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Online Learning News – 6 June 2000 issue


A news and idea service of Bill Communications Inc.

Tuesday, June 6, 2000 Vol. 3, No. 11

How can eLearning keep your business competitive? LIVE
Webcast with experts June 15. See


1. Halving it all: Cut your LMS shopping time
2. Don't leave e-learning to tech-heads
3. Danger! Online pitfalls!
4. Plugging along
5. Cries for help: Proof? Activex? Hit counter?
6. Window shopping: Mississippi libraries pick Plato



Bryan Chapman suggests this organizing principle
in shopping for learning-management systems:

Distinguish between vendors who offer computer-
managed instruction (CMI) systems and those offering
what he calls "Internet-infrastructure" (or integrated
infrastructure) systems.

Chapman, who is vice president of product
development with Payback Training Systems Inc.
( in Salt Lake
City, outlined the distinction in his session at
Training Directors' Forum Conference in Phoenix
on Saturday.

Knowing the difference will cut your work approximately
in half, Chapman claimed, because CMIs and
integrated-infrastructure systems provide distinct sets
of services -- for now. More about that later.

First, back to the great divide as shopping tool:

Will you buy third-party courseware to use with your
learning-management system? "That immediately divides the
whole world in half for you," Chapman told participants.

If third-party courseware is among your priorities,
choose a CMI system. Integrated-infrastructure systems,
Chapman said, don't accommodate third-party courses
as well.

On the other hand, if you want a mix of self-paced,
virtual and live-classroom training, an
Internet-infrastructure system is the way to go.

Both product types have benefits and drawbacks.

o CMIs are open systems -- you can attach
third-party courses. CMIs also tend to focus
on self-paced courses. They are like "vending
machines that dispense learning," says Chapman.
The drawback: CMIs focus little on the community
aspect of learning. CMIs include Docent, Ingenium,
Manager's Edge, Librarian, Phoenix and WBT Manager,
said Chapman.

o Internet-infrastructure systems tend to be
quick starters: "Buy it, drop it on your server,
and you have all you need for collaboration and
student tracking," said Chapman. Integrated-
infrastructure systems tend not to be self-paced,
instead focusing on collaboration and involvement
of an instructor. The drawback: Integrated-
infrastructure systems may not recognize courses
created elsewhere. Examples of integrated-
infrastructure systems include Generation21,
Mentorware, TopClass, Virtual U, Web Course
in a Box, WebCT, and WebMentor.


If you use Chapman's great divide, use it soon. He
expects the line to blur and vanish as vendors borrow
ideas from the other side.

IBM Corp.'s LearningSpace has already crossed the line
to CMI-like status by acquiring and incorporating
Macromedia Inc.'s Pathware into its Mindspan service
("IBM's Mindspan: Instant global e-learning?," May 16).

Other vendors are likewise crossing, combining CMI and
integrated-infrastructure traits -- and ruining Chapman's
shopping shortcut.

That's OK with him if it means a wider range of services
from individual vendors. "I'm hoping that in a year to
two years," Chapman told participants, "that line doesn't
even exist."



Get involved, Gloria Gery exhorted training managers
-- or the tech-heads will have their way.

Effective electronic performance support won't happen
if trainers leave design to computer programmers, Gery
told attendees Monday at Training Directors' Forum
Conference in Phoenix.

Gery, a performance-support specialist, urged training
managers to take a hand in matching e-learning and
electronic performance support to real work.

Programmers don't relate well to the workplace, she
claimed, adding: "They talk in codes."

Trainers must intervene to help build e-learning and
performance support that any worker can use and
understand, argued the Tolland, MA, consultant. Gery
is chair of the conference, which continues through

In preparing electronic performance support, Gery urged
training managers to:

o Be clear. Performance support should look
very much like the job it abets, with an
absolute minimum of translation required.

o Structure job and performance support so
that workers can "both do and learn" at the
same time.

Indeed, effectively matching performance support to
workplace needs is a radical enough procedure that it
means changing the workplace, Gery argued.

"Sooner or later you're going to have to get involved
in shaping the workplace itself," Gery told her
training-manager audience.

"If not us, who? We are the first line of defense
against hostile learning environments, and it's our
job to influence that at management level."


More conference highlights:

Trainers are all over the map on knowledge management.
A corporate-wide KM initiative is an immediate priority
for 19%, a not-quite-immediate priority for 20%, a
mid-level priority for 23%, a low priority for 15%,
and "not currently important" for 22%.

The flat scatter in responses to that question is
instructive, said Matthew Juechter, the Denver consultant
who led off the conference as the keynoter on Sunday

"Does that spell confusion?" Juechter asked attendees.
"What should we really be doing here? And what is our

The responses are from a May survey of 400 trainers by
Bill Communications Inc.


It's a good time for trainers to step in with e-learning
advice to top managers, added Juechter.

His reasoning: 58% of respondents in the same survey
said their organization's online-training initiative
"is driven by an organization-sponsored strategy."

On the other hand, a full 42% said online learning is
"evolving without a defined plan."

Juechter's analysis: "We have a tremendous opportunity
to really influence what's going on," he told

E-learning initiatives are "still very much in a state
of flux," he concluded, "and that's generally when good
professional advice is sought."



Know where you're going when you turn to e-learning.

Two key pitfalls await the unwary, warns Saul Carliner,
who teaches information design at Bentley College in
Waltham, MA:

TOO MUCH CHOICE. Often you have more than one way
of getting to your learning goal. The danger: "Choice
paralysis," says Carliner, "sometimes leaving even the
most experienced online-learning professionals with
confusion about how to proceed."

INTIMIDATION. Technology tends to be unfamiliar,
expensive and complex. The danger: Designers simplify
delivery at the expense of learning -- or highlight
technology, such as audio and video, again at the expense
of learning.

To counter those hazards, Carliner suggests:

o Start by asking what the end product should look
like. "Only with an image of the end product in
mind," says Carliner, "can you best determine
which tools you need to create that product."

o Know your components. What are your building
blocks? What's the content in each? What are
the media each require? How complex is the
information in each?

o Choosing tools. In preparing this material, what
software do you really need? Will word-processing
software suffice? Do you need graphic software
as well? A video "toaster?"

o Choosing tools II. In assembling and delivering
the prepared components, what tools do you need?
An authoring tool? Programming language? Internet

o Choosing tools III. How will you manage the
learning? What software will enroll learners
and track their performance?

The information, in Carliner's handout to participants
at his Training Directors' Forum Conference session
Sunday, is from his "An Overview of Online Learning"
(Bill Communications Inc. and HRD Press, 1999).



Is there such a thing as simulation software that works
without plug-ins?

That's what a reader asked in a search for software that
creates a simulation to help trainers learn Dreamweaver,
the Web-authoring software from Macromedia Inc. of San

The reader fears that plug-ins -- add-ons to enhance
software function -- take too long to run via the
standard modems that some learners use to access

Here are your responses -- first, on the unplugged
side: of San Jose, CA, says its Leelou authoring
tool requires no plug-in to view content. Check
http://www.qarbon.comfor a free demo.

Next, let the pro-pluggers speak:

"The best tool in our experience is Macromedia Director
and Shockwave," says Coen Flach ( [email protected] ),
managing director with Courseware Co. of the

Plug-in notwithstanding, the application runs text,
screens, interaction and voice over a 33.6-kbs modem.
"Without voice, it's a breeze" on a 28.8-kbs modem,
claims Flach.

"The Shockwave format and player are very efficient in
compressing the sound and buffering the next frames while
you're watching the first few."

Flach suggests a look at the ElementK (formerly
Ziff-Davis University) PC-user tutorials at

First, download the plug-in from the ElementK Web site
or from Macromedia (


Another pro-plug take: Modems accommodate some plug-ins,
agrees Jacqueline D. Beck ( [email protected] ).

Authorware with plug-ins can mean "you save many days
or weeks of development by building software simulators
and streaming them effectively -- with narration," says
Beck, director of interactive learning systems with
Brookwood Media Arts, a Lower Gwynnedd, PA, Macromedia
training vendor.

To download Authorware Web Player 5.1 for Windows
95/98/NT -- an Authorware plug-in -- go to:

Then restart your browser and click MSA Quantum at, says Beck.

"This," claims Beck, "will show you a great example
of effectively building software simulators with
narration, animation, screen transitions, synched audio
and meaningful interactions -- for slow connections."

Finally, check
for a Creative Course Writer (CCW) demo from Creative
Approaches Inc. of East Bloomfield, NY.

CCW "can exactly simulate Windows and even mainframe
or AS/400 applications with minuscule file sizes,"
claims CAI President Travis Piper. "A five-hour course
can take up as little as five megabytes."

You can then download movies showing CCW in action from "But," cautions
Piper, "you need a fast modem."



Readers? Can you help?

developers using ActiveX controls and Xtras to
enhance functionality?

"What techniques are being used to record quiz
and test scores to external database and
learning-management systems?

"What assessment tools are Authorware-developed
applications interfacing with that measure student
progress and knowledge?"

PROVE TECH TRAINING SELLS. "We are a small start-up
company which provides instructor-led and computer-based
training on a technical software for a software company
that is our partner.

"We want to do a better job of marketing ourselves
to the sales reps at the partner company by using
supporting evidence, such as statistical results and
survey findings.

"Specifically, we are looking for information that
speaks to the proof that technical training increases
a learner's knowledge and/or productivity. We want to
anticipate the sales reps asking us, 'Why should I sell
training with this product? Prove to me that technical
training makes a difference.'

"Where could I find the answers to such questions?"

HIT COUNTER? "We have a large training intranet
site which has hit counters on each page. We can tell
how many people have visited each page, but we would
like to trace the navigation of visitors as they move
from one page to another, and how long they spend on
each page.

"Is there any commercially available software that can
do this? We run NT4 throughout the company and also use
FrontPage 98 for creating and publishing our Web

READERS? If you can help, please send your information
to [email protected] .

VERY IMPORTANT: Include your name and title, your
organization, its location, what it does, and a phone
number at which we can reach you.

ALSO VERY IMPORTANT: Please use the matching subject
line, e.g., Prove Tech Training Sells.


Your colleagues may have some ideas for your
online-learning quandary. Please send your
question to [email protected] . Include
a distinctive subject line.



FROM G.E.D. TO S.A.T. Plato Learning Inc.
of Bloomington, MN, will provide browser-based
Internet courseware to public libraries in Mississippi
under a three-year subscription deal announced Monday.
Libraries will offer courses for high-school
graduate-equivalent degrees, adult literacy, SAT and ACT
college-testing prep, and school-to-career training.
can use more than one library to take courses while
Plato maintains their academic records.

DESIGN COMPETITION. See this site to enter
your work in the Performance-Centered Design
competition sponsored by Bill Communications
Inc.'s Performance Support 2000 Conference, the
Performance Support Leadership Council,!
and EPSS InfoSite. Deadline for submissions
is July 24. Winners will offer demonstrations at
OnLine Learning 2000 and Performance Support 2000
(, which run
concurrently in Denver Sept. 25-27.



E-learning -- does it rock, or what? Party with
Little Richard at OnLine Learning 2000 Sept. 25-27
in Denver.

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

Copyright 2000
Bill Communications Inc.


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