbacks can include steep learning
curves -- a week, in her case -- and the risk of losing
those skills should a colleague depart.

"However, the same is true with programmers,"
Vallereo-Booth concedes.


Don't try to turn trainers into programmers, cautions
Stoo Potts ( [email protected] ).

"The programming psyche is something that has to be
cultivated with personnel who have a technical aptitude
and interest," says Potts, a computer-based training
developer and administrator for 14 years who has also
done programming.

Programming skills, Potts says, "are gained through
repeating the process on a regular basis.

"In most companies today, the selected training medium
is based on the requirements of the project. That is,live
training classes, reference manuals, or online training
may be chosen depending on the instructional needs and

"A training developer, for example, may use a CBT
authoring tool for three months and then move on to
develop manuals for another project," Potts continues.
"The developer may not use the authoring tool again for a

Programming skills, particularly for novices, "erode
quickly when not used," Potts says. "Experienced CBT
developers also find that there is additional refresh
time needed when they do not use the authoring tool for
several months."

Given tight training deadlines, "the risk is too great
to wait and see if a training team member will be able to
learn Java and become sufficiently skilled to complete
the project within the time limits," Potts warns.

"Initially, even seasoned programmers often find the
complicated object-oriented concepts of Java difficult to
master," he concludes.

"An employee new to programming would have to quickly
grasp these concepts as well as basic programming
techniques. Learning Java is not like learning Microsoft



The Nasdaq composite index edged up to a 3,992 close
Monday. But the Nasdaq exchange, loaded with technology
stocks including those of e-learning companies, has still
dropped about 20% of its value since April.

Are investors losing confidence in e-learning?
"Absolutely not," assures Steven Lidberg, an analyst who
follows the industry for investment bank Pacific Crest
Securities of Portland, OR.

E-learning stocks have outperformed market indices
in 2000, adds Lidberg. Investors, he says, still see
"tremendous opportunity in the corporate e-learning
marketplace for profitable models and exciting top-line

When real trouble brews in the sector, learning
practitioners will be the first to know, suggests
Lidberg, who will be a panelist at an OnLine Learning
2000 discussion of "e-Learning: The View from Wall

Practitioners, he explains, are in close touch with
vendors, and will know when vendors are struggling.

Performance of vendors' products and the support
e-learning practitioners receive from vendor staff
reflect the well-being of the e-learning provider.

"In particular, monitor the quality of service," Lidberg
advises. "Monitor employee turnover at the e-learning

And ask yourself: "Are the e-learning companies
introducing new and innovative functionality, products
and services?"

Don't despair when share prices flare out. "It is still
too early to peg stock performance to the success of
e-learning," Lidberg says.

"The sector is experiencing exciting growth. Adoption of
e-learning platforms should accelerate over the next two
to three years, driven by the rapid introduction of new
technologies, products and services."

So what should you do about struggling e-share prices?

Here's what not to do, anyway: Don't worry. "The recent
market volatility," says Lidberg, "should not concern
learning professionals."


"e-Learning: The View from Wall Street" with facilitator
Marla Capozzi of The Tomorrow Lab will feature Lidberg,
Fred McCrea of Thomas Weisel Partners LLC, and Robert
Peterson of U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray. The panel
discussion is set for Sept. 26 at OnLine Learning 2000
in Denver. See http://www.onlinelearning2000.comfor
more information about the Sept. 24-27 show.



Readers? Can you help?

OFFICE HOURS? "Anybody have good, approved, written
policies regarding virtual office hours? We are a public
institution in Florida that requires a set number of
office hours, and are struggling to come up with a fair
procedure for our faculty, many of whom are teaching
online and traditional courses.

"The standard rule for traditional courses is one hour
of on-site office time for each hour in the classroom.
When I search the Web, I see sites where faculty offer to
be online (for e-mail or chats), but not policy stuff.

"In fact, most of the 'virtual hours' appear to be
additions to traditional on-site hours."

that individuals involved with online developing or
teaching can visit for the purpose of seeking future
development and teaching assignments, or to possibly
make themselves known as available to organizations in
need of individuals with some background in this area?"

OLL NEWS SAYS: At least one such matchmaking service
is up, reports Technology for Learning Newsletter this
month: RFP Exchange at http://www.TrainingNet.comis
a request-for-proposal area -- though it doesn't target
online teaching in particular.

Readers? If you can help with either of the foregoing
questions, please send your response to
[email protected] .

Please use the appropriate subject line, e.g. Office

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 your
online-learning quandary. Please send your
question to [email protected] . Include
a distinctive subject line.



WEB WINNERS. If you need good design models for
your Web or intranet sites, check the link to CIO
Magazine's annual 50-50 Web Business Awards at this

ONLINE ASSESSMENT. RealTime Performance Inc. of
Seattle says its RealTime 360 service lets employers
conduct multi-rater assessment online. Managers
completing the process receive an individualized learning
plan and development suggestions. A demo is at the site.



Do you want to go in-depth on e-learning? Check
pre- and post-conference workshops at OnLine Learning
2000. Go to http://www.onlinelearning2000.comand click
Schedule-Program, then click Workshops.

The winner of our drawing for a free OnLine Learning
2000 registration is Air Canada's Gabe De Puyjalon. He
was among 400 entered in the drawing for completing our
online survey in preparation for Training Directors'
Forum Conference last month. Congratulations, Gabe!
See you in Denver Sept. 24-27 for OnLine Learning 2000.

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

The OnLine Learning News team: Becky Wilkinson, Steve
Dahlberg, Terrie Maley, Gloria Gery, Leah Nelson, Julie
Groshens, Brian Ruhl, Susan Rogers, Rich Alden, Ernie
Leidiger, Mary Hanson, Betsey Groshens, Phil Jones, Marc

Please e-mail [email protected] with questions
or comments.

To inquire about advertising, please e-mail
[email protected] .

Copyright 2000
Bill Communications Inc.


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