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Self-Directed e-Learning at Saudi Aramco
Saturday, March 03, 2007
  1. Saudi Reflections…
    My visit to Saudi Aramco for the Corporate e-Learning Forum was interesting and exciting. This talk was sponsored by the Corporate Integrated Learning Services (CILS) people. Two key people from CILS took great of me—Virginia Charlton and Ken Huffman. I did 4 different talks there. I will post 3 of the 4 talks at my archived talks site; see

    Talk #1: The first one was on best practices in the design and delivery of instruction. This one seemed to be well received by the 90-100 people in the audience. I changed it at the last minute so that people could select from any of 10 topics for me to discuss. We got through 8 of them (we did not do #9 and #10 though #10 is perhaps my main expertise). The 10 topics are listed below.

    Talk #1: Best E-Learning Practices: Ten Key Areas
    1. Instructional Design
    2. Next Generation of Learners
    3. Multimedia, Animations, and Dual Coding Theory
    4. Interactivity
    5. Motivation
    6. Learning Styles
    7. Blended Learning
    8. Creating Learning Communities
    9. Synchronous/Virtual Learning
    10. Instructor Supports (facilitation/moderation skills)

Instructor Supports (facilitation/moderation skills)

Talk #2: The second one was on strategic planning for e-learning with the General Manager of Training at Saudi Aramco. I did not know about this talk until the last minute—after starting on my flight journey to Saudi Arabia--So I put it together on the plane. That took every ounce of battery life! Seems that they are interested in what other companies are doing in the e-learning space. Simulations and gaming are among their key interests now. Here are the 15 topics that I prepared to discuss (I got through about 8-9 of them—we did NOT go in order):

Talk #2: Strategic Planning Topics and Areas for E-Learning

1. e-Learning, Blended (B) Learning
2. Ubiquitous (U) Learning, Mobile (M) Learning
3. Informal Learning, Formal Learning
4. Audio (A) Learning, Visual Learning
5. Scenario Learning, Real World Learning
6. Simulations, Gaming, & Learner Interactivity
7. On Demand Learning
8. Next Generation Learning/Learner Diversity
9. Learner-Centered Learning
10. Learning Environments, E-Learning Systems
11. Learner Retention and Motivation
12. Learning Transfer to Job
13. Emerging Learning Technologies
14. Open Source Learning and Open Ed Resources
15. Learning Models

Talk #3: My third talk was a keynote for conference forum related to how the learning world has become flat. The title was “E-Learning Trends and Developments: Ten World of Learning Flatteners and Beyond.” The format is based on Thomas Friedman’s book, “The World is Flat.” The forum grew to over 300 people and needed an overflow room. Since Ken and Virginia had planned for less than that, they were quite pleased. Had some good feedback on this one. I will try to turn this one into an edited book.

The Ten Forces that Flattened the Learning World
1. Tools for Searching/Finding Media and Information Resources
2. Availability of Quality Online and Blended Learning Environments
3. Free and Open Source Software for Learning
4. Open CourseWare (free content)
5. Online Learning Object Repositories and Portals (shared content)
6. Virtual Collaboration Software (synchronous and asynchronous)
7. Online Massive Gaming, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds (e.g., Second Life)
8. Learning Mobility and Portability (low-cost mobile devices+wireless communication)
9. Personalized Learning Tools (Blogs, Podcasts, MySpace, Flickr, and RSS)
10. Open Information Communities (Wikipedia, Slashdot, Digg

Talk #4: My fourth final talk was on blended learning models, examples, and situations and solutions. The Saudi Aramco people were interested in this, in part, since they had read my Handbook of Blended Learning. We gave away 10 copies of this book during my 2 days in Saudi. Doing this particular talk was a great way to end my presentations there since I had done this type of talk many times before. I would have had 2 additional talks at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals on Monday except that I got there a day late due to a snowstorm in Chicago.

Looks like I will be back in April to train English instructors at 5 Saudi Aramco camps/cities and May for the Arabian Knowledge Economy Association conference. Should be fun. Going back a 2nd time always is.

My observations when at Saudi Aramco: There is a special energy and enthusiasm at Saudi Aramco for the learning vision, cost effectiveness, support, and new directions that e-learning can provide. They have a pulse on what is happening in e-learning around the globe while designing and customizing activities, modules, and courses specific to the Saudi Aramco people. Many people are involved in e-learning and blended learning across the company—including folks from computer security, HRD, leadership training, employee relations and training, communications training, engineering, organizational development, exploration and production.

I even had a former student, Robert Harpool, from my 1992 class on educational psychology for secondary teachers (my first class ever at IU), show up for my keynote. Robert and I had a few great moments to reminisce. Robert did not recognize me since I no longer had curly hair and a moustache. The day before, I met Chris Wollack at Saudi Aramco schools where he is principal. Chris looked very familiar. In fact, we determined that he was in graduate school at the UW-Madison in 1986-1988 where he worked on his master’s in educational leadership in the School of Education at the same time that I was there for a master’s in educational psychology. He also worked in a school wherein I was sent to film effective teachers doing critical thinking. Small world.

Presentations from others at Saudi Aramco during the e-learning forum emphasized self-directed learning. It was clear to me that self-directed learning is a key facet of the e-learning vision and plans of Saudi Aramco. Learning opportunities are being made available today for the skill base of tomorrow. In my mind, the vision at Saudi Aramco is spot on for twenty-first century learning. Employees are in the midst of a training transformation where they are taking more responsibility for their own learning. E-learning is a key facet of this transformation.

From what I could tell, the range of e-learning courses areas and options at Saudi Aramco is mind boggling. Clearly, this is one company which is taking learning to the next stages and places that others too often resist and fear. Watch this company carefully!

My Major Flight Problems: My actual journey to Saudi was exciting and depressing both. Here are some notes from my journey:
I got stuck in Chicago hotel in a snowstorm after many hours on runway and with canceled planes and continual de-icing of our planes. I think I spent 6 hours on runways on Saturday. Missed my first day in Saudi. All nerves. But at least I got a hotel room! Some lady walked up to me with a hotel voucher for a Best Western that she got from American Airlines but was not going to use. I was so happy to get that!!!!!!!!!!!This made 3 straight trips with such problems. Last time I had to sleep at Gatwick airport due to strong winds which canceled our flight (though I slept in the airport Hilton). Coming home from Thailand was equally bad. This is getting very depressing. I am getting tired of such trips. I could have driven to Chicago and made my flight. I started to and then...ok, long story. But not all bad. I got a hotel room and the taxi guy did not kill us by driving so fast in the ice and snow.

Traveling on Sunday and Monday were better. Got a different flight through Frankfort and then Turkey. I made very good time. Was in 5 countries in 24 hours on 3 continents. USA, Germany, Turkey, Bahrain, and Saudi. I was the last one to board in Istanbul. Was on Turkish soil for perhaps 30 minutes. They left early since I think we had a princess from Bahrain in the front of the plane so I think they had to impress her by arriving 35 minutes early. Had to run to catch this flight from Instanbul to Bahrain since my flight from Frankfort was late. Wow that was close! Three people behind me were not allowed to board. The princess had first class all to herself. She smiled at me and then the flight attendants conveniently escorted me to economy class. Smile! Too bad, so sad. But I got to Bahrain by 6 pm instead of 8-9 hours later which would have been the next flight and I had a meeting at 7 am the following day so this was good. From Bahrain, a hired taxi driver drove me to Dharan.

All and all, I had a great time in Saudi Arabia though I ate too much chocolate to stay awake a nights and prepare my talks. I had not eaten much chocolate in 3 years. Had some great Lebanese food on Tuesday night!

Remember for PDF copies of my Saudi Aramco talks, please go to see

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  posted by Curt Bonk @ 12:51 PM   8 comments
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About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

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