No Next Button – Some Examples | MinuteBio

Having seen my share of eLearning courses, built a few, and reviewed quite a few, this link was interesting to read.

No Next Button – Some Examples | MinuteBio

The Back/Next navigation, which relegates interaction outside the content has been done to death, almost like PowerPoint. The learner is a passive consumer of the content – the said interaction is no interaction, but a chore to push the passive state of content from one screen to another. There is no excitement in the “interaction” and the said “interaction” is in a frame that contains the interaction.

Instructionally, this imposes a way of navigating on the learner, that leaves no scope for discovery or exploration. More often than not, moving media (animations, video clips) embedded in the content is often passed for interactive content. This is, at best, active content.

Not all samples in this link are the best in terms of instructional design, but they definitely make a case for breaking away from frame-based navigational interaction.

Hat Tip: Stephen Downes

The Teacher as an Editor

An interesting read today about the new dynamic nature of textbooks.

“Macmillan, one of the largest textbook publishers in the world, is introducing a new software for instructors that will allow them to change the online versions of textbooks that their students use.

According to the New York Times, with DynamicBooks, ‘Professors will be able to reorganize or delete chapters; upload course syllabuses, notes, videos, pictures and graphs; and perhaps most notably, rewrite or delete individual paragraphs, equations or illustrations.'”

(Via Macmillan to allow professors to change textbooks online, on the fly: )

Yet another “path-breaking” initiative from Macmillan (I am referring to the Publishers’ Manifesto [Summary | Full PDF Download] that they came up with a while ago)

This is truly an interesting take on text books by Macmillan. However, as the article rightly suggests, it has it’s dangers about how the textbook may be used by a teacher; and the potential for misuse.

So, does a dynamic textbook have its place in education? I think it does. Only, however, if the delete action is restricted. It is one thing to allow creating context to the content; yet another to allow editing that can change meaning.

Also, I think it is better to leave the “editing” of a textbook to the publishers, who have been doing it well for years. How many teachers would really be qualified to “edit” content? The deletion part – then – is quite scary.

Finally, I wish it was clear how students would use these books. Would they also be allowed to make their own notes and pictures in the text book?

Talk of prosumer content!

An Asynchronous Evolution

This is an issue that has bothered me for long.

Language in the Digital Age: “Text messaging, blogging, emailing, twittering, etc. in many cases force us to use less words. What does this do to the way we interpret what is being said?
Since a desired intent can not come across because of word limitations, the meaning is therefore altered. I think many problems arise from this which are probably more substantial than what is recognized. Entire thought patterns are disrupted by misinterpretations. Our processing of other information has drastically changed. Our intake of information from the vastness of the World Wide Web differs greatly from the way in which we obtain information by reading a book.”(Via Hanna Wiszniewska.)

After you read this article, make it a point to read the source – an article in NY Times. In this article, Anand Giridharadas, wonders

Blogs, though they seek to bring out the writer in us, are notable for how little stress they put on the actual writing. How many literary greats has the rise of the blogosphere produced?


E-mail, meanwhile, has become a linguistic wasteland — even among language lovers. Cellphone keypads make us promise to “call u back after the mtg.” Twitter coaxes us to misspell to meet the 140-character maximum.

There is one argument against the argument that favours the use of good language — evolution. (and this point is well presented in the NY times article) However, the true problem of the decline of language is not so much in the cultural and social implications of the decline as much as in the technical problem that it presents – the loss of meaning due to the absence of context. Meaning has always been bound to context in some form or the other. Context has enriched meaning and provided a basis to build on. It diminishes vocabulary, forcing a loss of nuances, that a rich vocabulary otherwise provides.

We have somehow been forced to multi-task, even with the tasks that we do not really need to do. We are forced to follow everything in this world, although this may not be really relevant to what we need to know. Attention spans decrease, available time is limited, and entire conversations are the proverbial “bullet-riddled PowerPoint presentation”, Giridharadas mentions in the article.

He concludes the article with:

Language may suffer in the coming age simply because we have so many people, near and far, to address, so little time in which to do so, and diminishing patience for rules that slow the headlong rush into linguistic limbo.

However, the dreaded limbo is a factor, to my mind, of the lack of synchronisation of the evolution of language and the human mind.

Creative Use of “Boring” Tools

Michele Martin, in her Bamboo Project blog, links to a great post from Sarah Horrigan and laments how instructors use learning systems, specifically VLEs.

It’s Not the Tool That’s Boring. It’s You.: “That’s the thing about technology and learning. People are quick to blame the tool, rather than looking first at their own behavior with it. It’s PowerPoint that’s the problem, rather than how it’s used. Or they hate web conferencing because it’s ‘dull.’ And don’t even start with social media–blogs, social networks, Twitter et. al are just a ‘waste of time.'”

(Via The Bamboo Project Blog.)

It may be a worthwhile debate to discover if most VLEs out there have somehow contributed to the boring aspect of online learning. Sarah talks of how we look at a box vs. how we would have looked at it when we were younger. There may be more to enabling engaging learning through VLEs — these systems (and the people who made these systems) will need to first engage with the instructors with a “map” of how interactive and engaging learning can be made possible — beyond PowerPoint and Lecture Notes. What were they (those who built the systems) thinking when they built the systems? What vision of online learning did they have? How would they like the instructors to make best use of the systems?

The onus, to create interesting learning online, I believe, is not just on the instructors.

A 2.0 Thought about ID

Clark has written an quick note about the work he is doing in the area of mobile learning. He says: 

It’s been fun, as I’ve had to expand my thinking on how to ‘think different‘ to accommodate mobile learning. And you really do need to think differently, as traditional instructional design won’t likely lead you to the opportunities. Yes, you might get job aids, and even distributed applications (capturing data from the field), but the whole ‘learning adjunct’ thing might well be skipped, for example.

Sticking to the traditional form of instructional design will be limiting, not only to mobile learning, but to most Web 2.0 applications. There is definitely a significant opportunity to exploit from the coming-of-age of social software. However, if these are to be used beyond keeping in touch with your friends, it has got implications on the instructional designer’s role, like I said earlier:

The instructional designer’s role will have to cover a bit more than Bloom’s and ARCS and the lot, in this very pervasive, collaborative and socially hyperactive way of learning.

I see an interesting debate (an on-going debate, more like) about the use of social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook being considered as practical eLearning tools – even as eLearning platforms. A few educational institutes have begun using these tools (the article I quote from below, is more about ELGG, however)

Some schools ban social networks for wasting classroom time or to protect students from weirdos. But, as part of a wider trend toward less top-down teaching, other institutions are putting tools like MySpace, Bebo and Facebook on the curriculum — and teachers are saying: “Thanks for the add.”

ELGG is in a different league altogether – its popularity is suspect – because students may not necessarily choose to use ELGG as well as their MySpace or Facebook. But I digress.

Even if these tools (MySpace or Facebook) are being used for the purpose of learning – the instructional paradigm for their use will be very different from the learning delivered via conventional Learning Management Systems (LMS) or Virtual Learning Environments (VLE).

As instructional design for computer-based learning found its unique adaptation through different media and delivery platforms (even the move from CD-ROMS to the Web was significant transition – the web made online learning more interactive, it affected design paradigms, it allowed content to be more dynamic and data exchange more real-time), so will it have to find it’s way to pervade 2.0 technologies.

There is more interaction than before and we have multiple methods to manage and leverage that interaction. That – and the changing attitudes of the new learners is the new instructional designer’s new problem.

Podcasting Needs Help!

So it has been determined that in itself, Podcasting Has No ‘Inherent’ Pedagogic Value.

“Podcasting does not contain any inherent value. It is only valuable inasmuch as it helps the instructor and students reach their educational goals, by facilitating thoughtful, engaging learning activities that are designed to work in support of those goals.”

The lecture in a classroom even (delivered live) has much more interactivity and subtext which a standalone audio file cannot carry. Not so much the problem of the podcast itself, perhaps, the device(s) lack the versatility?

Paul McCloskey, “Consensus: Podcasting Has No ‘Inherent’ Pedagogic Value,” Campus Technology, 7/9/2007,

Evaluating Web-based Communities

As Web 2.0 lends itself to eLearning 2.0, there is a significant social angle to learning. This means that, as learning happens lesser in isolation, i.e. just the ‘online course’ and becomes more collaborative and participative, it just helps having heuristics to evaluate web-based communities.

If you read this not-very-long article and notice the five heuristics of interactive creativity; selection hierarchy; identity construction; rewards and costs; and, artistic forms, you will notice they almost lend themselves to some key learning theories. In eLearning 2.0 it will have impact on how online learning is designed.

The instructional designer’s role will have to cover a bit more than Bloom’s and ARCS and the lot, in this very pervasive, collaborative and socially hyperactive way of learning.

I guess, the Instructional Designer 2.0 has to come of age before eLearning 2.0 can. eLearning can now, possibly bloom beyond Bloom.