Changes are afoot!

Well, it's the first work day of the new year… always an interesting time! Here at TWS we're making some changes: we've been a custom content eLearning firm for many years now and that's not going to change. But, we are going to be changing our focus a bit and concentrating more on the success of eLearning projects. Too many times we've seen large eLearning projects fail or under perform NOT because of eLearning issues per se but because of poor project management. As the principal of TWS AND as a professor of project management this seems like a good time to marry our eLearning experience and expertise to our project management knowledge and try to help firms better manage their learning development projects.

More to come!

Flash and Google… more coffin nails

Well, I know the writing has been on the wall for a long time but now there's more writing and on a big wall too! Starting September 1 (that is to say, tomorrow) Google will stop some Flash content from autoplaying. The rationale is that this will improve battery life, which is true, but Flash is also notorious for its security vulnerabilities so you have to think that's part of the reasoning as well. In any event if you're a Flash aficionado it's probably time to brush up on your HTML 5.

eLearning development projects and formal project management

We're still looking into this area and will definitely be commenting more upon it… at this point our research indicates that there are significant problems with too many large eLearning development projects. ("too many" is our way of saying we actually don't know the number but anecdotally LOTS of projects are experiencing grief.)

One thing we've started to do is to map the issues raised in the eLearning community vis a vis the causes of their grief to the formal Project Management structure promulgated by the Project Management Institute (PMI). This has been an eye opening experience in that the problems experienced by the eLearning community are classic PM problems… scope creep, stakeholder management, HR/team management, scheduling issues,etc. And, this is good news, because the PM community is trained to solve those problems!

More to come…

eLearning projects and failure

eLearning projects and why they fail…

Apple and the Americans with Disabilities Act

To mark the 25th anniversary of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Apple has collected a bunch of accessibility apps designed to assist users with vision, hearing, speech, physical, learning or literacy issues. Over the years Apple has done a good job of addressing accessibility issues (VoiceOver, Zoom, Mono Audio are all baked into iOS, OS X and watch OS). Here's a quick peek at the App store where you'll find MANY such apps… these are just a few. Read More...

Smarter Than You Think, by Clive Thompson

Am only about 50 pages into this book and already suspect it's going to be read twice… the second time immediately after the first! It's a fascinating AND POSITIVE look at the impact of technology on how we think… everything I've read to date about the impact of technology has been along the lines of THE SKY IS FALLING - OUR CHILDREN WILL NEVER LEARN TO THINK (shouting seems to be how this message is most frequently delivered.) This book is a refreshing, and well supported, counterbalance to the prevailing pessimism. If you're in the Learning world you really need to read this book! And no, I don't get a % of sales revenue…

Canadian election debates and closed captioning

Interesting article in today's Globe and Mail

In brief, the Conservative party has indicated that it will NOT take part in debates run by the country's national TV networks. These networks are obligated to provide captioning. Other news outlets have expressed an interest in hosting debates but it's not yet certain if these debates will be captioned. The Canadian Association for the Deaf estimates that 10 million Canadians benefit from captioning. It'll be interesting to see what happens… hard to believe that major players like the Globe and Mail, Macleans and Munk Debates wouldn't caption the debates but heh, stuff happens.

Mobile infographic... not sure about the infographic craze...


Guelph Accessibility Conference


Brian Bell of The Wired Schoolhouse is presenting at The Accessibility Conference held at Guelph University. The presentation, entitled "Web Accessibility - AODA, IASR & WCAG2.0: Alphabet soup and digital content" takes place Tuesday morning, May 27

Articulate Storyline update - WCAG is the driver

So, Articulate updated Storyline 2 today - they're up to V5… and this new version is all about WCAG compliance. We haven't played with the new version extensively yet but the fact that it's WCAG driven is encouraging; the fact that many of the changes seem to be an effort to make the Flash based output more accessible is fascinating. Our thinking is that Flash is done and it's only a matter of time before it goes away completely but heh, we've been wrong before.

More thoughts about this latest version soon…

The End of College by Kevin Carey

Just finished reading The End of College… absolutely intriguing look at universities (despite the title), the cost of attending, the value of attending and how it just isn't making much sense anymore given new, technology based, alternatives. As a university grad and the parent of university grads it's hard to argue with his premise that many universities only pay lip service to undergraduate education. That being said however I think there is value to a multi-year, away-from-home (if you can afford it) exposure to some smart professors and many smart peers. And, if that exposure isn't in a classroom but instead in a coffee shop or pub, so what? The process is more important than the content I suspect…

Certainly technology based tools that will disrupt the education environment are already here and more are coming. I'm not sure if Mr. Carey is correct - he's VERY optimistic about technology - but it's hard not to agree that the education world is changing fast and in a very short time, post-secondary education will look considerably different than it does today.

Return on Disability Group - new sector reports

The Return on Disability Group has just released new reports regarding activity in the disability market for both Canada and the USA. Short and to the point these reports make for fascinating reading. Disclaimer: I know Rich Donovan, CEO of The Disability Group: he's a VERY smart guy with a very pragmatic and business-like approach to the disability marketplace.

To learn more, visit the RoD site at

JAWS redux

Met again with my visually impaired student (college level) as I wanted to make sure that my lecture Powerpoint slides were fully accessible (based upon some changes I'd made after our first chat.) The good news is that making Powerpoint fully accessible isn't particularly difficult. And, it pains me to say this, but Ppt is better for this purpose than Keynote.

The bad news is that our college's LMS appears to be misbehaving (or JAWS is) and the headers for various files and links aren't being read properly so he actually can't access my file! Not a great solution if you need a sighted person to access the file so JAWS can read it… clearly the situation isn't optimal… frustrating given the maturity of some of these products.

An update from the AODA Alliance... below is commentary from the Alliance... clearly lots more to be done.

The Ontario Government only has 9 years, 10 months and 22 days left to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities. Our campaign to get Ontario back on schedule for full accessibility by 2025, as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires, has gotten yet more media attention. We show you examples below.
This media coverage focuses on three important recent developments:
1. The Ontario Government’s February 13, 2015 public release of the final report of Professor Mayo Moran’s November 2014 final report of her Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the AODA. In that report, Professor Moran concluded that Premier Wynne must show strong new leadership on disability accessibility and revitalize the AODA’s implementation. She found that after ten years of implementing the AODA, it has not made a significant difference in the lives of people with disabilities. Its implementation and enforcement must be beefed up.
2. The Government knows there are still a staggering 60% of private sector organizations with at least 20 employees that are violating the AODA. The Government knows that many if not most of those organizations have been clearly violating that legislation for over two years.
3. Despite this, the Government told the AODA alliance in its February 19, 2015 letter that it plans to
cut back on its enforcement of the AODA this year, reducing by one-third the number of organizations it will audit for AODA compliance.

The Accessibility Conference: Choosing Bridges over Barriers

The Accessibility Conference at the University of Guelph is taking place May 26 and 27. Entitled "Choosing Bridges over Barriers" it promises to be an interesting two days! Brian Bell, principal of The Wired Schoolhouse is presenting May 26; the presentation is entitled AODA, IASR & WCAG2.0: Alphabet soup and digital content. Hope to see you there!

The Disability Edge: Globe and Mail article

The Globe and Mail article "The Disability Edge" is fascinating. In a nutshell the article discusses how employers are starting to hire more persons with disabilities and finding competitive advantage in doing so. In addition, the experience of these companies suggests that one of the major concerns regarding hiring such employees - that the cost of accommodation will be onerous - is simply NOT the case.

The changes in government regulation over the years has resulted in a much better educated disabled community. While still under represented in the workforce the article makes clear that there is tremendous value in these potential employees AND it's not a fuzzy altruistic value but real performance based benefits.

A possible future for education?

This article is fascinating and the book has made my to-do list. The existing "bricks and sticks" of schools aren't going away in the immediate future but given that I've personally taken Coursera courses it's difficult to argue that a new model isn't already here.

Google now converting Flash based ads to HTML5

This is a mixed news story but the demise of Flash, while slow paced, continues. We moved from Flash based to HTML based eLearning some years ago and have never looked back. AND as the AODA / 508 requirements tighten up you'll see more and more interest in HTML5… if you make a living creating Flash content I'd recommend a strong cup of coffee and a good pondering of future options…

MIT and Harvard sued for lack of captions

On Tuesday I'm presenting a workshop on how to create accessible content and, as part of my homework, came upon this fascinating article about MIT and Harvard being sued

In Ontario it is a legal obligation for universities and colleges to make their websites and content accessible and there are significant penalties for not complying. In the USA they have section 508 requirements mandating accessibility too… and, clearly, people are expecting institutions to comply.

I wonder when some large Ontario corporation gets nailed for inaccessible content? It's only a matter of time…

JAWS screen reader

I teach project management at a college here in Toronto and recently sat down with one of my students so he could show me how JAWS works. Visually impaired since birth he is an EXPERT user. It was fascinating to see just how much work had to be done to review my lecture notes. He was very adept at using the software but the number of steps required was, in my opinion, daunting. And, even though we've been giving workshops on how to make web sites and content accessible, it was humbling to see (actually to hear) how clunky some of my own material is when accessed via a screen reader. So, time for more homework on accessible content!