One of the great things about my travels is that I get to speak with all kinds of interesting folks who are thinking about learning is new and innovative ways. Here is a summary of a great conversation I had with Reuben Tozman who I met one night at a conference (actually, we weren’t at the conference venue we were out getting a bite to eat and something to drink).
Kapp: Tell me a little about your interest in the learning field and why you decided to form edCetra.
Tozman: I have a Masters Degree in Educational Technology and began my career as an instructional designer for a web development company that just got their first CBT gig. I also have a MA in Philosophy which has given me the tools to do deep dives into otherwise obscure areas of thinking. From my first days as an ISD, I immediately saw the impact an ISD person has on production cycles with a technical team when left to their own devices without supervision.
What I noticed was that the ‘ideal’ instructional design in a technology world had major impacts on time and money especially when the market demands fixed bids for work that can not possibly be determined up front. And so edCetra was formed based on the notion that ‘custom’ eLearning production can use better models that allow for creative instructional design while reigning in production costs. We do this by employing modern software development models and technologies based on structured XML approaches. However, in our world the XML is used to model instructional design approaches versus data capturing.
Kapp: What cool or interesting projects is edCetra working on to enhance corporate learning and knowledge retention, management and maintenance?
Tozman: edCetra is about to launch a revolutionary product that builds off of a Google® like paradigm, but uses rapid publishing and semantic web technologies. This tool is very learner centric allowing learners to search for, retrieve, recompile and reorganize legacy content into different materials in either mobile, eLearning or PDF formats. Legacy content includes PPT files that are broken up and tagged slide by slide, Microsoft Word documents that can be tagged at the paragraph, image or even word level, images, videos, PDF’s and flash assets. Most recently we created an open API that allows for external applications to push content directly into our tool that others can now recover and include in their own creations.
Imagine corporate clouds of content that include a wide assortment of content types that your employees can log into, search for information they need to solve a business problem and being able to publish at run time a solution that they themselves tailored and in the format of their choice. It’s the holy grail for learning on demand and enabled through very modern technology.
Kapp: How is cloud computing and/or semantic web technologies impacting learning? What will be the end result of these new approaches to learning and organizational knowledge management?
Tozman: The other day on #lrnchat, a weekly tweet cast, the topic was Content Curation vs Creation. Everybody agreed that ‘curation’ is increasingly becoming important but very few people understood that ‘curation’ will essentially be handled through machines using semantic web technologies. ‘Curation’ enables learners to sift through content themselves and determine their own way of experiencing it.
As a general observation, this phenomenon is in itself what today’s learning organizations aspire to. Most people associate this with mobile learning, but it is certainly not limited to that. The curation process is one of determining patterns in content that draws links between content objects in a variety of ways. What semantic web technologies contribute is the enablement of computers, not humans, to understand content itself and its appropriate contexts. Assume that this goal is attainable (we are seeing evidence of it today) then ultimately we can build out apps that curate content for us using the web as our operating system, and provide learners with an interface to grab the content and assemble it at run time in whatever format they choose.
The big question becomes what metrics do we apply for learning, since every learner will build out their own learning materials. How do you build tests if everybody uses a different version of the content? So the impact of semantic web technologies and cloud computing doesn’t only impact the learning materials and the model for learning, but clearly affects the analytics around learning as well.
Kapp: What do you see as the major influences within the learning industry in terms of connecting workers to the information and knowledge?
Tozman: The big influence is the amount of information that we amass about a singular topic, the rate at which that information changes and most importantly the speed at which organizations must act on the information. Competition has always been fierce in the business world. Those organizations that can curate and make sense of business critical information the quickest, get the competitive edge. Those that can’t do this, will be gobbled up or shown the door so to speak. As people who play a big role in making sure employees are connected to the information they need to be the most effective and efficient workers possible must understand and utilize the tools businesses use for curating their information. The process we once used for design and development is now too slow to respond to this need for equipping workers at the moment of need.
Kapp: Finally, what advise do you have for students who are just entering into the field of instructional design and technology?
Tozman: The advice I have for those entering the field of instructional design, is not to get caught up in whats happening only in the training and development/education sector. Look outside of the training and development/education industry to get a sense of what sorts of things businesses are dealing with operationally, technologically etc, and find out how you can play a vital role as opposed to simply being an instructional designer. Find out what matters to businesses and see yourself as an enabler to what matters and not someone just responsible for training.
Kapp: Thanks, for your time, really interesting and innovative projects.