Thursday, June 28, 2007

Emerging Technologies in e-Learning

I sat in on a lunchtime WebEx presentation with Gary Woodill -- Director, Research and Analysis, Brandon Hall Research. The topic: Emerging Technologies in e-Learning. (You can buy each of the three reports in this series for a mere $495.)

About Gary: Classroom teacher in the early 70's. 1984 doctorate in applied psychology. Developed over 60 e-learning programs. Lives in Ontario, Canada. Started with Brandon Hall in November.

"Emerging" = kinds of e-learning that are just starting to show up -- in labs, new company offerings. A big explosion in the last 2 years.

In the 90's there were one or two ways to do e-Learning: CDRoms and then the web. Pages and pictures and some sound and we turned the pages and took a test. This was "e-Learning 1.0".

Gary has worked on three "Emerging e-Learning" reports
  • Emerging E-Learning Technologies: Have looked at 52 emerging technologies. Can look at the TOC. (This was the focus of today's talk).
  • Emerging e-Learning Content: 45 different content formats
  • Emerging e-Learning Services: 24 different services
e-Learning Timeline:
  • 1920s teaching machines, radio, filmstrips. It's been around for a long time. Anytime a new thing comes out it's described as "revolutionary" - it's going to change the way we do things.
  • Even the pencil sharpener was considered revolutionary -- fear that we'd lose the ability to sharpen a pencil.
  • 1980s CD ROMS. Then the world wide web.

We've gone through one generation of online learning. Now we're into web 2.0 -- new technologies that weren't there 10 years ago.

e-Learning = teaching and learning through electronic methods. (Jay Cross in 1998) Not just self-directed learning, not just page turners.

Understanding e-Learning: The Restaurant Analogy

Dining Room + ordering service + food prep + delivery service = Dining Experience

Learning and environment technologies + requirements gathering + preparation of learning activities + delivery of learning activities = Learning Experience

Can go to a big restaurant and have lousy food -- similar gap with online learning. Instructional designers can take the tools and create a good learning experience or not.

Self Serve
Can also pick up packaged food -- self-service from a vending machine, etc.

Self-direct learning experience == a standard course prepared and available on a web site. Just like a vending machine, you do it by yourself.

Fast Food
Food prepared in small components -- small chunks cooked and rapid delivery.
Learning objects: standard small chunks put together and done in a rapid e-learning experience.

What if a whole new way of delivering high quality meals is developed? Hilcona out of Lichtenstein -- new frozen food tech.

Disruptive technology:
  • Restaurants vs. Frozen Foods
  • Movie Theaters vs. Blockbuster
  • Wired Phones vs. Cell phones
  • F2F Training vs. Online Training
A lot of current online training is not disruptive, still incremental.

Incremental vs. Disruptive Innovation.


Some forms of online training support current ways of doing things
  • Virtual classrooms, presentation software, authoring tools, assessment tools, LMS.
  • Doesn't change the basic model of an expert/teacher delivering to a group of learners. Requires some changes, but not highly disruptive.
What can we do with this new tech that we couldn't do before? Disruptive technologies radically change how we do things.
  • Global Networking (finding any info at any time from all over the world)
  • Artificial Intelligence (affective computing, computer can personalize based on who you are)
  • Peer to Peer Technologies (instead of teacher being in charge -- people are learning from each other. This is how a lot of young people work today. They often don't take courses unless required/certification. I have a problem, where is the answer? Web? Book? Person in next cubical?)
  • Collaboration Software
  • Learner generated content (instead of teacher preparing things, learners put things online and edit together. Sometimes it's not even consciously done -- they might put up photos and tag them -- don't mean to generate content for others, but they do)
  • Wearable computing (being a cyborg and having implants is the stuff of sci fi -- but it's not that far away)
"We look at the future through rear-view mirrors." (Marshall McLuhan) -- I'm not trying to be a smarty-pants here, but I looked this up and Gary was close: "We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future."

Wireless vs. Horseless
Wireless will go the same route as the horseless carriage. We won't be talking about wires in a few years.

How you teach will depend on who you are teaching.

Technology Innovation Cycles:

Some books about technology innovation if you want more on this --
Innovation Cycles look like this:
  • Pioneering efforts to solve a problem
  • Breakthrough developments
  • Skepticism/new efforts by established companies
  • New designs -- explosion of forms -- this is where we're now with e-learning
  • Dominant design emerges
  • Consolidation, mergers, companies disappear (talked about the e-Learning Hype Cycle -- with the bust in 2000/2000 -- now we've got the same hype with web 2.0 -- we'll see a similar boom & bust cycle).
  • Incremental changes
There are always reactions to change and resistance: Western Union -- "the phone has too many shortcomings..."; AT&T gave back computer networking after a 6 month trial....

Established Product vs. Disruptive Change
Companies get worried and make "strategic changes" in their product -- add a new feature -- this is what's happened with established e-learning companies. But they're not looking at the disruptive changes.

The bell curve is made up of these areas:

  1. Developing Technologies
  2. Ascending Technologies
  3. Peaking Technologies
  4. Maturing Technologies
  5. Declining Technologies

(don't buy maturing and declining tech; problems with developing technologies -- important to understand where particular technologies are on this curve.)

List of 52 Emerging eLearning technologies: I just typed down some of these, you'll have to view the slide deck for a full list....
  • Animation Tools
  • Avatars
  • Blogs
  • Clickers
  • Gaming Tools
  • E-Portfolios
  • Mobil Learning
  • Personal Learning Environments
  • Personalization
  • Rapid e-Learning
  • Semantic Web
  • Simulation Tools
  • Social Bookmarking
  • Social Networking Tools
  • VoIP and Telephony
  • Wikis
  • Wearable
  • Peer to Peer
  • Authoring Tools
  • Haptics (the ability to touch things and get a sense of force feedback. Can put a glove on and you think you're feeling something...)
  • Learning Objects and Repositories
  • Location-based Technologies
  • Mashups (came from hiphop -- artists would take samples and pieces and put them together into one creative work. On the web = hybrid -- take content from multiple sites and put them into one. example: Google Earth + local pizza parlors + your personal photographs on top of that. Instead of building website on a server, can build a website that pulls from multiple. Uses SOAP -- simple object a protocol...)
  • Simulation Tools
General Trends:

  • Move from client-server to service oriented architectures (mashups) -- changes power relations and info control and where things can come from. Don't need to do it yourself -- can pull free info and put it into your site and add things to it.
  • Move from page metaphor. "Browserless web" -- ala Google Earth -- full networked application -- like CD ROMs days -- direct application.
  • Learner in more control -- push vs. pull
  • Complex multi-channel learning -- different "personalized" mix for reach learner (Trails study done at University of London -- move around the web you leave a trail as to where you went....)
  • From passive receiving interactive activities and collaboration
Mashups, SOA, and Services: Welcome to Web Hybrid Applications (from the e-Learning Guild)

Physical Technologies vs. Social Technologies:

  • Products change first, followed by processes
  • Classrooms as technologies
  • Now we have physical technologies and social tech is trying to keep up.
  • People don't like to change, so skepticism is that resistance.


Agents: codebaby -- incremental -- doesn't change the model of someone telling you something. It's a talking head, a virtual agent. If your skeptical -- it's no different than standing in front of a classroom. This has been useful with literacy. Tire company -- used virtual agent to deliver online without a lot of reading.

Audio/Video Pulseplanet 2 minutes sound portraits of the planet earth.

Digital Ink: -- can write on a whiteboard with your finger. As he writes the equations, the whiteboard solves them.

Tours & Virtual Field Trips -- construct a tour online with John Udell using Google maps of Keene, NH. This was an example of a mashup.



Collaboration Tools: wikipedia, flickr, digg


Motion Capture:

Immersive Environments/Virtual Reality: secondlife (check out Brandon Hall's island on Education Island)

Wearable Computing:
Smart Underwear

Get a hug from thousands of miles away from a cell phone:
Gizmodo Hug Shirt

These disruptive tech will change radically how we do things.

New generation of e-Learning is more disruptive. Mix of tech, applications and services.

Change is constant.

Look at where you are at on the innovation curve.


Learning Objects:
I was always skeptical of learning objects. People don't learn in chunks. It came from software objects -- works for programming code, but doesn't work for people. They may be a starting point, but they are generally not reusable because people want to change them. It's a descending technology.

If you're at the beginning of e-Learning -- Brandon Hall has an e-Learning 101 publication.

What you've heard today is based on the reports we've done. In those three reports, over 5,000 links to these technologies.

The new disruptive technologies are about collaboration. How you get people together. These are the ascending technologies. In the new few years, we'll see more of these and they will work better.

What tech are in a decline?
  • LMS have matured -- there's a generation of them that in decline. Proprietary LMS are in a decline. Any LMS needs to have open-standards (not just open source) so you can take your content to another source. LCMS is in decline -- because the learning object model doesn't really work.
  • Service-oriented architecture will replace that learning object.

My thoughts:

Gary's a good speaker. Over 300 people were on the call. Some issues with WebEx. There were no huge lightening bolts for me, but it was interesting.

Hug shirt? Hmmmm....

The browserless web -- that's new to me.

No surprise to see that rapid e-Learning is in the list of ascending technologies.

I can't imagine life without a pencil sharpener and would probably hurt myself severely if I tried to sharpen a pencil by hand. Think about all the old skills we've lost that we don't even think about. What skills will the next generation not even miss?

What dominant designs will emerge as we get through this next phase in the industry? I think rapid e-Learning will be a big one.

I was a victim of the e-Learning Hype Cycle of 2000/2001. The CD ROM based training company I worked at did not successfully make the leap to the Internet. Who will be the victims this time around?


Anonymous said...

Cammy--you rock! Thanks for sharing all of this. Good stuff/food for thought.

Anonymous said...


There's always a learning hype cycle. (Actually, hype may be part of what powers cycles.)

Imagine how much less sizzle there's be if you substituted "lecture" for "podcast" -- the former is antiquated, 20th-century thinking; the latter is hip, even if you have to use a USB drive instead of a real iPod.

Podcasts are portable lectures. You've got the subscription, the search (good things) but in essence, once you've got portability, the key is some balance between content / interest / delivery.

(Wow, there's a new concept.)

The content could be Web 2.0, or the Declaration of Arbroath. If my interest (or need) is high enough, at first nearly any podcast on the topic will do, and delivery won't matter much.

If I'm less eager or desperate because I know something about the topic (or about how I seem to learn) then the quality of the presentation (sequence, clarity, aha moments, restatement, what have you) matters more.

Cammy Bean said...

Happy to share.

Dave, you've gotten me thinking about podcasts: incremental or disruptive? Incremental if it's just a portable lecture. But disruptive when it's "just anyone" putting the content out there -- learner-created content vs. expert-created.

Arun Kumar said...

Hi Cammy,

Given your interest in E-Learning, you might find it interesting to take a look at Kerika ( It is being used by college students working on group projects, and professors who see this as a new teaching method for conveying strategy and process to their students at the time they assign individual or group projects.

There is a 2-minute demo at that I think you will find interesting.


Anonymous said...


you seem to know a lot about I would like to ask for some help:

My team and I plan to develop an e-learning system for our university. However we are suppose to locate an IT problem in order for our proposal to be approved.

My team is in charge of the communication and collaboration aspect of the system. We could not find a suitable problem to address.

I would like to ask:
Why should an e-learning system have chat, groups, calendars and forums when there are Yahoo meesengers, eGroups, etc. found in the net?
Is there a problem we can address that can be solved by adding communication and collaboration features to the system?

Lots of thanks!

any comments or suggestions are appreciated.

my email address:

Daniel Makini Getuno said...

Emerging technologies in e-Learning is simply captivating. I am a new blogger and am really inspired by the e-Learning-Restaurant analogy.


The reason why eLearning must have chat, forums etc. is because the learning environment has to be managed by someone.

The learners' progress ought to be known by the tutor so that appropriate reinforcements can be given to assist learners through a course.

I have othe eLearning problems which I would like to share later