So you’re in EdTech and want to go to the ATD or Learning Solutions conference?  

Recently LearningStone – the new online learning, communication and collaboration tool – went to the ASTD international conference and expo. It was hard work, fun, rewarding… so I thought I would share this.

If you’re interested to know what we were doing there, just check this.

The ASTD convention is focused on professional development and just in case you can’t find them anymore– the ASTD was renamed and rebranded during the conference to ATD – Association for Talent Development (what’s in a name… but the design of the logo improved a lot :-). Whatever you do, don’t try presenting K-18 educational products here. People just won’t be interested. This is for internal and external training providers… eh talent developers, HR people etc.

SmothsoonianThe convention is huge, this year about 11.500 visitors, quite expensive (though it’s not hard to get into the expo part for free) but they threw a great party (networking night) in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum which is pretty spectacular. There are hundreds of presentations, hundreds of nationalities, hundreds of booths… it’s big, really big, so visitors should come prepared, though walking into a random keynote will probably always be worth your while.

If you’re a start-up or any type of company in the EdTech / professional development field you might wonder if you should go. It’s important to know that only roughly 2000 people might be interested in you unless your product is on something like leadership, then it might be a few thousand more. If you are only going to present your startup at one expo, you might also consider Learning Solutions next year (both ATD and Learning Solutions are in Orlando, Florida – the convention heaven for the US).

There are two possibilities: pay money for a booth at the expo and/or try and get selected for a presentation.  The expo is a bit more expensive than you might think as you’ll need furniture, brochures, banners etc. – all things you might now have yet if you’re a startup. A starting budget about 10.00 USD including some furniture, travel etc. is your starting point and the kind sales people at the ATD will try and sell you all sorts of sponsor packages too.

If you have something interesting to say: presenting combined with the expo is always the best solution so people can visit you. And about the booth: LearningStone was one of the latest companies registering and we were lucky with a great location (thank you ATD for warning us). Don’t choose a spot in the far corners of the expo – you might end up pretty lonely.

So once you’re there, the one thing you need to know about the expo is that people will visit you in bursts of thousands as the schedule has breaks to give people time to visit you but at other times it can be really quiet. In this case, the third day was nearly pointless for most companies at the expo. In general the best thing you can do is have more people on day one, than day two, than day three. But no worries, a visit to the convention is a great reward after a day or two at the expo.

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So ATD 2015 (May 17-20)  or Learning Solutions 2015 (March 25-27)? Probably the most important consideration is if you want people from outside the EdTech field to be able to bump into you or not (if so choose ATD). If you want most people you talk to, to be interested in learning and tech to start of with, choose Learning Solutions by the Elearning Guild. I just wonder who will have the best party location.

 

Michiel Klønhammer

Founder

michiel@LearningStone.com

 

 

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Elearning is just a too lonely

For a guest lecture at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences in the beautiful Tropics Institute in Amsterdam, I was asked to talk about my start-up LearningStone. It’s always a good moment to reconsider the proposition one has. For insiders, LearningStone is all about supporting instructor led training with an online platform. In a word, it’s about blended learning and the practicalities of offering training in a classroom setting with all the benefits of the online world.

But why? Why not just use elearning. It’s cheaper, faster, more adaptive, avoids travel… I could go on as I’ve been enthusiastic about self paced elearning for such a long time. So why build a platform that supports so called instructor led training? It was actually just after my lecture that I realized I should of said the one essential thing: Elearning of the self pace type is simply to lonely. People need other people. They need inspiration from experienced mentors who show them the way ahead. These people don’t actually have to be physically in the same room . Our platform will soon be used in combination with webinars, but in essense it’s the same thing: people inspire us to to think, to act, to read…. and yes to learn with the help of self paced learning.

HvA-Tropics_Institute-MichielKlonhammer

I found a great image that shows how lonely self paced elearning can be. Thank you Roger Reuver (see his Flickr site for some great images) for the perfect timing of the picture. 

Michiel@LearningStone.com

When not to use Moodle or LearningStone?

In the past half year, while we were working towards going live with LearningStone we often got the question why not use Moodle for professional training. Some of our first clients actually used Moodle in the past and have chosen LearningStone. You probably want to know why.

Moodle?

Moodle is a famous Learning Management System that was developed from 1999 onwards. It can do a lot that LearningStone can’t do so there are certainly situations where we would recommend it.Moodle-scales-small

If you need to upload scorm objects (e-learning packages) and track performance data, Moodle is a great platform. If you need to build custom modules, custom integrations, want to be able to change the HTML, if you want to host it yourself, use it as a student administration or do grading: you should go with Moodle. If you need an e-learning environment (so everything is virtual), then go with Moodle.

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LearningStone?

If you need a nearly instant way to combine communication, learning material and integrate with external media and don’t want to do the development yourself, LearningStone is a better choice. If you need to be up and running without talking about: hosting, versions, databases, domain registration etc, use LearningStone. If you are a face-to-face trainer and your primary need is to support the training you are providing with easy to use digital tools, go for LearningStone.

Free?

Moodle is open source and totally free. At LearningStone we also use and contribute to open source projects so that’s a good thing. But fact is: open source only means the application is free, not the use of it. Installing and maintaining a system like Moodle might be easy if you’re into server software but to get it working perfectly it’s complicated. In some cases when you’re serious about it, it becomes really hard. This doesn’t always matter: if you have an ICT department and some basic server infrastructure, it’s really doable and then the other advantages of Moodle might outweigh the operational costs.

Hosting?

A big difference between Moodle and LearningStone is that Moodle needs hosting and LearningStone is a so called cloud application (the hosting is part of the service and all things like backups are taken care of). If you do want to host Moodle, have a look for specialized hosters but make sure they can help you with versions of PHP and MySQL as well. Our focus at LearningStone has been to take all those subjects off the table and let a training professional focus on getting started with a course.

Our experience with Moodle in the corporate learning arena is that it works for large organizations and multinationals centralizing their learning. This makes it worthwhile to invest the time in Moodle. But many training agencies, don’t have the focus to work on such a long project and benefit from a cloud based system that offers what they need now.

See for more info:

www.moodle.org

www.learningstone.com 

LearningStone and the color blue

Just a short note on progress: LearningStone has been officially launched… no not fully but softly… it’s a soft launch! We are being used by our first client, the Training agency Driestar (thank you for your confidence!) and all is going well. Very well. We’re now looking for more training agencies so please get in touch if you want use LearningStone. It could be free!

Let’s do some adjectives: LearningStone is a private, secure, easy to use, cloud-based, instant, and flexible, beautifully designed… learning and communication tool for trainers and training agencies. More about that here: www.learningStone.com

The color of LearningStone is blue. It’s a purplish blue (actually the exact same color used in the background of Windows 8) but still blue. Why? Well… we will be serving training companies that we don’t want to out-design so we thought going for the most conservative color would solve that.

My working life has been defined by colors starting with a lighter IBM-style blue at the start of ICATT. The first thing my partner Hanneke van der Horst and I did when we officially launched the company (it had been a foundation at the University of Amsterdam) was to move to orange which – back in 1993 – was a pretty radical move. NO company used orange back then. As the years progressed, just about every online-agency thought it necessary to use orange for its house style, so by the time we needed a redesign of our house style we worked together with Visual Space and switched to bright red. When I then started Maximonster Interactive Things, I thought it fun to move to a dark purple (which had been considered together with orange before).

And now I’m back full circle!

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Zwarte Piet

A year ago I was having a video conference with a client in the US. He asked me, a Dutchman, what this was with this Sinterklaas guy, or Sint Nicolas – our version of Santa Clause. He had heard that there were black helpers called Zwarte Piet or Black Peter who were like servants… or perhaps like slaves owned by Sinterklaas. I carefully explained (he was a client after all) that this was a tradition not very different from the elves who help Santa Clause but that I agreed that it had a strong racist undertone. I explained that few… very few Dutch people agree with me that it had anything with racism. No… Zwarte Piet was black because he had to climb down the chimney (so he’s not black but just plain stupid). But what about those big red lips? Eh… well he scrapes his lips along the chimneys…

My client was totally shocked when I showed him images of the streets of Amsterdam with Zwarte Piets (lots of them) running around giving children candy (he’s a nice black guy). And now it turns out that UN investigator Verene Shepherd has started an investigation into the Sinterklaas tradition and is already against it, saying that we should stick to Santa Clause…. Now that’s the worst approach you can take if you want to deal with the Dutch. Now we’ll probably keep Peter black just to show the UN that we have our own mind…
There are people (most Dutch people) that argue that Piet’s blackness is a tradition that we shouldn’t spoil but the time has come for us to accept that the racist undertones are offensive to many people and that – as history has shown – it’s really not such a problem to adapt a historical character. All you have to do is consider which part of the history, of the story we can easily change without changing the plot. I discussed this with a black friend and we agreed that changing Sinterklaas into a black guy (on a black horse!) would be hard to explain away and would be just plain silly but that many details of the whole tradition could easily be changed. The solution would be to not only add colored Piets* to the celebration but also white ones. And then we can leave the tradition alone for a while as we love Sinterklaas and Zwarte… eh… colored Piet. We certainly refuse to give up Sinterklaas all together which would be giving in to American pressure as we all know that Santa Clause is actually Sinterklaas after he got a full make over last century, sponsored by Coca-cola.

Zotonic the Movie – the making of

We had a lot of fun making “Zotonic – the movie”.  Here’s the “Making of ”

I’m working on the team as… um… what is my role? I guess in the Open Source world it might be “Community Manager” or manager of business affairs. In a ‘regular’ business it would be General Manager or  Marketing Manager. For the time being I’m eh… Michiel.

Want to know more about Zotonic – the Erlang Web Framework and Content Management system?
Check it out at http://www.zotonic.com