Thursday, August 2, 2007

Personalized Printing --> Personalized Learning Docs?

(originally posted to Tata Interactive Systems' corporate blog)

A couple of months ago, WIRED Magazine made a subtle offer to their subscribers (I've been a loyal subscriber since the first issue showed up in my mailbox for free back in the early 90's):

The first 500(?) people to email a digital photo of themselves to their site would get a personalized cover (using that picture) on the July '07 issue, courtesy of Xerox and their "Custom Xerox" offering.

Well... my personalized issue arrived the other day (see the image on left), and even though it is just a marketing stunt, I have to say that it was pretty neat to have my photo on the cover of my favorite magazine (my son got a kick out of it, too)!

This fun experiment got me to thinking about the implications for learning....

Being primarily focused on technology-based learning, I usually see things through those sorts of glasses, but I am in full agreement with the claim that eLearning is no more a silver bullet solution to education/training woes than the television was when it was introduced. Rarely are there full, single-source solutions to issues, and education is no exception - a careful analysis of goals and objectives, tied to a review of the available tools and techniques is always a critical first step in any learning effort.

With that in mind, I was reflecting on how, even in this age of websites, blogs, and wikis, most people are still much more comfortable and happy with physical documents. For anything over the length of a short email message, most people still prefer to have a hard copy for reading and 'personalizing' (marking up with notes and comments). This is easy enough on a one-off basis for shorter length items using traditional PC printers and blank paper, but what about longer articles or collections of essays that are related?

What would it be like to be able to self-assemble 'personalized learning packets' of related articles from the web that could be bound into a magazine-like format? It's not a rocket science idea (in fact, I don't think there is anything that's been preventing it to date), but just how much more convenient, usable, and useful would such an animal be, compared to stacks of individual articles (usually stapled in a corner, printed with questionable quality on a single side of paper)?

Would YOU value the ability to have a "magazine" of the articles that you wanted/valued? How much would you be willing to pay for it? Would your organization see value in producing customized, high quality collections of articles for its employees (as an internal communication vehicle, performance support tool, or as a blended-learning artifact)? What sorts of avenues of opportunity begin to emerge and open as the ability for greater personalization becomes feasible (both technologically and economically)?


(Heck... forget about personalized magazines! What about personalized objects? Where do these trend-lines begin to take us, as learning and performance improvement experts?)

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