This is good design!

Recently I reported a lost DVD to Netflix . They asked me a few questions on the website and they sent the next one in my queue right away. That’s good customer service. What’s a DVD between friends (particularly when one pays 15 dollars a month to the other!)

So a few weeks go by, I find the DVD and mail it back.  I get an automated notification. Someone had thought this scenario through and designed the right feedback mechanism.

Thinking through things is good design.

(I am particularly impressed with this one, since I am working on automated notifications at work!)

Using Tasks for ToDos

Tasks in Calendar view

I recently read a post via Scobleizer that GigaOm declared that Google was out of BIG ideas since it was working on a Task app. While I do somewhat agree with that thought, I am, like many others, looking for that perfect app to externalize all the to-do’s doing the macarena in my head every day.

Today someone at work suggested one way to at least put the Task panel in Outlook in my face everyday. It’s quite simple really if you use Outlook 2003. Go to your Calendar>View> Taskpad. Maybe that will help!

Usability, please!

Don't make me do it!

I have been interested in usability all my adult life.

In architecture school, I was very focused on function (sometimes at great peril to academic success, times when I just couldnt get things right and knew they were wrong or could be so much better.) In the very recent past, I was very frustrated with the usability of an app I am working on, so much so that I sent out impassioned e-mails to a few classmates who work in consumer software engineering or web based businesses to help me write a paper on how to start a usability and interface design group in a company that is not in the business of software, but builds a lot of software anyway. (None of them sent me a credible reply: Yes, I have read Norman and Neilsen, thank you!)

I was talking about “satisficing” today and was trying to remember where I heard it first. It’s Steve Krug. I love his book “Don’t make me think”. Hear him talk about “the least you can do about usability” here. (Note: wordpress doesn’t allow embeds, please clickthrough.)

Searching for content in an LMS

Search Bar

It’s been a while since I wrote the post on recommendation engines in LMSs. In that time I have thought and discussed the idea with a few colleagues. What I heard from them is that even top tier LMSs have a VERY long way to go before they reach the sophistication that say Amazon has achieved. I too recall that the LMS we ran at a company I worked for before could not find a course when the search term “Credit Report” was typed, because the course title and description contained the word “Credit Reports.” (The search on this brand of LMS still works this way!!!)

This is problematic. The enterprise user is used to Google when they search for stuff at work (that doesn’t involve an enterprise systems) or at home. They expect search to work well and use it as THE way to find relevant content. I know there still are a few who like browsing catalogs, but that strategy fails when there’s content that should be placed in multiple catalog section, is placed in just one catalog section.

Searching for content is the first thing people do in LMSs, before they take a course, before they view their transcript or grades. I suggest LMS vendors focus on this and build systems that keep up with what’s happening with search in the consumer arena. Otherwise Enterprise LMS users will search Google rather than their LMS for courses or other related content.

Then again, that might not be such a bad thing!

Skills and Competencies

My current assignment at work has made me think and work more in the Development area of Learning & Development. One of the concepts I wanted to gain more clarity about was Skills and Competencies. I have often struggled with differentiating between these. This post on the Success Factors Research Blog really helped clarify and provide a frame of reference.

“Skills can be learned, certificates can be earned, etc. Competencies take much longer to develop. For example, a skill might be profient in C++ (a programming language), but a competency might be high capacity for problem solving. Problem solving is important for programming in any language, and can be applied to many other challenges in the workplace.”

Recommendation Engines in Learning Management Systems

Amazon's familiar recommendation engine

Would recommendation engines be useful in LMSs?

Does the fact that your colleagues took a course or favorited it make it more likely that it will be valuable for you?

Are there LMSs or KM systems in the market that already do this (and do this well?)

An LMS for a Global Non-profit

Recently a former colleague took a leadership position in a Global Non-profit. Her charge is to standardize and implement a global “learning improvement program”  for 21 different branches/affiliates in four regions (about 12 countries). One of her key priorities is to implement an LMS to track the training delivered. All of the managers in all locations have internet access, but not every employee has internet access.

What are her options?
– Hire a consultant to build an Access DB
– Approach a top-of-the-line LMS vendor and encourage them to sponsor an LMS
– Deploy an open source LMS like Moodle
– Deploy a cheap bare-bones LMS

What would you recommend? Any vendors you would suggest?

Write better courses!

Dump the drone
Dump the drone

It’s quite simple really! All you need to do is view this presentation by Cathy Moore.

What I like about this presentation is that it (implicitly) admits the fact that we can’t change every online course into a Wii game right now and until we do that, we have to write courses that people will have to read – online.

So Cathy’s advice is useful today.

Collab tool for Course Development?

Cozimos Collab Interface
Cozimo's Collab Interface

Check out Cozimo. Here’s their Demo 08 Presentation.