After selecting a learning management system (LMS), the next logical step for an association is to begin creating your course catalog. But for many associations, creating online learning courses is uncharted territory, especially if this is a brand new course. To be successful, a course should help the learner acquire the skills and knowledge they truly need. This post will offer some tips for creating more engaging and more effective eLearning by following the simple Current Situation – Ideal Situation model.
What is the Skills Gap?
Nothing kills engagement quicker than a course that isn’t focused on what the learner really needs to know. Setting clear pre-requisites can help you start out with a better understanding of what the learner already knows. Another way to fine-tune your learning is to perform what’s called a Skills Gap Analysis. By starting with some assumptions about the learner’s pre-requisite knowledge, a Skills Gap Analysis will help you determine what your learners need to know so you can zero-in on the desired outcomes for the course. This approach will also help you decide how to organize your course, as well.
So how do you do a skills gap analysis? First, decide what your typical learner already knows. This is your Current Situation. Then identify what the learner needs to know to achieve the Ideal Situation. The space between those two points is the “gap” you are going to create your course content to fill. The gap should help you pinpoint a set of clear, measurable learning objectives.
For example, your Current Situation may be that your learners do not know how to use a new accounting model. Your target audience already knows how to use a more traditional accounting model. As you imagine the Ideal Situation, you decide that the learner needs to be able to understand how the new model is different from the more traditional accounting model, how to analyze the data and how to identify issues, based on this new model.
Developing the Learning Objectives
Once you have identified the gap, the hard part is done. Now, you need to identify all the specific learning objectives the course needs to cover to bridge the gap between the Current Situation and the Ideal Situation. For example, our learning objectives for the situation we described earlier might be:
Upon successful completion of this course, participants will be able to:
- Prepare profit/loss statements
- Generate quarterly sales reports
- Identify budget overages and track its origins
- Develop a template for client invoices
Technically, a learning objective should have a measurable action, standard and condition. The more specific your objectives, the easier it will be to design your assessments for your course. An assessment could be a test item, activity, etc that measures the learner’s achievement. So, the content needs to cover only the content that supports that objective, as measured by the assessment. For example, to support the “Identify…” objective, the content would describe the statement areas and what these items mean, and the assessment might provide a sample Profit and Loss statement that would require the learner to identify where a specific overage is. If they cannot do that, the content may need to be reworked to ensure the learner has adequate knowledge in order to complete the objective.
The learning objective is extremely important, because it sets clear expectations for the learner – and for you, the developer, to build to. Remember to make your learning objectives measurable and supported by an assessment that can determine if that objective has been achieved. It’s more difficult to assess learning gains for general objectives, so develop very specific, measurable learning objectives.
Do they REALLY need to know that?
Often, while you are designing the course, you will be working with Subject Matter Experts (SME), who will probably be tempted to include too much information!, A tip to avoid this is to gain mutual agreement on the Current Situation and the Ideal Situation, as well as the specific learning objectives. This way, when an SME suggests more content, simply ask them: “Do they really NEED to know that to achieve the objectives?” If so, then go back and review the Ideal Situation, and then revise the learning objectives and your outline. Chances are, though, the answer will be no. If the SME is passionate about the content, perhaps you can suggest including it as a reference outside the course, or as a resource or in a “Nice to Know” section learners can explore on their own.
By keeping your course development focused and targeted, you will have a better chance of achieving that “Ideal Condition” which will make your SMEs happy, and your learners extremely grateful.
If you’d like to learn more about creating engaging eLearning content for your association members, check out our Top 10 eLearning Course Design Tips. Be sure to check back next month, when we’ll share tips for identifying your target audience!
A major issue in the news lately is the “skills-gap” problem. A recent U.S. News article by Joyce Russell reported that despite a relatively high unemployment rate in the U.S., 80% of manufacturers are unable to find the right talent to fill open positions.
For years, associations have played a critical role in addressing the skills gap problem by providing professional and continuing education for their members. In the past, highly-specialized, industry education was provided through association annual meetings and educational sessions. But due to increased travel costs, many associations are seeing lower attendance at their annual meetings. To add to this problem, many younger workers are either not renewing their membership or not joining associations at the same rate as their boomer counterparts . As a result, these workers are not receiving the critical education needed to help fill these gaps and associations are seeing a decline in annual revenue.
Since education is a major component of their charter, many associations are turning to eLearning to address these problems. With increased internet bandwidth and advances in technology, quality online learning is now possible. In fact, according to a Department of Labor study focused on adult learners, “enrollment in courses delivered entirely online increased by nearly 250 percent in the three years from 2002 to 2005.” This trend indicates a growing preference for this style of learning. For an association, e-Learning can provide a valuable member benefit, a new revenue source, and a way to attract new members with a product they need and want.
If you’ve decided to provide eLearning for your members, the next step is to choose a course to offer as a pilot. As with other types of instruction, developing an eLearning course comes with a price tag, so you’ll want to make sure your investment pays off. There are three questions to ask when choosing a course to deliver as eLearning that will improve your odds of success:
1. Is there a market for the course? This might seem like a basic question, but it’s very important to make sure there is a market for any product before you start development. For eLearning, ask yourself:
- How many potential learners would take this course? Of your association members and potential members, how large is the possible market? If there is a relatively large market for the course, the odds are higher you will recoup your initial investment more quickly to begin earning revenue on the course. Is this course currently available to your members in a different format, such as classroom instruction? If so, how popular is it? This could help you estimate the number of learners who might take the course.
- Is this a required course? If learners need to take this course, as part of a required certification or for continuing education, then offering it online may be ideal, providing more flexibility for your members. If you intend to market the course outside your association membership, you may also attract non-members. By offering both member and non-member pricing, you can help make the value proposition for a potential new member.
- How much competition is there? If a similar course is already available online, make sure that you can create a competitive advantage for your eLearning offering. Does your association offer the only certification for this type of instruction? This can provide a very compelling value proposition.
2. What would be a competitive price for the course? This can be difficult to assess. If you already provide a classroom version of this course, how much do you charge for it? If you charge $250 for a classroom course, you may be able to charge more for an online version, because learners would save money by not having to incur travel costs or lose time from work. Learners may be willing to pay for the flexibility of taking the course at their convenience.
3. What is the potential return on investment (ROI)? There is a simple calculation that can help you assess the potential return-on-investment (ROI) for developing an eLearning course. Take a look at the size of the potential market, as estimated in question 1. If you estimated that 500 learners might take the course in the first year, then you simply multiply this number by the price you arrived at in question 2. If, for example, you believe a competitive price for the course would be $300, then the estimated revenue for the first year would be $300 multiplied by 500, which would be $150,000.
When calculating your ROI, don’t forget to subtract the costs to create the eLearning. The exact cost depends on a lot of variables, including number of instructional hours, amount of interactivity and media, etc. We’ll discuss the various level of eLearning in a future post. But the benefit of eLearning is that, traditionally, after the initial development costs, the recurring costs are low, resulting in higher revenues for the association.
ELearning can be a great way for associations to generate non-dues revenue, attract new members, and continue to address the skills-gap issues facing industry today. And by carefully considering these three questions before you start an eLearning initiative, you can help assure that your association will reap the benefits financially from your eLearning course production efforts.
If you’d like to see if eLearning would be the right fit for one of your courses, download Digitec’s free ROI calculator for association eLearning. This tool will let you see the potential return over a three year period. Simply provide us with your name and organization email address and gain instant access to your customizable Association eLearning ROI calculator.
What is eLearning?
eLearning is an education system that primarily utilizes technology to transfer skills and knowledge. You might also notice eLearning being referred to as online learning, web-based learning, or distance learning. It enables students to learn anytime, anywhere, allowing for more flexibility and consistency. Elearning can include virtual education, social media, digital collaboration, computer-based curriculum, mobile performance support, and the list goes on.
Previously, we talked about Kahn Academy, a radical new alternative to the traditional classroom based education system. Kahn offers a curriculum of free tutoring eLearning videos to help struggling students. This model is inspiring a new movement of classroom “flipping”, where the students take their lessons at home and work on homework in class. Utilizing this technology has benefited learners tremendously. Not surprisingly, research has shown that there are distinct advantages to this style of learning.
At its best, eLearning is a great way for students to learn at their own pace, processing material without being held back or hurried by peers. At its worst, however, eLearning can be torturous, with seemingly endless PowerPoints slides, that can make eLearning seem downright ugly. Let’s look at some commonly used techniques in eLearning that demonstrate the good, the bad, and…well…
Good: Tells a story
Often, we remember a story after only hearing it one time. It’s not surprising. Our brains have been wired over the last 2,500 years to learn through stories. It’s a great way to experience a situation without having to actually live it firsthand, and learners tend to retain this information. How many of us still associate the story of Hansel and Gretel with “stranger danger?” Or the story of Steve Jobs with the success in obsessing over user experience? If you want your content to be memorable, stories, simulations, and authentic experiences can enliven your content.
Good: Be Creative and Take Risks
eLearning offers a world of opportunity to designers to make something new, engaging, interactive, and exciting! Instead, what we tend to see is a digital fact book of bullet points. Learners are expected to memorize what’s on screen, and turn the page with the “Next Button”. But why not embrace the possibilities? Play with the way screens and pieces of your course appear, or maybe find a new, out-of-the-box way to map out your course. Get creative with design, engage the user with visual metaphors, clever design choices, and take risks that will spark a learner’s interest when the workload feels tedious.
Bad: You Can’t Fail
Ironically, one of the benefits to eLearning is that it’s solitary. Even shy learners don’t need to worry about mistakes in public, and so they are free to fail… and to learn! Think back on the lessons you’ve truly learned in your life. Often, these “lessons learned” have resulted from personal failures or mistakes, perhaps a car accident, a financial loss, or a humiliating personal experience. We don’t forget what we learn through failure. Yet, instead of designing this ability to practice and fail in eLearning, sometimes we tend to avoid this by skipping evaluations or tough activities. The result can be “bad” elearning – bad because it isn’t allowing the learner to fail and as a result – learn.
Aconventional suggests that you first determine how people fail in the real-world environment you are training for (i.e. the reason people are doing the training) and then build those common failures into your design. Keep your training grounded in the real world with real problems.
Bad: Pacing, Pacing, Pacing
Imagine that your learner, previously excited about your new material, dazzled by a creative course opening or interesting activity suddenly hits something they don’t understand. If the pacing for your course doesn’t accommodate for understanding along the way, the learner will lose motivation and feel dragged along. This is where good pacing comes to the rescue. Kineo reminds us, “E-learning works best when it’s modular, with short, focused segments that have a clear purpose and could stand on their own as a piece of learning.” Give your learner digestible pieces, and follow a logical time table to help keep users on-top of the material. If you believe something may not be clear, you might want to revisit the content with your Subject Matter Expert and clarify or cut down the material to clarify focus.
Ugly: The Information Dump
The dreaded information dump is all too common and should be avoided at all costs. You may have collected a massive amount of information, and it’s probably all important in its own right, but there should never be a time when you try to cram every nugget of knowledge into your course. Your learners will be immediately turned-off by the sheer magnitude of the content, and chances are you’ll burn them out with information overload. The best way to avoid this is by pinpointing exactly what your learning objectives and goals are for the learners, and stick to it. If it doesn’t relate, it doesn’t belong. Visual learning research finds that students learn more of the content when there is less of it on the screen. Less is almost always more in eLearning, and you should only give them the information that is necessary, and directly applicable to their experience. SMEs can be a great help with this. But, you should always ask your SME the question: ‘Why do they need to know this?” If they (and you) can’t answer this question, scrutinize its importance in the course.
Ugly: The Template Style PowerPoint
We’ve all faced “death by PowerPoint”, where each screen is a dump of information on a template style PowerPoint layout. When learners see this, it’s an immediate turn-off. Just as a customer might immediately judge you by your professional attire, your users judge the quality of your course by the quality of the design. It’s worth the extra time to ensure your course says something about the quality of your product. Avoid mismatched text, colors, audio, and layouts. Make your text reader-friendly by breaking paragraphs into subtitles, bullets, or short sentence groups. And avoid the uglies by creating some variety in the screen design. Your book will be judged on its cover, so make sure you’re proud of your eLearning.
With a little bit of practice, you’ll soon be making the best eLearning, web-based, or online courses that will click with your learners in no time. Next time, we’ll put these tips to work when we go over the top how-to advice for creating your very first eLearning course.
With the growth of tablet devices, authoring tools are having to re-invent themselves, yet again. It’s nothing new —just another step in the continual evolution we’ve seen since the early 1990s, when authoring tools were first introduced to help eLearning professionals create and deliver learning. Over the years, these tools have had to balance ease-of-use with the ability to create a robust learning experience.
For this post, I’d like to recap the evolution of authoring tools and talk about how Direct-to-WEB (D2W), Digitec’s cloud-based rapid eLearning authoring tool, has been designed to address these needs. Also, since projections currently show that the web will be accessed by more mobile devices than desktops by 2014, this post will also explain how D2W has been designed to help authors create and distribute engaging eLearning anywhere… well, almost anywhere.
The Rise of Authoring Tools
Since the beginning of eLearning, there’s been a struggle to maintain a balance between ease-of-use and learner engagement, and authoring tools have had to evolve to maintain this balance, as well. In the early 1990s, the industry was largely dominated by PC-based applications that required programming to “author” computer-based training (CBT). Applications like TenCORE and WISE were popular choices. These command-line style authoring tools let a programmer create “screens” of content that could be “packaged” into an installer for PCs to play back. While powerful for their time, these tools were not easy to use, requiring complex programming skills.
In response to the demand for more accessible authoring tools, Authorware was born. Using Authorware, learning professionals could create learning programs with hyper-simplistic designs, primarily through dragging and dropping icons. Although this made eLearning infinitely more user-friendly to create, it came at a price. More extensive interactions required using the “authoring language.” While not as difficult to master as more sophisticated programming languages, authoring still required a certain amount of programming savvy. To avoid this complexity, Authorware courses often followed a more simplistic “Click Next to Continue” style of eLearning design. So, simplicity was there for the author, but at the cost of effective learner engagement.
Authoring Tools Find Balance with Rapid eLearning
To combat “boring” eLearning experiences, programs like Adobe Flash and Director came on the scene with an animated bang (anyone else remember the bird crash vector animation from the early Flash demos?) eLearning created with these tools became engaging again, and though these applications did not require the kind of command-line coding expertise that TenCORE did, Actionscript (for Flash) and Lingo (for Director) could not be described as “simple” to use.
Perhaps as a response to the demands of learning professionals who were becoming dependent upon programmers and these complex tools to produce their eLearning, there has been a movement towards “rapid eLearning” tools, using Microsoft® PowerPoint®. Here, we return to simplicity, with tools that offer learning professionals who know PowerPoint the ability to create their own eLearning, without the assistance of programmers or coders. PowerPoint driven applications like Articulate Presenter and iSpring certainly make eLearning easier to create.
At Digitec, we began development of Direct-to-WEB as a rapid eLearning PowerPoint add-in back in the early 2000s. Back then, users could transform a standard PowerPoint into a game-based learning module by inserting template-driven learning games right into their slide sequence. This simple tool also allowed them to automatically create SCORM and 508-compliant modules that could be delivered on CD-ROM, web or iPod (yes, iPod – the audio automatically extracted into a download into iTunes). But these modules were still largely linear, and like other authoring tools, Direct-to-Web associated the file with the author’s desktop. If someone else needed to edit the module, but didn’t have the source file, that was a problem.
Where We Are Today
With the latest version of Digitec’s Knowledge Direct® learning management system, we’ve integrated Direct-to-WEB into the platform. Now, to author eLearning, you can simply upload the source PPTx file to the cloud, and then insert pre-built templates to create games and activities where ever you want them to appear in the sequence of slides. Admins can log in and collaborate on modules, with access to the same files.
To provide more functionality, Direct-to-WEB also enables the author to insert “Do-It Doc” free-form document creation during the module. So now, if you’re authoring a module on how to write a performance review, you can allow the learner to respond to prompts within the module and create the document! At the end of the learning, they’ve created a document that can be saved as a Word, RTF or PDF document. To accommodate mobile learning, Direct-to-WEB detects the user’s browser or device and automatically delivers either Flash or an HTML5 version of the module.
Today, there are new products being released everyday that combine the simplicity of PowerPoint and provide more robust interactions. As technology evolves, authoring tools will continue to attempt to close the gap between simplicity for the author and engagement for the learner, benefiting both. The challenge for the next generation of authoring tools will be to provide this robustness to every possible device. But that’s a topic for another day.
So, you’re ready to take the initial plunge into eLearning, and you’re thinking of issuing a request for proposal (RFP). Great! Distributing an RFP is a wonderful way to “set the stage” for your ideal learning management system (LMS). If you have itemized your requirements in writing, you are increasing the odds of finding the best LMS for your organization— at an affordable price. An RFP is especially beneficial if you have a lot of requirements, because it gives you a simple way to evaluate and compare numerous LMS systems. Writing an RFP for your organization’s new learning management system can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few helpful tips to guide you through the process.
Tip #1: Resist the Urge to Copy
When the going gets tough, it may be tempting to copy another organization’s RFP requirements. Developing an RFP does take time, and thoughtful consideration. Unfortunately, copying requirements from another association or company will get you only short-term results with no long-term benefit. Like we learned from our last blog post, not all LMSs are created equal. Tacking extra features on that you don’t need can be detrimental and cost your organization a fortune.
As mentioned in the whitepaper, “8 Steps to Selecting Your Association LMS”, we’re reminded that “typically, the more features you add, the greater the likelihood that the vendor will need to customize their product to meet your requirements. A long feature list may result in you inadvertently narrowing potential LMSs to those that are more costly or complicated than you actually need.” This might increase the time it takes to deploy the system, and the cost.
Which leads us to our next tip…
Tip #2: Be Specific
It’s important to be as clear as possible. The more detailed, accurate, and explicit you can be, the better! Chances are, a well written and thought out RFP will result in selecting the best LMS for the buck. After all, the better you are at expressing your requirements, the easier it will be for LMS vendors to understand and meet them. On the other hand, if you provide little to no detail about what you’re looking for, LMS vendors are left to interpret your requirements for you and may totally miss the mark.
It’s a good idea to describe:
- Your organization’s technology infrastructure
- Your proposed budget
- Previous LMS experience
- Challenges with your current LMS system (if you have one)
Don’t worry that you’ll be providing too much information. LMS vendors like clear guidelines, and based on the details, may be able to suggest some interesting solutions you hadn’t thought of.
Tip #3: Organize and Prioritize Features
Construct a spreadsheet with categories of Nice To Have, Need To Have, and Critical features. This way, vendors know exactly what to focus on, what’s “negotiable,” and what’s most important in fulfilling your requirements. The “8 Steps to Selecting Your Association LMS” white paper provides guidelines to help you decide which features should go in each category:
• Critical –features or functions the LMS must have to integrate with your existing systems, your existing business model, or to ensure revenue.
• Need to have –baseline features that you need for your learners and for your administrators. To determine this, develop a “use case.” For instance, from your learner’s perspective, what is the process they would use to find, purchase, and complete their learning?
• Nice to have – features and functions that would enhance the system, but aren’t really necessary; for instance, the ability for learners to customize their profile with photos or write blog posts within the learning management system.
Separating wants from needs will make things easier for the LMS provider and for your organization when it comes time to compare and evaluate the various offerings; however, you want to make sure to balance the amount of detail against the overall length of the RFP.
Tip #4: Think About Length
One thing to keep in mind regarding the length of an RFP is that the more requirements you list, the more information LMS companies will provide and your reviewers will need to review.
When developing your RFP, you don’t need to “fluff up” your requirements or add a lot of narrative. The ideal RFP will convey all the features and functionality your company or organization requires, while maintaining a manageable length
Today, most RFPs are2-8 pages. Gone are the days of 20 page RFPs. Remember that LMS vendors will be trying to offer the best solution for your needs. With a longer RFP, some vendors may not want to bother responding, thinking that it will be too time-consuming or that the system requirements will take too long for them to respond to. Keep the RFP as short as you can while still conveying your expectations, and you’ll likely receive more focused results.
You should also provide length criterion to your vendor. It might seem like a great idea now to allow your potential vendors to go on for as long as they’d like about how their system meets your requirements, but you’re liable to regret that decision when you have a collection of massive proposals to read sitting on your desk, or worse, proposals of varying lengths! Imagine trying to compare a 10 page proposal to one that’s 60 pages and you’ll understand why it’s a good idea to set expectations on length and format of responses.
Tip #5: Set a Response Date and Make a Timeline
Set a response due date, but be realistic. For most RFPs, a reasonable response time is 7-10 business days. Once you set a date, stick to it. There are always exceptions, but a provider that can’t meet a deadline probably is not someone you should trust with your organization’s LMS.
You’ll also want to create a timeline that reflects the entire process, including LMS selection, implementation, and course development. An easy way to do this is to start with the date you’d like to have your system accessible to users, and then work backwards. Knowing when you’d like to be “Live” with your new LMS will make it much simpler to discover when you should begin the process. Think of all the tasks necessary to hit that end date:
- Sending out RFPs
- Reviewing responses
- Scheduling demos
- Making your final selection and negotiating the contract
- Holding your kick-off meeting
- Developing or migrating your eLearning content
- Marketing your courses
- Opening up the system to your learners
If you thought you were getting started early, maybe not! Be sure to include this timeline in your RFP so vendors are aware of and can prepare for important milestones.
Good news, you’re almost ready to send out your LMS RFP! The only thing left to remember is to be selective when choosing who will receive your RFP.
Tip #6: Be Selective
You may be excited to see what each LMS provider has to offer, but if you send your RFP out to too many companies, you’ll never be able to read through all of the proposals while still giving each the attention it deserves in a timely manner. Reviewing dozens of responses, especially from vendors whose systems do not meet your critical needs, is simply not a good use of your time. Instead, plan to send your RFP to no more than 5 LMS companies — and only those on whom you’ve researched to be sure they offer the type of system you’re looking for.
While you’re reviewing the proposals, remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Investigate any claims that seem far-fetched and price points that are vague. What are the hidden costs? Make sure you ask for an outline of ALL the costs for start up, year 1 and the annual recurring costs.
That’s it! You’re ready to develop and distribute your LMS RFP. Still have questions or want more tips on selecting your LMS? Be sure to read our whitepaper or contact our Learning Management System Specialists by visiting our LMS product site, www.knowledgedirectweb.com.
Comparing Traditional and Lite LMSs
This month we’re going to be focusing on learning management systems (LMSs) and sharing the do’s and don’ts of selecting your organization’s new LMS system. As LMS technologies continue to advance and improve, it can be overwhelming to begin a search for the perfect system. To feel confident in your final decision, you’ll need to be aware of your options.
For instance, not every LMS is created equal. Different industries lend themselves well to different learning management systems. Currently, there are over 300 different open source and commercial LMSs available! In this post, we’ll compare two types of LMSs: the traditional, commercially available, learning management system, and the standard LMS’ little cousin, the “lite LMS”.
Starting with the basics – What is a Lite LMS?
A lite LMS is similar to a traditional learning management system in that its main purpose is to deliver eLearning. However, many of you are just now beginning to hear about these new LMS alternatives.
The biggest difference between lite LMSs and their more traditional counterparts is cost. Generally speaking, a lite LMS will be more affordable. In fact, the cost of the platform is often the first clue that you’re looking at a Lite LMS solution. Part of the reason these LMS systems are typically more affordable is that they include a storage option. This means that while traditional LMSs tend to offer a turn-key solution with hosting and data storage included, a lite LMS is more of an “a la carte” solution. Generally, storage pricing for the LMS will depend on how much content you plan to store and deliver through the portal. It is common for lite LMS systems to feature a fixed price per month or year based on the amount of data stored and transferred in a given period. A lite LMS also allows for a steeper discounts when it comes to user licensing, with most systems charging a flat fee for a fixed number of users. As the name suggests, lite LMSs are more basic in their features and capabilities. Let’s explore the benefits of a lite LMS, aside from the cost.
Benefits of a Lite LMS
- User pricing starts very low as compared to a standard learning management system. Most offer packages for 25 users, 50 users, and go up from there.
- Lite LMS systems are also useful if you only need a system for a limited time; with some LMS companies offering month-to-month usage options rather than yearly contracts.
- Smaller organizations with limited users benefit from the system’s affordability and speed to deployment.
- The system’s limited functionality and feature set can be beneficial to organizations that don’t need advanced reporting or tracking – making them a very simplistic option.
- The simplistic design can sometimes be equated to a more user friendly LMS.
- Increasing popularity of the “lite LMS” is making it easier than ever to seek out and select a platform almost immediately.
Drawbacks of a lite LMS
- The system is very limited. Some common and highly desirable features that you would expect to find in a traditional LMS such as: social learning, individualized learning paths, assessment tools, reporting and e-commerce are often absent in a lite LMS.
- Most lite LMSs (if not all) are not mobile friendly and do not support mobile learning for tablets and smart phones.
- Lite LMSs cannot handle large numbers of users and are generally limited to fewer than 2,000 users, making them unrealistic for mid to large organizations.
- Customization of a lite LMS may not be possible. Because of their inexpensive start-up costs and limited abilities, lite systems don’t lend themselves to the kinds of customization you may be used to with a traditional LMS.
- Analytics and corresponding reports are often non-existent or not as robust as the reporting capabilities you will find in a standard learning management system – limiting your ability to track learner progress.
- Lite LMS systems may lack technical support. Basic packages often exclude any type of system maintenance or technical support, no less learner/end user support.
- Most organizations plan to use their LMS for more than a few months, negating the need for a month-to-month system “rental” .
- Lite LMSs will usually dictate the number of end user seats available in the system, which may not always correspond with the appropriate amount of storage space needed to support the volume. You’ll have to be careful that both the number of users and storage constraints meet your requirements. If you only pay attention to one aspect, you might find your deal wasn’t as great as you thought it was.
- You have to pay special attention to your allotted GB or MB of storage. Lite LMS providers are liable to charge for any overages, which can add up quickly if you’re not careful.
As you can see, lite LMSs and traditional learning management systems both have their benefits and drawbacks. In the end, your decision should come down to which system better meets your business objectives. Consider your budget, how long you plan to utilize the system, how many end users you have (not just now, but in the future) and whether or not you need the ability to track, test and report on learners.
Making small choices to help the environment doesn’t always have to be complicated. Here at Digitec, we have a recycling program for all those lunch time soup cans and plastic bottles. But what else can we do to make a difference? When you consider options for keeping our planet “green”, you may not realize the impact eLearning can make. So just how beneficial is eLearning to the environment?
Let’s Start With the Numbers
You probably already understand the benefits of eLearning for your staff and learners. It reduces classroom time, materials, and travel costs, which are significant benefits. But reduced travel ALSO considerably cuts down the CO2 generated. For instance, Silke Fleischer calculated the effect an average class term would have on both the environment and the pocketbook. Considering a fifty week, twenty student course that met three times a week, the results were staggering. He writes: “The tremendous amount of CO2 generated for this course equals about 200 vehicles driving 12,000 miles a year using 6,000 barrels of oil. If this course is moved online, it not only saves about 1,200 tons of CO2, but also eliminates more than $1 million in travel expenses.”
Also, consider the amount of wasted paper used for traditional classroom training that can be eliminated when courses and employee handbooks are offered online. It adds up quickly– The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year! This contributes to the carbon footprint, while the cost subtracts from the bottom line.
In comparison, a study by Britain’s Open University discovered that providing distance learning “consumes an average of 90% less energy and produces 85% fewer CO2 emissions per student than conventional face-to-face courses,” which helps immensely. But how does that affect your budget? Tom Raftery reported that the international bank Crédit Agricole is saving $200,000 – $300,000 just in travel-related expenses by hosting their training in Second Life. Save money, materials, and the planet from CO2 emissions? It’s a win/win!
Both Consumers and Learners Prefer Green-Conscious Companies
Let’s look at this from another perspective. From a marketing standpoint, consumers generally tend to opt for the environmentally friendly option over another relatively equal alternative. Stefan Doering reminds us of the Feel Good Component, that “people like knowing what they purchase is going to help more than just themselves.”
For learners, implementing good online learning can improve learner retention and overall happiness by giving them more control over their experience; however, there might be another reason your learners are so pleased. People want to feel good about the choices they’re making, and leaving a smaller carbon footprint has the added benefit of polishing your corporate image in the eyes of the learners taking the course.
In a 2007 study, MonsterTRAK found that “92% of young professionals prefer working for a company that is environmentally friendly”; proving that if you want your employees and learners to be proud of their workplace, going green is a great way to start.
Giving Back Can Be Fun
In addition to being good for the planet, good for your company, and good for your learners, eLearning can be good for the community too! Digitec was eager to embrace the green movement and jumped at the opportunity to design an eLearning game to help teach fifth grade children the importance of energy conservation and resources. In partnership with the global non-profit foundation, eLearning for Kids, Digitec helped provide the free educational game to 2.5 million children around the world. The Responsible Use of Energy is hands-on, and gives kids helpful tips for conserving energy in their own homes, as well as how to create sustainable and responsible energy on a regional level.
Find out more about the game, and eLearning for Kids here.
We all have a social responsibility to do good by Mother Earth, and luckily, doing a lot of good can be as simple as switching to eLearning and recycling your soup cans.
Do you think you could perform an operation just by reading a manual? Sure, it may be helpful, but you wouldn’t expect to be able to open a patient up and save a life without ever having tried before. That is, not until you’ve worked with practice materials, sat in, and put in the work firsthand.
The same concept can be applied to learning. You want to get your new hires “ready to operate” right away, but all the lecturing and manual reading in the world won’t kick start them to brain surgery without the proper practice. If you really want to give them that on-the-job advantage, let them try those new skills in realistic scenario-based learning.
From a traditional eLearning approach, it’s pretty easy to engage learners using quizzes throughout your course. Simple true and false, fill in the blank, or multiple choice questions are easy to write, and quick to generate and they do provide a level of engagement. However, for skills based learning, this approach can tend to reinforce the knowledge behind the skill, rather than the skill itself. What’s more, learners are sometimes given very little of the context that would help them with real-world application. When you’re performing an operation, how often do you need to respond to a multiple choice question? You can see that this approach isn’t necessarily going to be very effective training, in this situation.
In her blog, Cathy Moore explains that using scenarios will help significantly in, “make[ing] your elearning more engaging and could lead to better transfer on the job…it also emulates the way we learn in the real world – from experience, not from a disembodied voice that immediately tells us ‘incorrect’.”
The great thing about scenario-based learning is that it gives your learners a chance to test their skills before putting them in a high stakes environment, like in front of your customers. It is highly interactive, relevant to the learner, and measures the performance that is a better predictor of success. But you don’t need to design elaborate simulations. By making small changes in the way that you frame your quiz questions, you can turn your textbook concept checks into realistic challenges that your learners may encounter in the future.
But beyond simple questions, there are ways to reinforce high level skills, creating immersive learning simulations.
When creating the Immersive Learning Simulation Engine, Digitec kept that concept of “failing forward” in mind. Rather than memorizing terms from a manual, learners get the opportunity to practice their skills in a virtual situation, relevant to the “real world” environment. By using an immersive learning simulation, they’ll be able to practice applying their skills, and understanding consequences, without the kinds of risks that hinder learning growth and enthusiasm. It works as a kind of rehearsal for when learners are confronted with these scenarios on the job.
You can see an example of this in Digitec’s Medical Safety Simulations. Nurses and Doctors are able to interact with virtual patients, facing common situation and learning based on the consequences. While playing the game, medical professionals find out what actions are most effective, and which could result in problems. Learners are free to fail with these virtual patients, and learn from their mistakes with short feedback prompts, as well as through an interactive “end of mission” remediation map.
For an instructional designer, it takes extra work to write up believable scenarios and characters for this kind of learning, but the extra effort is certainly worth it. As a result, you can create scenarios that are realistic and better measure the skills a learner needs to master, in context to the job. The game-based component is a great motivator for learning, too.
Considering a learning scenario for your next training program? Contact us today to learn more about Digitec’s experience in creating interactive eLearning scenarios and to see a demo of Digitec’s Medical Safety Simulation.
“Generational clashes in the workplace are nothing new. What is new is the extent to which the retirement of the Boomers will leave employers scrambling to recruit and retain the talent they need. The American Society of Training and Development is predicting that 76 million Americans will retire over the next two decades. Only 46 million will be arriving to replace them. Most of those new workers will be Generation Y-ers.”
This quote from Steff Gelston at CIO magazine encompasses the shift in the workplace that we need to expect. As the Baby Boomer generation creeps closer towards retirement, the next generation will need to fill the gap. These workers are members of a generation known as the Digital Natives, or Generation Y. This surge will require businesses to alter their strategies in training and management, especially if they plan on retaining Gen-Y workers.
So what kinds of changes can we expect?
First, let’s consider who the members of Generation Y are. Born somewhere between the early 1980s, and 1990s, arguably a little younger, these workers will have grown up in the advent of the digital age, learning from educational computer games and working on projects in school computer labs. The good news is that their saturation in media could potentially make them valuable assets. Because of their experience learning in the instant information age, they are generally eager to try new programs and tools, have a desire to constantly be learning new things, and tend to be most comfortable multitasking.
But these strengths come with weaknesses. Because of their eagerness, and their preference for multitasking, the Generation Y employee will probably have a much shorter attention span. In its July 16, 2007 issue, Time described members of Generation Y as “wanting the kind of life balance where every minute has meaning”, giving them little patience for spending time in lengthy training sessions. Creating another challenge, Generation Y workers have largely grown up with highly involved parents, leading CIO to warn that this may cause them to “require much greater up-front investment than their Gen X predecessors who were required (and preferred) to figure everything out on their own”.
Unfortunately, this need for fast paced, closely managed learning could potentially make Gen-Y workers come across as fickle initially, in spite of their tech savvy talents. As a result, lecture-based training alone will not be as effective with these new workers.
To harness the strengths and overcome the weaknesses of this new breed of worker, eLearning can be a smart solution to train and retain these workers. eLearning can provide more control over their learning experience. Rather than sitting passively in a classroom setting, eLearning would allow them move through the content at their own pace, satisfying their need for “hands-on” learning in a virtual setting that is comfortable to them.
Derek Baird offers another tip for engaging Generation Y learners. He argues, “Digital natives are not going to sit down and read tedious printed employment or training manuals. They want instant access online to information…Revamp your training techniques and methods, implementing tools that are more interactive, such as virtual environments and collaborative tools.” eLearning more easily allows for this kind of flexibility and engagement.
The simple changes in training format can make a world of difference for those fast-paced, control-craving next-generation minds. Although these new employees may seem threatening at first - seeking greater flexibility, control, and an immersion in technology – the results of more adaptive and flexible learning experiences can provide more favorable results in terms of retention and development.
Forbes published an interesting story earlier this year about the influence of Generation Y workers:
“Best Buy launched the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) program, where employees in participating departments are allowed to work virtually anywhere, anytime, as long as they successfully complete their assignments on time. This shift increased productivity 41% at headquarters and decreased turnover by as much as 90%, according to Ferris’ Four Hour Work Week.”
With results like these, perhaps the flexibility these Generation Y workers demand might not be so bad after all.
How do you plan to accommodate the changing training and development needs of Generation Y employees? It’s time to start preparing now.
There was quite a bit of focus at the 2012 Learning Solutions Conference in Orlando on Learning Management Systems (LMS) and how dissatisfied many users are. Digitec presented a session on “Making a Successful LMS Switch” which drew a crowd of conference attendees.
Some attendees were the victims of an LMS that had been acquired from a merger which had affected the product support. Some attendees mentioned that their current LMS vendor was either out of business or ending a product, but others are just simply unhappy with their current platform.
Here’s a recap from the session, including the first of a series of tips on how to make a successful LMS switch.
According to a 2010 eLearning Guild survey, only 62% of respondents said their LMS lived up to vendor promises. Here are the top five reasons people are unhappy with their LMS, as cited by various resource sites, including Bersin & Associates survey (2009), The Elearning Guild – Evolution of the LMS (2009) and Wainhouse Research (2012):
Why are people so unhappy with their LMS?
1. Not user-friendly
2. Lacks key reporting functionality
3. Lacks technical support
4. Unable to scale up and outdated
5. Too costly
Of these dissatisfied users, 13% said they were planning to leave their current LMS, according to the eLearning Guild survey. But with so much dissatisfaction, how can they make sure they choose a better LMS? And how can they make sure the LMS switch is successful? Here are tips on managing a successful LMS switch.
The “Dirty Little Secret” About RFPs
Often, organizations choose a vendor by sending out a Request for Proposal (RFP). These are typically sent to a list of popular LMS vendors, which includes a list of features for the LMS.
But where does this “feature list” come from? Often, there are Excel spreadsheets of LMS features floating around the internet, and an organization may be tempted to just copy and paste the feature list, without really understanding what a feature is or why they would need it.
When the vendors receive this RFP, they are expected to “check the box” to indicate if their system provides that feature or not. But the dirty little secret in the industry is that many vendors will often indicate that their system does these things, even when they don’t. The vendors justify this lie by rationalizing that if they admitted their system didn’t have a specific feature, then they would be automatically excluded from the list, and miss an opportunity. If they check the box, and make it to the next round, they can always say that this feature is “on the roadmap” or can be done as a customization.
In actual fact, the feature in question may not even be that important to that organization, so an honest vendor is excluded, and the customer ends up with a platform that doesn’t really do what they were told it did. (There’s that 62% mentioned earlier). Or, a customer may end up paying for features they didn’t really need in the first place.
The use-case analysis
To avoid this, when you select a vendor, it’s a good idea to do a use-case analysis to determine the features you really need. This can reduce your cost and help you avoid ruling out qualified (and honest) LMS vendors that might be the perfect fit for your organization.
A use-case can be as simple as a white board exercise, walking through the steps a learner, administrator and content creator would perform to complete various tasks in the LMS. By following these steps chronologically, you can create a more realistic list of features. You can then prioritized each feature in terms of:
It’s a good idea to vet this list by your IT staff, too, so they can spot anything technical that may be missing.
TIP: Brandon-Hall and other organizations provide LMS research sites that can help you filter down the number of qualified vendors. You can enter the specific features you are looking for, and then return results showing which vendors meet those criteria. This can help you arrive at a “short list” of potential systems, much more quickly and easily. But there is a charge to use this service! And be aware that often the systems descriptions are written by the vendors, so you still need proof, which leads to the next task.
Based on the responses to your RFP, you’ll want to contact vendors who made the cut to schedule a live demo of their system. Make sure that you specify exactly what features you want to see during the demo. As mentioned, often a vendor may list features in their marketing materials that aren’t really there, so give them a list of what you expect to see during the demo, so you can see those features in action.
For those who make it past this demo, schedule a follow-up demo with your IT staff, so that the vendor can address specific technical features of the system – things that you might overlook.
Once you’ve made a selection, you’ll want to check references and seal the deal. For more information on those steps and other tips, check out our white paper: “8 Steps to Selecting your Association LMS.” While this is focused on the unique needs of the association market, there are some great practical guidelines that apply to the corporate market, as well.
In The Atlantic magazine cover story “Making it in America” (January/Feb 2012), author Adam Davidson offers some hopeful and some dire predictions for the American worker. The bottom line? Unless we can better train our workers, a large proportion of the unskilled U.S. workforce may continue to be replaced through automation or off shoring. How can eLearning help address this? Certainly, continuing to invest in a world-class education is crucial, but so is a new paradigm that uses eLearning to help workers continue to develop outside of a traditional classroom.
Like the modern manufacturing plants described in the article, educators need to:
- Redefine workplace readiness, better matching the skills needed in industry;
- Promote a higher degree of knowledge specialization; and
- Adapt new technology to help continually develop our workforce.
And eLearning can be well-suited to meet these goals.
Redefine workforce readiness – Are we creating Level 1s or Level 2s?
Davidson’s article follows the story of two very different workers. Maddie is an extremely hard-working “Level 1” factory worker, and Luke, the more highly skilled “Level 2.” According to the article, the major difference between these two workers is that Maddie, a high school graduate, can train her replacement in less than an hour, while Luke, with more specialized technical training, is earning three times more, and is much less likely to be replaced by automation.
The article surmises that regardless of how hard Maddie works, her job will inevitably be lost– either to factory automation or to an offshore worker, who can complete the job less expensively. As a Level 2, Luke’s job not only earns more, but is much more stable. And the more skilled employees contribute to creating a competitive edge that will keep U.S. industry strong.
So how can we create more Level 2s than Level 1s? Education is obvious. More and more jobs are requiring advanced math and science, as well as technical training. We need to recognize that trade schools and community colleges can be a very valid alternative to a traditional 4-year degree. Also, these institutions can often more quickly reflect the skills needed by industry, developing degree and certification programs that will produce more “Level 2” workers.
But Davidson’s article reflects the sad fact that often Level 1 employees do not have the ability to attend traditional classes. This is where eLearning comes in. By offering more eLearning programs designed for technical training that aspiring Level 2 workers can complete with more flexibly after hours, they can achieve the skills that will make them more valuable to an organization, and stabilize their future.
It may be surprising, but according to Davidson’s article, the U.S. ranks either #1 or #2 in the world in terms of manufacturing. Over the last 20 years, this growth has come from a more highly automated, highly specialized manufacturing approach that generates higher quality and greater efficiency, while requiring fewer unskilled workers.
eLearning needs follow the same approach. We need to adapt and specialize instruction, rather than following the “old school” assembly line approach of “stamping out” generic parts.
Imagine if Maddie could take an assessment that would prescribe the eLearning she needs to complete to qualify for a Level 2 position. The assessment can create a “gap assessment” that specifies a highly tailored learning path, just for Maddie, reflecting exactly what skills she needs, determined by her current strengths and weaknesses. The eLearning can be self-paced, so that Maddie can complete the training around her schedule.
This is the type of learning delivery best suited to eLearning. Learners are encouraged to continually develop highly specialized skills, and industry can provide an efficient way to meet the needs of an ever changing world.
Adapt new technology to help continually develop our workforce
Gone are the days when a worker can achieve a degree or certification, start a career and be set for life. Continuing education is critical, and eLearning itself has evolved to help workers continually develop to stay marketable.
With the growth of mobile learning, Maddie can now take practice exams using her tablet or smart phone. Learning apps can provide remedial loops, so she can continually assess her progress, take content automatically adapted, based on her performance, and allow her to continually apply and practice the concepts she needs to know to advance to Level 2.
The fate of tomorrow’s worker?
Davidson’s article does deliver a dire prediction. Despite how hard-working Maddie is, as a Level 1 worker, she is doomed to eventual obsolescence, either through technology or from cheaper unskilled workers a continent away. But if we, as educators, can design and deliver eLearning that helps employees like Maddie use their work ethic to develop the essential skills on her own, there is hope for the future.
The rise of the Kahn Academy in mainstream awareness has sparked a great deal of controversy. Funded by Google and The Gates Foundation, this program is a completely free, non-profit source of “World Class Education for Anyone Anywhere”.
So what’s all the buzz about? The design is based on a relatively simple learning model. Students log in and learn new skills, mostly from YouTube videos produced by experts in a variety of subjects. There are videos ranging from art history to advanced trigonometry, from the most basic to advanced levels. Students complete sample assessments, then are assigned these tutorials, based on their performance. After reviewing these video tutorials, students are able to advance through the concepts, after successfully answering a set number of questions, related to that knowledge area.
Because learner progress is so carefully tracked, if a student is unable to advance, a flag goes up in the teacher’s progress report, so that he/she can then intervene with more personalized help.
Despite the growing investment in our public educational system in the U.S., the nation still holds an uncomfortably average to low-average international position in math and science, even in comparison to countries who spend far less per student.
So why is the Kahn model so controversial? As classroom sizes continue to grow, this approach seems like an efficient way to provide individualized learning to large groups of students, who all learn differently and at different rates. If classrooms across the country embraced this model, we’d have an educational system that’s not only more effectively administered and measured, but also more accountable.
But that’s not how everyone sees it, especially the educators themselves, who have valid concerns.
It’s no surprise that Bill Gates was willing to donate money to the Kahn Academy fund. In a recent TED Talk this year, he proposed radical education reform, increasing performance while cutting educational spending in half to reduce the budget deficit. With this in mind, it’s not hard for educators to see Gates as something of a threat to the present school system model.
Another improvement he suggests would be to stop giving teachers automatic raises based on seniority, when they earn a master’s degree in pedagogy. While some educators argue that a post-graduate degree improves the quality of teaching, others argue that learning these more theoretical education techniques doesn’t necessarily result in higher learning outcomes for students.
Although the Kahn Academy was largely designed to supplement the classroom setting and not as an alternative to traditional public school teaching, it’s fascinating how much retaliation the not-for-profit has already received from traditionalists.
To address the problems facing our education system, isn’t now the time for bold ideas? Ideas like the Kahn Academy are certainly disruptive to the status quo. But isn’t that what we need? Just as technology has disrupted the music industry, publishing, advertising, shouldn’t we accept this change and embrace the opportunity to improve our educational model?
Do we see the rise of Kahn as a threat, or as the long overdue “reboot” to our educational system needs?
Here again, helping you navigate the turbulent waters in the sea of eLearning, is another post in the series on What eLearning Clients Get Wrong. I’d like to touch on a topic that tends to get overlooked on most checklists, but can be a very valuable tool in making your learning even more effective.
Tip #3: Don’t Underestimate the Power of Humor
“A business owner, a salesman, and a game designer walk into a bar…”
A lot of clients shy away from humor, and in their defense, there are a lot of reasons why they might. It can come off as hokey; it can be subjective and fall flat, and if done carelessly, it can even offend an audience. Is it even worth the risk? The truth is, yes. It can be. Let’s take a look at why humor might be worth it:
- Comedy is engaging, and learners are going to be attracted to engaging material. Even if you can’t get your audience to laugh out loud, just the attempt at humor alone can make a student relax, which will cause them to be more open and receptive to the material.
- A sense of humor can make you seem more relatable. Very few learners will enjoy being lectured at by an authoritative professor type, especially if it’s a subject they might not be particularly interested in in the first place. If you know your audience, some well-crafted quips will help form a bond with your learners right off the bat. Now, instead of talking to a robot, they’re learning with a peer that can joke with them on their level and keep them engaged when they aren’t otherwise feeling motivated.
- Humor enhances memory. Want your learners to actually retain your information? In a study conducted by Valparaiso University, students recalled as much as 50% more material when it was presented to them with humor.
Case Study of the Benefits to Using Humor
Digitec designed a learning game for new employees at a large entertainment company. We knew that the target audience would be younger, excited about joining the organization, and would enjoy playing games.
The web-based game involved players flying through a 3-D galaxy, exploring content on various themed planets. The players then needed to recall the information they’d discovered to play mini-games, earn points on a leaderboard and capture a key to unlock a content area.
To create more fun, we created an evil villain character that the players chase through the galaxy. For humor, whenever the player lost a mini-game, we created a library of random audio responses, including evil laughs, etc. So when the player won… or lost, they could smile at the reaction, and enjoy the experience even more.
Why the Project Worked
What worked here was that the humor was universal. We needed to localize the game for a Chinese market. Despite the cultural differences, which can certainly cause humor to backfire, the Chinese players enjoyed the fun of the feedback just as much.
I think another reason this worked was because of the detail behind the design. As the renowned architect Mies van der Rohe once said: “God is in the details.” Here, the player was able to expose a “world” behind the experience – a world designed to make them smile.
How to Reduce Risk
There are many ways that humor can negatively affect the experience, though. Here are a few rules of thumb to make sure humor is right for your project:
- Make Sure it’s Not Inappropriate. Humor is very culturally specific, and very subjective. If the humor could be offensive, avoid it. Also, when dealing with issues surrounding safety or professionalism, humor can be seen as being too light-hearted about the subject matter.
- Make Sure it’s Repeatable. There’s nothing worse than hearing the same joke twice. If learners will need to retake the content or see the same “gag” over and over again, think of an alternative.
- Keep Your Humor On-Topic. The research is clear that using a couple jokes can make all the difference, but all bets are off when the comedy and your topic just don’t relate. Chances are, it’ll just come off as forced and inappropriate. Best case scenario? They’ll remember the laugh, but not the lesson.
- KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. This is one of the most defining factors on whether or not eLearning humor is successful. Utilizing humor is very effective, but may not be right for every project. For instance, while learners who might be less than motivated may need humor to stay engaged, be aware that very dedicated learners might not need humor, or might even find it pandering. Make sure you understand your company culture.
Do you use humor in your eLearning? Please share what works and what doesn’t.
This is another post in the continuing series on what I believe buyers of eLearning often get wrong. As a “survivor” in the online learning industry for last 20 years, I’ve noticed some recurring trends and misconceptions that I would like to share some insights on, from a “vendor’s” perspective.
Tip #2: “Remember the real end product”
Like other vendors, we are often sent requests for proposals (RFP) or are contacted by prospective clients who tell us they need an eLearning course. Often, they contact several vendors, giving all of us the same requirements: they need a course that’s a virtual office environment, like Second Life, where learners choose avatars and explore different environments… oh yes, and the course needs to be on marketing.
Often, vendors will take this information and scramble to respond, by pitching virtual worlds of “lip synching” avatars and full fidelity simulations. Not surprisingly, when the client evaluates these proposals, they get sticker shock when they see the high price tag. As a result, the client may lose enthusiasm and put the project on indefinite hold. Or, the client may select the lowest bidder, move into production, only to discover six months and countless dollars later that they can’t measure a return on the investment (ROI).
Begin with the end in mind
One of Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” states that we should “begin with the end in mind.” For any type of learning design, it’s critical to remember that the true “end product” is not a virtual world, talking avatars or even an eLearning course at all. It’s a learner who knows or can do something they couldn’t do before the experience — something that directly aligns with a business need or objective that can be measured.
In this hypothetical example, the end product should have been a successful marketing manager. The experience needed to make sure the learner understands and can follow the process of market analysis, aligning with finance and creating test market plans. All of this might be best accomplished through a simulation, but perhaps not. Without fully understanding the learning gap and the problems within the organization, a vendor might just create the virtual world the client asked for, only to miss the mark on the real end product. A lose-lose.
If clients would invite vendors in to help determine what the problem is, then propose the recommended solution, this misalignment would happen less often.
Case Study — “Do It” Learning
At Digitec, we had a client who wanted an online course to teach search engine optimization (SEO). Instead of proposing a solution, right off, we met with the client several times to find out what the true end product needed to be. The “final product” was a business owner or marketer who understood SEO and could perform web site analysis related to their industry in order to create an effective SEO Web Strategy Document.
Other factors? The budget was tight and the content was very prone to frequent change. Knowing this, our solution was to use Knowledge Direct to create a series of PowerPoint modules that served as the tutorials. These short modules included animations, audio narration and embedded videos.
Using Knowledge Direct, we developed a constructivist learning approach. We uploaded the PowerPoint .pptx files into the built-in rapid content authoring tool within Knowledge Direct. Then we used the “Do It!” doc features within Knowledge Direct to enable learners to create their own SEO Web Strategy Document while they are learning. Do It! is a cloud-based “workbook-style” document creation tool. The feature enables a Knowledge Direct administrator to create document frameworks, then choose where to insert specific prompts within a module. Learners then respond to these prompts while they take the course content, to create their own final product.
Within a module — Demystifying SEO, for example, the learner used the embedded Do It! doc to answer questions and help them formulate their strategy by creating and researching their own search terms.
Throughout the course, the responses were redisplayed, so the learner could revise and refine their approach. Ultimately, at the end of the course, learners had completed their own SEO Web Strategy Document which they could export to Word, .pdf, email or access online. For the client, the end product was an easy-to-update course which enabled them to view detailed reporting, as well as view and comment on the learner’s actual web optimization strategy.
Why this worked…
In this example, the final product was not extremely flashy or expensive. The modules did not include virtual worlds, and there were no lip-synched avatars. But the project was produced well under the client’s budget, is simple for the client to update in-house using PowerPoint, and enables a coach to measure the effectiveness by accessing the learner’s actual Web Strategy Document — the true end product.
Let me know if you’d like to learn more about Do It learning.
A Vendor’s Take on Choosing the Right Vendor
Choosing an e-Learning vendor is no easy task. It seems as though anyone who can create a PowerPoint file is an eLearning vendor. And even though there is a science to instructional design and effective visual and user interface design, my prediction is that if a client chose half a dozen vendors for the same project, they’d end up with six different products that would not even resemble one another. A successful eLearning project should be a creative project, and so there is definitely an element of risk and uncertainty involved when choosing a vendor. So it’s not surprising that clients can get it wrong.
In the next several posts, I’d like to make some suggestions and offer tips for training managers or directors doing vendor selection, based on observations over the last couple of decades in eLearning, working on projects that were stellar successes and others that…weren’t.
Tip #1: Never say: “I don’t want you learning on my project.”
The statement seems reasonable. When selecting a vendor, you want to know they have experience. But think about this. When you start a new initiative within your organization, do you instantly “stop learning” and only work based on what you know from your last project? Probably not. Successful companies, like successful individuals continue to learn, daily, and you should encourage potential vendors to innovate.
Case study on the benefits of learning on a project
In my murky past, we were contacted by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in Florida. The organization needed a way to train and certify counselors who were responsible for assessing at-risk children, in terms of their mental health and the severity of their disorders. Originally, the organization was sending a training staff around the state to conduct half-day workshops, then administering the certification exam.
During these visits, DCF found that many counselors assessed the same child differently. They were not necessarily rating the child consistently, and as a result, the assessments could be considered unreliable.
The client wanted a simulation, with the counselor interviewing a random mix of children. During the rating stage, counselors were provided feedback when their rating went outside the norm for that issue. The client wanted the simulation to provide practice and virtual coaching, then a standard certification exam to enable counselors to practice and certify on their own.
At the time, I had never designed a simulation like this. In fact, this was in the mid-90s, and very few web-based simulations were even being done. The standard internet connection was 28.8K dial-up, and the development tool was Allaire’s ColdFusion.
DCF was a smart client. Since this technology and approach was truly cutting-edge, they didn’t expect to see a finished product before choosing us as a vendor. Instead, our client expected that we’d be “learning” on her project.
The outcome? The project was a huge success, saving tens of thousands of dollars annually on travel alone, but more importantly, providing the reporting to show that state-wide, counselors had far improved their ability to rate consistently.
Were their bumps in the road? Absolutely. Admittedly, we never anticipated so much traffic to the application around the same time of year. The certifications needed to be renewed on a specific date, and the counselors (like most of us would) waited until the last minute. The traffic clobbered the server, until we could up-size to larger capacity and meet the need.
The bottom line is that the issues created by the “learning curve” on the project paled in comparison to the return-on-investment (ROI) to the organization. Had our client insisted that we not learn on her project, this success would never have been realized.
For better or worse, we’ve chosen a field that is in constant change. If you embrace it and demand that your vendors “learn” on your project, you may be very pleasantly surprised.
With tablet technologies, the App Store, Android Market and so many technologies dominating the learning discussion these days, I wanted to tell a personal story of how the low-tech Apple iPod gave me insights into what we might be overlooking in a learning strategy: simplicity.
When I received my first iPod, my first chore was figuring out what to do with it. Tell me that some of you didn’t (or don’t) have a iPod somewhere at home gathering dust – especially now that our mobile devices store all our music, which will soon move to the cloud.
The paradigm shift for me came with the discovery of podcasts. What could be more low-tech? Audio recordings are downloaded to your iPod on a scheduled basis. Subscribers automatically get the latest downloads to listen to, when they want.
One of my goals has always been to learn Spanish, but I found it difficult to find classes that fit my schedule. I turned to Rosetta Stone, and while it was effective, I found that being “chained” to my computer was difficult to accommodate in my schedule, as well.
One thing, of course, I could always schedule was my Saturday morning 15 mile bike treks. So I started getting into the habit of strapping on my iPod when I strapped on my bike helmet. Finally, my iPod had a purpose! I’d synch my iPod to download the 80 or so Coffee Break Spanish lessons, then make my way through each one, episode by episode. I started with Lesson 1, three years ago, listening, unabashedly repeating the phrases to the wind, behind my dark sunglasses, babbling away on solitary bike trails in complete anonymity. If something didn’t make sense, I’d simply reach across to my arm-tethered iPod, pause, replay, continue.
How simple and effective can you get? I suppose I must be an aural learner, because after numerous episode replays, I found myself memorizing Mark and Cara’s dialog, verbatim. I was learning.
Why was the iPod so effective? I found out one Saturday morning, when my iPod was dead. So, instead, I brought along my iPhone. Same thing, right? Wrong. Now, when the podcast rattled away beyond my comprehension, I needed to unlock my phone, navigate to iTunes, pause the playback, then touch and drag on the timeline to try and replay what I’d missed. If you’ve ever tried this, you’ll see that not only is it awkward, but on bike at 15 MPH, it’s dangerous.
Shortly after this experience, I worked with my developers to ensure that our eLearning platform automatically created podcast versions of our modules. It captures the audio from PowerPoint recordings and creates a combined audio podcast. Very simple. Very effective, especially for all of us aural learners.
Just recently, after three years, I’ve completed the Coffee Break Spanish series and am on to another series called Showtime Spanish. I’ve augmented my learning with continual evening classes in intensive Spanish and continue to work away at the higher levels on Rosetta Stone.
This post is merely to suggest that sometimes the most effective learning can come from the simplest sources.
This is also my “shout out” to Coffee Break Spanish. The series is free and incredibly well designed and presented.
Mobile Learning Apps: Statistics and Trends
With the explosive growth in mobile devices, including smart phones and tablets, mobile learning, or “mLearning” is a natural application for this new technology. With the portability that these devices now give us, we can access the right information, right when and where we need it. How many times have you turned to your cell phone, when you needed directions or wanted to find out how to fix a leaky sink? It’s the perfect “learning” tool. Yet, many in the training and development industry are holding back on a mobile learning strategy, and I think that’s a huge mistake.
Making the case for Mobile Learning
It’s simple to make the business case for mLearning. Just look at the numbers. The growth is occurring so fast, that it’s no longer feasible to expect our learners NOT to be mobile. How fast is it growing? Here are some statistics from “Mobile by the Numbers” posted by Mashable’s Sarah Kessler:
* Of the 4 billion mobile phones globally, 1.08 billion are smart phones
* By 2014, access to the internet through mobile devices will overtake access from the desktop
* 50% of all searches are performed on mobile devices
* Americans spend an average 2.7 hours a day socializing on their mobile devices, which includes 1/3 of all Facebook posts and 50% of all tweets
What does this mean for learning? It’s already happening out there, so don’t expect your employees to go back to the desktop when it’s “time to learn.”
Where does mLearning fit?
Whether you offer mobile learning options through your corporate portal or not, your learners are already “mLearning”. It’s just that the process comes so naturally, we don’t think to call it learning.
According to a 2008 eLearning Guild 360 degree Report on mLearning, here are the numbers on how it’s being used today, according to a survey of eLearning Guild members:
1. On-demand access to information (64.1%)
2. Job aids and/or checklists (55.9%)
3. Procedures (51.4%)
While “training” did make this list as well, it was farther down, as it should be. Mobile devices and the explosion of wireless access everywhere opens up incredible possibilities for learning. Just because it doesn’t reside on a corporate intranet or has been assigned to someone’s learning plan, doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. As educators, shouldn’t this be our goal? Continual learning?
I’ve heard from quite a few training and HR executives on mLearning. Many are saying something like: “We’re not looking at mobile learning, right now. That’s further downstream for us.” My only response is to look out. The water is rising…and fast. You might not be ready, but believe me, your learners are.
The eLearning Guild recently released their “Getting Started with e-Learning 2.0” survey report, and the results serve as further evidence that the learning landscape is changing… and needs to.
The survey, based on the responses from 876 professionals from the eLearning Guild, asked about the use of Web 2.0 type applications in their learning programs. The survey also asked members how likely they are to begin incorporating these technologies in the future.
What is e-Learning 2.0?
The term “e-Learning 2.0” directly relates to “Web 2.0,” or the use of web-based collaborative tools or applications, such as wikis, blogs, YouTube or social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. The results, at a glance:
70% of respondents said e-Learning 2.0 initiatives are somewhat or very worthwhile
50% reported needing to embrace these technologies to stay competitive
Larger organizations are making limited use of these resources, while smaller organization will be making significant use.
How e-Learning 2.0 Will Transform How we Learn
Typically, educators have followed the expert-based model. Formal learning is typically designed and selectively organized by a teacher or instructional designer. The “course” is then presented outside the work environment, where learners passively consume this knowledge and demonstrate mastery by answering multiple-choice questions, a measurement rarely suitable for measuring competency.
The key feature of e-Learning 2.0 is that it encourages two-way communication; whereas, formal learning has been more one-way. So why is this significant?
You might be familiar with the Princeton University 70/20/10 learning model. This model states that 70% of learning and development happens on the job; 20% of learning occurs during feedback and observation of others; and only 10% of learning and development comes from formal learning. Simply stated, e-Learning 2.0 features better align with the 70/20/10 model by:
- Providing more two-way communication, while on-the-job
- Encouraging feedback from experts and others
- Allowing learners to observe others doing the job, through YouTube videos for example.
So, based on this 70/20/10 learning model, it makes sense that social media is well-suited for education. And with the continued growth of mobile devices and the speed of change, learners will expect learning resources that provide solutions to their problems, whenever and wherever they are. So how do we adapt learning to meet these expectations?
Be sure to read my next post, where I’ll feature some specific ways that you can implement the most popular e-Learning 2.0 features into your learning strategy.
Are you providing any e-Learning 2.0 features in your organization? How successful do you think they are?
How times change. Last post, Game-based learning > Mobile Apps, I recalled how our earliest application for mobile learning (mLearning) was dismissed by eLearning thought leaders in 2003. Back then, despite the growth of WEP-enabled cell phones and the Palm OS personal digital assistants (PDA), there just weren’t enough handsets out there to justify mLearning delivery or support, and so, it failed.
The recent release of the iPad is a sign that things are changing… fast. A CNBC report cited the iPad as the most quickly adopted non-phone electronic device ever! And despite the fact that growth has slowed, somewhat, mobile adoption of the Droid and iPhone 4 continue to build. The bottom line is that these consumers will expect to be able to take their learning on these devices.
There is no doubt, now, that mLearning is here. The key now is to make sure that the learning will be ready to support the variety of mobile devices, including the Droid, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, and all the rest and will be easily supported.
Instead of the Digitec “skunk works” here dreaming up another content management system (CMS) approach to creating mLearning, our mLearning solution was to adapt our existing tools to accommodate the new technology, to provide simple cross-platform delivery and support.
Knowledge Direct is now mLearning compatible. Our Direct-to-WEB rapid eLearning content creation tool not only allows you to create game-based learning using PowerPoint, but it ports directly out to iPhone, iPad, Droid, Blackberry, as well as PodCast versions of the eLearning.
Now, learners can log into Knowledge Direct, take their modules and complete their assessments, all from their mobile device.
It’s really interesting how times change. When I look back at the “failure,” of our initial mLearning app, I have to remind myself that Apple’s first mobile device was actually the Newton. Anybody remember that?
When it comes to Mobile Learning, or mLearning as it’s become known, it’s amazing how quickly attitudes change. Today, with the staggering growth of iPad and iPhone apps, the learning community is scrambling to apply the new technology. But that hasn’t always been the case.
Back in 2002, my company released a product called “Knowledge Direct PDA.” One of my genius coders, Michael Roberts, engineered a web app that enabled administrators to log in, create modules of content, and assign tests and interactive checklists.
Learners could login from any WEP-enabled cell phone (preferably a PDA), access the modules and complete the assigned tests and checklists. It seemed to us as though the benefits of the application were obvious. For the employee, they had instant access to content wherever they were. For administrators, test scores and task completion reporting could be wirelessly transmitted back to the server or updated during the next synch. To us, this product was the next logical step in combining “learning on demand” with mobile performance support.
In 2003, we presented the product to the eLearning Consortium - a group of about a 100 or so thought leaders from mostly Fortune 500 companies led by Elliott Masie. No one was interested. Despite being members of the leading-edge learning technology consortium, not a single attendee had any plans for mobile learning.
A recent article by Fast Company magazine describes how receptive kids are to mLearning. Whether teaching themselves the alphabet with First Words or playing KidsCalc Math Fun, they get it. Granted, our first-gen mobile app didn’t compare with Clifford’s Be Big with Words app, but I sometimes wonder how different things might have been if I had been pitching to a roomful of seven-year-olds. “The Child is the Father of Man.”
Let’s hope that the latest onslaught of technology has made us all a little more receptive to recognizing what might appear to be a crazy idea.
What’s your favorite mLearning app? I’m pretty addicted to the PromeToys’ Spanish Conjugations for the iPhone.
Clive Sheperd’s blog posting on “A solution looking for a problem?” really hit home.
Never before can I remember the release of so many disruptive technologies that directly affect learning. With new tools emerging such as mobile delivery, rapid development, Second Life-style immersive experience, and augmented reality… how do we know which are going to be the best fit for learning?
I often see learning professionals put off making a decision, waiting for more certainty. The point I think Sheperd is making is that we so often address these technologies by looking for the problems they solve, and so each new technology is seen as a new “solution looking for a problem.” But I agree that’s the wrong direction. Our only real problems are those that affect us: What hinders our learning community? What inspires our learners? How can we give them what they need, when they need it? How can we integrate technology, whatever it may be, so transparently that it doesn’t “disrupt” their lives? We need to remember these problems when choosing technologies.
Still this requires analyzing so many new technologies. As an eLearning solution provider, walking an exhibition floor at Learning conferences can be disorienting. It reminds me of that scene in “Nauseau” by Jean-Paul Sartre, where the main character suddenly realizes how many choices there truly are in life. The character becomes literally ill when recognizing the sheer number of possibilities. Should I invest in a technology? Which one? What if it’s the wrong choice? Will it survive?
These are the same concerns we had in the early days of interactive learning –with interactive videodisc, LAN servers, TenCore, Icon Author… and then Macromedia Authorware, and Director. But back then, technology felt more exciting. This was when the term “multimedia maven” became popular, and there was such anticipation with each new product or version release, because each represented some new possibility that it might solve our problems.
I think we need to view this new world with an old eye toward potentiality. As educators living amid so much disruptive technology, it is our responsibility to be aware of the latest technology, embrace those we really believe in, and then start applying the technology to create solutions to our real problems.
In past, I’ve discussed how many organizations are struggling to see where Mobile Learning or “mLearning” fits into an overall learning strategy. The answer from industry seems to be rolling out utilities that “convert” eLearning into mLearning. So now, modules published for an eLearning course are also ported out to the iPhone, iPad, Droid and other devices. Problem solved? No. Simply converting eLearning content to a mobile platform is not the solution. eLearning and mLearning take place in two drastically different contexts, which are often not compatible, regardless of what the file formats say. What is needed is an integrated approach between the two, where each delivers the right kind of content, based on its learning context and the learner expectation.
A Tale of Two Courses
The trend in “converting” eLearning into mLearning reminds me of the early days of web-based training. Back in the mid-90s, authoring tools like Macromedia Director and Authorware, which were great tools for producing CD-ROM-based courses, began offering “conversion utilities” to create web-based training. I still recall my first web-based training course, created in Authorware. It was horrible. The original course was great, obviously. Lots of multimedia, interactivity, a very engaging storyline. But it had no business being on the web.
At the time, most of us were accessing the web over very slow dial-up connections. Remember 14.4 KBps modems? So within this context, while the course did convert, it required a huge Authorware player download and suffered from numerous browser compatibility issues during playback. The results were not pretty, because the course was not designed to its context.
Yet, during this time, I did produce some successful web-based training courses. These were HTML-based, primarily simply text and graphics with some animation and lots of hypertexting. The course included less media, but downloaded very quickly, and supported the way people used the internet — fast access to scannable, hyper-linked content.
The key difference between these courses was that the more effective one was designed in context – not converted out of context.
The “Great Expectations”
Designing in context has been the key in traditional publishing, as well. Back in the 19th Century, the Romantics were writing novels to appeal to the tastes of their consumers, so 500 pages of highly descriptive passages were all the rage. Authors like Dicken, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Jane Austin, adapted their writing to these generational tastes. Today, while these novels have been converted to eReaders, the most popular cultural trends are coming from Flash fiction, short films, YouTube videos — all designed in context to high-bandwidth internet connections and a media-driven audience.
These shifts have also come to learning strategy. Anyone involved in training recognizes the generational shift in today’s learner. While a passive “teacher-centric” model may have worked well in the past, today’s learner wants interactive, “learner-centric” delivery. And these expectations are even greater for mLearning.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Context
e-Learning often occurs at the desktop or laptop, usually within a learner’s workspace. In most cases, this context lends itself to focused engagement and learner reflection. There is a greater willingness to invest longer periods of time, as long as there is incremental and meaningful interactivity to keep the learner engaged.
Now look at a highly successful mobile app like “Angry Birds.” It’s completely interactive, player focused and continually engaging.
So what happens when you “convert” a good eLearning course for mobile delivery? The user who recently finished a game of Angry Birds is curious about your new mLearning app, so they open it and find content that has been converted from an eLearning course. Obviously, most learners aren’t expecting “Angry Birds – the eLearning edition,” but there are different expectations. And those same instructional design features that resulted in learner reflection and engagement just don’t “play” on a mobile device. The context brings expectations, and these will not be met by most converted eLearning courses.
In the next few posts, I’ll offer some design suggestions and case studies to continue exploring how to create effective mLearning in the context of this new world.
Last week, Digitec moderated a lively session at the Learning Solutions 10 Conference in Orlando, sponsored by the eLearning Guild.
The session was an open forum to discuss the features that a “Learning Management System of the Future” might have. As the scribe for this session, I organized the session feedback and brainstorming into these main areas.
1. Talent Management - the group recognized the fact that there is a large group of “Baby Boomers” about to hit retirement age. How will the next generation workforce be developed, when mentors and coaches are dwindling? Talent Management was seen as a way for workers to be assigned to profiles, which document their learning needs, then track their progress and development, tailoring new learning as they progress in the organization and in their role assignments. These features should enable administrators to use the LMS for succession planning and resource management, as well.
2. Social Networking - since an estimated 70% of what we learn occurs “on the job” from our peers, eLearning is the perfect candidate for social networking. The features could include SMS texting to pose questions and get answers, instantly, as well as integration with Twitter to broadcast and receive real-time answers, globally. While there are corporate network security issues to be resolved, social networking was a “must have” on the list for the future.
3. Content Management - with information constantly changing, rapid eLearning “content” creation was high on the list, but this content still needs to be managed. This function really transforms the LMS into a Learning Content Management System (LCMS). The LCMS will need to centralize and track this content, so that as changes occur and eLearning is updated, those changes can be filtered across versioned content delivered through mobile devices, within performance support systems, wikis, etc. In addition, the “LMS” of the Future will need to address change management, so that as content changes, these downstream instances can be found and updated as well. This approach was thought to help address the problem of “silos of content” that become difficult to manage within an enterprise.
4. Workflow Management - there was much discussion on the process of creating eLearning and how a future LMS might be able to facilitate that process. The discussion led to features that would enable reviewers and subject matter experts (SMEs) to be assigned courses, while in development. This role would have the ability to review course content, then insert comments on a screen as well as potentially make the content changes, themselves, following a “wiki” style of editorial control. The LMS could also support more real-time collaboration, where comments are viewed by all reviewers, tracked and approved more quickly and easily.
5. eLearning and Performance Support - the LMS of the future might also reflect a new model for learning that incorporates both eLearning instruction and performance support, so that eLearning modules might allow you to perform a job or create a product during the instruction. This would be the ultimate constructivist learning approach.
6. Mobile Learning - even today, more and more LMSs are supporting smart phones, providing alternative versions of online eLearning that can be taken on a mobile device. Again, this implies a Learning “Content” Management System (LCMS) approach, where eLearning content is available in a variety of portable formats and platforms.
While there were many more features discussed, there appeared to be general consensus within these six categories — now comes the fun part for us developers – making this future vision a reality.
Are your learners ready to enter the world of “Avatar”?
A recent article in Learning Solutions magazine – “Learners’ Love/Hate Relationship with 3-D Virtual Worlds” suggests maybe not.
The article describes a research study that included 300 students in a college-level Financial Accounting course that used the virtual world – Second Life to teach accounting.
While the participants were considered “Next Gen” students – 18-23 years old, many found the experience disorienting and were frustrated by performance and technical glitches. And Second Life has a steep learning curve, so the reports suggests that it may be better for longer course experiences – like full term college courses.
Ironically, what participants found most useful in the experience was the interactive accounting model and the instructional videos, both of which really have little to do with the 3-D immersive world but simply good instructional design features. These components could be delivered through traditional learning platforms, just as effectively.
Are there successful Second Life style, avatar-based learning experiences?
Based on the results from the eLearning Guild’s recent survey “Getting Started with e-Learning 2.0”, it’s clear that the learning environment is changing. Organizations are struggling to redefine their learning strategies to accommodate more collaborative, user-focused approaches. What is “e-Learning 2.0,” and how can you reflect these tenets in your instructional design?
There are many interpretations of what “e-Learning 2.0” even means. If we broadly categorize it based on its “Web 2.0” predecessor, eLearning 2.0 means increasing social interaction, on-demand learning, and user-contributed content. So what are some practical ideas to reflect these?
As an adjunct college professor, I have been teaching online for the last six years. Since then, my “classroom” has been a laboratory where I’ve experimented with various e-learning 2.0 approaches. In addition, as Creative Director at Digitec, I’ve been able to implement e-Learning 2.0 techniques for corporate and association clients. In this first installment on a series, I want to discuss some simple, low costs ways to engage your learners and implement some of the most effective Web 2.0 features into your learning strategies.
Discussion forums: Low cost, low tech and simple to implement, the return on investment from discussions puts it top on my list. Learning is social, and often, we feel that in implementing eLearning, we lose interaction; however, a well constructed discussion forum can add and create real-time context and encourage connection and peer-learning. When you use the forum to elicit feedback from your learner, they can reflect on the learning experience, contribute content and connect to their peers.
Ideas: If you’re responsible for sales training, post the forum as a question to your learners to share their most successful “solution sales” technique or story. Often, these learners will be happy to brag and contribute their stories. This allows those learners to apply the learning objective in a contextual “reflexive” way, personally connecting with the content. This contribution also allows students to learn from one another, connecting with their peers and the content. You can also add forums to enable students to post their questions on the topic. Hopefully, common questions can be answered by your staff, once rather than numerous calls or confusion. A very practical technique to share with your learners is that a learner can often post a question and subscribe to that forum, so that they will be automatically notified when their question is answered.
Tips: Make sure that someone monitors the discussions to assure that learners aren’t communicating incorrect answers or deviating from the accepted policies. Also, to encourage use, it’s important that someone responds to posted questions. It’s a good idea to subscribe to the forum yourself, to ensure that questions don’t go unanswered.
Next post, I’ll be discussing how to use video in your eLearning 2.0 designs.