Wednesday, July 18

International Conference of eLearning for Knowledge-Based Society (2004)

Link to site & all the articles
CONTENT DEVELOPMENT: The Difference It Offers To Learning Effectiveness (PDF 149 KB. By Datuk Dr. Syed Othman Alhabshi )
UNITAR's Experience with Online Live Tutorials (PDF 614 KB. By Zaid Ali Alsagoff)
The International Conference of eLearning for Knowledge-Based Society was a fantastic adventure that has hopefully made me a bit wiser about education and e-learning. 46 papers, including 8 keynote addresses were presented during this conference. Participants were from many places in the world including Thailand, Sweden, Singapore, Malaysia, United States, China, Japan, India, Philippine, England and Indonesia. Everyone had their own unique e-learning stories and experiences to share. e-Learning stories included everything from usability and user-centred design to corporate e-learning case studies in Singapore. It was a well-organized and successful event that all organizing members should be proud of.

Hopefully, we will build on our new found friendships, and make e-learning more collaborative, influential and dynamic in South-East Asia and beyond. In this e-learning Conference post-mortem review, I will give a general review of the events and highlight some of the interesting papers presented (that I attended), and unique persons that I have got to know or learned from during this conference.
Pre-Conference workshop: How to make good eLearning work
Tuesday (8-3-2004):
Sadly, I missed the first half of the pre-conference, due to my late arrival from Malaysia. Next time, I will make sure that I arrive a day earlier (if there is a next time). However, I did learn a lot during the other half that I attended and participated in. Actually, I found the pre-conference a more interactive and enjoyable experience than the main Conference.
Here are some of the lessons I learned from the pre-conference workshops (in bullet form):
Developing High Quality eLearning Contents and Learning Objects, by Thanomporn Laohajaratsang, Ph.D., Chiang Mai University, Thailand.
  • Course content should be written by experienced teachers (SMEs) who are experts in their fields.
  • Courseware should include a lot of examples and activities (including games).
  • The importance of choosing the appropriate forms of online delivery: supplementary, complementary, and comprehensive replacement.
  • The different motivations of resident students (often reluctant to use e-learning) and distance learners (motivated to use e-learning).

Developing a successful strategy for corporate-wide eLearning programme implementation, by Alexander Kibanoff, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, Philippine.

  • How to turn an initial e-learning implementation failure into success through marketing, branding, promotion and appropriate packaging of content into meaningful and relevant courses, etc.
  • How to quickly develop new e-learning programs from off-the-shelf courseware or e-learning (using tested and proven e-learning providers such as SmartForce or Skillsoft) through bundling courses according to certain competency development skill sets.
  • Branding: e-Learning Program should have a catchy name (e.g. LearNET). e-learning should be branded as an enjoyable adventure that is as addictive as sport (e.g. surfing).
  • Promotion: Surfing theme (example), top management endorsement, grand launch, humor videos, brochures, posters, loyalty schemes (e.g. perks), etc.
  • Seven lessons learned: 1) If you build it, it does not necessarily follow that they will come! 2) Take careful effort to understand your market, product, and customers. Know your market.3)Develop your e-Learning Product. Rely on off-the-shelf but build on these. Customize! 4) Take away the mystery of e-Learning. Make people comfortable with technology. Package it as an ordinary tool. 5) Make e-learning catch users? attention: Brand it!, Promote it!, Market it!, Make it FUN! 6) Get Top Management to back up e-Learning ? talk value added, efficiency, savings, bottom-line results. 7) Constantly measure results and let people know of good news. Create a wave.

In addition, to these presentations, we had a panel discussion, which Mr. Kazuyuki Shinkai talked about the Japan's project in creating dual-language engine which could more accurately convert English into Japanese. The language barrier is perhaps the major obstacle for Japan to fully enjoy all the great available e-learning (and other online resources) in English. In addition, he discussed e-Learning trends in Japan and the rest of South-East Asia. Interestingly, according to a e-Learning Readiness Ranking report, Japan is only ranked number (23) in the world. Malaysia is ranked number (25), while Korea (5) and Singapore (6) on the other hand, are among the elite in terms of e-Learning readiness. The top three (3) are Sweden, Canada, and USA respectively.

Since most of the pre-conference workshops were really about developing standards-based quality e-learning content, I presented briefly during the panel discussion about UNITAR's hybrid e-learning model, and our experience in courseware development.

Overall, the pre-conference was great. My only regret was that I missed Prof. Srisakdi Charmonman's opening speech, Phongchai Sirinarumitr's Introduction to eLearning in Thailand, Kim Chew Lim's eLearning Standards and their uses, and Jonathan Darby's Designing for quality eLearning. Luckily, Kim Chew Lim and Jonathan Darby provided supporting workshop CDs, which I will share and study carefully. On the positive note, I got to know Kim Chew Lim (my learning object Guru from last years DESTEC workshop, at MMU), Jonathan Darby (from University of Southampton), and Alexander Kibanoff quite well, and they have taught and shared with me a lot of valuable thoughts and experiences in e-learning (Thanks!).

I especially admire how Alexander Kibanoff and his team turned around an e-learning failure into a great success story using branding, promotion, creativity, style, fun, sports, etc. We could surely learn a lot from that success story. Also, I would like to congratulate and thank Dr. Arthur Morse, Prof. Srisakdi Charmonman, Devapoj Sambandaraksa, Rattanawan Rattakul and the other organizers for making the pre-conference and main conference a great and enjoyable experience. Finally, I would of course like to thank Datuk Syed Othman Alhabshi for all the guidance and help he provided to me before and during the e-Learning Conference.

International Conference on eLearning for Knowledge-Based Society
Thailand's EXPO 2004 and e-learning conference opened with fireworks and entertainment, which included an official Inauguration speech by Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. We even got to see four Sony robots talking and dancing boogie that were synchronized to perfection (especially the wave). Though, I was more impressed with the kids? performance in traditional costumes. Okay, let?s get back to our core objective, the International Conference on eLearning for Knowledge-Based Society.

There were approximately 300 participants and more than 40 speakers. As there were a lot of parallel sessions after the keynote presentations, I missed a lot of interesting presentations. However, since all the papers are documented in an International Journal (IJCIM), we can at least benefit from the hard-copy versions. Here are some of the lessons that I learned (from the presentations that I attended):

Wednesday (8-4-2004):
"Delivering Effective and Measurable eLearning" by Wanda Miles of Microsoft Corporation (Prior to joining Microsoft, she also served as education business development manager at Sun Microsystems, a manager for global learning initiatives at Oracle, and a director for education alliances at Docent Inc.)

  • The importance of having the ability to sense and response to change (agility), which is one of Microsoft's major strengths.
  • The importance of understanding the different generations (e.g. TV, PC, and Net) in terms of independence, technology, learning preferences, learner control, and comfort with the unknown.
  • Students that took online courses for college credit learned less than in face-to-face courses (in USA). I suppose, blended e-Learning is still the way to go (for now).
    The Web is oxygen for the Net generation.
  • Learning is fundamentally a social process.
  • Appropriate design can lead to deeper learning. The learning or competency curve increases when using action learning (e.g. real problems) and applied information (e.g. problem solving).
  • Ask the right questions. The goal is to create a better learning environment. It should be learner-centred, interactive, experiential, and adaptive. Learning should be relevant, continuous, and adaptive.
  • Measuring e-learning results using independent education research.
  • Microsoft's Focus areas: The Platform, New Devices, Teacher Training, ICT and eLearning, Software designed for education, anytime, anywhere learning program, and Partners in Learn.
  • If you do not think about the future, you cannot have one.? (John Galsworthy)

Content Development, by Datuk Syed Othman Alhabshi, President of UNITAR.

  • Content development is the most important component in the e-learning environment.
  • It is better to produce a much simpler content that contributes as much to learning as the complex content.
  • We need to be wiser in content development.

"Some Lessons from an Experiment in eLearning" by Prof. Kesav V. Nori, Tata, India.

  • It takes 40 hours of instruction, or less, to teach working adults to read in an Indian language, spread over 8 to 12 weeks.
  • Over 40,000 have benefited from this experiment.

Usability and User-centered Design, by Tomas Berns, Ph.D. Ergolab, Sweden

  • Usability consists of three measurable objects: Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Satisfaction.
    The notion of usability can refer to ease-of-use, ease of learning, efficiency, and usefulness.
    Making systems more usable means that they are meeting both the organizations and the users needs.
  • Four (4) precepts (Gould & Lewis) for design for usability: 1) User Centred Design, 2) Participative Design, 3) Experimental design, and 4)Iterative design,
  • The main components in the human-centred design process are: active involvement of users and task requirements, an appropriate allocation of functions between the users and technology, the iteration of design solutions, and multi-disciplinary design.
  • Five key activities must take place during a human-centred system development project: 1) Plan the human centred process 2) Understand and specify the context of use 3) Specify user and organizational requirements 4) Produce design solutions 5) Evaluate design against requirements

Accreditation of eLearning Degree, by Prof. Srisakdi Charmonman, Ph.D. CEO of the College of Internet Distance Education, Assumption University of Thailand.

  • How to use Google to demonstrate the importance of e-Learning.
    e-learning students are increasing at the rate of 30% per term (in US).
  • The concept of university accreditation is shown with examples from US, and proposals for ASEAN to solve the e-learning cross-accreditation problem.

eLearning: A Process that Must be Well Planned, by Somkuan Burminhent, Ph.D., TOT Corporation Public Company, Limited, Thailand

  • The objectives of e-learning should be clearly stated and well understood; otherwise, the outcome would be something unexpected.
  • The five flagships that are needed for Thailand to become a Knowledge-based Learning Economy: e-Government, e-Commerce, e-Education, e-Industry, and e-Society.

Thursday (8-5-2004):

The Wang Klaikangwon School, Hua Hin Model: Moving Ahead Together through Distance Education, the Way Forward
by Mr.Khwankeo Vajarodaya, Chairman, Distance Learning Foundation

  • The Distance Learning Foundation offers a 24 hour satellite remote education broadcast on 14 channels and e-learning services, which is fundamentally user-oriented and not technology ? oriented.
  • The first on air broadcast was 9 years ago (1995).
  • The live satellite transmission via Ku band and DTH system combines live primary and secondary curriculum broadcast from grade 1 to grade 12 in its entirety on 12 channels. The 13th Channel focuses on vocational training, community education and university education. The 14th Channel show international programs supported by specialized agencies of the United Nations, foreign embassies and Thai embassies abroad and various academic institutions broadcast in 6 languages including English, French, and Chinese (

UkeU Experiences in Delivery of eLearning, by Jonathan Darby, University of Southampton, UK

  • Successful innovation requires not only the production of an advanced product or service but also a clear and practical plan for its exploitation.
  • Britain has a history of inventing products of huge significance but then failing to exploit the invention?s potential (e.g. Television was invented by a Scot).
  • UK eUniversities succeeded in establishing a highly innovative and effective method for developing and delivering high quality courses worldwide but did not succeed from the operation as the Government funders had envisaged.
  • UkeU succeeded in getting British Universities aboard, and developing high quality courses, however they failed to meet their target in terms of student recruitment.
  • Achievement: 17 online courses and 18 in production, 24/7 support service, activity-based learning object model, and worldwide marketing network.
  • Lessons Learned include: 1) Have a realistic time scale for change 2) Quality Online courses are achievable 3) Importance of marketing 4) Importance of Collaboration
    We should learn from their e-learning method and approach, especially their activity-based learning object approach (e.g. the relevant online discussion or forums are directly accessible or linked from the learning objects itself).

Experiences and Lessons of eLearning Development in Higher Education of China, by Professor Zhiting Zhu, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China

  • (End 2002) Up to 67 universities in China have received cyber-education licenses, involving 140 specialties from 10 academic disciplines.
  • Total student enrollment in 2003 is approximately 1.6 million, and will reach 2.2 million in 2004.
  • Overall, the biggest problem is to educate the fast growing Chinese student population in a efficient and effective manner. E-learning can play an important role in educating this huge student population.

eLearning as Change Agent, by Jonathan Darby, University of Southampton, UK

  • e-Learning can be used to do better what we already doing, or it can enable us to do things that would not be otherwise be possible.
  • The hard fact is that eLearning took off before people really knew how to use it. (Thwarted Innovation:, by Zemsky and Massey, 2004)
  • Significant benefit from application of IT could only be achieved through the introduction of new business processes and not through evolutionary change to existing processes.
  • Three ways in which e-learning can be applied: 1st Generation, 2nd Generation, and 3rd Generation e-learning.
  • Examples of 3rd Generation of e-learning include: learning pathways through knowledge management systems, personalized curricula, and just-in-time education.
  • A good e-learning place attaches a high priority to mapping the elements of each course in a way that is easy for students to grasp and navigate.
  • Types of learning object are: information, conceptual material, problem, example, task, discussion, reflection, application, evaluation, discovery, scenario, investigation, assignment, and questionnaire.
  • The learning object approach at UkeU was based on the notion of learning objects as units of activity rather than content.
  • UkeU Learning environment used metadata from each learning object, such as title and deion, and constructed from them a spinal document that introduced each learning object and placed it in context.
  • Although, UkeU was concluded in February 2004, its e-learning approach has been taken up by around 20 Universities in the UK.
  • e-Learning does break down borders and barriers but its effect is tightly limited by our imagination.

Some Corporate eLearning Case Studies in Singapore, by Lim Kin Chew, eLearning Competency Centre, Singapore

  • In 2002, the infocomm Development Authority of Singapore initiated the e-Learning Early Adopters? Programme (eLEAP). The three (3) main objectives of the programme are to: 1) Facilitate the development of the e-learning infrastructure. 2) Encourage companies to embrace e-learning for continual and effective employee training. 3) Develop the e-learning industry in Singapore.
  • Both e-learning implementation case-studies discussed here saved cost in terms of training, and that a blended e-learning approach was the most effective training approach. For example, the bank?s (ABC) trainers can now spend more time coaching the learners whilst the learners can proceed with their learning (courseware) at their own pace.
  • Four main components are required to develop quality courseware for the corporate sector: 1) Learning tasks are meaningful to the workplace 2) Supportive information is provided so that the learner can solve the problems and give reasons for the solutions. 3) Just-in-time relevant information provided to the learners when they need them. 4) Sufficient practice exercises for the learners to work on so that they can sharpen their skills.

In addition, we had on Thursday morning a Ministerial Roundtable (from Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore?13 ASEAN countries) and a video conferencing session with five (5) Universities in ASEAN countries including UNITAR represented by Prof. Dr Khairuddin Hashim. This session was moderated by Prof. Srisakdi Charmonman.

Overall, the conference was a great knowledge sharing experience, and hopefully I will find the time to go through every single paper published during this e-learning conference ( Hopefully, the organizers will soon make all the papers available online, so that others can benefit from them. Perhaps, the only regret about this conference was that there was too little time for interactive discussion and collaboration between all the participants. Hopefully, the next step would be to set up collaborative focus groups in areas such as open source (e.g. Eduforge), learning management systems, research and development, courseware (reuse and development), e-learning standards, e-learning consultancy and implementation, etc. By having freely available focus groups to consult, collaborate and share ideas with, educational institutions in the ASEAN regions can avoid many of the pitfalls faced by pioneers and learn from them (e.g. best-practices, case studies), and have a more successful and smooth e-learning implementation. Also, these focus groups can facilitate ASEAN e-learning to new heights.

In conclusion, I would like to highlight that there were both positive and negative e-learning stories shared during the conference, but I suppose all agree that e-Learning is very much part of the 21st Century's educational evolution.

Warm Regards,
Zaid Alsagoff
Head of R&D Department Technology Division,

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