Tag Archive | Elearning

Information Overload: Why Your Knowledge Dump E-learning Will FAIL

By Maresa Molloy, Instructional Designer

Man at computer surrounded by filesWe love when clients come to us full of enthusiasm for a new e-learning programme but comments like: “Our staff need to know our policies – let’s put them online into an e-learning programme,” or “We need to make sure they’ve read all the material – an e-learning programme is perfect!” can set the alarm bells ringing.

Educating staff on new information, and identifying whether or not they’ve read and understood the material, are perfectly good reasons for developing an e-learning programme. Bombarding your staff with everything you know about the information and making sure they can recite it word perfect is not.

Imagine trying to educate your staff on Health & Safety and providing them with pages and pages of policies and procedures on Health & Safety and then expecting them to list these verbatim. This is clearly not a good idea – they’ll never remember all of the material and they’ll get bored fairly quickly.

Now imagine providing your staff with a course which teaches them the key information on these policies and procedures and showing them how to apply these in their work. This is clearly more effective.

But how do you split the wheat from the chaff?

At Aurion Learning, we believe that the key to designing a successful, performance based e-learning programme is to identify current performance gaps. To do this, we use what we call our ‘DIF analysis’:

  • What tasks do your learners find Difficult?
  • What tasks do they find Important to their jobs?
  • What tasks do they do Frequently?

Once you know these tasks, you can design a course which targets what they really need to learn, and furthermore, you can spend more time and resources focusing on making this content more interactive and enjoyable.

Don’t Do
Assume that your goal is to increase their knowledge. Identify what they need to do differently.
Provide all of the information you have on the subject. Provide only the information that can help them do something differently.
Ensure that they know all of the information. Ensure that they can use the information.

(Source material Cathy Moore)

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Podcast: Strategies for Competency Modelling

Dr. Maureen Murphy Dr. Maureen Murphy, Managing Director of  Aurion Learning recently spoke to Learning Stories: Podcasting Real World Stories from The Field about strategies for competency modelling.

Maureen holds a PhD in Knowledge Based Technology Transfer and has over 20 years’ experience of developing technology-based learning tools, technologies, and strategies for organisations across the United Kingdom and Ireland.

In this podcast, you will learn:

  • How competencies are used in organisations today.
  • What considerations you may face when implementing a competency model in your organisation.
  • The technological challenges of integrating a competency model with HR and talent management processes.
  • The metrics and business impact of competency modelling.

Listen to the podcast here

Sticky Messages: Developing Learning Content that Sticks

by Glynn Jung
Don't Forget Post-it-note

It ain’t what you do……it’s the way that you do it. So goes the old song and in my mind this includes getting your message across so that it sticks in people’s minds.  Broadcasters, coaches, teachers and trainers, business leaders, politicians, line managers … everyone can benefit from simple improvements to the way they communicate so that what they say is “sticky”.

The recent visit to London of Dan Heath prompted me to pick up a remarkable book by Dan and his brother Chip: yes, the names give it away they are American – it doesn’t make them bad people. Oh and no, this isn’t about NLP or Emotional Intelligence… it’s the result of years research and interviews into why we remember some things so easily and forget others so quickly. The book is ‘Made to Stick’ and it’s been on my desk for four years now.

Here’s the main thrust of this brilliant and entertaining book.

By ‘sticky’ they mean: understandable, memorable and effective in changing thought or behaviour.

The keys to stickiness are: SIMPLE – UNEXPECTED – CONCEPT – CREDIBLE – EMOTIONAL –  STORIES.

And the villain is …the curse of knowledge. The more you know about something the less likely it is that you can get the core message across in a way that sticks. This has big implications in the use of experts for training.
Experts can take a long time to get to the key, compelling bit of information. Journalists call this “Burying the message”.

  1. Simple. To be simple, determine the single most important thing.  Link it to what’s already in the recipients’ memory.
  2. Unexpected.  Like a bus conductor or railway guard making an intercom announcement grab our attention so we’re actively involved rather than hearing passively. Then hold our attention…maybe create a mystery ,use the theory of curiosity.
  3. Concrete. Avoid abstractions.  The Velcro theory of memory is that the more “hooks” in your idea, the better . Find common ground at a shared level of understanding (really tough that one) and set common goals in tangible terms.
  4. Credible. Not just authoritative sources but convincing details. Use INTERNAL CREDIBILITY – make statistics accessible, put them in a human context and use testable credentials “Try before you buy” rather than wear people down with force of argument.
  5. Emotional. Make People Care. Use the power of association and appeal to best self-interest. But don’t assume that others care at the same level as you.
  6. Stories. Get people to take action with stories. Inspirational stories give people the energy  to act – learn how to spot inspirational stories and how to use them.

So what does this mean for the world of learning?

Well let’s just look at a couple of the Heath Brothers’ research findings… starting with the ‘Gap Theory’. George Loewenstein, a behavioural economist, says that curiosity arises when we feel a gap in our knowledge. Loewenstein argues that gaps cause pain. When we want to know something but don’t, it’s like having an itch we need to scratch. To take away the pain, we need to fill the knowledge gap. We sit patiently through bad movies, even though they may be painful to watch, because it’s too painful not to know how they end.

One important implication of the ‘Gap Theory’ is that we need to open gaps before we close them. Our tendency is to tell students the facts. First, though, they must realize they need them.

One trick for convincing students they need our message, according to Loewenstein, is to first highlight some specific knowledge they are missing. You can pose a question or puzzle that confronts them with a gap in their knowledge: One recent book had a curiosity gap as its title: “Why do men have nipples?” A science teacher in Colorado asked his students: “Have you ever noticed that, in the winter, your car tyres look a little flat? So where did the air go?” The book Freakonomics makes brilliant use of curios­ity gaps: “Why do so many drug dealers live with their moms?”

I’ll leave it there for the moment but at the very least it’s worthwhile visiting the Heath Brothers website www.heathbrothers.com/  … maybe sign up to their free resources.

Effective User Interface Design for Mobile Learning

by Noleen Turner

Sample mobile learning user interface developed by AurionWith the explosion of mobile learning many of us are now in the position of creating brand new mobile e-learning programmes or transforming existing e-learning content to mobile.

*A friendly word of warning to those involved in ‘conversion’ projects – mobile is different to traditional web – and your mobile learning programme won’t work if it’s just a regurgitated experience. Mobile learning is micro-learning, designed for short bursts of activity – your learners are likely to access it while on the job, performing a task, or in between other activities. And learners need to be able to access it via a range of mobile learning technologies which are likely to include smartphones and tablets.

But I digress…and to get back to the original point how do you design an effective user interface for mobile learning? And how do you manage navigation, usability, and aesthetics ensuring that the transition between screens feels natural and that users know where they are at all times during the programme?

LearningSolutions Magazine recently published an article entitled “From e-learning to ipad – how to adjust the user interface”. In the article they consider how the user interface design contributes to
the success of a learning mobile app – one in which the user interface enhances and eases the learning process.

According to LearningSolutions, the layout you build for your mobile learning app must enable users to answer these five questions:

  • Where am I?
  • How did I get here?
  • How can I return to where I once was? 
  • How far have I gone?
  • Where else can I go?

In response to these questions I’ve tried to come up with my own tips for optimising the mobile learning interface:

  How to improve the experience
Where am I?
  • Don’t overload functionality, features or content – just focus on what is necessary to get the job done.
  • Simple functionality will enable you to create a straightforward and easy to follow user interface.
  • Structure information so it can be easily accessed – learners expect to get the information they need with just a few taps.
  • Group similar topics together. The Learning Coach has a useful blog post on visual grouping.
  • Keep the screen uncluttered and use clear screen titles so learners won’t misinterpret visual cues.
  • Emphasise menu items already clicked (change colour or attach bookmarks).
  • Design for a low error rate – remember that selection errors on mobile phones are higher than desktops so surround selection areas with white space so that a learner can easily tap them and invoke the correct action.
How did I get here?
  • Create a visual trail as learners move through the content. For example, highlight a section already clicked on or use a “breadcrumb trail” so learners can track their progress through the programme.
How can I return to where I once was? 
  • Use navigation buttons to allow movement between learning units.
  • Ensure some navigation menus are visible throughout the entire course.
  • Provide Back buttons or Menu buttons to return to a map of choices.
How far have I gone?
  • Include a screen ID such as “Screen 2 of 24” to inform users of how far they have progressed through a lesson and how much there is left to do.
  • Use the word “screen” rather than “page”.
  • Group similar content and create intense learning nuggets rather that one long course – nobody wants to see “Screen 3 of 60”.
Where else can I go?
  • Use clearly labelled navigation buttons to help learners orient themselves.
  • Make sure navigation buttons are easy to find.
  • Stick to simple touch tap or swipe commands to manage navigation between screens (for now). Don’t assume that everyone knows how to use all the interface features of their smartphone / tablet – e.g. pinch open gesture to magnify text.  According to Josh Clark, author of Tapworthy: Designing Great iPhone Apps, most people don’t know about the more obscure gestures that work on some mobile phones.

And finally…don’t forget to test your user interface
Once you design an interface, make sure you test it with a sample group of learners, checking how long it takes to complete the learning, how easily they can navigate the learning, how many navigational errors they make etc.

Useful resources for designing mobile learning
iOS Human Interface Guidelines
http://thatcoolguy.github.com/gridless-boilerplate/  guidelines on HTML5 & CSS3 topics
W3C
10 Tips For Designing mLearning And Support Apps
From e-learning to ipad – how to adjust the user interface
Ten things to think about when designing your iPad App

What is MLearning?

by Noleen Turner, Marketing Manager

Mobile devices

We’ve all heard the buzz-word Mlearning but no one seems to agree on exactly what mobile learning is, and how it differs from elearning.

Mobile Learning Consultants Float Learning define Mlearning as: “Mlearning is the use of mobile technology to aid in the learning, reference or exploration of information useful to an individual at that moment or in a specific use context.”

Meanwhile the eLearning Guild describe Mlearning as: “Any activity that allows individuals to be more productive when consuming, interacting with, or creating information, mediated through a compact digital portable device that the individual carries on a regular basis, has reliable connectivity, and fits in a pocket or purse.”

From my perspective, Mlearning is about:

Delivering learning content and experiences to learners when and where they need it. It is learning that can be accessed at any time and any place to support performance. Typically Mlearning is accessed via a mobile device that facilitates just-in-time learning and on-demand learning. Mlearning can be formal or informal, structured or unstructured. It is flexible, self-paced and self-directed. Mlearning is driven by the learner, rather than the technology learners use to access it.

Many people are trying to predict the technology winners of the future – in other words which platforms will become favoured for Mlearning delivery. Instead, we should be focusing on developing Mlearning that is platform independent. Have a look at the 22 joint-nation Mobile Learning Environment (MoLE) project currently working to create a platform independent set of tools aimed at learning collaboration and information sharing on mobile devices.

So what kind of technology does Mlearning involve?
Mobile learning is supported by a variety mobile devices and technologies that facilitate the delivery of documents, presentations, multimedia, notifications, news, assignments, quizzes and educational courseware that can all contribute to Mlearning. These include:

  • Smart phones eg. iPhone
  • Laptops
  • Tablets eg. iPad
  • PDA (personal digital assistant)
  • Kindle
  • Ipod
  • Personal media players eg. iPod
  • Gaming devices eg. xBox 360.

While certainly due careful consideration, Mlearning should not focus on the technology it runs on – rather the single most important aspect of Mlearning is the learner – it’s a combination of how, when, where they access the learning content and what they do with that learning content that really matters.

So is Mlearning just Elearning on a mobile device?
It’s a BIG mistake to think that Mlearning is simply Elearning on a mobile device, and an even bigger mistake (and often costly one) to assume you can simply transport existing Elearning to make it work on mobile devices.

Mlearning requires a different pedagogical approach to Elearning for a number of reasons:

  • Access: the way learners access Mlearning is different to how they access Elearning (e.g. mobile phone and PDA screens can limit the amount and type of information that can be displayed versus office-based desk-top computer).
  • Short courses: Mlearning is also best suited to short bite-sized learning courses, theory, information relay rather than long or very practical based courses. No one wants to complete an hour long learning course via a mobile phone or PDA.
  • Less structured/less formal: Mlearning is often less structured than traditional Elearning which often sets out specific learning objectives.
  • On-demand: Mlearning is more about just-in-time and on-demand learning at the moment it is needed (think a repair worker out on a job who can access a quick check-list of ‘to-dos’ when they are actually on the job or the Bloom Liverpool Project – a fantastic example of delivering mobile learning to taxi drivers) whereas traditional Elearning is more about comprehension and retention. With Elearning, learners are expected to learn information and retain it for a later time when they will actually apply it on the job.
  • Assessment: Mlearning requires a whole new strategy for assessment. Traditional Elearning often includes a final knowledge check / assessment with the initial results recorded on an LMS but given that there is often a time delay before the learner is actually meant to put the learning into action, it can be difficult to measure and evaluate long-term behaviour change and the effects on the business. The time between Mlearning taking place and the learner putting what they have learned into action is relatively short, so it can be easier to measure behaviour change and impact on the business.

What makes good Mlearning?

  • Bite-sized short chunks of learning
  • “Just-in-time” “just-enough” or even “just-for me” learning
  • Easy to use
  • Practical and contextual
  • NOT elearning delivered on a mobile device
  • Informal – on the go learning
  • Interactive (including appropriate opportunities to share knowledge)
  • Knowledge distribution rather than knowledge presentation
  • Portable – can be accessed anywhere the learner goes with their device
  • Platform independent (however this is still somewhat aspirational).

What is SCORM?

In this blog post, Alan Boyd, Web Applications Programmer provides a quick guide to SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) standards and specifications for web-based e-learning.

2012 E-Learning Market Review: Mergers and Acquisitions in Early 2012

By Glynn Jung, Non-Executive Director

The constant mergers and acquisitions activity that we commented on at start of the year continues.

Four moves in particular interest me as illustrating current trends:

• Bluedrop & Serebra – the convergence of education & corporate sectors;
• Twitter & Summify – personalising social media;
• Kenexa & Outstart – feeling the pressure and hoping the grass is greener;
• Assima & Kaplan Technologies – consolidation and expansion.

Bluedrop and Serebra – the convergence of Education and Corporate sectors
In a surprise reverse buyout Bluedrop Performance Learning acquired Serebra Learning in January. At first glance the core one-stop SaaS offerings from these Canadian companies (CoursePark from Bluedrop and Campus from Serebra) would appear to be mutually incompatible but on closer examination there are sufficient differences between the two companies to make merger attractive.

Serebra has become a major player in Higher Education and Further Education and its functionality, course content and customer base reflect this education provenance. Bluedrop has carved a similar niche for itself in Defence, Aerospace, Energy and Health but with added expertise in low-cost simulations. The combined expertise of these two companies, sort of niche versions of Lumesse, should put them in a position to exploit the growing cross-fertilisation of Industry and Education as well as the increasing commercialisation of the education sector globally.

Twitter and Summify – personalising social media
Summify is particularly interesting for two reasons. Firstly it’s proof of the increasing innovation coming from Romania technologists (though the company has been physically located in Canada).

Secondly it’s one of the first of a new breed of “content curation” companies collecting news stories that are being shared on your social networks and putting them into a daily summary. The short-lived Summify service has made a name for itself by aggregating the most important news items from your Twitter and Facebook accounts and displaying them in easily digestible portions.

Twitter was the original “follower and followed” service but it’s not made the same progress as Summify so the acquisition and integration of the two offerings are wholly understandable.

Kenexa and Outstart – feeling the pressure and hoping the grass is greener
Two industry giants, Kenexa in HCMS and Talent Management and Outstart in LCMS and Learning Systems, have confirmed they’ll be tying the knot very shortly, mirroring the takeover in February by Oracle of Taleo. The Kenexa statement read “With the addition of OutStart’s capabilities, Kenexa will be able to offer customers an award-winning suite of SaaS learning solutions plus learning expertise and a great team with more than a decade of experience in learning management.” Commentators suggest that the learning & accreditation markets are suffering serious disruption at the moment and OutStart’s particular emphasis on knowledge sharing within organisations is ripe for innovation, something the combined expertise could deliver. As ever – the question is whether the two tribes can co-exist in a single corporation and at what point will clients feel the impact of the takeover.

Finally: Assima and Kaplan Technologies
My personal view is that Kaplan’s entry into the technologies market was ill-advised and a costly mistake. Both STT and Atlantic Link were always an odd addition to Kaplan’s Education, Academic and Professional Academies businesses … you rarely, if ever, see such a mixture succeed any more than that created when publishing companies buy eLearning generic eLearning companies.

Assima on the other hand is an organisation steeped in technologies and the sale of product-based services: like STT it was spawned from the SAP and ERP industry, (where it was originally known as DACG), and it understands how to use technology in learning and performance support on a major scale. Assima previously shunned the “conventional” eLearning market due to its core focus on Software implementation and exploitation, particularly using sophisticated EPSS, Simulators and Context-sensitive learning. But it makes sense to broaden the offering to its established international corporate clients by moving into eLearning.

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