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Online Learning News – 9 November issue


A news and idea service of Bill Communications (Lakewood)
Tuesday, Nov. 9, 1999 Vol. 2, No. 33

Productivity starts here! Win a FREE Palm Pilot V from Atkins
Performance Programs:


1. 'Mining' e-mail: Chill factor?
2. Giving learners structure
3. Architecture U
4. Cries for help: Retention rates?
5. A tightwad's guide to training-management software



Software that "mines" e-mail for useful information sounds
promising. But one observer is also worried about an
unintended downside.

Consultant Gloria Gery has a mixed reaction to software that
maintains profiles of employees and their areas of expertise
based on their e-mail messages.

Such a tool could be a real boost for sharing knowledge in an
organization, says consultant Gery, a Tolland, MA,
performance-support specialist.

Workers often gain important know-how by asking peers for
guidance by e-mail. The value of a searchable database of
such e-mail messages is clear.

But Gery cautions that organizations using e-mail mining must
beware of killing off a flourishing e-mail exchange of
workplace smarts.

The chill factor: workers who balk at sharing information
when they become aware -- or even begin to suspect -- that
they're being monitored.

"The scary part to me," says Gery, "is that so much informal
and 'not for public consumption' knowledge is communicated
through e-mail."


Q Do you already "mine" e-mail for know-how?

Q How does it affect knowledge sharing?

Q How would you counter a chill factor?

Please respond to [email protected]. Include your name,
title, organization, where it is and what it does, and a
phone number at which we can reach you. No attachments,
please, but include a Web-site address if you like. Your
subject line: Mining E-Mail.



How much structure do learners need? Will they flourish or
falter if left to themselves? Can too much structure impede

These questions go to the heart of the debate on the efficacy
of online learning, with its reputation for solo cybernauts
clicking away on their own at any hour of the day or night.

Some of you have been following our debate on how to get
online learners to finish their modules. Some readers report
that as many as half their learners walk away before
finishing -- or don't start at all.

Jennifer Hofmann ([email protected]) says that
trainers must provide structure for online learners.

"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,

Hofmann suggests online learners get a schedule with date-by-
date objectives, regular follow-up e-mails, and required
synchronous modules by phone or online chat.


But Stephany Prodromides ([email protected]), a trainer
with Yipinet LLC in Marina Del Rey, CA, disputes Hofmann's
assertion that we don't know how to learn without structure.

Prodromides acknowledges that novices need structure as they
venture into new domains. But telling experts and skilled
novices how to structure their learning may actually
interfere with their learning.

Prodromides concludes: "In general, more structure should be
provided to learners in new domains, and less structure (or
none) to experts and intelligent novices in their domains of


Another take: "Some learners flounder because they do not
trust their instincts to learn," says Robin Poncia
([email protected]), instructional design manager with
nNovation Learning Group Inc., a Victoria, British Columbia,
online-learning course developer.

Learners accustomed to guidance don't know how to structure
their own learning. "These are the learners who want to be
given small pieces to digest," says Poncia.

Online courses must support these lowest-common-denominator
learners -- and still give freedom to a learner who knows the

Concludes Poncia: "The key is the instructional design of
online-learning content and courses. There must be choice and
support -- or freedom -- for the learner to demonstrate his
or her skills."

OLL News SAYS: Hofmann's session at TRAINING 2000 in Atlanta
is on must-know points for live online learning.
More information is at



Someone asked about software and server to establish an
enterprise online university on the subject of architecture.

Vendors and other readers suggest a look at:



Yikes! We haven't caught up with your questions and we're
getting more. How about this: We'll run more questions,
collect your answers, and try to catch up by the end of the

If you can help? Please e-mail [email protected] with a
response that bears the matching subject line, e.g. Retention

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.

No attachments, please. But include a Web-site address if it
will be instructive for readers.


"Help! I am looking for information that compares learners'
retention rates from different styles of learning (WBT vs.
CBT vs. instructor-led). For example: What does a student
retain from an online course vs. an instructor-led course? Is
something lost? I am looking for percentages."


"I am looking for a Webcasting product or vendor who has
clearly demonstrated the capability to Webcast the same
content to a range of users, from those on 33-kbs modems via
regular Internet service providers, to those behind firms'
firewalls on T1 lines. Also, what is the experience of any
readers in delivering to these multiple audiences?"


"When evaluating technical training, how do you distinguish
among a training issue, a change-management issue and an
application-design issue? This is where I've always stumbled
in trying to determine evaluation criteria based on learning

"In an effort to improve the quality of technology rollouts
and the associated training, our team more is getting
involved in technical-training projects at the requirements
phase. (We own facilitating the creation of the change-
management plan.)

"It only seems to make sense that if we're to be held
accountable for the success of the change and the training
that we have an impact in all these areas, not just training.
I'm just really curious what others are doing."


"I am an independent consultant who will be designing some
courses for an agency that has worldwide staff. We will be
designing the curriculum for classroom instruction first and
then transitioning to Web/CD-ROM -based media.

"Can anyone recommend some resources to educate me on
designing for distance education as opposed to in-person
training? I would like to keep the design principles for
distance learning in mind from the beginning."


"Do you know of any vendors who specialize in computer-based
training on OSHA regulations related to art-materials safety
practices and art materials purchase and disposition
documentation? We are looking for a CD and/or Web-based
training program that can be tailored to our needs for
artists who work with and dispose of hazardous materials
(paints, oils, solvents, spray mount, aerosols, etc.)."



Someone asked about software to create and deliver courses
without busting a small-business budget.

John Andrews ([email protected]), training-development
manager with software maker Damgaard A/S in Copenhagen,
reports the following from Online Learning '99 last month in
Los Angeles.

Presenter Steve Schatz (, a San
Francisco consultant, suggested these sites for inexpensive


to participate in a FREE, interactive training program from
your desktop! "Trends in Training: Hot Jobs for the 21st
Century" will broadcast live at 2 p.m. Nov. 18 EST. TRAINING
Magazine editors Jack Gordon, Chris Lee, and Ron Zemke will
lead the discussion. Please register 24 hours in advance.

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Copyright 1999
Bill Communications Inc.


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