Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Edayz08 has finished and a baby is born.

Well, a metaphorical baby in any case.

Edayz was (as you can well expect) organised extremely well and resulted in thought provoking discussions, entertaining presentations and outstanding learning. I was lucky enough to be able to present two sessions and a poster session and a big thank you goes out to all those who participated in my presentations. The slides and links from my presos can be found here for the Twitter presentation moodle and here for the Blending Moodle in the Kitchen Presentation.

The baby that it produced is a new Ning which I have put together as a quick and dirty solution to some issues raised there.

I guess “Solution” is not necessarily the right word, probably “strategy to aid the situation” is more akin to the reality of what I hope for E-learning Project Connect. My first blog post over there is a good starting point for the reasons why I started this community so if you are reading this, then you should head on over there, read some more about the why’s and whatnots and join up!

Since it’s inception on Sunday we have accumulated 31 members, 6 forum topics with eight replies, 3 blog posts, 1 job posting and one job wanted posting. Pretty good, I’d say for a site that is less than three days old!

So come and join the community, and tell your colleagues, HR managers and bosses. Share and share alike!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How I got to Google page one: a case study of sorts.

I recently posted an update to twitter that read: ”wooooooooot the hard work paid off. day one of http://rsaonline.wordpress.com converts to ten sales!!! stoked to say the least (ceTwit)” So to explain what I did over the last couple of days to get the RSA course up, running, “out there”, on to page one of google and convert some sales here’s the how.

I started following @timbuchalka on twitter a couple of weeks ago for a couple of reasons: 1 He was listed on twitter grader as number one in twitter elite for Adelaide 2 His profile said he was a web2.0 geek. I didn’t know what SEO was then so wasn’t really interested in that stuff. That is until my colleague Dave said it was time to market the Responsible Service of Alcohol course that I had built in our Moodle a few months back.

I said to Dave straight up that I know nothing about online marketing and that we should get someone in to do it, I have a contact (@timbuchalka) who could help us out. So here is how the twitter conversation went:

@rhysatwork: are you based in Adelaide Aus? I am interested in some SEO type work done for a website here so an @reply would be appreciated

@timbuchalka: Yes I am based in Adelaide.. Do lots of SEO/WEb 2.0 work but virtually 100% booked for months at the moment with new launch.

@rhysatwork: ok fair do. Looks like I'll have to give a whirl myself unless you know someone else with some time....

@timbuchalka: check out our website http://takeoverpageone.com lots of free seo/web 2.0 stuff there... free rss plugin coming out tomorrow..

So I did. I went over to http://takeoverpageone.com signed up, downloaded, read up and had at it. I figured I could give it a go and if it didn’t work at least I would learn something in the process.

Now I won’t pretend it was a quick process, but I did learn a pile of stuff. To be honest, I am a bit impatient when it comes to reading a pile of info. The pdf that @timbuchalka and his bro have put together is lengthy but it is in plain English (all be it a bit “Northern Suburbs” ;-) just kidding guys) and they have put into 10 steps. So I didn’t read it all and then try it out, I kinda did it step by step, (sorta). Some of the steps I had a whirl at but probably weren’t as successful as I could have been if I had actually had some sort of training in web design and coding. Seeing I am self taught I am pretty happy with what I did achieve. If you are going to have a go yourself, don’t follow my steps, go to http://takeoverpageone.com, and jump through their hoops (not really just a basic email sign up) to get their pdf.

1. picked out some keywords I thought would be likely candidates for searchers to try and find RSA courses.

2. did some google searches to see what was there (i.e. who the competition were) and took some screen shots with Jing so I had something to look at and compare after.

3. created a rsaonline.wordpress.com blog.

4. Tweeted new blog

5. did some social book marking

6. updated moodle site

7. updated bjaustralia.com.au

8. created some links on some of my social networks

9. updated this blog

10. did some google searches and took some more screen shots

11. created a Squidoo lens

12. did some more social book marking

13. and did some more searches on google again and more screen shots

So that is how I got to page one, and made a good sale on day one (in the working world) of rsaonline.wordpress.com

So here are some questions yet to be answered:

I wonder if writing about it will make it better or worse?

Will this model be sustainable (i.e. will we still be there in a week, a month or a year)?

Would you consider this an organic process?

I would love to hear your comments.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The race to the front page.

I woke up this morning after a late session working on the SEO stuff for the RSA online project to find I had managed to get the wordpress blog onto page one! Yep in less than 24 hours. Needless to say I was stoked. But rather than sit on my hands, I have been up late again working on getting it right up the rankings.

So I created a Squidoo. This is quite a cool tool, maybe a little fiddly in parts but cool nonetheless. Hopefully I will atract some "juice" to my wordpress blog by doing this. Anyway, I'll let you know how I get on in the next few days.(if you're interested)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

BJ RSA Online

I have spent the last few days getting the finishing touches on the BJ moodle course for Responsible service of alcohol (RSA) and I am just about to tell the world about it.

RSA is a tricky bit of e-learning to put together and it is one of the units of competence of the Hospitality Training Package that a lot of RTO's are providing, many of them online. Competition is pretty fierce and getting a hit on google for the course is going to prove difficult. So I thought I might conduct a little experiment to see if I can get our site up the google page rankings. That's right I'm going to through my hat into the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) ring.

SEO is something I know nothing about so I am happy to hear your suggestions. In the mean time, I have taken some screen shots of google searches with the appropriate key words, I have done a little work on grading the appropriate sites as they stand now, and I have created a new blog.

So here are some links to what I have done so far. (I am told back linking is the way to)

New RSA Blog
BJ's Moodle RSA Page (this should take you to a create a login page)
The BJ's Australia Hospitality page

My next post will be an update on how the experiment is going.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

There are truffles, and then, there are truffles.

This week, on a flight back from Port Lincoln, I was reading an article in an in-flight magazine. I know, I should’ve been listening to an important podcast, reading the latest Moodle for Dummies release or just about anything else but it had been a long day. So there I was reading this magazine, and I came across an article on truffles. You know the ones, fungus, use a pig to find them, great in French cooking, cost a fortune. OK, so here’s the thing, when you read truffles, how many thought about the chocolate type? You know the ones, petit fours, champagne truffles, chocolatey goodness.

Whether writing an article, writing a blog post, or putting together a learning object, the use of images is a vital part which helps to convey the information to the reader. The right image in the right place can change the whole feel and even the meaning of the article or learning object. The wrong image can lead to confusion, or worse.

So what do truffles have to do with the use of images? The in-flight magazine article had a picture of the wrong type of truffle. Now I imagine, to a lot of folks, this error was not noticed and made little difference to them. I found it quite amusing and had to share it with the guy sitting next to me. He told someone else, and who knows how many others have done the same.

I’d love to hear any other stories or examples of this sort of slip up and what the repercussions were…

Thursday, September 18, 2008

No Time Nobody (AKA Help is on it's way)

OK, it's been a little while since the last blog post and I have to admit much of the reason has been that I have been playing. That's right playing. Well that is after all what we do with all these fun tools us e-learning types use and talk about all the time.....

We get wind of a new or cool tool that we think might help us to get the content up, or spread the word, or whatever the need is at the time. We download it, play with it, break it, fix it then share it. We try before we buy. We test and trial. We run out of time. We go to bed late. We tweet while we work. We make a mould and we break it the next day. We share and consult and teach and try to convert. We preach the good and we read what others preach too.

So now what is my latest toy? Articulate no less. That's right, I paid (well at least my company did) for an e-learning tool. For those of you who don't know me personally I'll let you in on a little secret, I am a tightwad. I don't like paying for anything. Period. But when there is a real need and I can see that the benefits far outweigh the costs, I will dig deep into my moth ridden wallet AKA budget, and shell out for a worthy product.

The Articulate Suite

And in this case the benefit surely does far outweigh the costs. The learning objects we are building with the Articulate suite at BJ's are impressive, shiny, user friendly and (for those who care) SCORM compliant. They slot into our moodle with little effort and are so easy to build. They are tactile, flash(y) and small in file size.

Screen shot of a learning object we created for Jan's Leadership Management Course

To get the full rundown you really need to go to the Articulate blogs Word of Mouth and The Rapid E-learning Blog. Apart from being unbelievably handy (even if you don't own their products) they are easy to read and driven by reader demand.

And here's the segue.....

So why "No Time Nobody"? Well the result of these great objects we are building using Articulate (apart from the learning benefits for our students) is that we have taken The BJ's E-learning Project to the next level. It's not the product we are selling but Articulate is the icing we needed on our consulting cake. We are now offering consulting services to RTO's and Businesses in South Australia (or beyond if you know someone with the need ;-) rhys@bjaustralia.com.au if you do).

So how can we help? That is up to the need you have. Here are some scenarios-
  • E-learning project on the horizon and you need some advice.....
  • You need someone to project manage and/or write a grant application for e-learning......
  • You have a moodle you started but you are lacking any content....
  • Your business needs a better way to conduct their induction processes......
  • No L&D department in your SME and you want to outsource.....
  • You are coming up to that busy time of year and you just need some moodle savvy help to get you through......
  • the list goes on......
The bottom line is, Bj's are flexible, friendly (a)ffordable, and because I'm tight with my budget I'll aslo be tight with yours. We'll be open and amenable to budget restrictions and mid project deviations.

If you do know someone who could benefit from these services and you make a qualified recommendation I'll get a nice bottle of BJ's Red out to you ;-)

Monday, August 4, 2008

GoAnimate not "Goanna Mate".

Go!Animate.com Studio Screenshot.

I'm excited about this one folks. I only joined the GoAnimate community late last night and I am already blogging about it. GoAnimate has awesome potential for use in e-learning. As with a lot of web2.0 tools the bounds are limited only by your imagination. So what is it?

GoAnimate is a flash based web tool which utilises a drag and drop style interface to allow users to create animated comic book style scenes. There are a bucket load of characters to choose from, a few cool backdrops and the ability to add funky soundtracks and sounds. If you don't like the selection there, you have the option to upload your own.

All the characters have their own unique movements and facial expressions and there are a plethora of props you can give the characters and head adornments to add as well. All these options make for limitless potential for creativity especially when coupled with the ability to add voice overs and/or speech bubbles.

As with most web2.0 tools there is a social aspect to it as well with the capability to add friends and and comment on other animations. Once you have created your cartoon animation you have the option to embed, share using DIGG, delicious, Facebook or send via email.

Here is my first attempt, and for the record, the controversial thought bubble about the quick f*@# was added as a way to generate classroom conversation. It took me around an hour to put this together, but I had never used it before, and I hadn't prepared any script or done any storyboarding.

Where do you see the potential for using this technology in your classroom environment, learning management system or f2f workshop?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Jing jingaling.

I have been using Jing now for a couple of months and I meant to post on it ages ago.

Jing is a screen capture tool made by Techsmith. Since I downloaded it, Jing has become an indispensable weapon in my e-learning authoring arsenal. Sure Camtasia is more feature packed, as I'm sure are loads of other screen capture tools. But the thing I love about Jing is it's sheer usability.

It sits up on your screen like a little yellow sun and whenever you feel the need to use it you hover over it and click on the capture icon. Then highlight the area you want to capture, click image or video, and save the file you produce or publish it to your Screencast or Flickr account.

It is really that simple.

I love the added functionality of text and highlighting tools which make creating instructions or PowerPoint add ins a real breeze.

I love Jing and I think it's uses are only bound by your imagination.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Going all informal @ LearnX Asia Pacific

LearnX is done. The conference was interesting and thought provoking and strangely quite satisfying. The catch cry that was reverberating through many of the presentations and keynotes was "informal learning". So what's it all about?

No doubt Jay Cross or Bob Lee would be more qualified and more eloquent at informing on informal (both were highlights of my conference agenda) but I thought I'd give you a bit of a RTO spin on it.

I think informal learning as it pertains to RTO's is possibly the best thing since sliced bread. Informal learning happens everywhere and all the time. You're even doing it now! It is all that comes before and all that happens after and it isn't something we can control or map or track..... or can we?

Jay Cross and many others talk about informal learning being 75% or more of the learning that happens on the job. So if people are doing all this learning before and during their formal studies why can't they get recognition for it. Well in the VET sector they can.

Isn't RPL a way of tracking informal learning? There is a big push for RPL and new, better and innovative ways to do it, but how many VET trainers and assessors and RTO's in general are using these informal learning experiences of their learners and helping them to shorten their training or expedite their qualifications? Hopefully a lot. I can say I have been able to recognise the potential of capitalising on my past informal learning experiences and have gined RPL the best part of two Certificate IV and am now using the informal learning that occurs in my current role to gain a Diploma.

E-learning and web 2.0 tools can aid this capturing of informal learning. Think about the potential of wiki, blogs, IM etc for use as evidence in gaining RPL for informal learning not to mention ePortfolis (when the dust settles over that debate).

At BJ Australia, we plan on using photo and video capture as a way to record some of this informal learning during our CEDAR project. How are you capturing evidence of informal learning in your RTO or other learning institution? Have you used RPL (especially informal learning) to gain a qualification? Leave a comment, I'd love to hear.
What about the rest of the conference? My highlight breakout session was presented by Robb J Reiner. What a great presenter and topic "How to get the best from an in-house e-learning capability". More about that another blog post though.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Moodle Moot on the horizon

Today I received some good news about presenting at the Moodle Moot in Brisbane. This is a conference for all things Moodle. Haven't heard of Moodle? Here's a little tour of the Moodle need to knows.....

Moodle is an Open Source Course Management System (CMS). To quote the Moodle website:

"Moodle is a course management system (CMS) - a free, Open Source software package designed using sound pedagogical principles, to help educators create effective online learning communities. You can download and use it on any computer you have handy (including webhosts), yet it can scale from a single-teacher site to a University with 200,000 students. This site itself is created using Moodle, so check out the Moodle Demonstration Courses or read the latest Moodle Buzz. "

I have been using Moodle for a couple of years now and the best thing about it as far as I'm concerned is its sheer usability. It is very easy to get a genuine class happening in a short space of time. Places like Tafe SA have seen the merits of Moodle and have moved to it from Janison (another LMS) in a migration similar to that of the great bison migration (i.e. a mass movement but with a few stragglers being left behind to be devoured by the predators).

We have been working on the BJ Network Consulting Australia Moodle site and are proud of the results so far. Richard Wallace from Wallace Web Design and Development has been generous with his time and support for the Moodle installation. Richard is one of the few truly Moodle literate educators/consultants around and has been a mentor for me in my short e-learning career. If you are in SA, you are a moodle user and you haven't heard of Richard you are really missing out.

So enough smoke blowing. Why is Moodle so user friendly? I believe it has a lot to do with flexibility. As a Trainer/Lecturer it doesn't take long to take digital resources and get them into an online environment using Moodle. Now I know the purists out there will say "But what about Instructional Design?" It's my belief that a good trainer knows instructional design instinctively. So use the same principles you use in your face to face classroom in your Moodle classroom, test it out and see how it runs. Get yourself a Moodle classroom and start playing.....there are so many freely available resources and hundreds of widgets, modules, blocks and cool web applications available to brighten up your classroom. I will run a future blog post about my favourite bits and bobs that I use in course development.

If you still can't figure it out then talk to someone who has played with it before. Like me, or Richard Wallace, or Michael Coghlan (who is the guy to talk to if you're at Tafe SA). Or better still join me at the Moodle Moot in Brisbane in October. Here is a link to my spot at the Moot "Breaking the Scene with Barely a Bean".

See you there?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I do Udutu do you?

I have just successfully published my first course on Facebook. Using the freely available web based course editor, Udutu, has proven to be extremely easy. You can create and publish a course so fast it will make you wonder why you spent all that cash on those expensive tools.
You can embed Flash, PowerPoint and pictures. You can create assessments and examples and scenarios. You can do all this and more and DOWNLOAD IT FOR $0. Yup free.
And Udutu creates SCORM compliant courses. So you can load it into your LMS and track it all to boot. Udutu have even developed a Moodle Block which is next on my hit list to trial.
How do these guys make money? Well according to their website their revenue will come from folks hosting their courses on Udutu and through course building consultancy fees. Check out their FAQ here.
The Facebook application link is http://apps.facebook.com/udutulearn/ . The applications are in Beta at the moment so they are still ironing out the bugs but the support I received was second to none. Roger Mundell the Udutu CEO personally replied to my questions and posts within hours.
Using Udutu has proven to be a breeze and I'm sure anyone who is even slightly experienced in course development will see the benefits of this tool. One of the huge areas of potential with Udutu is the ability to collaborate on courses. Get the SME to write their content straight to the course, and have the flash developer chuck their stuff in from their own computer.
So will this be the start of something huge? Will this amazing step forward in the use of Facebook applications roll the masses into a frenzy of learning? Well one can only hope.
The blocking of Facebook and Myspace by all and sundry learning institutions has long been a bone of contention for those educators who sing the praises of e-learning and the Web 2.0 tools which are the building blocks of social networking sites. I doubt that Udutu will change the minds of the majority of IT directors in learning institutions and businesses but it will give them something to think about. In the mean time, thanks must go to Udutu for making my job a hell of a lot easier and my bottom line look a lot healthier.

Friday, May 2, 2008

PMOG the future of e-learning?

PMOG stands for passively multiplayer online gaming. It is a game that runs in the background of Mozilla Firefox while you surf the Internet, and you earn points (DP) for each new URL you go to.
This tool was brought to my attention via twitter when Howard Rheingold put the URL in an update. I checked it out and thought "this could be useful".
So, far from being a PMOG expert I thought I could pass on to you my thoughts on its possibilities as a tool for e-learning.
Fostering communities within learning environments is a major goal of many learning organisations. Facebook, My Space, Twitter, del.icio.us and a long list of other tools (some of which are notoriously banned by many learning institutions) exist (at least in part) to aid in the development of community. PMOG throws a new ingredient into the ever growing soup of online applications by rewarding you for looking at new sites, giving you the ability to guide fellow community members to other sites and throwing in some fun elements to boot.
Let me discuss some of the particular features I believe could be used as learning tools.
1. Firstly the "mission"
Missions are a way to lead fellow PMOGgers on a tour of websites of your choosing. The mission creator installs "lightposts" on websites. The lightpost pops up when you hit a lightposted site at random and informs you of the mission. You can also find out about missions by going to the missions page on the PMOG site. As the creator of the mission you add some script to your lightpost explaining how it links to the other sites and forms part of the mission. Used as an e-learning tool, missions have a likening to webquests and could be used to take your learners on a path of relevant, themed websites. You could then ask your class to blog or write a report on their thoughts. On completion of a mission you are asked to rate it and pass comments. Students could create their own missions as a method of proving the paths taken in their learning experience or even a means of proving their understanding of a particular concept.
I created a mission in order to test it out and this was the result.
2. Second the "portal".
Portals can be attached to websites as a way to lure people to other sites. When you hit a website with a portal attached to it, a pop up appears in your Firefox browser enticing you to click on the portal. As with pop ups this sort of occurrence could become a little annoying and distracting if you weren't interested or were trying to research. On the flip side though, if you see a portal appear from someone in your network or class, you may be more likely to welcome the distraction. You might think the connection between portals and e-learning is a little tenuous but it wouldn't take too much imagination for an innovative teacher to find a use for these in their classrooms.
3. Third, the "crates".
Crates can be stashed on websites for others to loot. You can put tools (like portals, lightposts and mines) and messages in crates and when fellow PMOGgers stumble upon them they open the crate to receive their bounty. As an e-learning tool, crates have the potential of acting as a reward for learners hitting websites.
I'm sure mines, armour and Saint Nicks could all have applications for the innovative teacher or e-learning champion and I'm sure there are many applications that have not even occurred to me so I encourage any readers to comment on the potential uses for PMOG as an e-learning tool.
As far as the game itself goes, well lets just say it's growing on me..............ok I love it!!
Are you a PMOG player, what do you think?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Small steps to being a "techno wizard"

I thought it might be time to add a little of my own content to this blog. My first true blog entry is really about taking those first few steps on the long road to becoming a techno wizard.

I have stolen the phrase "techno wizard" from my boss Jan who coined it when discussing with me her path ahead to practising e-learning at BJ's. I don't know if it really is possible to become a true techno wizard but it's never too late to start learning some of the tricks and tools to add to your training arsenal.

E-learning is not going to be the solution to every training scenario, but having some e-tricks you can pull out of the box when you need to will certainly add to your credibility with y-gen learners and can even make your face to face lessons more engaging and interesting when used in the right way and with the right group. I have read the exploits and seen with my own eyes many experienced trainers go from zero e-learning knowledge to conducting whole courses online in a very short space of time. The real key with getting on the path to becoming a techno wizard is "don't put e-learning on a pedestal".

If you have: emailed, surfed the internet, subscribed or posted to a blog, skyped, chatted online, facebooked, myspaced, used Microsoft Office, played Xbox/playstation/Wii/or any other platform, used a mobile phone or any other of umpteen dozen other skills then you have the ability to be an educator who uses e-learning as a big gun in their training arsenal. These are all tools and applications which will help you develop your e-learninng skills and you shouldn't downplay them. All e-learning really is, is using electronic tools to aid in the facilitation of courses. So essentially we all have the ability to utilise e-learning. We just need to have the time, motivation and inclination to transport our skills into an e-learning environment.

If you use tools like del.icio.us, RSS, Google Reader, Blogger or anything else already why don't you start by thinking how you could use these tools to aid your students? Integrate one into your classes. You're now on the path.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

RSS? ATOM? What the????

RSS feeds are a fantastic way to keep up to date with blogs, news and websites but how do you do it and what is it?

Social Networking Sites????

Yep I'll admit it I play around on Facebook. Why I hear you ask.... well this will give you a bit of background on it.....


I love del.icio.us but what is it? Check out this you tube video for the ultimate description.

E-learning Central

Have you spent hours looking at e-learning sites and trolling through gigabytes of information? This blog has been put together as a central resource to find, review and share information, sites, software, tools and courses aimed at or able to be used by learners, teachers and content developers in an e-learning environment.
The main aim is to share information with staff at BJ Network Consulting Australia in order to supplement the BJ E-learning Professional Development Program, however in the spirit of share and share alike I have decided to make this information available to all.
Please subscribe to my blog RSS to stay up to date on the resources I am currently investigating.