About the author

Ten years ago I fell so deliriously in love that I neglected my work, lost my job, and flew to a Caribbean island to sort out my priorities. My mistress was the web, I love her still, and she’s been very, very good to me.

Computers

When I graduated from college with a degree in sociology and no technical background whatsoever, I took a job programming and selling mainframes. Computers are commonplace today but in the mid-sixties the popular press was full of articles about giant mechanical brains that might rise to take over human civilization. The initials IBM conjured up images of mile-high IQs, theoretical physics, The Outer Limits, space travel, and Albert Einstein. Computers were mysterious and cool. I learned COBOL and Assembler, and devoured Datamation magazine.

My freshly minted computer background enabled me to avoid the Viet Nam War by getting a direct commission into the Army, where for two years I oversaw mobile computer centers in Germany. I’ve skirted the edge of the software business off and on ever since. Generally my computer lust was like this thing I had for Catherine Deneuve: beautiful but distant.

Learning

In the late seventies, a group of academics hired me to research the market potential of an adults-only off-campus degree program in business. Firms up and down Silicon Valley were enthusiastic. I spent the next two years developing interactive workshops in management, marketing, finance, accounting, business law, and so forth for what morphed into the University of Phoenix. When the gang moved from San Jose to Phoenix, I quit to join a start-up in California to train bankers how to make sound loan decisions. A majority of the top 100 banks in the U.S. bought the idea, and for a dozen years I worked with senior loan officers, training directors, and instructional designers at big banks.

The Web

The Well (Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link) was a doorway to thousands of online conversations among digerati, deadheads, do-gooders, dabblers, degenerates, and co-conspirators. I became jaycross@well.com learned about online community from Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo, Tom Mandel, Robert Rossney, and dozens of others. I surfed the web when the only on-ramp was Tim Berners-Lee’s Next machine at CERN. I coded a web site when few people had ever heard of the web.

I became a web fanatic. Just imagine what could come of coupling learning to boundaryless computer networks. Colleagues grew weary of my rants. Our company was focused 110% on CD-ROM interactive multimedia. I left the firm and flew to a Caribbean island to figure out what to do next.

Web + Learning = Internet Time Group

The concept of Internet Time Group came to me whilst sitting amid the Mayan ruins of Cozumel. My calling would be helping people improve their performance on the job and satisfaction in life. My experience with the University of Phoenix and the Well led me to challenge conventional wisdom about how adults learn. Often networking was at the heart of it.

Back in the States, I talked with Silicon Valley companies about harnessing the power of the web to teach technical skills that were in short supply. I posted my thoughts on the web. When the CEO of the largest CD-ROM training company decided his firm needed to switch to hosted distance learning, the firm scoured the web for someone who knew the topic. My name came up 1, 2, 3, and 4, and for the following two years, I read the tea leaves and wrote the white papers at SmartForce, the eLearning Company.

Beyond the road less traveled

Oddball stuff is often regular stuff making a premature appearance.

When I began blogging (in the last century!), my friends didn’t “get it.” When I started writing about eLearning, Brandon Hall emailed me that he didn’t like the term; it wouldn’t stick. Others debated that eLearning would never be as good as what takes place in the classroom.

Traditionalists were not pleased with my observation that “Courses are dead.” People put down informal learning, saying it lacked rigor and was uncontrollable.

To the naysayers I have sparred with since 1998, I have but one thing to say: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

I believe we are at the gates of a new wave of human consciousness. Everything is becoming connected. The global brain is kicking in. The global heart won’t be far behind.

jay