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An Interview with Jane Bozarth

By Lisa Gualtieri / December 2010

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An Interview with Jane Bozarth

December 16, 2010

Jane Bozarth is a tour de force in the online social world that encompasses e-learning. She is the author of Social Media for Trainers (2010), as well as three other books: eLearning Solutions on a Shoestring (2005), Better than Bullet Points (2008), From Analysis to Evaluation (2008).

Since 2003, she has worked as the e-learning coordinator for the North Carolina Office of State Personnel, helping the state devise its online training strategies. A frequent writer, speaker, tweeter, and blogger, Bozarth seems to move at lightning speed to keep pace with new technology trends. In this interview with eLearn Magazine editor-in-chief Lisa Gualitieri, Bozarth shares her opinions about the film The Social Network and how her constructivist background frames her current work. —Editor

LG: Have you seen the movie The Social Network? What do you think of how Facebook has evolved and the influence of the movie on awareness and use of Facebook in general and for education in particular?

JB: I did see it. And, as promised by the reviewers, I found it is more about innovation, entrepreneurship, and politics than Facebook itself. I don't know that the movie is going to affect Facebook awareness and use so much. But I think Zuckerberg is a fascinating visionary whose work has reshaped our conception of "friend." To create a product that's gained half a billion users in such a short time is an indication that he's tapped in to something we wanted. I admire him because he tries to redefine the ways we interact. When Facebook changes, it isn't just adding some new toy or feature. Zuckerberg sees something other than just a faster horse.

LG: Why did you write Social Media for Trainers and how will it help instructional designers in their work?

JB: I had written several books for Pfeiffer and, really, the book was their idea. They knew I was very active in social media, so they contacted me asking for a book for trainers a la Sharon Bowman, more activities than theory, more application than philosophy.

While I don't disagree that we need to see a shift toward organizational social learning, the reality in my world is trainers and instructional designers who are just trying to enact their work at the front line — while they may influence things like culture change, they still need to get their jobs done every day. Social Media for Trainers is specifically designed to help them use free, popular, intuitive social tools to extend and enhance what they're already doing. For instance, where before we might email prework, we can now deliver it via Facebook. Where before we might have used a discussion board for intersession work, we can now use Facebook or Twitter. The book is meant to show designers new ways of using new tools for collaborative, social training activities.

LG: Do you take online courses yourself?

JB: Yes. I did most of my master's degree and, as much as they were available online, courses for my doctorate. I also occasionally do take an online certificate program. Also, my work requires me to preview and evaluate products from commercial e-learning vendors, and I do my best to give that a fair chance and really complete a fair sampling of their catalogs.

LG: Do you see your knowledge and skills based on theory, experience, or both, and can explain what your primary influences are?

JB: My training career began in the early 1990s—the age of ropes courses and Kolb's cycle of learning —so I come from a strong constructivist stance. As I work for government, a lot of my work has involved dry-as-toast policy and compliance training, and my experience watching other trainers had shown how dreadfully bad and flat much of that instruction could be. I was determined to find a better way to deliver that kind of content, so I worked very hard to create relevant, hands-on, experiential learning opportunities.

As Internet technologies have evolved, I've become interested in connectivism, although looking back, that was present in my work even long ago. I was lucky very early in my career to become involved with a dynamic, fun community of practice of like-minded trainers. We all worked together to enhance our practice and develop new ideas for training. I'd say that collectively, that group was more about craft than evidence-based practice, but the approaches were clearly from the constructivist mode. By the way, that group was the subject of my dissertation. Long story short: Constructivism and connectivism inform my practice, and my experience guides me in effective ways to apply that. Make sense?


  • Fri, 17 Dec 2010
    Post by Donna Gilliland

    Wonderful interview. I am a trainer and speaker who finds Jane inspirational. I had the pleasure of Jane being my guest on my monthly tweet chat - EngageSMChat. Very fun and insightful tweet chat.

  • Thu, 16 Dec 2010
    Post by Steve Maul

    Jane was a recent speaker at our the ASTD Atlanta chapter meeting and I'm in the process of reading her book, Social Media for Trainers. As she says in her interview, it's about practical application and use of SoMe in the workplace learning environment and goes beyond only the obvious tools that get all the publicity. The topics that Jane has cataloged are immediately usable by my development team and it's been a great prompter for how we take our training content and platforms to the next level.