Monday, February 28, 2011
Friday, February 25, 2011
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Monday, February 07, 2011
1. What is your name and your relation to elearning?
Julie Ogilvie. I’m the vice president of corporate marketing for SkillSoft – an e-learning provider.
2. What kinds of elearning does Skillsoft offer?
SkillSoft is primarily known for its vast collection of off-the-shelf e-learning content which serves a broad range of business needs such as needs such as compliance, IT, business (soft) skills, project management, leadership development, desktop application and customer service. Our content takes many forms – courses, online books, videos and simulations and also comes in 19 languages. Customers can use the content as-is or customize it using tools that we offer. Many of our customers have adopted our products because they just have so many needs, they simply can’t keep up with the demand. Off-the-shelf learning products are a great fit for today’s overburdened training professionals who are simply swamped by the constantly changing and growing needs of their global learner populations.
We also provide the technology to deliver, manage and track learning. Our SkillPort platform is a SaaS solution used by over 2,000 customers and 7 million end users. We also work with many clients who use third party learning management systems – and often our customers have a hybrid environment.
What is most important is finding a way to deliver learning that makes it easy for the employee to access and apply the learning – so in the last several years we’ve been developing products that are geared around helping employees get to the learning and find what they need quickly - things like our KnowledgeCenters which are learning portals that focus on a particular topic and bring together all of the formal and informal learning resources in one location.
3. What are the ways in which Skillsoft offers mobile learning / training?
What is your view of assessment in mobile learning? Currently, most of our customers are looking for mobile learning solutions that are geared more toward “performance support” than “formal training.” As such, they are looking to deliver information that employees need to answer questions and solve problems when they are away from their desks. Our Books24x7 On The Go platform is designed specifically for this; it allows users to search for answers from the thousands of business and technical titles contained in our Books24x7 collections. They can even view our Leadership Development Channel QuickTalks on their phones…this has been very popular with field-based populations such as sales reps and executives.
We do recognize that as the mobile options continue to grow, so will the demand for mobile learning solutions, including formal training that requires assessments. We are actively working with customers to support these needs right now.
4. How is Skillsoft responding to new eLearning trends? What are the trends you see the most promising in the next 12 - 18 months?
E-learning trends are a by-product of the overall work environment. All of us are being asked to do more work, get things done in shorter timeframes and wear more hats. For learning professionals, these effects have been especially acute. Many of our customers are struggling to deliver high-quality learning experiences with limited budget and resources. They have had to take a new view of their work – shifting from the viewpoint of “instructor” to more of a supply-chain expert – looking for ways to ensure a smooth flow of current, consistent, quality resources to meet skill demands of hundreds of job roles.
In our world this has translated into customers asking for a more modular approach to e-learning – “bite-sized” learning that can fit into busy schedules. So today many of our learning experiences are designed to be consumed in less than 5 minutes. Even formal training courses are now often designed for use in an hour rather than 2-3 hours, which used to be the standard.
Learner expectations are also driving changes in e-learning. They want rich learning experiences that engage them in the topic. In recent years that has led SkillSoft down a path of increasing the availability of video, gaming techniques and other rich media. Our customers have found that their learners react very positively to these approaches, and it increases the likelihood that learners will be pro-actively seek out additional learning on their own.
The other trend in the workplace is that now when learners have question or a problem they think “Google it!” We see more and more that even the assets we have designed for “formal learning” are being used in a just-in-time, informal way. The importance of an effective search engine cannot be overstated. Many companies have recognized that time spent searching for answers is a productivity drain, and on top of that, the “answers” available on the Internet aren’t always the right ones. This is leading to a greater appreciation of the need for vetted, expert content in combination with a search function that can quickly pinpoint the most relevant passages.
5. How are training needs changing in today's workplace?
Training needs are expanding but the time available for training is contracting. Today’s workforce is under pressure. Many companies have needed to downsize in the past couple of years, which means employees need to do more work in more different areas. They have needed to learn new skills, and they have had less time to devote to doing it! These are the trends that are producing greater demand for all kinds of online learning that can be accessed during the “in between” times in the work day.
6. Please recommend two books you've recently read.
Here is a book that I would recommend to everyone - The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor. Shawn spoke at our user conference last year, and I have to say it was a life-altering event for me! So I dashed out to get his book when it became available. What you will find compelling in this book is that the ideas expressed are backed up by research on how the brain works. As learning people we can appreciate this. The book is full of wit and insight that you will think about and use in your life (at least I have in mine).
Another book I would recommend is The Daily Drucker: 366 Days of Insight and Motivation for Getting the Right Things Done. I happened to pick this up because an executive in our company was speaking at the annual Drucker Symposium in Vienna this past year. I knew about Peter Drucker – “the father of management” – but I didn’t realize how vast his influence has been on our way of working and thinking. Drucker believes that continuous learning is essential to creating a culture of innovation – and this is something that learning professionals should take to the bank! This little book is good way to get into Drucker in nice bite-sized chunks.
Thursday, February 03, 2011
In honor of the amazing weather most of the country has experienced over the last week, I thought I'd post something a bit different -- a mystery, of sorts. Enjoy! (from Gizmo, the Corgi)
Last week, they found a woman’s body buried in a neighbor’s backyard. Granted, it was not a next-door neighbor, and it’s true I did not know her. Yet, I felt a grip of sadness blended with revulsion. Her children said they never liked the woman’s boyfriend. The woman’s mother said she knew her daughter loved the man who eventually killed her. The four-bedroom, three-bathroom red brick house in the once expensive neighborhood did not look like one where you’d find a body – it’s a mere mile away from multimillion dollar homes. But, that particular house (on a nice corner lot) had been sitting vacant for 8 months, and the ex-con killer was a “friend” of the owner of the house. Some friend. There had to be more to the story than met the eye.
When the huge ice storm rolled in, it came accompanied with thunder and lightning. Ice fell from the sky as flashes of light and loud cracks of thunder made an unsettling prelude to the foot of snow and inches of ice that would soon coat the entire countryside.
The guys at the office building refused to clear the snow while it was still loose and fluffy; consequently it turned into an ice brick at least four inches deep in front of the doors, on the steps, walkways, and the porch.
Ah yes, and I was reminded of how much I love / hate snow and ice; it’s so lovely to see it pile up, and it’s nice when it’s so cold your nose burns when you inhale. Snowboundedness has its charm. It’s interesting to see how your mind goes into different nooks and crannies when you’re feeling contemplative, thoughtful, uninterrupted except by your compulsions to raid the refrigerator one more time and to run through the array of movies you can stream on hulu.com and the latest youtube videos. It’s also nice to lose oneself in podcasts, especially the ones that tell us people’s stories. Revelations, confessions, unveilings: it feels as though it’s happening to me – I’m crawling through the dark, wet basements of my own heart. And still, the ice beats against the window.
We’re getting used to these rough storms.
We need a new narrative for the twenty-first century. The old political and economic narratives are just not working.
Could we say the same thing about the psychological and sociological narratives? Oh yes, I believe so.
The connectedness we claim that occurs with social networks is really disconnectedness. Don’t you see it?
You read this and you think you’re connected to me, and I hope and pray I’m connected to you, but I’m really just connected to thoughts I throw out there to the cloud, to be (I hope!) ever-present, ever accessible. And yet, it means that they’re always out there intensely ephemeral and I’ll never really take possession of my own thoughts, my own essence – and I’ll never really touch you. I’ve lost that ability. All I have is the ability to envision the concept of touching. But you’re not really able to get into my heart the way you once were able to, and I’m not able to crawl deep into your nerve endings.
We just aren’t that raw any more. We have the soft armor of “the cloud” which keeps everything nicely phantasmic (isn’t that what we should, by rights, call the images we see, the noises we hear, and yet can’t really embrace … can’t ever really put our arms around their vital, beating hearts – all we get is this nice, infinitely echoing simulacra).
But there are some narratives that seem to be utterly timeless, even though we would prefer them not to be –the apocalyptic narrative, for one.
I was once loose and fluffy but somewhere along the way, started to melt, refreeze, then melt again.
The cold draft curls itself around the floor, the walls, the sliding glass door, which is surprisingly clear considering it’s 2 below zero out there in the cold, dark Tulsa night.
If I say I have real feelings -- I still remember -- what will you say?
I used to look at life in one way; then started to look at in an utterly different manner. What changed? All that empty space in the sky? I’m not entirely sure.
I used to let myself leap off various intellectual cliffs, with little or no regard to the fact I might not ever come down. Groundedness was not something I particularly desired – to be weighted down without those soaring thoughts that took me out to distant planets seemed to be one of the saddest facts of consciousness one could possibly imagine.
There are still things I won’t tell anyone. I won’t share the night panics, the dark fears in the middle of the night, the refusal to let anyone ever enter my home or my apartment unless it was to clean, repair, or to go with me as I grabbed my keys, purse, and computer on the way to a road trip of the mind.
It was cold tonight when I made my way across the frozen street. I had almost forgotten the way that snow crunches when it approaches 0 degrees Fahrenheit. You take the chance to walk across the street with nothing but your wits and your ability to slide on wet, uneven ice that grips the asphalt.
This morning, I saw a man walking down the snow-packed side street, relief flowing through his eyes and his entire face. He had a 12-pack of Budweiser still in the plastic bag from QuikTrip. Did the blizzard have the unintended consequence of propelling addicts and alcoholics into unwelcome detox? I could only imagine the discomfort of cramps and hallucinations in the 3 degree pre-dawn hours.
Breathe in deeply even though the cold air burns your nose.
It takes courage to do what you’ve done all your life. You’ve examined your own thoughts with the idea of developing the ultimate “urtext” to knit together all those distant hot suns that twinkle like cold little nightlight stars in my heart and my mind.
You’re letting yourself think your own thoughts, listen to your own mind.
I’m not there any more. I prefer to let the workplace exigencies dominate my own narratives; in other words, I’ve become an approval seeker, and I have substituted the security of a predictable cause-effect relationship (customers want a product, I deliver it, they reward me with a pat on the back, and I happily eat the treat tossed my way) for the randomness and unpredictability of thoughts / emotions. I’ve learned to discipline my mind. I have learned to marshal my emotions. I’ve learned to manufacture “bliss.” And, I’ve forgotten how to be a human being.
In the early twentieth century, the possibility that we’d build robots that would eventually supplant and rule us was a terrifying possibility. We were, as factory workers, quite inferior to machines. Later, androids become not just more physically predictable but also more cognitively agile.
Then came the bionic men and women of the popular imagination.
Now, with our tools, we are already bionic. We don’t even need genetic engineering and medically engineered implants and parts.
It’s easy to think of ourselves as invulnerable as long as we’re on the inside looking out to drifts of snow and cold, dark skies.
But then, the frailties kick in. We get bronchitis. We get the flu. We pull tendons and we aren’t able to assert ourselves in the same way. Do we get kicked out of The Cloud? Do we become invisible, except for the false self that gets the most hits?
I’m not sure how to ask you these questions. You asked me if I’d come apart if you left me (died), and we both know the answer is “yes.” Is the fear of loss any reason to avoid being together? Yes, of course. That’s how it is these days. If things can’t be perfect, we’ll just stay in our web-surfing haze.
Obviously we need to learn how to enjoy the pain of our own humanity. I’m not very brave. So we must enjoy our lives now, no matter how trite that sentiment might seem. That’s what it means to be brave.
Despite the permanence and impermanence of The Cloud, you and I are neither permanent nor impermanent. We just run, run, run trying to outdistance the awareness of our existential condition.
And, well, I feel sadness for the poor woman whose body was buried in the backyard of a soon-to-be foreclosed house.
(note: graphics by susan smith nash)
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