By Patti Shank and Amy Sitze (Pfeiffer, $35)
A couple of years ago, while researching an article about classroom trainer fears of e-learning ("No Time to Panic," August 2002), I heard a frequent impassioned refrain: "How will I ever learn all this?" Patti Shank and Amy Sitze—both former editors of Online Learning magazine—have done a lot to alleviate this fear, first by presenting the basics in understandable form, and then by reassuring the reader that it isn't necessary to learn it all, ever.
It isn't often that I run into a technology book that's actually fun to read. The authors have done an excellent job of culling down the vast information on e-learning into understandable, easy-to-follow, manageable chunks. Practicing what they preach about good e-learning design, they reduce information to the must-know and eliminate unnecessary jargon and tech-speak. It's also nice to run into another of the few authors (like Ruth Colvin Clark) who are well-versed in both technology and training.
Covering all the bases of an intro-level book, the material includes taking the leap (one chapter includes the subsections "what skills do I need?" and "how do I stay sane?"), meshing instruction with technology, a great annotated glossary of technical terms, the basics of design, choosing tools and infrastructure, and evaluating online learning.
There are good support tools including useful comparison charts and a fabulous companion Web site. The frequent "bottom line" comments, noted by an arrow symbol, are an especially nice touch. (For example: "It's important to be realistic about what you don't know and get the help you need.") This one is fun and user-friendly without talking down to the reader. As I so often do, I disagree with the title; this one is not just for beginners. Those of us in e-learning know it's just not possible to know it all; this will help keep us somewhat fluent across the field. —J.B.