Adventures in Online XML Learning

Okay. This post is dedicated to two things: my venturing into writing XML schemas and my observations on the online learning experience.

The Course

The first one is pretty straightforward. I’m in grad school studying library and information science, digital libraries, and other issues in knowledge management. The sixth week of the first semester rolled around, and I decided things had settled down enough for me to start something new. And I’m excited.

The online training course is titled Website Architecture and Design with XML and is presented by createLIVE and O’Reilly Media. My boyfriend has his own little library of O’Reilly programming books, and I thought this would be a low-pressure way to familiarize myself with XML’s digital publishing tools. Ninety minutes down and so far so good.

The course is being taught by Bob Boiko, and I already like him as an instructor. My favorite quote of the day was, “Go beyond the site to think about the system.” He definitely gets his passion for this work across.

I’m the perfect candidate for this course because I have a student’s schedule and can see how the content might lend itself to future work. Being a student, however, I understand that I will be stretched thin at different times and might have to re-schedule some of my learning.

The Learning

As mentioned, the instructor was engaging and managed to keep my attention. This is a challenge with online lectures. Pacing I’ve witnessed for such a teaching strategy has been either too fast or too slow, but Boiko went all Baby Bear-level on us. There was something about the his use of repetition as a teaching strategy that really gave it the right cadence. He told us what he was going to do, he did it, and then he told us what he just did.

It is too tempting for a recipient of online training to open a new tab and turn his or her attention away. The only time I really left the video and chat tab was to create a new Google Doc for me to take notes on and share with my jealous boyfriend. (He works at the time of the scheduled training.)

I was distracted by some issues arising from taking notes in a Chrome browser while using a Mac. I forget that the browser doesn’t like the zoom function, and I accidentally auto-zoom more than I’m okay with. (I live with it; it’s just frustrating.) But I didn’t feel an urge to check Facebook or Twitter.

To reinforce his instruction, Boiko ‘s PowerPoint presentation totally broke suit from the current glam convention of using big illustrations ala Slide:ology, which is more about presentational performance than it is about instructional design. Bullets on white space–that’s all I need–and it’s all Boiko gave us.

The exception was a very basic illustration of the relationship among instance files, transformer files, and schema files, which he related to a literal filing system. One illustration, and the concept totally stuck with me.

Beyond that, Boiko’s simple bullets again gave the learner no excuses to be so distracted as to miss the point. They acted to once again reinforce his lesson: What he said he was going to do, ¬†what he did, and what he said he did was also in writing! This fourth level of reiteration really helped me keep up with my notes, especially when I had to catch up after relaying another point to my boyfriend via the Google Doc’s chat function.

I’m sure the class will speed up. They are offering these lessons as products to buy after they’re recorded, so I’m sure they want to give their customers their money’s worth. But it was a great experience and Boiko confirmed his expertise as an online trainer. I hope all of these classes are like this!

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