Posts tagged ‘Wiki’

Wikis and Social Constructivism: “Learning is best when learners collaborate to create…”

I wanted to share an article with you, that is short, meaningful and useful, on how wikis not only provide the benefits of knowledge sharing but also assists learners learn: Practical Applications of Research: Wikis for learning – what to expect by Dr. Irene Boland

From Dr. Boland’s research the key learning benefits of wikis appear to me to be:

  • Receive immediate feedback from others
  • Curiosity about how others are responding to, or modifying, their work causes learners to return to the wiki and refresh their memory regularly.
  • Learners can chart their own course for learning based on their interests.
  • Learn by reading other’s postings even if the leaner does not post.
  • Develop their own methods of classifying content in ways that make sense to them, rather than using existing systems of classification.
  • Help their peers find relevant content by assigning tags or keywords to pages



July 6, 2009 at 9:24 am 1 comment

Learning Environments

This year I have been witnessing a change in thinking and common practices around learning environments. I’d like to share my point of view with you because I’m convinced that a significant shift is starting to occur. Let me start by giving a contextual overview in the form of a few tables:

Learning Delivery Systems


Assessment Systems


Tracking Systems 


Marketing Hyper vs. IT’s Point of View

The stock market’s exuberance in the late ‘90s generated venture capital funding of learning environments and management systems start ups.This resulted in marketing hype that led to unrealistic expectations. Although vendors tried hard to meet these unrealistic expectations, customers were frustrated and the market was altogether unhappy and unhealthy.  This became obvious to me when customers would explain that they were on their third LMS. Clearly things had to change.

One strong benefit that came from the late ‘90s early ‘00s era was the clear separation that was drawn between “management systems” and “content”.  SCORM and AICC helped provide us with these clear distinctions, however, we didn’t manage to achieve sufficient distinctions between the key modules of a learning environment as web-services had not matured quickly enough.  Consequently, large monolithic systems tended to capture buyers’ imaginations as being the big pill to swallow to solve the learning problem.

From my point of view, IT departments initially pandered to users’ requirements and assisted with the deployment of customized and dedicated learning systems. However, as costs of tightly integrated systems increased and the number of dissatisfied users increased, IT departments started to look at alternative systems and architectures that could both meet the users’ requirements and align with organizations’ overall IT infrastructure.  IT started to look at learning from a users and performance perspective and started to apply IT methodologies to the issue.

Users’ requirements varied on one side from structured learning (course based), mostly used in schools, colleges and on-boarding new employees, through to self-service, where a motivated learner sought out the information that they needed in order to perform their tasks or gain qualifications.  Deploying only one learning methodology (course based vs. self-service) does not fit all requirements. Knowing the context of the user is key to providing a great user experience!

So what are we seeing now?

Authentication and Single Sign On (“SSO”) Portals

Learning materials, documents and content live in many systems. The issue is access control to these systems for the right person at the right time. This motivates a need for federated searches of multiple content repositories and to mashed up user interfaces that allow users to view multiple systems.

imageAs I have illustrated to the left, you can now provide access to multiple applications with a common look and feel using a portal such Microsoft’s SharePoint.  Each application is “skinned” by the portal’s feel and is presented in a “portlet”.  Depending on the user’s privileges they can add, change, delete, and move around portlets to suit their working style and job role.image

Behind the portal sits a number of systems that a user will use to perform their tasks. 

The portal looks after two important functions:

  • Authentication of the User
    This is usually performed by way of user names and passwords but could also be achieved via biometrics.
  • Access Control (Privileges)
    To limit access to the portlets that a user can actually see and use.

We have to be careful that we don’t return to dispersed SSO portals with one portal for learning, one for accounting, etc.; that would give us Multiple Sign On Portals which would be a retrograde step. 

True Single Sign On Portals provide IT departments with a single but centralized access control system and allow the user to define their portal to accommodate their style of working.


imageEach application has its own unique set of privileges that would become difficult for a centralized IT team to control. For instance, in the context of testing, we might only allow users to take a test between certain hours and maybe require a proctor/invigilator. Whilst it would be possible for all of these user privileges to be stored more centrally and associated with the portal, this becomes impractical and slows the upgrade process.  However, it is common for application systems to receive data from the portal and then derive privileges based on the user’s associations.

Islands of Data

imageThe challenge with this architecture is that each application maintains its own databases for its operational needs such as storing course evaluation data and tests results.

We are seeing leading edge employers look at employee life cycle data in order to improve their talent management systems and processes.  From recruiting to on-boarding, appraisals, formal/structured learning, informal learning, career progression, and exit interviews we see present and future requirements for viewing and correlating data from multiple courses to help people understand the dynamics of their talent.

So learning environments are now being built in such a way that their data is consumable by web-services and a data warehouse.

Data Warehouses

imageOrganizations maintain Data Warehouses (DWs) for several reasons:

  • DWs can  be structured to quickly access data for reporting applications to consume rather than focus on efficiently collecting and maintaining data. 
  • DWs allow for data to be connected and correlated despite the fact that they are generated by different systems potentially using different types of databases.
  • DWs can insulate reporting systems from application upgrades which would otherwise necessitate reporting systems to be updated at the same time that the application upgrade is performed.

Wikis and Blogs

Wikis and blogs have become very important and popular tools for harvesting knowledge from subject matter experts (SMEs). With succession planning being important for many organizations that have aging work forces, harvesting knowledge from SMEs is a key initiative. 


When we combine IT department support for standardization on portals, wikis, blogs, data warehouses and reporting systems we can see that the time is right for a revolution within our learning environments.

The data and anecdotal evidence that I have access to makes me believe that learning environments will change and become more aligned with standard and supported IT systems.

We are now in an era where resonating with IT, their requirements, and their systems, will assist us in rapidly deploying powerful, integrated, and scalable environments for our learners, and performers.

June 16, 2009 at 8:33 am 1 comment

What Does “Open” Mean?

After talking with my “open” mentors Steve Lay and Tom King, and then discussions with our customers I have started to think about how we might define “open” in the context of assessment and technology. In this post I have collated the intellectual effort of others, that I have learned from over the years, and more recently from Tom and Steve.  I’m posting to see how on or off target I am/we are so please feel free to comment.

Open Agenda

An Open Agenda is the opposite of a hidden agenda!  An Open Agenda allows people to know where you are going and why you are going there. 

Open Process

With an open process people understand where you have been, where you are how you determine direction.

Open To New Ideas

A closed dogmatic approach to problems solving tends not to yield solutions that are maintainable, or long lasting, and as such inhibits the creative process. 

Low Barriers …to Witness

This requires that the information, such as the agenda, mission, process, and deliverables, are easy to discover, see, and use for your own benefit.

In the world of technology this normally means a quick, simple and free registration process, requiring no more than an email address, and making overview and technical documentation available as well as source code.

Low Barriers …to Participate

If you wish to participate there might be small fees or qualification requirements (such as being a citizen of a country to vote), but in the context of your participation the barriers are low. In the world of open participation you might share your ideas and be involved in discussions and priority setting.

Low Barriers …to Contribute

It may be that you contribute to the process but without transparency regarding how your contributions are evaluated, prioritized and/or acted upon. In the world of technology this normally means allowing source code to be available for others to contribute to on a known licensing model. Typically this means that the author contributes their work to the community at large.


People have an insight into each step of the process, which provides information on how decisions are reached, deliverables created and buy-in and/or consensus was achieved. Having a transparent process typically accelerates the use of open standards and best practices as different communities can share ideas throughout the process.

Some processes do not benefit from being transparent and others do. For instance, I can hardly imagine that negotiating the end of a war would benefit from having the discussions televised on CNN live!  But in contrast I enjoy watching and knowing that my City Government is open and televised; it’s the best sleep aid I know!

The “Tools” of Openness

Here are some tools that can help organizations be open:

  • Wiki – a tool that allows us to document a body of work in an cooperative and collaborative way
  • Forums – normally threaded discussions that can be accessed by web browsers and email clients, allowing us to build consensus by discussing issues
  • Issue tracker – a tool that allows us to examine and participate in the process of prioritizing and resolving issues.
  • Source code repository – a place where source code is deposited and shared that allows us to examine the output of the development process along with a detailed audit trail of who contributed to it and when.
  • Blogs and micro-blogs – where ideas can be easily shared and responses gathered


Being “Open” is multi-facetted which I have tried to capture above.  But I’m open to being wrong and learning more.

April 10, 2009 at 9:39 am Leave a comment

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