3 E-Learning Lessons from "One Second After"

Normally I don't read books that feature an introductory chapter from New Gingrich, but I'm very happy that in this case my liberal filter bubble was successfully breached.

November 26, 2012

One Second After by William R. Forstchen

Published in April of 2011.

Normally I don't read books that feature an introductory chapter from Newt Gingrich, but I'm very happy that in this case my liberal filter bubble was successfully breached.   

One Second After is about the aftermath of an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) attack on the U.S. Detonate a couple of atomic bombs in the atmosphere and the resulting electromagnetic radiation will be powerful enough to fry the power grid and any electronics that have not been hardened to withstand the high intensity electrical surge. Rather than describe the impact of an EMP strike on the whole U.S., One Second After focuses on the life of one college professor (and former colonel), and how one small North Carolina college town copes with the sudden loss of all electricity and electronically controlled machines.

I'll be honest and admit that One Second After has me completely freaked out. Forstchen is very effective at convincing the readers that a) the U.S. is unprepared for an EMP attack, b) you and I are unprepared to live without power, and c) our social order will rapidly break down following an EMP attack.  

My immediate reaction after reading One Second After is to want to order the 30,144 Total Servings 4-people 1-year Emergency Food Kit by Shelf Reliance ($3,999.99) from Costco. I've also been spending time on Utah Shelter Systems website, and I'm seriously rethinking my fear of guns and aversion to hunting.   

Hopefully I'll calm down in the next few days (and my wife has confiscated the credit cards), but even without building $64,900 shelter (complete with hardened blast doors and an ANDAIR VA 150 air ventilation and filtration system), I do think that us e-learning folks (even liberal e-learning folks) can learn a few things from One Second After about our business.

1. Plan for the Worst Case Scenario:  You have a disaster recovery strategic plan in place for your e-learning platforms, applications, and content. All of your course data, your LMS content, is backed-up offsite. If fire, flood, or some other natural disaster were to fry your data center your tape backups are not stored in the same location. You are taking advantage of inexpensive cloud storage to backup your locally stored course content. You have verified that your hosted LMS provider retains multiple copies of your data across geographically dispersed data centers. You have brainstormed scenarios with your team and your vendors of the worst case scenarios that would hinder you from running your blended and online classes.

2. Practice and Drill: With all your course data backed-up to tape and across multiple locations, you have practiced restoring your courses. You know how long it takes to re-build your databases, re-install enrollments, and re-populate your course content. You have a clear communications plan of who contacts your students and faculty should something happen to your e-learning platforms or content. You know who makes the decisions, and who the backup is if the first decision makers are out of the loop.   

3. Listen to Outsiders: I'm convinced that after working in the e-learning world for the past 15 years (and in higher ed for basically all of my adult life), that I suffer from some serious blinders. My job may not be to protect the country against an EMP attack, or even my campus against possible disasters, but I do need to think about threats to our e-learning infrastructure.   Speaking with other e-learning and edtech professionals about disaster preparedness, scenario planning, and service continuity can only get us so far. Necessary, but not sufficient. I'm thinking that conversations with people in other industries and in sectors outside of higher education and edtech would be beneficial. Professionals from the military, the intelligence community, and the energy industry. People who run gaming, entertaining, and shopping online platforms. I need to find ways to step out of the higher ed bubble.

Where does e-learning fit into your campuses disaster preparedness plan?

What black swans are keeping you up at night?   

What are you reading?


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