No network? Afraid of speaking out? Try WOL!

Knowledge management and modern learning have a common ground: interact, exchange and collaborate to learn and advance. To do so, one has to have a supportive network and the ability to formulate one’s aims, ideas and thoughts. Which may not be the case for everybody. You may not have a network (yet), collaborative work is not a part of your organization’s culture (yet), or you are just shy and don’t dare to contribute (yet).

Working Out Loud (WOL) is an approach (or a whole movement) that helps you to build trustful relationships and thereby a network supporting you in reaching a personal aim. It teaches you how to reach out and engage with people, to build up trust, to get and give (from recognition to sharing actual work), to empower yourself and others, and to contribute to establish a collaborative culture.

I never did WOL before, but now I take the chance of the #cl2025, the Corporate Learning 2025 MOOCathon of the Corporate Learning Alliance, to experience it myself. Our small learning group of 5 will meet once per week (virtually, maybe personally) for one hour for a total of 12 weeks and thereby follow the Circle Guides. This should step-by-step lead us to a new habit that includes outreach, engagement, strengthening of relationships and, of course, reaching a goal by peer-support.

I am very curious and looking forward trying this (for me) new approach of learning and collaboration in the digital age. As I do personal knowledge management (PKM) for quiet a while now, which seems to partly overlap with WOL, I am wondering about the similarities and differences of the two. And last but not least I am wondering how such an approach could be applied to supporting network building within an organization. I definitively will tell you!

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Offering self-directed, motivating learning by content curation

Today it’s the start of the iMoox „Open Educational Resources“ of Sandra Schön and Martin Ebner. Educational resources you are allowed not only to use for your purposes but also to share and change according to your needs. This goes straight into the topic of content curation in teaching and learning, which I am really fond of.

Content curation does mean taking advantage of the best resources for your own learning project. Beside „not re-inventing the wheel“, content curation brings multiple advantages to a learning experience. It offers multiple views on a topic by including views of different authors or experts. It expands the content itself by giving the possibility to include sub-topics the teacher is not familiar with himself. It offers choice to the learner to select which resources (and media formats) he wants to use. And it tenders the potential to include content of different depth and length to meet students variable knowledge levels and time constraints.

Taken together, content curation fulfils many of the requirements for a self-directed, motivating learning experience. Doing so with OER is a save way to offer your students engaging and diversified content.

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The real benefits of virtual teaching

Christopher Pappas is one of the e-learning superstars- he founded the largest online community of e-learning professionals, the eLearning Industry– which makes him one of my very important teachers. Recently, he published a short article on „7 Tips to create a self-paced eLearning course“. Nothing groundbreaking, but a neat way to remember what nowadays e-learning really is (or should be) about.

  • Personalized Learning Plans: In traditional classrooms, all the students face the same content, independent of their previous knowledge, their preferences, and their learning speed. Virtual teaching allows students to pick or get delivered the content they need and work through it at their own pace.
  • Social Collaboration Activities: Learning from and with each other greatly enhances the learning experience and motivation. Virtual teaching allows for many different forms of collaborative work- asynchronous, spatially apart, and with online resources. 
  • Microcontent: Presenting the content in small pieces supports not only ubiquitous learning, but also consolidation and reinforcement of the material learned. Virtual teaching allows to learn bitesize, whenever, wherever.
  • Regular Assessment: Especially when learning at your own pace, it is important to get regular and qualitative sound feedback.  Online teaching includes an array of assessment options- self-directed online tests, online communication with the teacher, and peer-review as an important social collaboration activity. Virtual teaching allows to mix different ways of feedback, giving the learner an array of opinions on his mastery and progress.

But Virtual Teaching also asks for things:

  • Easy access: It is crucial that students can easily access and find their lectures and content.
  • Supportive Online Community: A supportive online community has to be build up in order to help students socialise, get feedback and help and be motivated.
  • Variety: Nowadays students ask for more than an online book. Only courses that take out most of the available virtual resources and offer a variety of material fulfilling students various preferences will be satisfying. Otherwise one could stick with the good old textbook.

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Peer Review – some lessons learned & some friendly advice – Learning Rush

After I recently attended a MOOC in which peer-review was very poor (reasons in short: wording in criteria was very strict so student assessed each other too bad and people repeatedly failed; students did not leave comments just grades, not enough students for peer review (!!- it was supposed to be a MOOC!)), I was wondering about the high and lows of peer review. Actually, I am convinced that it is one of the most valuable tools in online learning.

Why (for me) only online learning? Clare Gormely mentions it at the end of her blog post Peer Review – some lessons learned & some friendly advice – Learning Rush. Because it’s hard to assess friends. more…

Adaptive Learning for everyone?

I like the idea of Adaptive Learning. And after reading this article about Adaptive Learning in Compliance Training, I am sure thousands of employees will like it too.

Adaptive learning is a computer-based and/or online educational system that modifies the presentation of material in response to student performance.

This definition by Dreambox, a provider of an adaptive learning platform, very much nails it down. You first assess the students knowledge and then only give him the content he needs to fill his knowledge gaps. This saves time and enhances motivation. Both factors that are also extremely important in business environments with mandatory corporate training such as compliance training.

Although it sounds great, it’s not so easy to implement. Some schools or companies may be able to spend money on a platform that sophistically tests and then guides the learner through his very personal learning path. But most will not. Still, they may adapt some features of adaptive learning into their own learning management system, presupposed their learning is modular.

At the beginning, learners can be assessed through a quiz reflecting different levels of knowledge in different aspects of the content that has to be learned. What then on sophisticated learning platform the machine is doing, can also be done by a human being- telling the student that, based on his performance in the test, he has to learn these modules while he is allowed to skip others. Of course you don’t want to do this for a thousand students, but in smaller settings, it is doable, effective and motivating. You may even implement interim tests to adjust the mandatory modules, or you just finish with one big assessment.

In any case, this strategy can be applied in any LMS as long as the learning content is designed modular and you have a lecturer creating good quizzes and willing to do the additional work of assessing the initial student assessments. I am sure, it will pay out by having motivated and successful students!

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Microlearning- how to?

I already bothered you with a scoop about microlearning– learning in small pieces of about 10 to 15 minutes each. It meets the requirements set by short attention spans, learning by repetition, and flexibility in temporal learning. But how to translate this into a practical approach?

I guess we agree that just cutting a learning activity, e.g. an online lesson, into chunks only formally fulfils the definition of microlearning and is not really beneficial to reading smaller chapters in a printed text book. In contrast, it may result in annoyed students who feel like making only little progress in their learning paths.

Microlearning should take advantage of multimodal presentations, interactive assignments, and collaborative functioning, which are the real benefits of technology-enhanced learning.

This article from the magazine eLearning Industry highlights some activities that meet those requirements. Podcasts, infographics, videos. Branching scenarios, task-based simulations. User-generated blog posts (or wiki entries). Like to have some examples?

What about letting your students make a short video how they perform a practical task (e.g. adding a layer in their graphic design software), upload this on a platform and let fellow students comment- resulting in a reviewed library of hands-on videos?

What about presenting students short work-related situation (a customer calls you and asks…. What do you suggest to him?) and later presenting all the answers online so fellow students can learn for each others answers?

What about teaching students procedures by asking them to create checklists for each other and then let students study them one per week?

You may realise I already incorporate a collaborative learning scenario in every example. Of course you can prepare the tasks for the students and just let them study or answer. But especially microlearning, when content is small and therefore reading followed by peer-review or commenting is done quickly, provides a powerful base to include collaboration and thereby learning from each other.

Microlearning- when used for the right scenarios- is a very convenient way to meet todays need for temporal flexibility while at the same time enhancing learning by (spaced) repetition and reinforcement.

A fool with a tool…..

… is still a fool.

If you read blog posts of me before (like this one), you know I am very sceptical about using tools. Of course there are some very creative and innovative ones, and I personally like to play around. But then I often feel like they ask faculty and students to adapt to them (the tools) instead of seamlessly integrating into their (faculty and students) work flow. And this is the beginning of the end. Moreover, as I wrote in the post linked above, many of them disappear as quickly as they appeared.

I am very convinced that the essential point when creating fun /interactive /innovative /engaging /collaborative /younameit (online) lessons is concentration on the content and the design, not the environment or tools. 

The first questions should simply be „What shall my students learn?“. Is it some formal learning like basic physics? Is it a pure list of terms? Is it solving of some problem-based tasks? Is it applying what they learned before by adding their own tasks?

Of course the next question is „How shall they learn this“? By reading some text and studying some graphics? By self-generating content? By group work? By searching for online sources? By interviewing seniors? By discussing within a group of peers?

And then the time comes to first think about the „How to deliver this to the students“. And I strongly recommend to keep it simple! Use what you have– the Wiki in your LMS for example offers tons of possibilities, like generating a collection of case studies written by the students, gather additional resources found by the students, accumulate Q&As, curating a (self-made) video collection. Assignments include peer-reviews, group-compiled glossaries or text-based exams. And workshop modules provide space for group-written texts as peer-assignements. So be creative how to use the many options you already have in your LMS or other internal instrument like (micro)blogs or chat or document repository.

And if you still have this brilliant innovative idea you are not able to implement with what you have- there are more and more plugins for LMS that integrate third-party services. Just be careful that the service will not have shut down next year ;-).

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Using WordPress as a learning management system

Last week I had another serendipitous event letting me learn something new. I stumbled upon a job offer, had a glimpse on the company’s website, and saw that they use WordPress as an LMS (learning management system). So here I am, working with WordPress for years now, and never thought about using it to present content for learning like articles, presentations and videos, do tests and quizzes, display learning paths and personal learning progresses. Of course I immediately had to check out what LMS plugins are available for WordPress and what value they have compared to a stand-alone LMS like Moodle.


Just a scoop: Mobile Microlearning- a natural venue for spaced learning

One of my favourite sources is the Learning Solutions Magazine. It covers a wide range of topics with an emphasis on EdTech- educational technology- and learning theories. Here an article that combines both: Mobile Microlearning- a natural venue for spaced learning.

  1. Microlearning: Microlearning is learning in small pieces. We may all remember when we had to learn a vocabulary of a foreign language. What was suggested to us was learning a little chunk every day (and repeat what we learned before).
  2. Spaced learning: Spaced learning means intensive learning with breaks. Example given: An intense lecture – break – a second lecture that picks up information from the previous one and puts it into context – break – a third lecture applying the information already given to a particular problem.

It’s no rocket science to see the neat combination the two learning methods offer. Offering several pieces of microlearning units, building up on each other by including content taught in earlier units, is not only providing flexibility for the student, but in fact lets him unknowingly apply instructional concepts known to enhance learning and reduce forgetting.

Oh, and of course, nowadays the units have to be mobile. Or not….

Visualize your knowledge!

Currently I am working on a project that includes visualisation of information and knowledge, respectively. Visualisations can help to clarify information, to compress large amounts of information, to transfer knowledge, to trigger insights in the viewer, and to support the creation of new knowledge by stimulating imaginary. So visualisations influence most of the traditional building blocks of knowledge management.


More than text, visualization can also provoke emotional reactions, both positively (improving our understanding) and negatively (manipulating and distortion), thereby motivating the viewer to contribute and/or create.