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Friday, November 21, 2008

TWITTER - Backchannel conversations enlighten eLearning Community at DevLearn08

Twitter made a quiet eLearning debut as part of AG|08 LIVE in the spring. At the time there were several eLearning leaders that did not see the value of twitter (you know who you are). But over the last year micro-blogging has picked up many supporters in the eLearning Development community. Its a very slick way to communicate information quickly. You are forced to get right to the point since you are limited to 140 characters in each "tweet". The small group that used it AG|08 were the perfect test group.  That experience made me realize that it had the possibility of being MUCH bigger at DevLearn08.

DevLearn08 - TWITTER hits the big screen!

The Twitter board at #DevLearn08. on TwitPicAt DevLearn08 we decided to make twitter part of the program.  You're probably wondering how we did it as well as WHY we would WANT to do it!

Let's start with the how:
1)  Set up Twitter account - twitter.com/dl08
2)  Grouptweet.com - sets up ability for anyone being followed to broadcast via dl08 account.
3)  tweetlater.com - allows you to set up time released tweets AND set up "auto-follow".

The big screen is running an app called twittercamp created by Daniel Dura.  Daniel offers the app as an open source download.  So, I asked Dan Carr, a Guild member and expert programmer, if he could modify the interface for us.  He loaded the images and changed the colors for us.  He did an awesome job and we really appreciate his effort.

The big screen had a small crowd gathered at times throughout the event, prompting conversations, and alerting attendees to hot, and cold, sessions in REAL TIME.  One attendee told me he was watching the screen instead of being in the general session for the keynote.  He noticed all of the tweets raving about Dan Roam's keynote and so he went in. 

He was VERY glad that he did.  He loved it!

Attendees also learn quickly where NOT to go.  We try very hard to coach presenters to NOT sell, but some will never listen and never understand.  Well, guess what happened? Some peakers that shifted into sell mode or product demo mode were publicly flogged via twitter.  Not sure how many of the speakers actually saw the tweets during their sessions, but the crowds gathered around the big screen sure did. 

NOTE TO SALES & MARKETING PEOPLE:  BEWARE the backchannel.  It can be your friend, or your WORST nightmare!  You don't want to be "that guy"!

STATISTICS
Before the event started we had roughly 20 followers.  At the time of this posting the dl08 account is following 203 elearning professionals.  This number includes both attendees and non-attendees.  Of course, that's the beautiful thing about it. 
116 updates were made directly from the dl08 account.  Meaning that we were able to use the channel to communicate information to attendees before, during and after the event.

search.twitter.com feeds: dl08 - devlearn - devlearn08
These were the #tags used to categorize tweets about the event.  Click on the links to scan through the conversations.  Here are the stats for the tags:

452 tweets used devlearn08
480 tweets used devlearn
915 tweets used dl08

One key learning was debated early on:  What is the "official" tag for the event?  Check it out:

There was more to it, with others getting in on the conversation, but you get the idea.

When you only have 140 characters to work with you want tags to be short.  However, your tags should also be meaningful and meaningful normally means a longer tag.  Which is more meaningful dl08 or DevLearn08?

Brian Dusablon offers up his own personal twitter thoughts:
"I found it to be a great tool for sharing information quickly and also for networking. Total tweets sent all time before DevLearn: ~250. Total tweets sent while at DevLearn: ~300."
If you are new to twitter and want to connect with eLearning professionals via twitter, there is no better resource than Jane Hart's list of eLearning Tweeters

Also, you may have noticed Tawny Press in the screen shot above.  She was very active as a virtual attendee and added greatly to the experience for everyone.  She was scheduled to attend the event and had to cancel at the last minute.

So, the million dollar question that is always asked is "How do we use this in our eLearning courses?"

The simple answer is that you DON'T!!!  Technology is changing the learning landscape in such significant ways that the idea of event-based (courses, modules, etc) learning, while still necessary, are becoming a smaller piece of which we need to design. 

If you want to learn more in an intensive workshop setting then I would encourage you to register for The Fall Seminar Series happening in Washington DC in 3 weeks.  Today is the last day for hotel discounts so register quickly.
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