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Presidents, prosciutto and the joys of the British public transport system – dinner conversation at the 4th European Articulate Conference

For someone who believes conversation is one of the most powerful tools for learning, having the pleasure of sitting with Don Freda and Tom Kuhlmann from Articulate last night made for a great evening.Image

In amongst the discussions talk of the Euro, the race to the White House, the beauty and relaxed paced of the US North West vs the buzz and history of the US North East, the kindness of strangers when abandoned at Doncaster because of a signal failure of the British rail network, we got round to online learning too!  

The combination of realism but undeniable passion for what they do was truly refreshing and hearing about the various ‘groupies’ they have encountered along the way was not only very entertaining but a reflection of how much people appreciate how empowering rapid development tools such as Articulate have been for the learning profession.  I look forward to hearing more from Don and Tom today, as well as the many interesting talks planned for our day.  Fingers crossed for the Articulate Storyline license raffle!  

WillowDNA and the IPA shortlisted in 2012 Peer Awards

We are delighted to announce that the IPA’s Continuous Professional Development programme, the Foundation Certificate has been shortlisted in this year’s Peer Awards For Excellence, supported by The Independent newspaper.  Thanks to everyone at Willow involved in the development of this landmark programme and we are looking forward to the Peer Conference in June. UPDATE: Tickets for the conference are on sale from 16th April.  Visit the Peer Awards 2012 website to book your place.

Defining the role of Instructional Designer

Whilst reviewing our recommended reading list as part of our free tools giveaway ‘5 Days to Success’, I took a quick peek at today’s  offering from Articulate’s Rapid e-Learning Blog and recommend taking a look at their thoughts on the skills instructional designers need to succeed.  It describes very well the people that work with Willow in our great instructional design team but it’s worth considering just a couple of the additional skills needed for successful online learning.

  • What will the learners be doing when they aren’t engaging with your formal learning resources? Understanding the day to day experiences your learners have, the type of conversations they engage in around the topic and the breaking news in that subject.  It takes a course from knowledge acquisition to an active learning experience that is contextually relevant and can move with the times (through well considered discussion topics, articles and group assignments).
  • When would learners like to engage with the learning? If it’s on the way to work, would an ebook on a tablet be welcome? a podcast on their mobile? quick guides and checklists via an app on the way to an important meeting?

Get your free guides to creating great online learning in just 5 days

We are very excited about the launch of our new series of guides on ‘5 days to Success: Creating great online learning in just 1 week’. Our first guide is available down for download from our site here.  It is taken from our ‘5 days to success’ workshop so if you like what you read, why not sign up for a place on our next session on 29th March 2012 at Southwark Cathedral.  Places are currently just £99 for those that book in the next 2 weeks, so secure your place today!

Encouraging results from online delivery of CBT interventions

Very interested to read the BBC News story last week on a paper published in the Lancet recently. It explores the delivery of online therapeutic solutions to teenagers suffering chronic fatigue syndrome. What is particularly interesting is that the intervention used was a form of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) delivered online with access to an expert via discussion boards. With the severe shortage of qualified CBT therapists, it is an exciting way to increase the access to this valuable technique. Being a psychology graduate, it’s really exciting to read, given the proven benefits of CBT as an intervention compared to other therapeutic or pharmacological treatment packages. So if online could provide a highly effective delivery mechanism, this could be very significant indeed.

Sign up for our 5 free tools for online learning success

In conjunction with our one day workshop ‘5 days to success: great online learning in just one week’ on 29th March 2012 at Southwark Cathedral, London, we are giving away a guide a week over the next 5 weeks.  These guides will help you plan, develop and launch great online learning in just 5 days, using techniques from Willow’s Learning Pathway approach. By taking e-learning out of the box, you can take even the most complex subjects online.  Our free guides will help support some of the most important activities to complete in order to develop a great learning design, create great learning resources and encourage great learner interaction. To get your free guides, sign up here.  You’ll also find more information on our workshop and how to book your place here.

Reflections from Berlin…

Brandenburg Gate at night I was not sure what to expect from online educa. It has been a long time since I had the indulgence of attending a conference with no more responsibility than one presentation. This meant I could soak up the days, attend to the sessions and reflect far more than I normally have the space for. So, on board the return flight, I can write of my main takeaways. The first is the scarcity of business presentations and business people at the conference. It was billed as a conference for corporate, education and public sector but the business angle was thin on the ground. What this did allow me to do though, was to attend far more of the education focused sessions. This gave me some insight into take-up in that sector. Some extraordinary examples, like the virtual electronics lab, available 24 hours a day and always accessible multiple times if wanted. The adoption of cloud computing in schools, an ideal solution providing the school has an eye open for the pitfalls, not least of which is the fact that the kids will almost certainly know more than the teachers to start with. My second takeaway was my love-hate relationship I seem to be growing into with the learning gurus. There is this critical mass (critical being the right word) of gurus jumping into the camp of totally informal learning and rubbishing the formal. If I worked in an organisational role responsible for learning I think I would either feel confused or incensed. Of course, informal learning is the great uncounted factor for many in the past. Unrecognised, unsupported and factored out of L&D strategic thinking. But that has been changing for years. Think Etienne Wenger in the 70s and Peer Drucker, a couple of the truly great thinkers on the reality of learning and systems. It is truly excellent that this has gone full pelt with the recent advent of technology in this space that works, is affordable and socially adopted. The reality of organisational life needs both full-on intelligent acceptance of formal (Aka structured) and informal tucked into a supportive, open, challenging culture. Thats hardly new news though. I did think for one moment that one particular guru last week almost accepted that he was wedded to in-crowd learning groups and accepted that there are other just as necessary norms even within the same organisation. Then he spoilt it all by condeming all elearning as totally irrelevant! It was very heartening to see the scenarios created at the conference embracing different types of learning – totally recommend looking at http://learningscenarios.org The trouble I guess, with being a guru, is that you have to back your own brand of wisdom. After all, gurus are vendors too and unpicking your particular take undermines your very own brand. My final takeaway was a surprising one, that an online conference can fail so poorly with adequate technical application at the conference itself. The build up was pretty good, lots of newsletters, albeit as emails, with latest updates and so on. Great myonline facility to pull together your own agenda beforehand. But then came the conference itself. No established #code to enable a consistent twitter dialogue, no interactive technology feedback mechanisms in the sessions, not even a healthy working wifi! Come on Online Educa, you did such a great build up, don’t forget what online means on the day!

Don’t expect an announcement from Michael Gove on this soon…

Boys using Tablet PC ..but this article from the New York Times highlights an interesting investment strategy in some parts of the US education system.  Evidently, some educationalists believe that this could be the next big classroom change and not just as a tool to consume content but to; “replace textbooks, allow students to correspond with teachers and turn in papers and homework assignments, and preserve a record of student work in digital portfolios” There are certainly those that see this as a fad, an exciting gadget whose novelty will quickly wear off.  However, as a learning support tool, there are obvious attractions for a device that can deliver content on such a vast range of topics.  Further still, it has the potential to meet the needs of different learning styles through delivery of material in a range of formats and levels of depth. Now, there’s nothing to suggest that at this moment the Department for Education is launching a huge investment in iPads for schools whilst austerity measures are at the forefront of current affairs.  However it wouldn’t be all that surprising if one of the contenters to the iPad throne in the tablet market were to invest in supply schools as a brand building exercise or even for Apple themselves to explore this as an option.  But it’s certainly an interesting topic to watch.

Willow at Online Educa Berlin 2011

Online Educa Berlin 2011 is the largest global e-learning conference for the corporate, education and public service sectors. OEB 2011 conference theme is ‘New Learning Cultures’.  Focusing on key topics from research-based evidence and new learning environments, as well as 21st century policy development and cutting edge content, tools and technologies, the 17th ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN conference will address key questions in education and business today. As part of the conference programme, Debbie Lawley from Willow will be hosting an interactive workshop on Models of Cultural and Cognitive Development and challenging the accepted ways of creating learning strategies. If you are attending, we hope you can join us on Thursday December 1st at 16.30