Thursday, September 04, 2014

eLearnChat Interview: Rick Zanotti and Dawn J. Mahoney

I had a great time on the webshow, eLearnChat, with host Rick Zanotti and fellow elearning expert Dawn J. Mahoney -- they are quite funny when they start riffing and I have to say it was seriously fun. We talked about new trends in training, and how to be effective in a global context when we're looking at very specific topics and areas for training.

A great time was had by all -- I was in lovely Guadalajara, Mexico, where friends, culture, climate, and bandwidth are the best

I'm still smiling. I suspect that the Gizmo the Corgi (aka E-Learning Queen) is not... Things were said... Secrets revealed...

At any rate, I encourage you to kick back and stream...
eLearnChat, with Rick Zanotti and Dawn J. Mahoney

Friday, August 29, 2014

Business Simulations: Improving Applications - Interview with Veijo Kyosti, Cesim - Innovators in E-Learning Series

Business simulations and other types of interactive elearning are more important than ever, especially as the simulations have more connections to real-world applications and problems. Welcome to an interview with Veijo Kyösti of Cesim, a Finnish educational technology company.

1.  What is your name and your relation to elearning?

My name is Veijo Kyösti, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Cesim, a Finland based educational technology company focused on developing business simulation games for higher education institutions and corporations. I have been in the industry for over 15 years and am deeply passionate about closing the gap between business theory and the skills actually needed in the workforce today.

Veijo Kyösti, Co-Founder & Managing Director of Cesim

2.  What do you see as the benefits of simulations?

Simulations are an excellent tool for instructors to illuminate a variety of business concepts in a risk free online environment that is built on the principle of learning by doing. Students gain invaluable teamwork, decision-making and problem solving skills amongst others, and will better understand the interconnectedness of a company’s functional areas. Employers often lament the divide between the knowledge of graduates and the skills needed in the workforce, so by understanding what drives profitability before ever having worked at a real organisation, students will significantly improve their chances of employment after graduation.

You can read more about the benefits of business simulations here.

3.  What are some of the newest developments in simulations?

We are seeing an increased demand for more ways to evaluate the performance of students, so we have recently rolled out the individual results feature which allows instructors to assess students  one by one in addition to the default team performance.

Increased modularity and customization is also something we are trying to improve with every iteration, so that instructors can take our off the shelf products and modify them easily if they want to. This is a great way to keep the simulation content fresh from one semester to another.

4.  What are some of the business simulations you've developed? Please describe a few of them. Please include screen shots.

We have a range of discipline and industry specific simulations  including Cesim Global Challenge (strategy & international business), Cesim SimFirm (general management), Cesim OnService (SME & entrepreneurship), Cesim SimBrand (marketing management), Cesim Hospitality (hotel & restaurant management) and Cesim Bank (banking & finance).

5.  How are your business simulations being used? Where? Who uses them

The simulations are most typically used in graduate and undergraduate business courses by instructors at higher education institutions, as well as in corporate training programs by facilitators. Over 300 institutions around the world have used our business simulations to teach 100k+ participants.

More business simulations success stories can be found on our website.

6. What is the future of business simulations?

Generally speaking the potential of simulations is still unrealized at the majority of organizations so there is plenty of room for further growth. In order to facilitate the educational institutions and industry tapping into the full potential of simulations, vendors need to provide simulations that are easy to use, flexible, cost-effective, and link concretely to the learning objectives. In addition, since the overarching learning trend is towards e-learning and blended learning the simulations must be fully compatible with that development.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Interview with Chris Charuhas, In Pictures: Innovators in E-Learning Series

Computer tutorials are often difficult to follow if they do not have effective graphics.  To correct that gap, In Pictures provides graphics-based instruction for all kinds of learners. These illustration-based computer tutorials that are free for any student or teacher to use, and available at were developed through a research study funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education. There are new tutorials, on Office 365 and Google Drive applications. Considering the rapid adoption of Google Apps in schools, this might be of interest.

Welcome to an interview with Chris Charuhas, founder of In Pictures. 

1.  What is your name and your relation to elearning?

Chris Charuhas. I've been involved in elearning since 2000, when I started a company that provided textbooks in electronic format. That was Visibooks, an early provider of textbooks as bound books, and as PDFs. With In Pictures, we've decided to move the learning materials online. 

With the widespread adoption of larger monitors, online tutorials have become a more attractive proposition. You pull the tutorial off to one side, which leaves room for you to view the program you’re learning. Viewing both simultaneously makes it easier to take a tutorial. 

Chris Charuhas, In Pictures

2. What is your philosophy with respect to elearning? What approach do you see as being most effective?

I conducted a U.S. Dept. of Education-funded research study on what sort of learning materials are most effective: 

The study showed me that simpler is better when it comes to elearning tutorials: fewer words, more pictures, and proceeding step-by-step. It's also why our tutorials employ screenshots instead of video. Screenshots that show how to do things step-by-step are simpler and easier to work along with. 

3.  What do you believe is the best way to present technical training?

Online. In a simple, self-paced tutorial, based on real-world tasks. Each task should build upon what was learned previously. 

When people can feel themselves progressing through a tutorial, performing more complex tasks as they go, it gives them a feeling of confidence and accomplishment. That's very important in learning new things, as all teachers know! 

4.  What are some of the challenges? 

Creating the hundreds of screenshots required by each tutorial. Each screenshot must be taken, processed for size and color, and have the blue "look at this" oval placed on it. This is a time-consuming process. 

Then hundreds of pages must be linked together to comprise a full tutorial. Web coding is tricky--one small mistake can derail an entire tutorial, so each tutorial must be carefully checked and edited. 

5.  Please discuss the training that you've developed.

It's based on the idea that Show is better than Tell in learning technical subjects. What people can see, they find it easier to do. And learn. 

We've gotten kudos from people all over the world, praising this approach. It lends itself well to learners who might not speak English very well. For example, in India, where most people speak Hindi as their first language, over 2000 people have used our tutorials this month. 

6.  What do you have planned in the future? 

Supplemental tutorials for Office 365 applications that are more in-depth, such as creating complex queries in Access, using Excel like a database, and employing multimedia in PowerPoint presentations. 

Also, we plan to create complete tutorials on Google Forms and Sites. Creating an interactive, data-gathering Web site should be as easy to accomplish as creating a Word document. We aim to help make that happen. 

Thank you!

Monday, August 04, 2014

Mr. Midshipman Easy (1836) by Frederick Marryat: Mini-Lecture - Learning Object

Welcome to a mini-lecture learning object on one of the first sea novels, or "nautical tales," Mr. Midshipman Easy (1836) by Captain Frederick Marryat.  The full text is available at Internet Archive. An audio recording is available via Librivox. To access the interactive learning object, please click the Learning Object Link.

learning object by susan smith nash, ph.d.: mr. midshipman easy
Click the graphic to go to the learning object for Mr. Midshipman Easy, an early novel-length nautical tale  by Captain Frederick Marryat.

Mr. Midshipman Easy (1836) by Captain Frederick Marryat
Mini-Lecture by Susan Smith Nash, Ph.D.

About the Author:  Frederick Marryat (1792-1848)

Frederick Marryat joined the British Royal Navy as a midshipman at the age of 14, which seems astonishingly young from a 21st century perspective. The son of a very wealthy “merchant prince,” Marryat had more or less completed an education at an English public school, with a grounding in Greek and Roman classics, mathematics, history, and geography, which put him ahead of many of his time. 

Distinguishing himself as a naval officer, and rising to the rank of Captain, Marryat served in a unique time

Like William Dampier, who was the captain of a vessel in the Royal British Navy a century before, Marryat was interested in science and in writing memoirs, many of which became very influential. Dampier inspired Defoe (Robinson Crusoe) and Jonathan Swift (Gulliver’s Travels). Marryat is known as the inventor of the “sea story,” and there are echoes of Mr. Midshipman Easy in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

Mr. Midshipman Easy (1836)
This is a very entertaining tale, part picaresque novel, part travel adventure. In tracing the life of Jack Easy, the indulged son of a very wealthy trader-turned-philosophe, and a mild-mannered, apocalyptic leaning mother, the number of adventures experienced at sea by a young midshipman, all before age 15, creates a narrative that contains echoes of Gargantua and Pantagruel (Rabelais), Swift (Gulliver’s Travels), and Daniel Defoe (Robinson Crusoe).

Picaresque Novel: Mr. Midshipman Easy is easily as picaresque as Lazarillo de Tormes (1554) and Voltaire’s Candide (1762) in the sense that it traces the adventures of a young man who must live by his wits and who filters all his experiences through eyes and perspectives muddied by naivete and/or hopelessly idealistic philosophies.

Candide is poisoned by being immersed by Pangloss who adheres to Leibniz’s philosophy of optimism. Jack Easy is similarly blinded by his father, Nicodemus Easy, who, as a self-described philosopher, is a fervent admirer of the French philosophes whose idea of equality and the rights of man lead him to criticize society.

Jack’s father gives a very generous loan to a captain who desires to outfit a privateer, and thus repay the loan with interest and profit based on “prizes” captured in the legalized piracy practiced by nations which could not afford to outfit a navy, and thus incentivized private ships to attack ships of enemy states and disable them (and the countries’ economies) by seizing the ships and their cargo.

The captain (Captain Wilson) is grateful and thus has a paternal regard for the young midshipman, and so Jack’s echoes of his father’s views are comical in context (rather than tragic and/or mutinous as they would probably appear in reality). Jack enjoys a charmed life, and his frequent disquisitions on his philosophy are comical, and also critique the views of the philosophes and revolutionaries.

Criticism of Corruption in the Catholic Church:  Very much like Candide and Rabelais’s Gargantua and Pantagruel, Mr. Midshipman Easy contains extremely biting criticism of the Catholic Church, in particular the role of priests and confessors, who practice deception, poisoning, thievery, and all other sorts of misdeeds to obtain wealth, property, and control. Jack encounters scheming, deceitful priests in Sicily, Malta, and in Spain, which are illustrated in encounters that are humorous as well as insightful. While it is also other things, the novel is a satire of society, particularly in its view of religion (the Catholic Church), and certain forms of government and the unpinning philosophies.

Problematizing the “Noble Savage” and Stereotypes of Africans: Travel memoirs were filled with the idea of the “noble savage,” dating back to Bartolome de las Casas Historia de las Incas (1561) and then employed by Montaigne in his essay, “On Cannibals” (1580) and John Dryden during the Restoration (1670s) in The Conquest of Granada. The “noble savage” is viewed as the “other” and the psychological gulf between an indigenous person (whether native American or African) was considered to be almost insuperable – either whether viewed as overly innocent or the embodiment of evil.

Marryat’s character, “Mesty” (short for Mephistopheles Faustus) is an African who was a king in his own tribe, then captured and transported on a slave ship to America, where he was a slave. He escaped, then fled to New York, where he found that attitudes toward blacks were not healthy, even though slavery was outlawed. So, he joined a ship and set for England. He finds employment on the Aurora as a servant. Mesty is the real hero of Mr. Midshipman Easy, and his complex, paradoxical, wise views and actions ground narrative, while at times providing moments of broad comedy as English snobbery, religious hypocrisy, and human nature are exposed.

Life as a Privateer: Quintessence of the Quest for Meaningful Human Employment
The job of the privateer to attack, loot, and plunder is viewed as a form of game and is almost grotesquely sentimentalized, if one is seeking historical verisimilitude. The question remains: in this novel, is being a privateer the quintessence of the quest for meaningful human employment, or, a critique of colonialism? In Mr. Midshipman Easy, dogged adherence to historical fact is not the purpose of this tale, which is more of a romance / adventure. Even the most grotesque elements (the mutinous crew eaten by ground sharks) are comical rather than ghastly or horrific.

Summary: A Sea Tale?
Mr. Midshipman Easy (1836) is a very entertaining tale, part picaresque novel, part travel adventure.

The novel traces the live of young Jack Easy, the indulged son of a very wealthy trader-turned-philosophe and a mild-mannered, cowed-by-the-apocalypse mother.

By incorporating a number of adventures experienced at sea by a young midshipman, all before age 15, Marryat creates a narrative that contains echoes of Gargantua and Pantagruel (Rabelais), Gulliver’s Travels (Jonathan Swift) and Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe).

Friday, August 01, 2014

Mexico’s Energy Reform: Success Requires Knowledge, Plus Partnership Mindset

Mexico has six basins that produce oil and gas, and tremendous offshore, deep Gulf of Mexico resources. There is also shale potential in formations that extend south from the South Texas Eagle Ford. Still, according to statistics released by Pemex, Mexico’s oil and gas production has declined 25% since the 1980s. The problem has stemmed partially from a lack of investment, and difficulties in implementing new technologies to explore for and develop resources.

The need to attract foreign investment was behind the December 2013 decision to break up the state oil monopoly and some analysts have predicted up to $25 billion could flow in, starting with the companies that are currently involved in the Eagle Ford, just across the border.

If you’re a foreign investor, where can you benefit? Probably the safest bet would be to go to Mexico’s established production, such as the Golden Lane (the analogy would be that of companies taking a position in the Permian Basin). Then, focus on enhanced oil recovery, along with exploiting other zones (such as shale) for a “stacked pay” strategy.

The Golden Lane, located in Veracruz and Tampico, was first developed in 1909 which coincided with the Mexican Civil War (1910-20). Most Americans are not aware that the U.S. Marines occupied Veracruz from April - November, 1914. It did not have anything (directly) to do with the development of the Golden Lane, but is an interesting historical fact.

Those who have nerves of steel can turn to the Gulf of Mexico and explore in the complex Perdido fold belt, where Pemex’s Supremus-1 and the Trion-1 are so stunningly promising that they tempt one to name a new field after a science fiction behemoth.

Flowery rhetoric aside, the potential in Mexico is real. Those who take the time to educate themselves and also to maintain a mindset of partnership have an opportunity to get in on the ground floor in different phases of exploration and development, and to develop solid relationships.

There will undoubtedly be many changes as the Energy Reform is implemented, and perhaps even controversy, so it’s very important to seek to establish relationships with knowledgeable partners in Mexico who share the same goals.

Don’t Miss: AAPG’s e-symposium on Mexico’s oil and gas opportunities // August 21 with expert Alfredo Guzman

Monday, June 30, 2014

George Gissing's In the Year of Jubilee (1895): Mini-Lecture & Interactive Learning Object

Late Victorian writer George Gissing and his works are not well known, but they are emotionally gripping, psychologically realistic, and ultimately both destabilizing and reinforcing of how we come to understand the world around us vis-a-vis rapid cultural and technological change. To correct the fact that his works have slipped into invisibility, The Fringe Journal is launching a series of learning object mini-lectures. E-Learning Queen is providing a mirror site of these entries of The Fringe Journal. 

In the Year of Jubilee (1894) is the first in this series. You may click the link, or the graphic to access the interactive learning object. The full text transcript appears below. You may access the full text of the book at Project Gutenberg. There is an audio recording of In the Year of Jubilee at

George Gissing: In the Year of Jubilee  (1894)

TEXT TRANSCRIPT:  In the Year of Jubilee (1894) by George Gissing
Mini-Lecture by Susan Smith Nash, Ph.D.

In the Year of Jubilee (1895) is, as other novels by George Gissing, extremely sympathetic toward women. It takes place in the late Victorian world where there is more access and communication with far flung regions, and where the British Empire has enriched the nation.

However, Gissing's is also a complex word where one step outside the norms results in a loss of marriage prospects, a loss of inheritance, loss of social standing, and the potential for disease and literal starvation.
About "Jubilee"

Jubilee refers to the 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s reign, and also to the biblical concept of “Jubilee” a year in which property reverts to its proper owner.

Gissing’s novel starts with the Jubilee celebrations, which usher in disruptions.

The old order is turned upside down, and new enterprises are built upon false appearances, short cuts, and vanity.  They replace what came before.

Nancy Lord: Trapped in a Social Caste System and Gender
At the center of the narrative is Nancy Lord, the daughter of a successful piano dealer. She has been raised to a higher level than what might be expected, with the idea that education ushers in social mobility. Thus, she aims higher than previous generations may have dared to do, given that her father was in "trade," and not a gentleman (by Victorian standards).

Despite the fact that her father is in trade, Nancy's mother, who abandoned the family when Nancy was a toddler, was in fact, born of gentry. The mother, however, displays little innate nobility is a shallow woman who it seems will do anything to live in luxury.

Nancy’s mother rather hypocritically condemns the sisters, Fanny and Beatrice French, daughters of a wealthy builder, and their lives in a large home in a new suburb of London. 

Fraud and skill fakery are keys to success in this new world where mass production, advertising, distribution, and credit make it possible for women and men to achieve the appearance of the upward mobility as they do what they can to actually achieve higher places in society.

Jubilee: Restoration with Resignation

The restoration of money to rightful owners takes a long, convoluted path in the narrative of the novel, which includes attempts to hide Nancy’s marriage (and baby) in order to avoid losing her inheritance, and the ultimate unmasking of unsavory business practices on the part of spiteful, vindictive members of the sisters French.

At the same time, the energetic and entrepreneurial-spirited self-invented Luckworth Crewe, achieves wealth in the newly emerging business of advertising and public relations.

Apocalypse and the Jubilee

Jubilee is, at its heart, deeply apocalyptic, because it suggests a new order, or at least a return to natural distribution and order. Apocalypse is a theme that is a theme that occurs throughout Gissing’s work. Change refers the destruction of the old and a replacement of the new.

The purpose is to either rid oneself of old inequities or to create a vibrant world of technology (trains, telegraph, newspapers, gas lights).

At the same time, however, the world to be replaced already contains the consequences of change, including poisonous, lung-searing fog, dark, crowded urban landscapes, and hunger, both physical and psychological.

Women and Education: New Access, but to what end?

Gissing rails against the useless schooling that is bandied about as women’s “education” and the socially-encouraged destructive in-fighting, competition, dependence on others, enslavement in marriage, and lack of self-determination.

Gissing also suggests that when a friend of Nancy who works as a governess, Jessica suffers a nervous breakdown as she tried to pass an exam in order to matriculate at London University.

As Gissing depicts the situation, Jessica does not collapse because she is intellectually incapable, but because it is too difficult to work full-time as a governess and try to study all night (instead of eating and sleeping).

Further, Jessica must combat the ridicule and negativity of the men who scoff at her goals.


George Gissing’s late Victorian naturalistic novel, In the Year of Jubilee (1894) concerns itself with both people and property, and how both are both lost and gained in both material and metaphorical senses. 

Using people and property as a point of departure, the novel also addresses change in society: the changing roles of women, the impact of technological and commercial innovations, and about education’s form and impact in late Victorian times.

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