Friday, June 22, 2007

Reflecting on Stephen Downes's Trends and Impacts of eLearning 2.0

I have just worked my way through a combination of the video of Stephen's presentation in Taipei, together with the slides. I suspect some of the slides may have been missing from the end, but by that time, I didn't need them anyway.

A couple of observational nonsequiturs to start with:

  • I noticed that Stephen was enunciating very clearly and carefully, especially at the start - presumably out of repsect for the fact that Enlgish would not be the first language of many of his audience
  • I don't know whether it was due to the setup of the sound recording system, but the audience seemed very quiet - no laughs, no heckling, no interruptions, none of what South Africans call "chirping from the peanut gallery". I imagine this is a cultural thing and, if previous recordings I have heard of Stephen's presentations are anything to go by, it must have been quite a novel experience for him!
Much of what Stephen had to say was not really new to those of us who have been involved in this amorphous conversation for the past while. However, it was interesting to hear it all packaged together and presented as a journey.

And although he never once mentioned the word as far as I can recall, he sang my song: the song of learner empowerment. I wax lyrical and come over all misty-eyed on the subject of learner empowerment. I have this almost protective passion for the learner, and I tend to husband their cause with vim, vigour and volume.

What really cracked it for me was the realisation that, in my current projects, I have been designing solutions that aim for exactly what Stephen is describing and I have instinctively striven towards all the D's Stephen lists at the end of his presentation:
  • Decentralisation
  • Distribution
  • Disintermediation
  • Disaggregation
  • Disintegration
  • Democratisation
  • Dynamism
  • Desegregation
Yes, yes and yes. All of the above. I won't bore you with the detail, but I could explain how my solutions tick all those boxes. I love it. So I tend to bounce all labrador puppy and jolly hockey sticks into the meeting with the client and all but shout "Tada!" as I unveil the concept. But you know what? They seldom like it. Much of the market doesn't seem to be ready to embrace 2.0 just yet. To them user-driven online resources are an information resource, not a learning resource. They want it wrapped for elearning. They want courses.

I am so sure I know what they should have, what they should do, but they have a different certainty - they know what they know... and they sign the cheque.


Stephen Downes said...

Part of the cause for the silence is the recording and part the audience. My own reaction was that they were very attentive and interested - which was very reassuring to me as a presenter.

Anonymous said...


I tend to agree; most of the corporate market in particular isn't ready for anything 2.0. (Maybe you can blame software upgrades for that -- I remember someone referring to one release of Windows as "not an upgrade but a recall.")

If you rounded up the usual suspects, you'd need a big paddy wagon: intransigence, a vision of training as the little corporate schoolhouse, a disconnect between "people are our most important asset" and "maximize profit."

Not a little blame might go toward the field: jargon-hobbled advocates, hyperventilating early adopters, condescending academics who don't have a real boss, and overwhelmed practitioners desperate for anything that seems to address a perceived need.

To say nothing of the enablers who supply them. Just how many content reviews via Jeopardy games does the world really need?

I hope you continue to seek opportunities to try what you believe will work for your clients (and to document whether it does). In the U.S., over 86% of all workers work for someone else (as opposed to working for themselves), and nearly half of them work for organizations with 500 or more people.

That tells me a few things.

First, loose joining notwithstanding, the larger organization isn't about to disappear.

Second, there's a whole lotta opportunity out there, and if you can convince your client you understand its business and its needs, you can help seize that opportunity.

Third, you don't have to call it empowerment or disintermediation. In the same way you start with where the learner is, see if you can start where the client is. "Here's a way to tie training to real-life results..."

Not foolproof (there are always more and better fools), but sometimes you make some progress.

Anonymous said...

"hyperventilating early adopters" - love it! You've bugged my office, right? I recently described myself as the one who tries to "evangelise the eye-rollers". Same thing.

And as for the "little corporate schoolhouse" - you had me in stitches. You're obviously a man who's been there!

Thanks for the advice and the encouragement, Dave, and for bringing a smile to my day.