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Online Learning News – 9 May 2000 issue


A news and idea service of Bill Communications Inc.

Tuesday, May 9, 2000 Vol. 3, No. 7

Move ahead faster with e-learning. It's how you
build a smart force.


1. 'Buzzword compliance' and other e-terms
2. Choose e-terms with care
3. Was the Love Bug a bust?
4. About the wood horse
5. Swing thing
6. Blackboard vs. WebCT
7. Testing for MS Office
8. Cries for help: Do learning portals work?



Give it a name and you have power over it, right? We
asked you to share some of the e-learning terms emerging
in your practice.

Jim Lewis ( [email protected] ), senior account
executive with TrainingServer Inc. in Baltimore
( offers this
expression: buzzword-compliant.

"I tell people my learning-management software must be
'buzzword-compliant' in order to satisfy everyone's
needs," says Lewis.

That is, software must meet the needs reflected by
buzzwords current with:

o Your information-technology manager, who uses
expressions such as "stable architecture,"
"scalability" and "thin client."

o Your training manager, who speaks of "competency
management," "event management," and "skill-gap

o Your budget director, whose hot buttons are "return
on investment" and "longevity."

Lewis isn't kidding. "Lengthy software evaluations are
not required if a software vendor can demonstrate 100%
buzzword compliance," he says.

The buzzwords reflect reality for those key players --
even as their reality morphs. "The rate of change in our
industry means my clients' needs change rapidly," says

"Identifying the buzzwords floating around at a client's
e-learning strategy meeting can usually help identify
crucial requirements in a good-fitting
learning-management software solution."

One more entry for your e-lexicon:

Dusty Miller ( [email protected] ), a
Mechanicsburg, PA, consultant who trains trainers, points
to webinar -- a live, synchronous seminar using the Web
to communicate graphics via whiteboard.



E-learning isn't so different that it needs its
own lexicon, protests Bryan Polivka
( [email protected] ).

"People learn the same way," argues Polivka, chief
learning officer with Caliber Learning Network Inc.
(, a Baltimore Web-based
training provider.

"They have the same five senses, the same mental
processes. Only the delivery mechanism has changed."

On the other hand, Polivka concedes that some shorthand
is convenient. E-learning encourages a big-picture look
at all learning, and that leads practitioners into
strange new turf. "There are components," he concurs,
"that need some explanation."

Practitioners, however, should choose their terms with
care. The problem with 'ooze' ("Blender ooze: The new
e-lexicon," April 11) is that it suggests "sloppiness in
tracking results," complains Polivka -- as in, "We don't
know how many people got the message, but we think it was
a lot!"

"Exactly the opposite tends to be true in e-learning,"
Polivka contends. More people receive the message, you
know who they are -- and whether they really "got it."


Polivka offers these expressions from his own use:

o Learning intervention. Any formalized effort to
teach someone something. The expression is general
enough to include a single communication, a course,
"or an entire corporate university," says Polivka.

o Speed to learning. The elapsed time from the moment
the institution understands its need until the
target audience is trained.

o Impact analysis. Defining the desired, measurable
impact of a learning intervention on the
organization before launching.

o Immersion environment. A technical platform or
platforms that allow learners to be as absorbed
in the learning as they are in a classroom. "Or,
preferably, more absorbed," says Polivka.


Here's how naming a concept gives you leverage: Once
you have named it, you can more easily discuss,
say, immersion environments.

The challenge with immersion environments, Polivka
contends, is that different learners thrive on different
sets of stimuli.

"Some need other people, some don't want them," says
Polivka. "Some need high-end visuals, some are distracted
by them. Some need to see the big picture at all times --
where is this leading? -- while others are annoyed by

"All these things are thoroughly known from research in
the classroom," Polivka concludes. "An e-learning
environment must be able to play to all aspects, or it
won't cut it with some significant percentage of the

"This means it has to have functions and capabilities
that not everyone might use, but anyone can choose."



The "I Love You" virus was anything but funny to
organizations where it swamped e-mail systems with its
self-sending replication Thursday.

Ford Motor Co., Microsoft Corp., the U.S. Army and Navy
and others shut down their e-mail systems as technicians
tried to delete infected files and protect the systems
against further harm.

The virus spread mainly though corporate e-mail systems,
arriving as a message with an attached file named
"LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU" and ending with the letters "vbs."

When a user of Microsoft's popular Outlook mail program
double-clicked on the attachment, the virus mailed itself
to the user's entire e-mail address book.

That made it seem that the virus was an e-mail from a
co-worker or friend, accelerating its transmission.

The virus deleted artwork files ending with the letters
"jpg" or "jpeg" on victims' hard drives, and altered
music files ending with "mp3" to make them inaccessible.

Technicians are still fighting at least eight copycat
viruses in the wake of the Love Bug. Meanwhile, police in
the Philippines reported one suspect under arrest and
were tracking others.


In short, the virus appears to have come and gone in a
hurry. Was it overblown?

"It isn't even worth a good, hearty shrug," says author
and technology critic Clifford Stoll, who gained
international repute for tracking down a hacker in 1988.

The Berkeley, CA, computer-security specialist
-- author of "High Tech Heretic: Why Computers Don't
Belong in the Classroom" (Doubleday, 1999, $17.50)
-- writes off the Love Bug as a blip on the screen of
Internet history.

He terminates the conversation because he wants to go
help his four- and five-year-old children paint their
tree house.

"Given a choice between coding and tree-housing," says
Stoll, "I'll take the latter."



Q What steps have you taken or will you take
to protect your e-mails against another
such virus?

Q Is Stoll right? Is the virus threat overblown?

Respond to [email protected] . As always
-- very important -- please include your name, title,
organization, its location, what it does, and a phone

Your subject line: 'Love' Busting.



Meanwhile, Jay Cross ( [email protected] ),
managing director with e-learning firm Internet Time
Group in Berkeley, CA, imagines this e-mail of mythic

and will overwrite your ENTIRE CITY!

"The 'gift' is disguised as a large wooden horse about
two stories tall. It tends to show up outside the city
gates and appears to be abandoned. DO NOT let it through
the gates!

"It contains hardware that is incompatible with Trojan
programming, including a crowd of heavily armed Greek
warriors that will destroy your army, sack your town, and
kill your women and children.

"If you have already received such a gift, DO NOT OPEN
IT! Take it back out of the city unopened and set fire to
it by the beach."



Can you teach swing dancing online?

That's the challenge we spin your way this week.

Why swing? Because it's a fairly simple dance,
and because Training Directors' Forum Conference
( in Phoenix
will feature an evening swing dance event -- with
lessons -- on June 5.

All right, we won't be snobs. Devotees of disco, or
whatever, can send in their ideas for teaching their
social dance of choice.

Why online? This is the serious part -- it's an
experiment in the limits of e-learning. If you can teach
dancing online, you should be able to teach anything
online, right?

So tell us this:

Q How would you teach swing online? Give us a brief
outline of your course design, and/or point us to a
page you have created just for this, or to someone
else's page that's already up.

Q On the other hand, if you think we're pathetically
misguided, tell us why dance can't or shouldn't be
taught online.

Respond to [email protected] . As always
-- very important -- please include your name, title,
organization, its location, what it does, and a phone
number at which we can reach you -- you swing thing,

Your subject line: Swing Thing.



Which is better, Blackboard or WebCT? That's what a
reader asked.

Blackboard Inc. ( of
Washington, D.C., lets e-learning practitioners create
courses. It also offers course-management software and
course sites on customer or Blackboard servers.

WebCT (, of Vancouver, British
Columbia, is a course platform that lets instructors
develop and deliver courses online.

Here's how readers compare the two:

Grace Balch ( [email protected] ) is just starting to use
both Blackboard as a community-college instructor and
WebCT as a trainer.

"From the newbie perspective, I find Blackboard more
intuitive to use," says Balch, principal personnel
analyst at the University of California-San Diego staff
education and development office in La Jolla. "But it's
easier to modify the look of WebCT pages.

"If I had to pick one over the other, I'd pick
Blackboard for ease of use for the instructional designer
and the student."


Jean Dearden ( [email protected] ), who works in
the Educational Design Unit at the National Labor College
Center for Labor Studies in Silver Spring, MD, says:

"Blackboard is much more user-friendly for the
developer, but is not as robust as WebCT in the area of
traditional course elements."

Developing a quiz in WebCT "can be very frustrating,"
says Darden, who suggests http://www.questionmark.comif
your training will include a lot of evaluation.

WebCT recommends using Question Mark to develop quizzes
"because it is much more versatile," says Darden. "The
two companies have worked in collaboration to streamline
the interface from one to the other."

Cecilie Murray ( [email protected] )
works with learners ranging in age from early childhood
to adult and "found WebCT to be easily customizable and
adaptable for every age group.

"We are very happy with WebCT and have integrated WebCT
into a range of online services which are available to
all our state schools," says Murray, who is coordinator
of Web-site professional development for the state of
Tasmania's Department of Education in Australia.

"Teachers are developing online learning modules, using
them in regular classrooms with their students, and are
thoroughly enjoying the diversity that online learning
offers the classroom environment."



Where do you go for online testing that assesses
learners' competency in Microsoft Office?

One solution is MOUS, or Microsoft Office
User Specialist certification process

Here are other suggestions from readers:

o Chris Grove ( [email protected] ), a computer
trainer with Northern Arizona University in
Flagstaff, suggests
-- "currently not charging for their tests," says
Grove. "The tests appear to be rigorous -- and the
price is better than the MOUS tests."

o Shirl Vick ( [email protected] ) suggests
ZD Journals' monthly publication Inside Microsoft
Office 2000 ( It
features tips and techniques for PowerPoint,
Excel, Outlook, Access, Word, FrontPage, and
Publisher. Subscribers get free access to ZD
University's Online Training Program. ZDU also
offers assessment tools. Vick is product manager
with Acme Engineering & Manufacturing Corp. of
Muskogee, OK, which makes heating, cooling
and ventilation equipment.

Finally, a vendor suggests


Readers? Can you help your peers with these questions?

DO LEARNING PORTALS WORK? "I have some questions about
learning portals:

o "Generally, I have read and heard that the dropout
rate is higher with online learning than when there
is a more personal involvement. Is that true with
learning portals also? What can be done to reduce
the dropout rate?

o "Have data been collected measuring the amount
learned using learning portals and other learning
methods? How do learning portals compare with other
methods? How is learning measured when people use a
learning portal?

"I think these are important questions. If people drop
out of classes more often and learn less, then we should
be careful where we use the technologies.

"Likewise, we should be careful about its use if we
cannot measure knowledge learned to ensure that students
have acquired the intended knowledge or skill."

record .avi movie clips. The problem, as we all know,
is that the .avi files are too large to insert into
Web-enabled courses, so I'm trying to convert the .avi
files into much smaller .asf files that I can place
outside my courses and stream using Microsoft's Windows
Media Encoder.

"I am having a difficult time understanding how
all this streaming stuff works. Can anyone out
there help me?"

ONLINE ICE-BREAKERS? "I have been converting
hard copies of classroom text to online courses. My
problem has been changing the interactive exercises to
online exercises. Do you have any recommendations for
books or resources for online exercises or

TELE-CLASS? "Do you have any resources or
guidelines for writing and presenting a tele-class?"

READERS? If you can guide your peers on one
of the foregoing questions, please respond to
[email protected] . Use the subject line of the
question to which you're responding (e.g., Learning

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


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




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