Formal Vs. Informal Learning

I’m applying for a job that is out of my educational range. Sure, this is something lots of people do all the time – where they have the experience but not the education credentials to back up the informal, on-the-job training that people have – or the experience. I’ve often wondered about formal education, whether it’s worth it, and I always assume it will be worth it. But maybe it’s not. I look at my experience, and comparing that to the job description, I’m confident I can do the job and excel in it. I have the skills and I have the passion to do it well. The thing that will hang me up is the lack of a Master’s. It’s not that I can’t do the education – every indication is that I can, my marks are high and feedback from my professors have been positive. The thing that holds me back is I just don’t have the money. At close to $700 for a half credit course, I’m about $5000 away from completing my Bachelor’s of Education. Even doing prior learning assessments would only reduce my courses required by one or two half credits. I’ve looked at the PLA’s as well, and in many cases, the theory required from these PLA’s bear no resemblance to the practical application of that skill.

Especially with online skills like HTML and the myriad of programming languages, most practitioners of web skills are self-taught or have learned on the job, a picture perfect definition of informal learning. How should we credit these people? Do we examine the projects they’ve worked on, or maybe give them a test to assess their skills? I lean towards the project based nature of assessment – I feel it’s closer to a real assessment of what someone can do. The other piece is that there’s such an open community of people out there sharing their work, is there any way to assess the individual with something as ubiquitous as HTML? Never mind the leaps and bounds that tools have taken since 2000, where it requires no memorization of tags, just the ability to select the appropriate tool from a list. Does that make the person less qualified than someone who has taken the time to go to class and learn tags? Factor this in further, most curriculum is behind the times, I know the stuff I learned in school in 2001/2 for HTML was already a couple years behind (it was equivalent to the courses in HTML I had taken at the University of Texas in 1997, which really didn’t tell me more than what I had taught myself already from resources on the web). Fast forward 9 years, and hopefully that curriculum has been updated and advanced, but there is no guarantee that the curriculum now looks at separation of content and design. In many ways informal learning has been superior to formal learning, especially so in this realm. I’d suspect that very very few institutions are thinking about HTML5, but there are already several books, many websites and untold numbers of resources coming out of the blogs around the Internet. Maybe formal education will be a curated process (much like George Siemens guessed at) where the instructor assembles the online resources and orders them so that they make logical sense, but doesn’t stand at the front of the class. Thank goodness, because I think it’s time for a change.

Mobile Operating Systems and Mobile Browsers

Over at O’Reilly Radar, they published an overview of the mobile operating systems, and I pulled a couple of interesting things from it. Last year, the iPhone had only 15% of the mobile market, primarily on one device. To me that’s huge numbers for one device… which speaks to the cult-like fervor of the iPhone and apps themselves. Certainly Android based phones will give the iPhone a run for their money, but I suspect that it will be #2, unless Apple pulls a Facebook and does a stupid privacy policy change. The bolded statement that “there will be more fragmentation within the operating system scene” is not surprising. With a myriad of devices, all from different manufacturers, we’re going to see that for a while. Not until we start seeing some convergence from manufacturers, will we see some convergence with things like operating systems or browsers.

Speaking of which, the second half of the article talks about the implementation of mobile browsers, and how ready they are for HTML 5. The quick answer is, they are ready for it, except Internet Explorer. With that said, most of the mobile web (upwards of 85%) use a browser based on WebKit. Of course, there’s a lot of different flavors of WebKit, which is almost more problematic than having many different browser bases.


I’m not a web designer (anymore) and I just stopped teaching web design courses earlier this year. I’ve been reading a lot about the new spec for HTML, which is HTML 5. If you do design pages, or even HTML pages that end up in LMS’s, then HTML 5 will be a game changer for you. First of all, the canvas element is something that will be huge. I talked a little about it in the previous post, but if you’ve ever attended a Wimba or Elluminate session, you’ve seen the whiteboard interface that those products provide. Canvas can act like a whiteboard – the interactivity isn’t there yet, but I can see a Javascript library extending the functionality of the canvas.

Also, inline support for video types (well, two video types) will also change how things work.  No more embedding in a player, as long as you use Ogg Vorbis and H.264. All that will be handled native in the browser. No more broken plug-ins, no more codec hunting (well, you’ll probably have to do this anyways). Of course, to get videos to display across all browsers, you’ll have to encode twice – once in the format that Firefox and Opera understand (Ogg Vorbis) and once in the format that Safari and Android browsers understand (H.264). Thankfully, Chrome understands both and Internet Explorer understands neither. I would suspect that IE will be the traditional pain in the ass that it is, and only support Windows Media formats.

Edit: IE will support H.264.

State of Web Development (and Learning Online)

So the State of Web Development 2010 is out and a few results are surprising. The one result for the sector one works in was interesting: in 2008 10% of responses indicated they were involved in education, while 7.7% for the 2010 results. Are there less web designing/development going on? Or have those previously been involved in web design now moved over to e-learning?

The Google Chrome browser use has grown over 15% over the year. When developers and designers start using a browser, this usually means the results will filter down to end users. Maybe this is the vanguard of browser change?

Only a third of designers/developers optimize for mobile devices. I interpret that as mobile devices are not a priority to develop for because either they aren’t seen as “mission critical” or that Mobile Safari or Mobile Opera browsers do a good enough job of interpreting website for the mobile platform.

The interesting thing is the early adoption of HTML 5 and CSS3 – which works surprisingly well out of the box on modern browsers. What’s disappointing about this series of results is how far behind LMS developers are from the useful tools in HTML5 (hello, canvas element!) and the usability of CSS3 (it’d be wonderful if we could write a CSS template to apply to learning space areas). I guess it comes down to the closed box system – if you’re paying for a closed box you shouldn’t be surprised when they close the lid too. I think the first LMS that jumps on the HTML 5 bandwagon will be a big winner – the canvas element alone will allow for easier ways to be creative and new ways to work on the web. Canvas Demos is a site that’s showcasing different uses of the canvas element – a lot of games are being drawn on the canvas it seems – but I’m sure you can see the ways that you could use this as a new method of getting input. Or perhaps, eliminating expensive web conferencing tools and brewing something a little more open source. Can you say interactive whiteboard?