I had an amazing, whirlwind day trip to Boston on Wednesday to attend the eLearning Guild Annual Gathering 2007, and to be a speaker on a panel about the current and future state of rapid elearning development tools.
It was great to see so many familiar faces, and also to meet many people for the first time — including people I had previously only corresponded with via email. It seemed that just about everyone was an Articulate customer, and most people had good things to say about our software. My lunchtime conversation was with a customer who manages distance learning technology for a local university; we talked about the challenges he’s facing in creating effective elearning from the PowerPoint and audio files he receives from his remote instructors.
And that was pretty much the theme of the day: How to create solid elearning content using rapid elearning development tools. In fact, I attended Paul Clothier‘s session called “Engaging e-Learning on a Shoestring,” and he highlighted our three medal winners from the Guru Awards, which represent the best of the best in excellent elearning design and content.
Paul also facilitated the panel I was on. In short, the panel was a huge success. It was standing-room only and incredibly interactive. I loved to see all the hands in the audience go up after one of us made a comment or Paul asked a question. There were some great audience questions about the biggest challenges our customers face, what we do to help our customers create quality elearning content (our support site and forums are great starting points), what we have planned for the future, and more. There was a lot of discussion about the overall content development process (collaboration, file management, revision history), and how our tools fit into that.
There was also some debate about who should be creating content — instructional designers, subject matter experts (SMEs), or just any member of a company or organization. I think this is a hot topic, and my fellow panelists and audience members have more to say about this in their blogs, too (see below links). The demand for template-based tools — for both content and design — is strong (check out our Rapid E-Learning PowerPointÂ® Template Kit, which can be used as a great starting point for building elearning with Articulate Presenter).
Part of the discussion was about the need in the future for a development tool that allows for more free-form and visual creation of content with branching and natural decision points than PowerPoint allows. One audience member described this as a “big hole in the marketplace.” Let me just say that we are very aware of this hole, and that the future is sooner than you might think.
My fellow panelists Silke Fleischer and Jay Cross have recaps of the sessions from their perspectives on their blogs, and UK elearning blogger Clive Shepherd also attended my panel and chimed in with his thoughts:
- Silke: Update on eLearning Guild Conference
- Jay: Rapid eLearning Panel
- Clive: Rapid e-learning is swimming in too small a pond
Earlier in the day, I attended Brent Schlenker‘s session on What RSS Means to your e-Learning Development, which was a really interesting discussion on leveraging new technologies to push learning content to users. It was the first I’d met Brent in person, and he’s a really dynamic speaker who went beyond bullets in his visual, informative PowerPoint slides that he used to supplement the discussion — not to drive it or lean on it too much. The session was a good mix of content for beginners and those of us already familiar with RSS.
To demonstrate an example of the power of RSS, Brent took a photo with his phone (the content), which he emailed to his Flickr account, which automatically sent a feed to his blog (the RSS), which posted this photo for us (the end users) to see instantly:
I’m the guy with the red box around me.
Given that I was only there for a day, I didn’t get to attend as many sessions as I would’ve liked, or to meet as many people as I had hoped, including Tony Karrer, Stephen Downes (who’s soliciting feedback on the rapid elearning panel), and Tony O’Driscoll, who, collectively, hosted some sessions like “An Introduction to New e-Learning Technologies” and “E-Learning Technologies and Practices — What’s Really Happening Out There.” Although we’ve met once in the past, I also didn’t run into Mark Oehlert, but I did enjoy lunch with Tom Crawford (both formerly of The Masie Center, which is hosting a competing conference, LMS 2007, this week in Vegas; we do have a booth there!).
I really enjoyed talking with so many of you on Wednesday, and will look forward to the next time! You can drop me a line anytime via this form.