Sunday, March 29, 2009

Go Deep: Weekly Immersive Learning Example #2

So I didn't use my own example as the first week, but I've caved for the second week:) I was at GDC last week, so I thought I'd make it easy on myself and post about something near and dear to me, the Virtual Territory. 

The Virtual Territory is an immersive learning simulation, a serious game, and can be delivered on a virtual world platform. So what is it? I think its the future of how learning solutions will be designed. To be honest, most simulations are fairly linear (even with branching) experiences, and the real learning takes place after you've gone through the simulation and can debrief yours and others' decisions. Serious games *should* be designed for replayability, with the player learning through trial and error, seeing different outcomes. Virtual worlds provide real-time interaction, discussion, and opportunities for coaching, in addition to opportunities to practice real tasks.

Specifically, the Virtual Territory is designed to mirror a sales representative's sales territory, providing opportunities to practice strategic targeting, selling skills, product knowledge, getting past the gatekeeper, utilizing sales materials--all within a realistic context. Data is collected on sales representative performance to be utilized by managers for coaching purposes, as well as by the organization for learning needs analysis across the sales force for more strategic training decisions.

For more information (here's my plug!), you can contact me at ;)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

3D TLC Conference--real data, real stories, virtual worlds

Happy to hear from Tony O'Driscoll today that the 3D TLC program has been set and that so many real stories are emerging to be shared. I'll be leading the Explore panel (which is somewhat fitting, given my penchant for thinking about what could be instead of what currently is).

Tony did a great video as an overview of the program:


Hoping to see you all in DC in April!

Sirikata and a we need more virtual world platforms?

Sirikata Teaser from Sirikata on Vimeo.

I first heard about Sirikata at ThinkBalm's Innovation Community UnLecture series a couple weeks ago. Henrik Bennetsen presented for 10 minutes on the current state of the new platform coming out the Stanford Humanities Lab. I hate to say it, but my first response was: why do we need another platform?

I still don't know the answer. Sirikata looks cool. Its open source. I have faith in the people at the Stanford Humanities Lab.

That said, I feel a tension in the virtual world technology space. There are a lot of platforms already, with all kinds of pros and cons. Sure, no one has completely figured it out, and interoperability remains elusive. But is it worth throwing out the baby with the bath water? Does technology need to start from scratch? Is there more value in improving on the existing platforms, making them more flexible and user friendly, or is trying to MacGuyver them to be better just not going to work?

As a person who's interested in the use of this technology for the development of more effective learning, I'm curious to see where the technology going. What I'm even more interested in is when technology and innovation begins to be led by user needs, and for my purposes, business and learning needs.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Go Deep: Weekly Immersive Learning Example #1

I'm starting a new blog feature because my backlog of cool things to to show is growing exponentially and I need some structure, process, and publicly declared expectations to make sure I'm passing along the good stuff. Welcome to the first installation of Go Deep, my weekly showcase of some immersive learning example that I've run across in my "travels." 

First up, Rome Reborn. I love this sim because I think its how kids will learn about history in the future. Why read a textbook about ancient Rome when you can go visit a replica? Built in Google Earth, the purpose of Rome Reborn is to illustrate "the urban development of ancient Rome from the first settlement in the late Bronze Age (ca. 1000 B.C.) to the depopulation of the city in the early Middle Ages (ca, A.D. 550)," Rome Reborn lets you experience the architecture, the topography, and the urban infrastructures of ancient Rome, to the best of our current collective knowledge. 

What would I like to see to make this sim even better? People, obviously. Immerse people in the environment and then add the culture. Truly allow people to see what it might have been like to live and work in ancient Rome. Brilliant.  Of course, current plans don't include this type of experience, but with such a rich resource, I'd love to see the scope expanded.

I love that this is an international initiative, sharing collective knowledge and building a virtual space. Check it out for yourself. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I'll say it again...instructional design is dead

I've been perusing blog posts written by other instructional designers and their thoughts on learning conferences and this one from Ellen Wagner struck a particular chord.

You see, I don't go to learning conferences to learn anything. Wow, yep, I said it. I go to the learning conferences to talk to other people who are in the learning space, sure, but mostly I go to talk to people about what I've been learning by rubbing elbows at OTHER conferences. What are these other conferences? Virtual worlds conferences. Serious games conferences. Design conferences. Next week, for example, I'm going to GDC. I'm so excited about the sessions that I don't know if I have time in my schedule for a bathroom break. To be honest, I'm not interested in networking too much at GDC. I don't think I'm going to sell any training there. But I know for a fact that I'm going to learn. A LOT. And the anticipation of being at a conference where people will be talking about user design, user engagement, gender issues, generational barriers, narrative and motivation...yeah, I might need a moment. Whew.

So listen up instructional designers and learning conferences! Instructional design is dying a slow death. Young talent are going in other directions. The kids get gaming and use technology without thinking about it...its not a question of if, its a question of how. And how to do it better. And how to make it more effective. Instructional design should not be lagging behind the curve...we should be leading the way. We need experienced mentors but we also need young leaders. More importantly, we need people with vision. This is what learning conferences should be about: inspiration and innovation and brave new ideas. They shouldn't be about trying to play catch up with the sexier industries.

If you're on the slow boat to the ADDIE model, it might be time to change boats. I'll be taking the speedboat to GDC next week, thank you very much. And I'll thank you not to suck my wake.

Monday, March 16, 2009

eLearning Guild's Annual Gathering recap and random thoughts

Another week, another conference...but this one was with some of my favorite people at the eLearning Guild. I may be slightly biased, but I will say with conviction that the eLearning Guild runs some of the best conferences I've attended. Well organized, great integration of technology, free wireless!, and some incredibly smart people gathered together in the same place. 

This was a bit of a whirlwind conference for me. I presented 4 different sessions: Concurrent session, Panel (thanks Bill Brandon for the photo), Breakfast Byte, and Espresso Learning. One of the other Tandemites led a Master Class. We were all virtual worlds, immersive learning simulations, and serious games all the time. Oh, and we had a booth. 

That's not to say all was perfect, of course. Here's my conference feedback, from a presenter and exhibitor's perspective:

What I liked:
  • Great Twitter stream throughout the conference and loved that the Guild payed attention to the tweets. There was a screen where the latest were displayed. I got to connect in person with people I had previously only known on Twitter. Loved it.
  • This may sound strange, but I loved how lunches were set up. Sit down and start networking/socializing immediately while people bring you food. Beats the buffet or trying to find someplace to grab a bite between sessions. 
  • The ID Zone and Master Classes held in the Expo Hall drove visitors in. A March conference in Orlando with sessions held in another part of the building and a sunny pool enticing people away from ever making it to the exhibit was nice to have some valuable sessions featured near the exhibitors booths.
  • Espresso Learning sessions were a great way to spark discussion. Although I loved them, one suggestion: it might be helpful to hold the Espresso Learning towards the beginning of the conference to spark discussion and networking earlier!
  • Breakfast Bytes were also good, but whoa! Early! I wonder if lunchtime discussions were scheduled if they would serve the same purpose (some sort of brownbag lunch learning sessions?).
  • Yay! Free wifi! I can't tell you how happy this made me. Seriously happy.
Suggestions and feedback:
  • Attendance wasn't what I expected, and traffic was super light in the Expo. Economy, beautiful weather, etc.--not sure that there's a cure for this, but it was a bit disappointing.
  • No simultaneous virtual conference? I don't think its easy, but it should be a goal to offer some of the content virtually for people who can't attend live. I have some specific suggestions on how to do this, but won't bore ya'll here.
  • More networking events in the evenings. There was talk of a Tweetup, and there was a cocktail hour in the Expo hall one night, but it was pretty scattered. It would have been nice to have an evening event of some sort.
  • I was not a fan of the long, narrow session rooms. I'd have been much happier with round tables for discussion. I was longing for some group activities.
  • I hate Orlando. The weather was lovely, but I'd almost rather go anywhere else. Its not like I was outside much to enjoy the weather anyway :)
  • I'd love to see Keynotes that get it. One keynote asked us about the attendee demographics the night before he spoke; he didn't have a clue who was attending the conference or who he was speaking to. Another of the keynote speaker marginalized the value of future trends like social media and (gasp!) virtual worlds. I'm not saying he wasn't making valid points (although shockingly I'm not sure I agree), but keynotes are a bit of a presentation and perhaps his ideas were better suited for a discussion or debate. 
All in all, I had a great time at the Annual Gathering and am truly looking forward to DevLearn in the fall. I'm hoping if I have the privilege of presenting again, I won't break my heel right before my session this time...

End game

Over the last couple of weeks, I've renewed my commitment to keep up on my reading of industry stuff, but more importantly, have been very focused on committing the knowledge I've gained about virtual worlds for enterprise learning to some sort of written form. Obviously (ahem) this has not been documented in my blog. In fact, I've had to really think about what this blog is for me. 

Way back when I started blogging (a mere year ago!), I decided that this forum was not a place where I would be documenting all of my thoughts on learning, on training, on technology, or on virtual worlds. This was a blog where I could write about starting this company, lessons learned, etc. Sure, the occasional rant on virtual worlds and learning sneaks in here (it IS what I do) but I haven't been focused on blogging on these topics. 

This blog is truly a reflection of my ambition. My ambition has never been to position myself as a researcher--my ambition is to be a practitioner. My ambition was never to travel around, talking about the latest utilization of technology for learning--my ambition is to actually design and develop learning experiences utilizing new technology. And maybe make a little money doing it.

Throughout the course of every day, you have to make strategic decisions about the direction you're going to take. My strategic direction, my goal, is to build a successful learning company, not simply be a thought-leader. I do have a bias that people who are doing the work tend to know the most about doing the work...therein lies my knowledge, experience and expertise. How I will define success for myself, though, is not in people saying I'm an expert. I'll truly feel successful when people say that I really know how to run my business. Maybe that's why I'm an entrepreneur and not a college professor.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Authoress

Last year I put together the first draft of a book. It was done by the end of summer, and I needed to go back and edit it to make sure it met my initial objectives. Fast forward 6 months: I'm still editing that first draft. Oh my sweet baby Jesus, it is taking forever. 

I'm a really fast writer. I can write faster than almost anyone I know. Not fiction, mind you, but the kind of writing that college professors seemed to like. The kind of writing that would be pretty acceptable for the book that I'm working on.

But I hate editing. I don't have patience for it. Once something is done, I have a hard time looking back (I'm usually already on to the next thing). I'm more than happy to hand my stuff over to someone else to comment on or review, just so I never have to look at it, or think through it, again. 

This book is important to me and it is demanding my attention. I WANT to edit it. I WANT to look at it again, think it through again. I want to make sure that I'm communicating what I intend to. I want to get it (as close as I can) right. 

That said, wanting to do it and liking it are two very different things. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Yesterday, the middle Olbrish kid had his tonsils and adenoids removed and the tubes in both his ears replaced. He didn't really know what he was getting into going into surgery; he knew that his throat was going to be sore, he knew that everyone was talking about it. To a 5 year old, that makes something a pretty big deal and I don't think its a stretch to say he was excited.

Fast forward two hours to the recovery room. I'd been twittering and checking email, keeping track of what was going on at work, with accounting issues, with client projects. I, too, was blissfully unaware. I had barely thought of what was facing me when I walked in and saw my son, gagging and gasping for air, in and out of consciousness and obviously in pain. 

I don't think its a stretch to say that there are moments when you have clarity and perspective. I get so nose-down in my work that I hesitate to say that those moments are more rare these days. This company has been like a really needy child and I've been an attentive mother. But my real children, they will always be the priority. In fact, they are a big reason I'm doing all this in the first place. 

Being a mom is a really tough job. No matter what anyone says, women who work carry an enormous amount of guilt. Being an entrepreneur is hard work and requires a ridiculous amount of time. Trying to do both, sometimes I think its just crazy. It probably is. The enormity of it all, the guilt...its just simply overwhelming. And yet, I can't imagine my life without my three kiddos, and I can't imagine my life without this company. So I'll keep juggling with good intentions and high hopes that this will all work out and someday my kids will be proud of me.