Notes on eLearning DevCon 2009

I attended the 3-day eLearning DevCon 2009 in Salt Lake City this past week, and have compiled some brief notes based on the experience. It’s a different conference from the higher ed events I typically attend — eLearning DevCon is aimed at corporate e-learning.

Here’s a summary of the event itself:

  • Enticing topic selection, both in breadth and depth
  • Good “presence” and information from most presenters
  • Audience: Primarily corporate e-learning developers
  • Not at all a bargain
  • Awkwardly spread out across Fort Douglas (though I must admit it was a joy to walk outside in late spring weather)

Now, some notes on what I’ve learned:

Instructional Design & Development

  • ADDIE, Dick & Cary, and other ID models useful to revisit and reflect upon, especially for planning of critical stages of course design. Models do not necessarily inhibit rapid prototyping. (UVU IDS might rethink how its course design process fits into such models — instead of immediate prototyping do we first analyze needs, course objectives, then outline content in design? Prototyping should be mid to late design phase).
  • Build instructional design models into project mgmt software as template. (We in UVU IDS do something like this with dotProject, but could more explicitly label phases to provide data documentation and data.)
  • Log instructional patterns (e.g. activities, interactions, assessments) and create “templates”.
  • Brainstorming ideas: aim for quantity not quality (no negations), stock conference room with treats and toys, limit to 1 hr/break & flow, focus everyone on the task, use online shared docs.
  • In design phase, instead of lists of info, make visual representations like wireframes & site maps. Let it be basic, ugly.
  • Tame your use of media to reduce cognitive load (read Clark’s Efficiency in Design again).
  • Avoid novelty for novelty’s sake (bad example: wave runner game with multiple choice questions, our Frogger game).
  • Try rapid e-learning dev tools like Captivate, Articulate, and Rapid Intake, but beware of outputs that aren’t accessible, web standards format.
  • More often than not Flash is just flashy.
  • PowerPoint continues to be abused by presenters from around the world, resulting in mind-numbing, soul-sucking internments. Folks talk about PPT design in terms of how many bullets, words, fonts per slide, with nearly no mention of “Presentation Zen”.
    • Also, a PPT designed for a (classroom) presentation is not elearning, even if you convert that PPT to Flash with Captivate. @BrianDusablon says #1 problem in e-learning is PPT. (#2 is systems that put obstacles between learner and learning.)
    • However, you can use PPT as an effective e-learning prototyping platform, if not a complete and robust authoring platform.
  • Surprise! Corporate training wants demonstrable outcomes from their e-learning — real ROI. Not rubrics that assert generalized ideals of quality based on theory. How well do our distance learning “quality” rubrics (ITR, QM, Chico) measure the actual effectiveness of learning experiences at helping students meet learning objectives? Isn’t that more important than, say, the 7 Principles?
  • Though the session was canceled, it appears possible to use Google Spreadsheets as a data source for live e-learning content generation (think flashcards, quizzes)
  • (UVU IDS should create all lesson discussions, assignments, and assessments as plain text files WITHIN the lessons folder, until Common Cartridge XML becomes useful on Moodle and Bb Vista.)
  • URLs from augmented reality games session: http://argology.orghttp://argn.com
  • Google Analytics (and other now mainstream tools) can be mixed into an e-learning toolset for great results.


  1. Does UVU IDS have enough accurate dotProject data yet to estimate the hour-cost of a new online course?
  2. Non-linear / organic / hypertext learning designs are still popular, but are they effective? Have we passed the point at which hypertext inhibits learning and focus?
  3. Where are communities that share DTDs and schemas, esp for e-learning? Does our XML DTD match any other known e-learning DTDs? (Really only Common Cartridge)

Reading List

  • Goal-based learning design a la Robert Schank
  • Humanizing education articles
  • Videogames and Education: Humanistic Approaches to an Emergent Art Form by Harry J. Brown
  • Chico State’s latest vers. of ROI
  • Survey of Instructional Development Models by Kent L. Gustafson, Robert Maribe Branch
  • Any empirical research on linear vs. non-linear (hypertextual) learning outcomes

Software Demo List