Jay Cross
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eLearning Producer 2004
Friday, October 22, 2004
Humidity fogged my glasses the instant I stepped into the parking lot of the Disneyworld Hilton yesterday morning to attend day three of The eLearning Guild’s annual eLearning Producer Conference.

David Holcomb welcomed four hundred and twenty of us, a total that includes sixty or seventy presenters and a dozen vendors. For interaction, small is beautiful. If you wanted to talk with someone, you were assured multiple shots at it. I found that I learned the most from “old masters”such as Bob Mosher, Marc Rosenberg, and Thiagi.

My overall conclusion: In place of yesteryear's search for universal best practices of eLearning, today's practitioners are focused on how to create solutions for specific problems.

Bob Mosher

Bob is Director, Learning and Strategy Evangelism, for Microsoft Learning. He told us the learner population has changed; they are no longer newbies; they don’t want courses. Today’s learners are building on foundation knowledge, not starting from scratch. They want to fill in the gaps, not take a course.

Initial | Continued | Remedial | Upgrade | Transferred

Here are the personas of Microsoft’s learners, what they respond to, and their relative weight in the market. (For more on this, search for personas on Microsoft.com.)

to Technology

à 30%

to Product

à 30%


à 40%


Concepts & foundation

Pedagogical instruction

& tech skills

Demo & lecture

Clasroom instruction

Blended offerings


Hands-in, real world


New form factors

Academic series



We used to think of a spectrum from instructor-led training to eLearning and sometimes a blend of the two. To serve the new breedof learners, many of the learning modalities are things that fall in between.

Microsoft is a significant player in IT learning, with 1800 partners worldwide, 9.6 million customers served, about a million training events in last 12 months, 2.7 certifications granted. Bob says they are shifting to the new modalities as quickly as they can. These are precisely the trends Workflow Institute’s market forecasts have been reporting. Lots of us need to re-evaluate what we are doing and why.

Bottom line: Form follows function.

Marc Rosenberg

Marc walked us through eight items for assessing the state of your in-house eLearning.

Technology is not a substitute for strategy. Tech helps build a learning culture by keeping everyone informed and involved. It speeds up learning and creates an institutional memory.

Focus on business and performance requirements. Impact is more important than quantity.

No focus on workflow learning. Work/train/work/train/work/train.“Workflow learningis a new field and that’s where we’re trying to go.”

Bottom line: Focus on results.


Just as I made it through college without reading Plato or Hamlet, I’d somehow read and heard snippets of Thiagi without sitting down for a full dose. This morning I joined Thiagi’s session; his wit andwisdom charged my batteries.

  • Goal is to be “cheap but not tacky.”
  • Design activities, not content.
  • Never stop improving the course.
  • Let learners collaborate.
  • True interactivity is in the mind, not the mouse.
  • Let the inmates run the asylum.
  • (I don’t want to be an Indian giver.)
  • Use scenario-based approaches for evaluation.

This is the tip of the Thiagi iceberg.

Check out thiagi.com.

Bottom line: Be radical.

The Finale

It would have been impossible to top last year’s concluding Jerry Springer skit, but Thiagi, Bob, and Marc, joined by Conrad Gottfredson and Mark Bucceri, came close. Kirk Weisler had everyone in the audience write an unanswered question on a 3x5 card. Five rounds of ratings identified the top dozen favourites. The panel took them on.


How do you get buy-in for eLearning when managers think PowerPoint bullets are eLearning?

It’s not understood until it’s experienced. Deliver learning of value.Take a journey. Those who participate will become your best advocates. Con

Who told the managers that PowerPoints are eLearning? We did. Start small. Show them the alternative. Marc

How do you maintain current workflow while integrating what you learned here?

Bite off littlepieces. Have a strategy for when you get back. Recruit champions to help you. Bob

How to do more with less: How can we do less with more? Suffer with a smile. Sneak in small projects. Mark

How can I get experienced eLearners fully engaged in sharing and preparing for learning?

Confidence theycan do it. Competence in how to do it. Captivate themwith the unexpected. Collaborate, not solitary confinement. Connect tosomething they are doing. Thiagi

Standardize our practices of task analysis, project analysis. Since we keep coming back to SMEs in new ways, we confuse them. Be consistent in what you ask for and in time, they’ll have the work done for you. Con

Why is typical eLearning so expensive? How can we do it cheaper?

Where did we getthe idea that eLearning is expensive? The productivity hit is enormous. The business benefits are so huge that it’s easy to do a business case. If you look beyond the training budget to the overall cost/benefit, this is cheap! Marc

Cheap but not tacky. Thiagi

What is the quickest way to measure ROI on eLearning projects?

Use a real-world approach. Thiagi

ROI is not the right question. It’s like asking for the ROI of a steering wheel. You have to look at the overall process. We have to integrate our work into the business. Bob

What tool(s) will help me to build the best eLearning for my company?

It’s not a training problem, it’s a motivation problem. Mark

It’s not about tools. It’s about instruction. It’s about methodology. Today’s tools won’t be the tools you use tomorrow. Con

How can I replace the emotional connection I get from the classroom?

There are some things eLearning doesn’t do. Personal connection is one of those things. Con

Storytelling. People laugh, cry, tell stories. Thiagi

How do I sell this?

Let people take ownership of their learning. You don’t win by trying to sell them. Find the
pain point. Start with “Want me to help you solve that problem?” Bob

Sometimes it takes guerrilla activity. Asked to do CBT, Marc did EPSS instead. Marc


David and Heidi give good conference, but I’m glad they’re going to move this event back to San Francisco.

My session on workflow learning was well-attended. Most of the audience was able to grok the message. However, one evaluation said I was hard to understand, confusing, and dull; I was relieved to discover it dealt with someone else’s session and had been misfiled in my evaluation folder. The mouse kingdom provided a nice metaphor for loosely-coupled corporate organization.

If you're going to throw a Calypso Poolside Party, hold it beside the pool and make the music audible.

The eLearning Community is maturing. Gone are the days when some sought the one best way to implement eLearning and expectd eLearning to cure all ills. People are recognizing that eLearning is not a thing; it is not a technology. Rather, it’s a process with a wide-ranging set of tools.


Blogger Jane said...

Jay - this is a marvellous report - you have a terrific capacity to capture an event - very interesting and just enough - great!
Jane Massy

3:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a neophyte in the field, this is tremendously interesting. Thanks for the summary.

4:57 AM  
Anonymous Anni Natire said...

very interesting and just enough - great!

4:14 AM  

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