Cloud-Based Subscriptions

- thank you
A major trend seems to be the move to cloud-based subscription services.

Adobe’s Creative Cloud announcement is one example (thanks Michael!).  I’m seeing the beginnings of the same thing with Microsoft’s Office.

This trend has a pretty significant impact on how we advise and support our burgeoning community of staff eLearning developers.

In our current approach – we have told folks who want to create eLearning to purchase a copy of Captivate or Articulate Storyline.  The version they use will pretty much stay the same until they feel they absolutely, positively need to upgrade.  Many members of the community only do eLearning development once every year or two – so there really is no reason to upgrade.

One challenge I see with the cloud-based subscription model – the end user has no or very limited control of the upgrade. (Please see GMail….)

Make a major change to the user interface, particularly unannounced, and watch the phone calls and angry emails come in.   

Do this in an application they are not comfortable using in the first place, and usually at a time when they are tight on deadline (because it never happens during slow periods), and really watch the fun begin.

What all this tells me is that I need to somehow figure out a way to encourage my users to be more self-sufficient. More comfortable with the pace of change in their tools. 

I need to figure out a better support model.
There is no way I will be able to keep up if I try to use the traditional training toolkit.

Playing with the New

This weekend’s trapeze adventure.

Thanks Megan for coming out to play with me and for the video!
This has been the year of playing with the new.

  • Up2Us
  • Overlap
  • Panel Discussion
  • Skydiving
  • Flying
  • Pole Dancing (no – there is NOT a video for this)
  • Stand-up Paddleboarding
  • and the Trapeze.

No – this is NOT a result of a mid-life crisis. (I had that a few years ago – thankyouverymuch)

This is more a result of deciding to familiarize myself with the unfamiliar.
Get comfortable with the the new and novel.
The fear of looking stupid.
Falling off the paddleboard.
Looking like a punk rocker in a mosh pit when I’m supposed to be finding my “inner sex kitten”
Crashing to the ground.
Being “exposed” – intellectually, emotionally

As an adult, dangit, we are supposed to be “good at everything.”

I know this fear of looking stupid, this discomfort with the unknown, has kept me from taking advantage of opportunities.

This seemed like a good time to face that fear.

Opportunity knocks!

Subscription-Based Learning: The Videos

As part of this subscription-based learning program, I am incorporating really quick, really amateurish videos into the blog posts for the technical pieces.

Little time, few resources (basically me and some software), small scope = meh quality.

It is acceptable for now.

Creating Virtual meetings
Creating Standing meetings
Participant audio
Moderator audio

Some of the design decisions I made for these videos:

- People seem to respond better to seeing the face of the speaker when working remotely.  So I decided to do quick introductions to each video I produce.

- I was trying to limit the videos to 3-5 minutes.  Sadly – some of them have crept closer to 10 minutes.  My chunking will require some refinement.

- For Creating Standing Meetings, I decided to add a menu.  I figured that this way the user can choose which item they wish to see.  Again – this is all beta, so if people want me to do menus for all of the videos, I will go ahead and do that.

- I am attempting to build on prior knowledge with these videos or things that were talked about in previous training or materials.  So an outsider going into this cold might not get what they need from it.  That is fine.  My audience is really the existing telecommuter who has already on-boarded and taken the orientation.

- I am trying to keep the objectives I cover simple.

I’m still not thrilled that they have to click through the post to the video.  I’m working on that :)

Playing with Subscription-Based Learning

To my knowledge…Death is not currently participating in our telecommuting program.
- from Savage Chickens

My university has been implementing a telecommuting program for the past year.
We now have over 300 (known) people who telecommute 1-5 days per week.

In the initial pilot stage -   we had three 1 hour classes separated by one week.
The first class covered the technology they could use.
The other 2 classes covering life as a telecommuter and how to optimize the use of that technology.

This worked well for the new telecommuters.  As the telecommuters “matured” – they only needed technology updates and reminders.  As a result – we would see a ton of people in the technology class and very few people in the other 2 sessions. 

Other than those quarterly live webinars, we weren’t doing a great job of communicating technology changes to the telecommuters.  We also didn’t have a particularly good library of central tips and tricks. Finally, we ran into too many instances where we would do the quarterly training, then 1 month later have a telecommuter ask for specific training on how to use the same tool we trained them on 1 month prior.

At Learning Solutions 2013, Will Thalheimer gave a talk on subscription learning.
Subscription Learning Part 1
Subscription Learning Part 2

Struck me that the model could solve some of the issues I was having – particularly in regards to retention.
Leveraging research on how people learn and remember….what a concept!

This past week we started something called Tuesday Morning Telecommuter.

As with everything I try for the first time – I’ve put it together with items lying around my environment that requires little effort from anyone else and no money.

An email is sent to some Telecommuter Contact groups I developed in our University email system.
This is sent via my personal university account.

Within the email is a couple of reminders / really important news they absolutely positively need to know + a link to the most recent blog post.  Here is a sample.

The blog is off of my personal WordPress account – at least until we get SharePoint implemented, or get a portal, or find a blogging service or something. This is the blog – for now.

I have put together a schedule for posts….attempting to leverage the power of repetition, building off of prior skills, and accommodating “hot” topics triggered by previous posts or conversations. 

I have also tried to group the posts as modules – so we are covering a combination of soft skills and hard technical skills within each “module”.
As you can tell – there will be lots of fine-tuning as we move forward. If we move forward.

- It would be nice if I could come up with a system that doesn’t rely on ME to remember to send an email every Tuesday morning.  Our individual accounts do not allow us to schedule emails. Bah.

- Our individual accounts also limit the number of addresses we send to at once to 50.  As a result, I have to send 6 emails each Tuesday morning to cover our subscription list. We haven’t implemented Google Groups as of this writing. Bah.

- I need to come up with a better embed solution for my Articulate Storyline videos.  

- Visually – it’s ugly. Graphic design is not a strength of mine.

- Better social media / interactivity options would also be nice.  Here, I am starting to dream a bit bigger….

I figure we will pilot this until November and make a decision as to whether this format is worth the work.

Are we looking at a "Fourth Wave"?

- Hugh MacLeod
There’s a dynamic happening that I am not fully understanding.
Too many friends are finding themselves in situations where they feel powerless.
I don’t get it…because this dynamic is happening to some of the most powerful people I know.
People who have deep expertise and mastery. 
People who leverage that expertise with their hearts and souls.
People who engage the world with their entire being.

These are the people who I am trying to surround myself with.  Be more like.
And it pains me to see them so frustrated. Intimidated. Disempowered. Hurt.

I spent this weekend refreshing my memory on power theory
For whatever reason, I figured it might help me understand the dynamics of what is happening to them.

I revisited Alvin Toeffler’s Power Shift.

Back in the early 90s, he argued that we were moving towards a Knowledge Economy.
How power will be held by those with knowledge.
How knowledge is becoming increasingly more accessible.
How knowledge is being used to create its own economy.

How knowledge IS power.

I’m wondering, however, if we are looking at another shift.
Knowledge / information is so ubiquitous that I’m wondering if it is becoming devalued.

Maybe the real power will be for those people who can synthesize that knowledge.
Leverage their expertise.
Bring their whole being into their engagement with the world.
Connect disparate sources (most importantly – people).
The “cleverness” (Toeffler’s word) with which they use that information.

Seth Godin and Hugh MacLeod have been hinting at this recently in their work.
True “wealth” seems to lie in how you share with others.
What you stand for.
Who YOU are.
How you engage with the world.

Maybe the bullying and coercion we are seeing from those who have power based on title, perceived “authority” and the ability to give and withhold “rewards” is an attempt to intimidate those who will have power in this new economy.

Those with mastery.
Those who engage the world with their entire being.
Those who possess Expert powerReferent Power.
Those who create with heart.

Thing is – personal knowledge, experience, problem solving, engagement, heart…all of these things are gifts.  

Being can’t be stolen. 
It can only be offered.
And, to me, it is those who offer me the gift of their being who provide the greatest value.
Create the strongest bond.

NO ONE has a RIGHT to that gift.
Bullying and intimidation will only go so far.

This gift is a privilege to receive.
A gift I will do my best not to take for granted.
A gift I hope to reciprocate in kind.

Time, Resources, Scope

Aaron Silvers’ electroluminescent seasonally-inappropriate “cast cozy”.
My first foray into exploring the intersection between craft and technology.
Learning to skateboard at 40 (not having done it as a kid) is a classic example of JFDI.
I thought it should be rewarded.

Thank you Nick and Gill for the electroluminescent wire.

Thanks Aaron for the picture and for loving the present so much.   ;)

The classic 3 project constraints – Time, Cost / Resources, Scope.

Overlap ’13 was an opportunity to nudge up against all 3 -with the things I made.
1st example – Aaron’s Cast Cozy

Scope: Create a cast cozy for Aaron that lights up.  Preferrably – in a really cool way.

Time: I had been kicking around the idea for some time. Unfortunately, pesky things like work and life got in the way of me making the base and sourcing the materials.  I finally got started on Friday evening during Overlap. My deadline for completion was Saturday before nightfall. I figured this gave me 24 hours.

Cost/Resources:  I had yarn and a crochet hook.  I also had a pattern (basically – make a rectangle and sew it together, leaving room for his thumb).  The human resource (me) had this skill set.

Risk: Since I didn’t source any fiber optics, LEDs, or any other materials outside of the yarn – I wasn’t entirely certain I could do the “electroluminescent” part of the project.  I figured if I couldn’t find anything amongst the Arduino / craft stuff / techie folks – I would focus on making the cozy just epically ugly and christmassy.

I also wasn’t entirely certain that I had the technical ability to put the electronic part together in a way that would work.  I failed at building a circuit board during my ill-fated attempt at electrical engineering.  Fortunately, I knew there was help available to help me bridge the skill gap.

Thankfully – Nick and Gill were playing with something shiny.  I told them about my project and they donated their electroluminescent wire to my project. And it had an unanticipated “disco light” setting!  This is better than my original fiber optic / LED design.  It was also all one piece – light AND controller – so I didn’t need to try and build anything.

Result: I managed to keep the scope – since it was pretty small.  I made deadline – because I gave myself enough time to finish it.  And I got lucky and found resources.

Project = successful.

2nd example – the artisinal spork.  (The bottom hunk of iron)

Scope: Create an implement using the provided iron rod that has a spoon on one end.  Seems “easy” enough.

Time: I had about 3 hours

Cost / Resources: I had iron rods, a forge, and about 2 hours of experience.

Risk: A potential “resource” problem.  ie: the human resource (me). Please see 2 hours of experience….

The first attempt – I didn’t realize I needed to split the iron first (with some help from Dennis, Rico and Meg). So I had a pointy object that took me about an hour to create.  1 out of 3 hours down.

The second attempt – I managed to get the fork part finished. Unfortunately, I didn’t take the lesson I learned from building the leaf-tipped artisinal  shiv (the top hunk of iron) and forgot to make the yoke so that I had more metal for the spoon bit.

Project = Partial Fail. Have the fork. Soup would take forever if I tried to use the spoon. I ran out of time.
I should have reduced the scope to focus on the fork.
These are small examples – but I’ve seen many large projects play out the same way. 
Whether they liked it or not….

Making Real

The official Overlap ’13 Commemorative Thumb Blister.

I had two big takeaways from my weekend in Pennsylvania:

1) Just how important the physical / tactile element is in learning.

2) Making ideas real as quickly as possible = iterating faster.

In all of my activities – there is a tangible deliverable.

There are the obvious tangibles, such as hamburgers, ugly scarves and artisinal spork(ish) things.

Top (first attempt at blacksmithing) – choose your function: dental/torture device or leaf-tipped steak turner.
Bottom (second attempt at blacksmithing) – early prototype, artisinal spork.

There are less obvious tangibles – such as the deliverables in my professional environment:
- Online tutorials
- Synchronous course-delivery
- Documentation (of various sorts)
- the dreaded PowerPoint file….

Then there are even less obvious tangibles – but that others can still see.
This tends to manifest in the form of activity.

- The internal realization that I deserve to take better care of myself and the physical activities that seem to follow from that – pick up heavy things, take stairs vs. the elevator, eating an apple vs. a bag of gummy bears…

- Conversations and the physical act of speaking with another.

This last idea I am still wrapping my head around….
I am noticing a trend in my environment.

There seems to be more acceptance of Perpetual Beta / Agile Development / Rapid, Iterative Prototyping / Ship or Die

The notion that it is OK to present an unfinished / partially developed product for feedback.

Get something out there in the world.

Make it real.

I’ve been seeing this notion over and over again in my environment over the past few weeks:
- The Business Intelligence Unit moving to an Agile development process model and attempting to drag the rest of the IT department kicking and screaming with it.

- The boat that Megan and I developed finishing the creek course TWICE (albeit not very quickly).  Because we got our feet wet at the beginning of our development process.

- The continued development of the artisinal spork.  I think more blacksmithing courses are in my future to learn more about how iron behaves and the choreography of the craft.

I’m finding the faster I attempt to make something real, then try again, the faster I improve.

The more time I spend staring at my navel THINKING about making something real – the slower improvement comes.

That only took 42 years to figure out :)
To my fellow Overlappers – thank you so much for an educational and rejuvenating weekend.