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Online Learning News – 5 October


A news and idea service of Bill Communications (Lakewood)
Tuesday, Oct. 5, 1999 Vol. 2, No. 28

Got content? Get e-commerce! Visit Saba at OLL99, booth #401,
to win an $8,000 learning e-Store.


1. Performance support: Where to start ...
2. ... and who's on the team
3. Prodding online learners to finish
4. How training keeps IT pros
5. Window shopping: Going critical



Where do you start when you design performance support? With your nose to someone else's grindstone, suggests Gloria Gery ([email protected]).

"Design," says consultant Gery, a Tolland, MA, performance-support specialist, "follows intense analysis of the work. The analysis involves work observations of real performers in real work contexts, doing real work."

But the analysis is different for developing performance support than it is for training, Gery cautions. "So you really have to know you're going to do it," she says, "from the beginning of the project."

Performance-support designers, says Gery, must understand:

o How work presents itself -- how questions and
requirements arise that result in performance of work.

o What data, tools, knowledge and means of communication
workers have at hand already.

o What work-process systems people use, or should use.

o What best practices are, or should be.

o What mechanisms people use to support their thinking and
their work.

Use this information, Gery says, to draw up job "performance maps" showing work flow as it should progress.Such maps should reference related data, tools, knowledge or content, and deliverables for each step in the process.



Performance-support system design entails collaborating with real performers. "They are the folks who often come up with some of the most powerful and creative ideas," says Gloria Gery ([email protected]), a Tolland, MA, performance- support specialist.

"Of course, when you think about it, that's not surprising," Gery adds, "since they know the work and what's necessary to perform it successfully."

Design teams must include:

o Performers.

o Business experts, who may want to alter work processes to
improve business results.

o Learning specialists (often with instructional design

o Information designers (often technical writers) and
information architects (people who can classify,
structure, and codify information and content).

o Technical specialists who know the current and future
architecture, and what tools, databases and
communication requirements you will need.

o User-interface designers.

o Graphic artists.

o A project manager.

Sometimes team members fill more than one role. But all roles are important, says Gery.

Most important: The team must grasp that performance is the goal, and it must see a broad range of design examples.


Worst on teams: People committed to keeping methods anchored in the past. Best: "People who are intellectually flexible and who can work collaboratively with others.

You can tell immediately when someone doesn't grasp the idea of performance support, says Gery. They say: "Oh. What you mean is just-in-time training," or, "This is just a user- friendly system.'"

Good performance support goes beyond those boundaries. But it's hard to describe.

"It's very difficult to communicate what integration of all of the resources necessary to do work quickly and well will look like," says Gery. "Talking about performance support gets you almost nowhere unless you can do demonstrations of well-done design."

Hence her motto: "To see it is to understand it." Says Gery: "I do demo after demo after demo."

OLL NEWS SAYS: Gery will lead a pre-conference session on performance-centered design Saturday, Oct. 16. Gery is also chair of the co-sited Performance Support '99 and OnLine Learning '99 shows.

Register to attend at http://www.performancesupport.comor at


Winners of the 1999 Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS) Design Contest will be announced at Performance Support '99. Meanwhile, winning entries, with demos, are at



How do you prod online learners to finish their modules?

Two words: peer pressure, says Denise Sheridan ([email protected]), based near Lincoln, CA, as a human-resources development director with American Express Corp.

"One of the best hooks I've seen for getting online learners to finish what they start is the peer pressure that is created in a collaborative online learning environment," says Sheridan.

Lotus LearningSpace, which she uses, is one Web-based learning software that lets learners develop "a sense of community," says Sheridan. "They are engaged," she adds, "and feel accountable to each other for participating in asynchronous class discussions and collaborative assignments."

Another approach: Make your computer-based training gripping, and schedule a specific time, suggests Jeroen Buring.

CBT should be like a book too good to put down, says Buring ([email protected]), a trainer with CoCreate Software GmbH, a Hewlett-Packard Co. unit in Germany.

Buring offers this:

o Treat computer-based training like a book "that you can
never put away, but always have to leave on a 'bedside'
stand due to time limitations during the day."

o Your "book" requires an appealing story line with
particularly interesting developments at the end of each

o Another tack: Offer CBT within a given 30-minute
timeframe each day. Learners must plan the time into
their schedules. "It's like making a virtual appointment
with someone," says Buring. The server starts sending at
the appointed time. Microsoft and RealAudio have such
technology, Buring says.


Finally, make part of the program real-time, says Jennifer Hofmann ([email protected]). And, she says, it's the trainer's job to provide structure.

"We do not know instinctively how to learn without specific structure and human interaction," argues Hofmann, an instructional designer with InSync Training Synergy in Essex, CT.

Hofmann suggests:

o Provide a schedule, including completion objectives. For
example, indicate that the learner should complete two
modules a week for four weeks.

o Tell students up front that you may e-mail them every
week to see if they have any problems. This in effect
constitutes a schedule and deadlines -- "in other words,
motivation," says Hofmann.

o Supplement your self-paced program with synchronous
modules. Use the telephone or chat. Tell students that
they must log into this real-time classroom at a
designated hour for 20 minutes a week for four weeks. Say
you will quiz them on the materials scheduled for that
week, and provide an opportunity to ask questions.

"This," concludes Hoffman, "adds some humanity, motivation, and structure to the learning environment."

Hofmann's Oct. 20 session at OnLine Learning '99 is "Live Online Learning: What You Need to Know." You can register for the show at



Training counts as a way to keep information-technology workers, readers are saying.

Last month, we reported that only 4% of chief information officers viewed training as a means of keeping IT workers.

Some IT pros wish training ranked higher with CIOs.

"I am a big fan of personal days and bonuses," says Max Clark ([email protected]), information-systems architect with Yipinet LLC of Marina del Rey, CA.

"But training offered by the company promotes a sense of job security, and with the company spending time and money to train their IT staff, we know that we are important."

What kind of IT training most benefits IT workers -- and the organization? "Maybe it's just my ego, but I don't like being lectured to," says Clark. "So I am a big fan of on- your-own' training."

But, he adds, provide "an outlet to an instructor or someone similar with knowledge of the subject matter for questions."

Another view: "As recruiters in the training industry, we hear both sides of the story," says Doreen Kephart ([email protected]) of Professional Resource Associates in Marine City, MI.

"The opportunity for further training and enhancement of professional skills is a great magnet in attracting top talent."

When she asks candidates the most important criteria in deciding whether to change jobs, flexible schedule and personal days -- key incentives listed by CIOs --- "are rarely among the top four," says Kephart.

What is? Training and the challenge of learning, says Kephart.



GOING CRITICAL. Asymetrix Learning Systems Inc. of Bellevue, WA, said Online Learning Guide, a course-critiquing service, will provide "independent third-party reviews" of courses that Asymetrix offers on its learning portal, Asymetrix will post reviews next to courseware and other learning products.



Hurry! Exhibitors, show your stuff at OnLine Learning '99
Oct. 17-20 in L.A. Check

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Copyright 1999
Bill Communications Inc.


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