3 Books by eLearning Experts

Do you want to tap into the power of social media for learning? Are you looking for new ideas to climb out of a slump? If the answer is “yes,” then check out the three eLearning books reviewed below.

Listed in alphabetical order by author, you’ll find Jane Bozarth’s Social Media for Trainers, Patti Shank’s The Online Learning Idea Book, and Ryan Tracey’s E-Learning Provocateur.

All three authors write from years of experience and share unique practical advice, strategies and philosophy.

Social Media for Trainers by Jane Bozarth, PhD.
As one who foresaw the relevance of social media in workplace learning, Jane Bozarth spells it out in her book Social Media for Trainers.

She’ll convince you that there are big payoffs when social media strategies supplement or supplant traditional training (as appropriate). Social media facilitates autonomy and independence in learning. It facilitates an awareness of one’s own learning process.

But most important, social media technologies can support learning and its application to the workplace. This is because social media often parallels how we actually learn in the “real world.”

Social Media for Trainers explores the social media approaches with the greatest potential to facilitate learning. The book concentrates on: microblogging (Twitter), online communities (Facebook), blogs, and wikis. It also covers other tools, including Google Docs, YouTube, SlideShare, Skype, UStream and more.

Jane points out that tools are a means to an end and it is the end goal that is most important for your audience. Any of the approaches can be implemented in a similar tool. For example, the strategies offered in the Twitter chapter could also work in Yammer or any microblogging tool.

For each main social media approach, Jane introduces the tool; explains its advantages and disadvantages; tells how to get started and then the real fun begins. She provides dozens of compelling ideas for using a particular tool pre- and post-training, as part of training itself, and in between training sessions.

You’ll find out how to do a Round Robin on Twitter or use it to practice a foreign language. You’ll see how to use Facebook to host a discussion with an expert and to have learners post examples of a newly learned concept. And you’ll learn how to use blogging and wikis to support debates, show e-portfolios and share final projects.

In addition to all the helpful suggestions, Social Media for Trainers includes tips for becoming a change agent in your organization and for selling change to others.

If you’re looking for ways to provide additional support to workforce training, if you want to create richer learning experiences or if you simply know that the time for Web 2.0 has long arrived, then you’ll love Social Media for Trainers.

The Online Learning Idea Book (Volume 2) by Patti Shank, PhD.

If you feel that you’ve already used every idea you can drum up, then you need The Online Learning Idea Book (Volume 2) by Patti Shank. This book is one great idea in itself. It’s like sharing an office with smart members of the eLearning community, drawing on the suggestions from a wide range of contributors.

The Online Learning Idea Book Volume 2 is as well-organized as you’d expect from an eLearning pro. It includes ideas for: the design and development process; supporting learners and learning; synchronous and social learning; self-paced learning; and media and authoring.

Every idea is covered from several angles. The “What” and “Why” sections introduce each idea. Then the “Use It!” section provides an extended description, how to implement the idea, tips, examples and corresponding screen captures or visuals (charts, checklists, etc.).

The “Adopt or Adapt” section is excellent, because it provides ways to modify each idea for different circumstances. All of this is followed by an “Attribution” section with a generous paragraph about each contributor.

The breadth of ideas in this book is impressive. The “Design and Development” starts out with aligning objectives, moves on to a complexity analysis and ends with story-based learning.

In later chapters, you’ll find ideas as varied as helping teams follow rules of engagement; how to use Twitter to develop a personal learning network; how to support collaboration and learner feedback; how to implement clip art surgery in PowerPoint; and how to reduce online text. The supporting visuals add a lot to make it all concrete and tangible.

I think both junior and mid-level instructional designers will get lots of value from this book. And don’t be surprised if senior-level designers peek at it too. There are new ideas for everyone in here. And if you need even more ideas, check out Patti’s Online Learning Idea Book Volume 1 with 95 more proven ideas.

E-Learning Provocateur by Ryan Tracey

Ryan Tracey’s E-Learning Provocateur is a collection of essays and articles gleaned (and some modified) from his blog of the same name. Ryan covers a gamut of topics that might be of interest to instructional designers and eLearning specialists.

He runs through some instructional design basics, such as analysis, learning theories, the power of using visuals, and blended learning. He also delves into social media for learning, effective virtual facilitation, and a variety of learning technologies. Although a few of the articles now seem dated (cloud-computing; Twitter is good) most stand the test of time.

In a unique article, Ryan integrates theory and practice by proposing that we keep in mind four different learning theories when designing a learning experience. He then lists practical ways to use each theory to inform one’s work. There are tips for implementing design from Behaviorist, Cognitivist, Constructivist and Connectivist perspectives.

The book and blog title come from the fact that Ryan is a contrarian at times. Although he doesn’t propose anything too radical, he does successfully punch holes in the status quo, when appropriate. In this department, you’ll find the idea that most online learning could also be distributed as a PDF document; spirituality in the workplace; and the opinion that text isn’t half-bad.

Personally, I’d like to see this book organized into sections or chapters. It would be interesting to read the related essays together and to compare ideas. This would provide more depth on each topic too.

In summary, there may be many in this eLearning universe who faithfully do their jobs but don’t consider the deeper side of eLearning. E-Learning Provocateur can fill this gap.

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