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Innovation is Still Alive in the Learning Circles

June 9, 2009

I had an opportunity to reconnect this past week with my ‘roots’ in the learning space this week at the ASTD International Conference and Expo in Washington, DC.  It’s been a bit since I went to an event solely focused on learning (as opposed to social technologies/web 2.0/social media), and I was a bit surprised that the same conversations we were having four years ago about the impact of social technologies in the learning function are still going on today.  I shared some thoughts on this topic on the Video Community Blog.

There still is a good amount of innovation happening in the space, which is exciting to see.  A few of the highlights include:

  • Open source is making strides into enterprise learning–  Open source technology has always been embraced by people in the learning function, mainly in the academic world.  That’s why I wasn’t suprised to see Remote Learner, a learning services company and Moodle partner, at ASTD, which is an event mainly geared at coporate customers.  Moodle is an open-source Course Management System (CMS), which has historically had it’s roots and main adoption in the academic world.  Remote Learner recently developed an extension for corporate customers on top of the Moodle platform called the Enterprise Learning Intelligence Suite for Moodle (ELIS).  This is an interesting direction since traditionally the vendors who commercialized open source offerings for the academic world have not attempted to take on established vendors focused on corporate customers.  I think it’s a great move by Remote Learner, as many LMS vendors increasingly are struggling with differentiation and ELIS may be a great alternative since it provides them with the core functionality needed for formal learning (without all the unneccessary extras) while being adept and flexible enough to incorporate greater social learning components.  Here is a clip of Bryan Williams, CEO of Remote Learner, and Justin Williams, Remote Learner’s west coast Account Executive, talking about their work at Remote Learner and Moodle:
  • Multimedia content authoring– especially video– remains hot. It was clear that multimedia content authoring remains very hot given the number of vendors present offering solutions at the event.  Video, in particular, has become more pervasive in the tools, especially the ability to edit and create ‘mash ups’ (pulling together different content into one one file).  An example was from, a vendor who provides an authoring tool designed for video interaction.  Adeel Khan, VP of Sales at, explains what the company does:

Most of these tools stopped short of creating a true “YouTube-like” community in the enterprise, often feeding the LMS as the repository of content and front end for interaction.  Most LMSs, however, lack the ability to create true social, web 2.0 communities to take advantage of the richness of the multimedia content.  Solutions like Sun Microsystem’s Social Learning eXchange (SLX) provide a better alternative, helping to optimize video content into a true community for social learning, as well as workplace collaboration (as a disclaimer, Sun is one of my clients who I was helping to support at ASTD).

  • Uptrending use of Twitter in creative ways– While the use of Twitter at the event as a whole was incredibly low (someone tweeted that only “100 of 5000” participants were tweeting– not sure where the number came from, but perhaps from those tweeting under the ASTD hashtags), there was definitely a large interest in microblogging.  One company, DigitalChalk, offered perhaps the most creative use of Twitter at the show by conducting a contest whereby anyone who came by their booth received a t-shirt that had a clue on the back.  The person would wear the t-shirt and then would look for other participants with similar t-shirts and clues.  The first person to tweet the complete the phrase that the three keywords clues formed won a $100 gift card. (See the complete rules posted by DigitalChalk).  The results were greater booth traffic for DigitalChalk and a “buzz” in the air about the company at the event.  Josh Quigley, Solutions Consultant at Digital Chalk explains:

Be sure to follow Josh on Twitter @joshuaquigley and DigitalChalk VP of Sales & Marketing, Tony McCune, @tonymccune.

Certainly there were a number of other innovations at ASTD as well as in the learning circles in general, that I am not accounting for.  Please do share your thoughts & comments on ones that I may have missed.

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