Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Implementing Learning Interactions Using 3D Metaphors and Ideas from Virtual Worlds

In this post, I present some thoughts on how to effectively use 3D metaphors and virtual worlds to enrich content presentation with little effort. Sounds exciting? Read on.

3D Objects for Content Navigation
This sound different from navigation based on the ubiquitous Next and Previous buttons, right? Usually, navigation in courses is linear or guided. However, when the information is non-sequential, the learner needs a choice to freely navigate through the content. Free navigation is easily provided with hyperlinks and menus, but there is a risk of the learner wandering away from the course page. Is there a way to balance freedom and context? Yes, there is. Use 3D objects.

If you have seen Google Earth, you’ll see what I mean.

Just as Google Earth does, 3D objects like a cube, a pyramid or a sphere provide non-conventional navigation metaphors to the learner. The learner can interact with these objects to explore available information and drill down visually where needed. Here, the whole content gets mapped to the 3D object and the object acts as a visual navigator.

Virtual World Ideas for Content Delivery
Have you played with Second Life? This software creates a world around you, where you live a life of your choice, make your decisions, explore what is around and just be part of a whole different experience.

Considering the complexity of development and deployment constraints, often it is not a practical idea for a trainer to create Second Life like virtual world in eLearning. However, Rapid Interactivity allows you to create smaller scale virtual worlds where learners can experience a walk-through or a journey and so on. These learning interactions provide the required immersion and a sense of simulated reality to learners.

Because of its complexity, 3D interaction development is can be expensive and time consuming. Rapid interactivity makes it easy when ready interaction models are available. Trainers simply customize the models according to their needs.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Keeping Interactivity at the Center of Rapid Development

Bryan Chapman is Chief Learning Strategist at Chapman Alliance. Formerly he was the Director of Research and Strategy for independent research and consulting firm Brandon Hall Research.

What we DON'T need in the industry, Bryan argued at a recent webinar, is a
faster way to create page-turning courseware! Yet, in many cases, the phrase “rapid development” has become synonymous with cranking out content that resembles an online book format.

Does it have to be that way? According to Bryan, the answer is an emphatic “No.” Forward-thinking organizations have figured out how to balance learning development, much in the same way we’ve figured out how to create blended learning. The key is using the right, best-of-breed tools for specific, desired learning outcomes.

The webinar, sponsored by Harbinger Knowledge Products, focused on these objectives:
  • How and when to use the right interactive tools for the right instructional needs
  • How to mix interactive exercises and other modalities to create dynamic, engaging course content
  • How to infuse rapid development without sacrificing interactivity
Bryan opened his presentation with a Rapid Development Feud game, which aimed at discovering why we don’t use interactivity during rapid development. In his quintessential enthusiastic and energetic way, he then went on to make several key points.

Blended Learning and Interactivity
IBM blended learning model arranges various learning modalities in three concentric circles.
  1. Classroom in the center - the culminating experience
  2. Exercises, practice, games and simulations in the middle ring
  3. Whitepapers, guides, documents, presentations and other reference material in the outer ring
Rapid authoring tools address the "outer ring" learning experience, whereas rapid simulation and game development tools such as Raptivity target the "middle ring".

Interactivity and Instructional Design
Dont wait till too late in the course development cycle to apply interactivity. In the ADDIE model, you need to think of interactivity as you prepare a variety of intermediate deliverables, including design documents, storyboards and prototypes, not just the final course.

Interactivity should meet instructional goals: An example was shown how Raptivity does this with a labeling exercise.

Tips and Suggestions - Using Interactivity for Rapid Development
  • Create an interactivity “sampler” to show to internal customers, SME’s, etc. Review before design activities.
  • Don’t create navigation controls at the page level. It’s a waste of time.
  • Page turning isn’t bad if used in moderation. Add a healthy mix of interactivity.
  • When prototyping, create a prototype for each interaction, not just a single lesson or module.
  • Consider using multiple tools to meet the need.
  • One caution: make sure interactivity choices don’t overshadow the instruction. It is possible to use too much of a good thing.
All in all it was a very useful session for rapid development practitioners. Bryan also shared his research on the cost of development per finished hour of learning, and how it varies with the level of interactivity.

You can view a recording of this event here. You can also download the presentation.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Delivering an Interactive Webinar

eLearning Guild’s online symposium is a great way for people to meet at a conference without the need to travel. The symposium for May 17 and 18, 2007 was titled 'New Techniques for Designing and Developing e-Learning Interactions' and would be keynoted by Patty Shank.

My topic was 'Rapid Interactivity Building for True Learning Outcomes'. This being my first experience of addressing several hundred people in an online webinar, I was thrilled to experiment with this new medium. E-learning Guild’s Karen Hyder was most helpful in getting me familiar with Acrobat Connect Professional, the web conferencing system.

We went online, Karen made introductions, and asked me where I was. Right then, a plane took off from San Jose airport, next to the building from where I was presenting. As I tried hard to ignore all distractions, all along I’d been thinking – how am I going to draw people in, how will I get them to participate? The agenda slide had been a bit of a monologue, really. Would the next slide do the trick?

I flipped to next slide, and two things happened. A poll came up, where the audience was to assess their level of familiarity with interactivity technology. I also asked a question in chat panel – Anybody heard of Silverlight? In a flash of a second, votes started appearing in the poll, and answers and questions started popping on chat. Then, for the next hour and a quarter, there was no looking back.

Interactivity in online webinars has its own distinct flavor. More people can talk back to you than you would ever hope for in a face-to-face session. There is little inhibition, no noise and no interruption when someone raises a question. Besides, there is a great opportunity to help each other. Someone asked where to get more information on Silverlight, and before I could answer, another participant had provided a web site link. The way this back channel worked was amazing. It's nearly impossible to do that in a classroom without a lot of distraction.

Thanks to eLearning Guild, the entire online symposium has been recorded and is available. If you are curious to know about rapid interactivity for true learning outcomes, here is the link.