Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 9 Mar 00 15:46
Valorie Beer is currently the People Champion (aka VP of North American HR) at E*TRADE, where she has landed after a 15-year journey through Training, Organizational Development and Human Resources at Xerox, Apple, and Netscape. During her journey, she bounced from technology (more business-oriented than people-oriented) to human resources (which usually has the opposite problem), and along the way discovered that what she's really interested in is the intelligent application of technology to the very human activity of learning. In August 1998, she was asked by Jossey-Bass Publishers to write a book on how to use the Web for teaching and learning; the result was _The Web Learning Fieldbook_. Libbi Lepow, who will lead the discussion, is an Organization Development professional with over 20 years experience in working with people in both the corporate and non-for-profit worlds. Currently, she's the People Effectiveness Guru at E*TRADE Group in Menlo Park, CA (the Number One Place to Invest Online!), and the President of her own consulting company, Westwind Management Consulting. She has worked with individuals and teams in places as diverse as a nuclear power plant and a .com company, and remains constantly intrigued at the combination of similarities and uniqueness she finds in doing her work. For a year, Libbi and Valorie shared the job of O.D. Director at E*TRADE, and were known to the entire organization as "Valibbi". Libbi has been <email@example.com> for almost eight years.
Libbi Lepow (paris) Sun 12 Mar 00 18:16
It's a special pleasure to welcome Valorie Beer to the WELL and introduce you to her (and to hew newest book, _The Web Learning Fieldbook_). Valorie and I met for the first time in the fall of 1998, when we were introduced as potential job-share partners at E*TRADE Group, then in Palo Alto, CA. It was love-at-first-meeting, and we spent the next 12 months as the first director-level job share in the company - leading the organization originally called "Training and Development". We quickly renamed our department "Learning and Development (because, as a friend once told me, you train seals - people learn) and, as Linda mentioned, ourselves "Valibbi". We knew we'd been successful in the job-share when no one in the organization could tell us apart. Valorie has since moved on to a different role in the Human Resources organization, but her connection to learning in the organization remains intact. Valorie, I know that learning, especially adult learning, is a discipline near and dear to you. Would you tell us a little about your own wanderings through the field of education and learning, and why you were motivated to research and write specifically about web-based learning? I'm especially interested in this updated quote from the book: "I hear and I forget I see and I remember I do and I understand I point and click and I point and click."
Valorie Beer (valoriebeer) Mon 13 Mar 00 18:35
Call me retro, but I firmly believe that the absolutely most valuable teaching "machines" are real-life people. There's just no substitute for the relationship, interaction, and real-time adjustments that are only possible with a human. However, so much of what we ask teachers to do -- such as deliver facts or give and grade tests for bunches of learners at at time -- is a waste and a distraction. If we can use a powerful and ubiquitous technology like the web to deliver the more routine aspects of education, we can free teachers to form the types of relationships with their learners that involve judgment, problem-solving and the level of creativity that only occurs when people interact with each other. I wrote the Web Learning Fieldbook for only one reason: To see if I might inspire others to think seriously about what they want to teach (and learn) BEFORE they jump to this latest technological wonder -- the web. Believe it or not, the book actually asks you to ignore the web (and other "educational" media) and get your act together about what you want to teach. Only then can you determine how (or if) the web can help. I wrote this book because I've spent 15 years in education watching each technology innovation be hailed as the "savior" of education, only to have it end up as an old book or lecture in new clothing. (Before the web it was CD-ROMs, and before that it was computers in the classroom.) Go out to some "education" sites on the web. I'd be willing to bet (and it's an unfair bet, 'cause I've been to most of those sites), that your only activity will be clicking "Next" or "Back." Learning is a change in behavior based on experience. If you don't get a chance to experience the content (reading and clicking don't count), then you haven't learned anything. This goes back to my point about need a real human teacher. At some point, you need to interact and get feedback on your new (learned) behaviors. The web is great for presenting information that a learner will need in order to change behavior; however, most web sites do a terrible (or non-existent) job of linking you to a real environment where you can actually use your learning to do something that you couldn't do before. Learning isn't learning 'til you use it.
Libbi Lepow (paris) Thu 16 Mar 00 15:06
(In violent agreement with the above...) This is why so many "management" training programs are built around some kind of interactive involvement among participants and instructors, no? And why the best of them require that the skills get practiced? So it sounds like one of the challenges to creating a Web-based learning experience that truly causes behavior change is building in the interaction, practice and feedback loops. Have you experienced any so-called learning sites that have managed to exactly that?
Valorie Beer (valoriebeer) Fri 17 Mar 00 07:33
Yes, but it isn't a function of the site itself. Many sites say that they have "interactivity," but that usually means pointing-and-clicking (at worst) or e-mail access(at best). DigitalThink, for example does a great job of using tutors in their web learning environment. They have a worldwide network of experts who help learners. But for true interaction like the kind you mentioned, the technology just isn't there for real interaction. However, Dean Hovey makes a good point in his interview in the book that an incresing amount of our managerial and other interactions are happening over the web. So, there is probably a place for learning how to manage and interact in a non-face-to-face environment. Brings a whole new dimension to "remote management."
Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 17 Mar 00 14:59
Welcome to inkwell.vue, Valorie. From reading your last response, I'm curious about who Dean Hovey is? And, a note to our non-WELL member readers: if you'd like to participate in this discussion with Valorie Beer, please e-mail your comments, questions, etc. to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will see that they are posted in this topic
Libbi Lepow (paris) Fri 17 Mar 00 15:22
One of the things that interested me when I read the book, Valorie, were the possible similarities between hosting a conference on the WELL and facilitating a learning experience on a web-based site. I know that hosts work hard to keep conversations flowing, to minimize discord and distractions from the main thread of the discussion, and often to seed the conversation when it lags. Have you seen any examples of "virtual facilitation" on any of the sites you visited and, if so, could you comment on the process?
Valorie Beer (valoriebeer) Sat 18 Mar 00 19:37
Linda, Dean Hovey is the VP of Marketing at Pensare (www.pensare.com), an organization that builds highly interactive websites for learning leadership skills. The foundation is a "multi-user dialogue" (MUD), which actually had its roots in the game world. (If you've ever played the on-line version of Dungeons & Dragons, for example, you've experienced a MUD). Libbi: I think that most of the "virtual facilitation" happens behind corporate firewalls, using products like Auditorium that create a virtual lecture hall. IMHO, that technology is still rather clugy, and really doesn't inspire much interaction. It's analogous to putting books on line -- although I hear that Steven King's recent on-line novella is selling well, so maybe there's hope yet! Like in-person facilitation, on-line facilitation takes patience, presence and perseverance. There's no magic benefit gained from just the technology (do I beat a dead horse??).
Libbi Lepow (paris) Sat 18 Mar 00 19:59
Well, I don't know about *beat*, exactly, but the horse ain't gettin' up and running away, that's for sure! ;-) Can you talk specifically about one or two of the more effective sites you visited during your research for the book - ones that you believe would be good models for anyone interested in building their own learning-site?
Nancy White (choconancy) Sat 18 Mar 00 20:33
How have folks overcome corporate cultural barriers to the participation part of the learning -- such as allowing time for such learning, getting over technology reluctance, affording HR resources to faclitation? Are there some companies who have been champions or leaders in this area?
Valorie Beer (valoriebeer) Sun 19 Mar 00 09:01
Libbi: Two of the best public sites that I found are California State University's Center for Distributed Learning (www.cdl.edu), which does great low-tech simulations. Chuck Schneebeck and his crew have put learning first and technology second -- and you can really learn something from their site! Another favorite of mine is Genentech's site for K-12 teachers (www.accessexcellence.org),which has a wealth of information for teachers, and some of the best moderated chat rooms I've seen on the public net. Nancy: I'd even broaden your list of hurdles to include "learning reluctance." For some bizarre reason that I've never been able to figure out, corporations don't consider learning as part of the work. It only begrudgingly happens during work time; employees really are expected to do their learning not on "company time." Unfortunately, I think that the corporations that are most successful at it are still those that have a bricks-and-mortar base -- a real "corporate university." Many, many companies have put a lot of stuff on-line and on their intranets, but right now most of it is just the html version of the classroom binder. A complicating factor is that many training departments are being ordered to put X% of their training on-line, rather than thinking carefully about what really can be taught and learned that way. Netscape was doing some good things in the web learning arena (pre-AOL), and Motorola Univeristy has a well-designed learning site, just to name two. Of course, most of the corporate efforts are hidden away behind firewalls, which makes any assessment of corporate web learning difficult. My guess is that most companies are still struggling to figure it out. And even when they do create a web learning environment, it's often done so that employees can access it from home, not so they can do their learning at work.
Libbi Lepow (paris) Sun 19 Mar 00 11:22
Can you elaborate a little on the two sites you mentioned, Valorie? What is it about those two sites that differentiates them so significantly from the others you researched? What do you think makes that difference? Any details you might share with us? I've never understood why corporations don't see learning as a valuable activity. Years ago, long before I understood who and what he was, I heard Peter Drucker give a keynote speech at a conference. The one line I remember from that speech, one that I've quoted more times than I can count was "People are your only appreciable asset." It amazes me that more corporations don't *demand* that their people learn and grow as part of their jobs.
Linda Castellani (castle) Sun 19 Mar 00 12:24
Yes, that word isn't used often enough, IMHO. It seems like the word "resource" is used instead, accompanying the usual idea of resources as something to be used up and thrown away. Valorie, do you think that there are certain subjects that are ideal candidates for Web-based learning, and others that are absolutely not?
Valorie Beer (valoriebeer) Tue 21 Mar 00 21:15
Linda: The choice of good subjects for web learning really comes down to the question of what kind of practice does the learner need to do (more so than what subjects are most appropriate). In general, you can teach anything on the web that doesn't require hands-on practice with the real thing. Let's talk about some specifics to make the case clear: 1. Can you teach computer programming on the web? Yes, because you can have the learner's program run and see if it works. 2. Can you teach cooking on the web? Yes, if the computer is set up in the kitchen. 3. Can you teach flying an airplane on the web? No way. With all due respect to Microsoft Flight Simulator, there's no substitute for the real thing (or a VERY good simulator, which web technology just can't handle.) A trickier question is, Can you teach human interaction skills on the web? I think there's a growing argument that you CAN. So much of our interaction these days is in e-mail, chat rooms, etc, which are legitimate (if non-face-to-face) interactions. There's a growing case to be made for learning how to interact in a remote, mediated environment.
Libbi Lepow (paris) Tue 21 Mar 00 21:25
Again, I think that's one competency (or, as some of my fellow Well denizens might attest, lack of competency) that people have developed here - more through default than through clear intent, in many case, but...still.
With catlike tread (sumac) Tue 21 Mar 00 22:18
So what's your view of the idea of virtual universities as replacements for the conventional kind?
carol adair (rubicon) Wed 22 Mar 00 08:38
I love the Peter Drucker quotation Libbi. I'm going to put it on my office door! Piggy-backing on <sumac>'s question about virtual universities, I wonder what you think about on-line classes. In mine, I mix a packaged web-course (for tests and texts - the sort of up-loaded "classroom binder" stuff) and interactive conferences. The conference (with Motet software) is so popular that I have to beat the students to get them out. Also, apparently, many of the packaged course software now includes irc and forum sections. Seems to me, there's lots of ways to teach on-line. What do you think?
Valorie Beer (valoriebeer) Wed 22 Mar 00 20:27
Libbi: Some specifics about: www.cdl.edu Go play with the "Painless" simulation on pain management. It's a low-tech (i.e., plug-in-less) simulation that lets you experiment (and kill or cure) a simulated patient before you try your skills on the real thing. www.gene.com/ae Such a range of learning opportunities FOR TEACHERS! They've got mentors, learning activities exchanges, collaborative mystery (problem) solving (see "Croak") For other favorite sites, see p.154-155 of the book On virtual universities: I think the accreditation agencies are gonna have a cow. But, then, most regulatory agencies wish the internet had never come along. I don't know about REPLACING concrete universities and classes with electronic ones; I do think we're headed toward a balance of in-person and on-line. We've got to get over the idea that learning is a place. Ironically, some of the places that are doing the best with web learning are universities in the boondocks -- Eastern Washington University comes to mind -- since their learners are spread out all over the countryside. I applaud Carol Adair -- and think she's definitely in the minority still. I speak at a lot of universities, and the greatest resistance to web learning comes from the faculty. See Chapter 10 in the book for a review of recent research and some recommendations on the instructor's role in a web learning environment.
Libbi Lepow (paris) Wed 22 Mar 00 20:59
What, if anything, have you been able to say to persuade some of the faculty to try this new medium, Valorie? And Rubi, can you talk a little more about what you think makes your own experiment work so well?
carol adair (rubicon) Wed 22 Mar 00 22:09
Actually, there are thousands of students taking courses on-line. I think the software I looked at today has 85,000 users right now. Sometimes the course are completely on line, and sometimes they are supplemented on line (as mine are). There are web based course kits like the one I looked at this afternoon. (WEB CT I think it is called.) and then there are college based like the one I use - WCB (Web Course in a Box). I think my courses work because I've had a lot of experience hosting and posting on the Well. I know how to keep conversations going. And how to interject jokes and warmth in a deadly stiff situation. No matter how good the software, the material, the context, you got to have a little play and juice or the whole thing grinds to a stop. I also try to set things up so there is a minimum of "rules". I start out by giving my students only a little room to play, but I let them play.I don't worry if they mess up - post in the wrong place, take the wrong test, copy something they shouldn't have copied. As they gain the communication and computer skills to go further, I open up more places and let them discover them _ trial quizzes, explanations of assignments, chat rooms. It's unbelievable but students actually *like finding quizzes! Especially if I'm right there clapping and cheering when they find them. A lot works on tone really.
carol adair (rubicon) Wed 22 Mar 00 22:11
But back to this wonderful book. I'm looking for it everywhere. Can you tell me what you say about course work on line? (And where I can get this resource?)
Valorie Beer (valoriebeer) Thu 23 Mar 00 06:40
Carol: I liked Web CT and Web Course in a Box, too. They're both listed in the tools appendix of the book. I'm concerned that you seem to be having trouble finding book? It was on amazon.com I know that they sold out their stock in late February, but I thought they had more by now. There is a website for the book: www.pfeiffer.com/beer.html You can order it from their, or from the parent site at www.pfeiffer.com If all of that fails, please call Bernadette Walter, Matt Holt, or Juddith Hibbard at Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer, 415-433-1740. PLEASE NOTE: I'll be on vacation now until Sunday night, and will not have access to the internet while I'm gone. I will reply to additional posts when I return on Monday. Thank you all for your great questions and ideas!!
Libbi Lepow (paris) Thu 23 Mar 00 07:19
Have a good trip, Valorie! We're looking forward to your return!
Valorie Beer (valoriebeer) Sun 26 Mar 00 16:07
Hi everyone! I'm back from a weekend at a retreat on Trust in the Workplace, sponsored by San Francisco Zen Center. Looking forward to picking up the dialogue where we left it on Friday...
Libbi Lepow (paris) Sun 26 Mar 00 16:41
Welcome back, Valorie! (And Rubi, a copy of the book is on its way to you from Amazon.com) Valorie, any thoughts about Carols' comments about her experience hosting conferences here on the WELL and her success in facilitating her courses online?
Valorie Beer (valoriebeer) Mon 27 Mar 00 19:02
Carol, what is your specific question about courseware on line? I could say a lot about how to design content, activities, assessments, interactions, and use of a teacher in a web teaching/learning environment. I want to make sure I take your question in the direction that would be most helpful to you.
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