Saturday, November 5, 2011

Shhh An Academic Went to #DevLearn

Don't tell any of the attendees at #DevLearn2011 but there was an academic in their midst this week! In fact, I was warned in advance not to "act like an academic." Since I profess right from the title of this blog to be ignorant, I decided that this was yet another area of my ignorance.

Truth be told though I wasn't the only academic at #DevLearn! We were however a minority population and we shouldn't be. This is one of my big takeaways from a wonderful conference! I have a whole series of takeaways and Aha's to share.

For those who are not aware #DevLearn is one of a series of conferences put on by @eLearningGuild #DevLearn has the well-deserved reputation of being the foremost, and the edgiest, conference on eLearning.

The underground definition of eLearning is corporate eLearning, aka The Training Department. One of the major buzzes throughout the conference was how to make training more informal, social, just-in-time, experiential, collaborative...
Hmm! Wait a minute, I hear a lot of these terms when talking about how to make K-12 and higher education better. I am sure though there is some big difference between the corporate and the academic versions of eLearning.
So I kept my mouth pretty much shut and continued to listen. In one of my first conversations a gentleman was talking about the conversion of his face-to-face (f2f) two day 8 hours/day training into an online format.
Those who know me well know that the term conversion is a hot button. I firmly believe eLearning cannot be "converted" from f2f. Courses, training, whatever you call the learning events, must be engineered completely differently than f2f trainings if they are going to be effective.
This gentleman went on to say that converting the trainings into 8 hour online sessions wasn't effective for the facilitators or the learners. He was looking to chunk the content more, stretch out the training, give people time to absorb the information and practice the skills.
Sounds a lot like teaching best practices in general. In fact his f2f sessions would probably be a candidate for chunking the content and giving folks time to practice the skills. But once again, I was thinking like an academic. I nodded in agreement but didn't once mention pedagogy or learning theory or brain research but he sure could have used some of that knowledge about how people learn.
There were many such times throughout the conference experience. I left Las Vegas yesterday thinking...
  1. K-12 and higher education are doing a LOT of eLearning. They should be at this table in eLearning Guild, and at #DevLearn talking about and thinking about how people best learn online.
  2. Corporate eLearning and instructional designers could learn a lot from "academics" and academics can learn a lot from corporate folks. We should be encouraging this conversation, not discouraging it.
  3. eLearning whether it is corporate or academic is still, despite all the talk about informal learning, organized around training events. Call them courses which are a semester long, or an 8 hour 2 day training (both are training events), there is very little true informal learning happening.
And shhhh I am told that a certain Russian educational theorist... by name Vygotsky, was mentioned in a Friday morning presentation. I saw it on the Tweet stream! I guess I am not the only one who needs to not "act like an academic!" Vygotsky... Vygotsky! Still laughing!

This ignorant academic has more insights about #DevLearn, informal learning, how people learn. Stay tuned!


  1. Hi Kay! First of all, it was a pleasure to meet you. You are right on!
    I'd say the time is right for eLearning in academic settings and eLearning in corporate settings to be sharing best practices. While there are some fundamental differences in the goals and objectives of each, many of the best practices in one area can be utilized effectively by the other. It does not need to be either/or.
    I look forward to more academics taking advantage of the Guild's academic discounts and joining the conversation already in progress.

  2. Thanks Brent! I look forward to the conversations!

  3. I must own up. I'm the one who uttered Vygotsky in my session. Nobody gasped, not audibly.

    Agree with you. Elearning on earth and in academia are more kin than not. I've done a little research on it. See what you think.

    Marshall, J. & Rossett, A. (2011). Mapping the e-learning terrain. International Journal on E-Learning, 10 (2), 27-56.

    Rossett, A. & Marshall, James. (January, 2010). E-learning. What’s old is new again. Training & Development.

    Hope to meet you at DevLearn next year-- or elsewhere.