Tuesday, November 2, 2010

HTML5 and Flash: Two Ways to Create Interactivity in Mobile Learning

Most e-learning developers assume the availability of the free Flash plug-in on the learner's browser. This works fine on desktops and laptops. When you get mobile, the world changes rapidly. Some mobile devices may support Flash, others don't. The Apple iPad, iPhone and iPod are examples where your Flash elements simply won't work.

Apple proposes that you use HTML5 instead, to build rich interfaces. In another post on HTML5, I talk about its impact on web interactivity. Now, the problem with HTML5 is that not all browsers support consistently all its features. The situation is likely to remain unchanged for several months. Besides, a lot of e-learning content is already developed and optimized for Flash. How do you walk away from that investment?

Here is a solution. Develop HTML5 versions of your most commonly used interactive elements, and then code your server-side course pages to first check the browser capability and decide whether to display the Flash version, the HTML5 version or simply an image file in place of the interactive element.

You can use this technique effectively in conjunction with interactivities created using the brand-new release of Raptivity HTML5 upgrade, where each interactivity is rendered in Flash as well as HTML5. Course developed interactivity only once, Raptivity takes care of building the two versions. Check it out.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Recent Research on Interactive Learning

This list of existing research and articles on interactivity in learning was put together by Janhavi Padture, Director of Research, Analysis and Strategy at Harbinger Knowledge Products. 
  1. Guidelines for Establishing Interactivity in Online Courses’ (Mark Mabrito, InnovateOnline.com)
  2. The Role of Interactivity in Web Based Educational Material’ (Laurie Brady, University of Wichita)
  3. Online Learning: Ways to make tasks Interactive’, (Denis Lander, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology)      
  4.  ‘Interactivity in Distance Learning” - USDLA Distance Learning Magazine (Vol 4 No. 1, 2007, Page 47-51)
  5. Impact of Interactive Learning on Knowledge Retention’ – (Human Interface and Management of Information Journal, Part 2, Symposium of Human Interface, Beijing, China, 2007, Pages 347-355)
  6.  The Importance of Interaction in Web Based Education – A program level Case Study of Online MBA courses’ (Indiana University, for Journal of Interactive Online Learning, Volume 4, Number 1 Summer 2005)
  7.   Map Interactivity- Exploring the Benefits in the Utah Studies Classroom’ (Whitney Fae Reynolds Taylor, Bringham Young University, Dept. of Geography, 2005)
  8.  Measuring the Effects and Effectiveness of Interactive Advertising’ (Paul Pavlou, David, Stewart, University of Southern California, Journal of Interactive Advertising, Vol 1 No 1 Fall 2000)
  9.  An Introduction to Digital Media’ (Tony Feldman, 1997, Routledge Publishers, NY, Pages 13-20)
  10. Interactive or Non-Interactive? That is the Question!!! An annotated Bibliography’ (Zirkin, Barbara; Sumler, David; Journal of Distance Education, v10 n1 p95-112 Spr 1995)  
Those of you interested in establishing the link between learning outcomes and interactivity will find this research useful.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Mobile Learning Goes Interactive

Mobile learning emphasizes short, modular learning experiences that can be delivered on demand, at the point of performance. Reliance on internet bandwidth should be minimal once the content item is downloaded. Mobile learning content should be engaging, light on text and graphically rich. All this fits very well with the interactivity metaphor, rather than traditional navigation and page-turning.

With the recently announced release of Raptivity 6.0, the state-of-the-art in interactive e-learning takes another leap forward. Mobile learning can benefit from a large variety of interactions that Raptivity users routinely build as part of e-learning. Yes, m-learning is now an option in building and deploying e-learning interactivity, as it should be.

The much-awaited roll-out of Raptivity 6.0 relies on Flash - which means Android, Blackberry and other smart phone devices will play Raptivity content without the need for any proprietary download.

The new version of software makes life easier for e-learning and m-learning developers in many more ways: It now allows bulk-importing questions, lets you crop and edit images to fit the interactivity and enhances the editing experience by giving a larger form area to work on.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Microsoft Mouse Mischief: Having Fun While Learning in the Classroom

When the mail announcing Mouse Mischief from Microsoft arrived in my inbox, I said to myself - Ah ha! Finally, a software with a cool name. The last cool name I heard was YawnBuster. But you know, I'm biased.

The idea of the Microsoft product is real simple. The teacher creates a PowerPoint presentation which contains questions, surveys and drawing activities. The cool part comes when you play the presentation. Up to five hundred (!) students in the classroom can be connected to your presentation via their mice, and they can simply start answering questions, completing pictures or filling out surveys. The presentation displays the aggregate of all students' activities. For example, twenty students answered "Yes" and ten others "No".

There are several good things about Mouse Mischief. It does not require proprietary hardware - which can be prohibitive to procure and a pain to maintain and distribute in class. Two, it integrates nicely with PowerPoint. Three, it is free.

The underlying concept of Mouse Mischief, namely, using commonly used hardware and software for fostering interactivity in learning, is appealing. It is heartening to see Microsoft doing something in this space.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy: Examples from the Online World

Online collaboration between learners is the bedrock of Bloom's Digital Taxonomy. It talks about using various collaboration tools to achieve the 6 learning stages namely - knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. This taxonomy does not specify which collaboration tools and technologies should be used for learning. Instead, it focuses on how to use them to improve learning.

In this post I have tried to give a few examples on how online collaboration in learning can help learners at each stage of learning.

The first stage of Bloom's learning taxonomy deals with remembering - retrieving, recalling or recognizing knowledge from memory. Remembering is when memory is used to produce definitions, facts or lists, or recite or retrieve material.

In the digital world, examples of learning activities that lead to remembering include highlighting and social bookmarking.

Highlighting of key phrases helps in memorizing them. Social bookmarks allow learners to collaborate and quickly -as well as frequently- visit important pages, helping memorize their content.

Comprehension is Understanding, or constructing meaning. Understanding builds relationships and links knowledge. Learners who understand concepts are able to explain or describe these. They can summarize and rephrase these into their own words.

Digital examples of comprehension include categorization, tagging, boolean searching and annotation.

Classifying digital information in files and folders involves categorization. Tagging and bookmarking causes a learner to understand online content and attribute it with appropriate labels. Boolean searching works the other way, but accomplishes the same purpose. In order to find a piece of online content, a learner needs to perform search by combining multiple criteria - something that requires understanding what he/she is looking for. The link between annotation and comprehension should be easy to understand. Imagine a student reading a text book on a Kindle book reader. A Kindle annotation on a topic of particular interest, denoted by a superscript number, may link to the student's own version of what he/she understood of that topic.

Application is about carrying out or using a procedure through executing or implementing.

Digital examples include editing a document, completing a simulation and performing a task using a piece of application software, to name a few.

Editing involves the application of various rules such as spell checking, grammar checking, formatting and so forth, to complete a procedure. Simulation requires you to apply your knowledge to a situation to successfully complete required steps in a given scenario. The use of application software to complete a task requires you to follow a process.

Analysis involves breaking material or concepts into parts, determining how the parts relate or interrelate to one another or to an overall structure or purpose. Mental actions include differentiating, organizing and attributing as well as being able to distinguish between components.

One good digital example of analysis is hyperlinking, which involves creating links between documents and/or web pages. A link establishes the connection between a source and a destination, and therefore involves analysis.

Another digital example of analysis is a making a twitter list, where you organize a group of followers by their interest in a certain topic.

Synthesis is about creating, or putting several elements together to form a coherent or functional whole; reorganizing elements into a new pattern or structure through generating, planning or producing.

Digital examples of synthesis include multimedia production and publishing.

Multimedia production can include podcasting, movie making (video capture, mixing and editing) , animating, videocasting, etc. Learners are increasingly using content creation tools that let them produce unique multimedia experiences by combining elemental content.

Publishing is the sequel to production. It can take the form of blogging, video blogging or wiki writing.

Evaluation is about making judgments based on criteria and standards through checking and critiquing.

One great digital example of evaluation is blog commenting. Learners have to evaluate the content of a blog post in order to comment on it. Comment moderation also requires evaluation. After all, the moderator has to determine the worth and relevance of a comment.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Explore Bloom's Taxonomy Using this Interactive Resource!

Here is a useful interactive resource for course designers to review key ideas in Bloom's Taxonomy. Just hover your mouse pointer on any accordion panel to start viewing key verbs related to a level in the taxonomy. Click on icon at the bottom of each panel to explore the level further.

Using Raptivity Presenter accordion interactivity, it took about fifteen minutes to build this interactivity and to insert it in this blog.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Which is the Best Rapid eLearning Tool?

I am pleased to share with you that Raptivity is once again the winner of LearnX Australia Platinum award under the ‘Best Rapid eLearning Tool’ category.  Other best-in-class technologies recognized include Citrix GotoWebinar, Adobe Captivate, Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro, Elluminate, Lectora, Questionmark, Pulse and Kaplan STT Trainer: They won platinum awards in various other categories.

These awards are completely based on user voting. Being a winner gives immense satisfaction because this shows that Raptivity users are happy with it and are willing to endorse us with their vote. 

Raptivity has also won Gold Award under ‘Best Simulation Solution’ category. We will be collecting these awards at the upcoming LearnX conference in Sydney this June. A visit to the Blue Mountains west of Sydney is in order - in the spirit of scaling new heights.

A big Thank You to all Raptivity users for this recognition.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Saving Time and Money on Developing Product Training

Yes, I hear you. Anything that saves time and money has to sacrifice quality, right? Not always. A unique interactive product training framework, published by Harbinger Knowledge Products, allows you to do the following, and much more:
  • Build learning experiences which combine interactive elements in an instructionally sound way
  • Re-use and maintain templates conveniently 
  • Easily localize and upgrade training to follow new product versions
The framework exploits intriguing new formats such as edumercials, virtual labs, games as well as more mundane templates - yes, who can do without how-to, drag-drop, label and compare exercises? The framework is tool-agnostic, and standards-compliant.

Curious? If you wish to see this in action, you can request a demo from Harbinger Knowledge Products.  A sample product training curriculum is also available in a Product Training Framework document. This is a must-read if you are planning to build e-learning for products.

Anybody would like to show examples of great product training? Just post a link here. Any thoughts on templatized product training? Does templatization enhance or hinder interactivity?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Active Learning - Unleashing the Power of Scenarios and Activities

Strategies promoting activities that involve students in doing things and thinking about what they are doing are called Active Learning, proclaims a white paper by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, an education-for-all movement that aspires to educate over 200 million children.

Active learning is not just for children. Active learning is a great way to achieve comprehension,  application and analysis- three key middle layers of Bloom's taxonomy - in adult learning. In this post, I give a few examples.

Let's deal with comprehension first. Imagine a set of questions the learner has to answer, based on the information provided. This is plain vanilla comprehension exercise as we know it. How do you make it an active learning exercise? Here is a trick. Engage the learning in finding the information required to arrive at answers. Now, the learner is not only comprehending information to answer questions, but also devising a way to look for that information, and hence, thinking about what he / she is doing. The finding exercise can be implemented in many ways. Learners could flip through pages, play a treasure hunt, use a search engine and so on.

Now let's look at application. What does the learner apply? Some answers could be: previous experience or simply the knowledge of relevant facts. Where does the learner apply them? In scenarios that represent real-world situations. You could construct scenarios where learner gets to apply experience or new facts to arrive at a solution.

Analysis is the next stage in Bloom's taxonomy. Here, the learner needs to discover underlying structural relationships between events, things, objects or other artifacts. Then, the learner needs to classify, analyze, compare or discover cause-effect relationships. How does active learning help here? Imagine a period of time during which certain events happen. When you present this in an interactive timeline, learners can not only discover the sequence of events, but also drill down to additional information, related events and thus discover cause-effect relationships.

Have you considered using active learning in your course materials? Any insights into what works, what doesn't? Examples? Online sources? Samples?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

e-Learning Authoring Tools: Industry Research Reveals New Insights

eLearning Guild's latest research paper presents a survey of Rapid e-Learning Tools. The paper, authored by Dr Patti Shank, reveals interesting facts and new insights in the evolving landscape of content creation applications. Some key takeaways:

  • Users select tools for specific features they want, that's their #1 selection criterion - cost figures as #2
  • Many respondents use multiple tools (typically 4 or more), which often include at least one tool from Adobe
  • Most rapid authoring tools are easy to learn, with Raptivity voted as #1 in time to proficiency
  • Top 3 tools ranked for ease of use: Apple Keynote, Raptivity, WebEx

According to Patti Shank, rapid e-Learning is often a good place to begin when getting started with e-Learning. It leverages new tools, and typically lowers the time to completion and the cost of e-Learning development. Rapid approaches are also used by organizations that have been using e-Learning for years because they also have a need to get needed information and instruction out quickly and inexpensively.

The eLearning Guild Research report is titled "Getting Started in Rapid e-Learning" and can be accessed by clicking here.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ad-hoc Social Learning Environment - How a Blog Drives Learning

I recently conducted  a one-month leadership development program at Harbinger Group. The program, dubbed BaseCamp 2010, addressed 40 participants drawn from the senior and mid-level ranks of the company. The goal of the program was to expose participants to selected ideas in innovation, strategy, leadership and vision: all of them set in the context of high tech industry. The participants were in different timezones and could not all meet in one place or at one time.

We decided to set up an ad-hoc social learning environment mostly using freely available tools. We decided to outline our curriculum in a skeletal form using a blog, and then set social interactions in the curriculum context. The program, conducted over five weeks, was  a great success.

In this post, I summarize what we learned about the ad-hoc social learning environments. Although these observations are based on the leadership development program, they may be applicable to other training types.

1. Blog is the watering hole
A learning blog is so much a happening place! The blog has a personal touch, it is easy to follow, its updates are delivered to participant's RSS reader instantaneously. We used Blogger, the Google blogging tool.

The instructor's blog posts were very short - often less than one hundred words. Blog posts provided a guiding theme and then pointed to a web  resource such as a YouTube video, or a podcast or a news story article or a case study. Learners were expected to consume the content and then respond to the questions raised in the blog post.
  • For example, a blog post would show a crisis situation, followed by a media interview of the person who was in charge of handling the crisis. That would be the starting point for  a discussion on leadership.
  • As another example, a New York Times story on a new innovative idea would serve as a springboard for a discussion.
  • Or simply a blog would bring up two conflicting viewpoints on an issue and ask the participants to debate on both sides. 
  • In yet another case, a blog post would provide a framework for various leadership traits, and participants would be asked to reflect and decide how they view themselves.

2. Comments are where the action is
Blog comments, though arguably the most primitive form of interaction, were of great value to the course. Participants had a lot to learn from each other. The blog post set a common context and comments were based on that context. Over time the quality of comments improved, and participants became more responsive to each others' comments.

The opinion was divided on whether comments should be public (open to everyone to read) or moderated (not open until the deadline). In our case we preferred the earlier option, because to us, it was more important that people learn from each other rather than compete for grade.

3. Social interaction pods are best for debate
We used TeemingPod for conducting debates amongst participants on a 40-page business case study. Everyone was online, at their own convenience, adding their points of view to TeemingPod.

The debates were organized in groups of 6 to 8 learners, and each group discussed several aspects of the case. The discussions were asynchronous and mediated. As their instructor, I could challenge certain points of view. When I thought the discussion was going off on a tangent, I could bring the main issue out front and center.It was great fun being part of six different groups debating a case study at the same time - something I could never hope to do in a classroom.

4. Interactivity adds fun
We used Raptivity games to add fun to learning. One interaction, for example, was a fun exercise where you paired related concepts. By the time you had finished the game, it served to re-kindle major takeaways from then entire course. Then, you were supposed to write an essay describing what you learnt. Participants enjoyed that.

5. Twitter creates immediacy 
We used a Twitter gadget inside the blog, and that is where we posted deadlines, status updates, how far we were from completing grading and so forth. We also announced class average scores through the Twitter gadget. Soon the whole class started following the Twitter ID, so we removed the gadget and ran our Tweets separately.

6. Asynchronous interaction works great
There may be some value to bringing everyone online at the same time and conducing a class using a web meeting platform. In our case, we discovered that we did not need this. The whole of BaseCamp 2010 was delivered in asynchronous mode, and that did not stop us from interacting in meaningful ways.

7. LMS is fine for the boring stuff

We did use the LMS only to grade lessons and assignments. We also had the mobile quiz results tracked thru the LMS - Moodle, in our case. All the record-keeping and statistics happened there.

Judging from the participant feedback at the end of the program, as well as their work output in strategic planning sessions soon after the program concluded, the program was a great success. We saved major costs and saw growth in employee engagement. 

Have you explored social learning enviroments? Are you considering that idea? What are your thoughts? Any suggestions? Concerns?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Using Computer Programming to Develop Thinking Skills

Children deserve to have fun when learning computers. SPARK Institute of Technology  promises just that: a series of innovative and "full-of-fun" courses and class activities. Recently I talked to Abhay Joshi, their founder, who is a technology entrepreneur and educator. Abhay has two passions: getting computer programs to work flawlessly, and educating children. So, when he combined the two passions in a unique experiment to develop thinking skills amongst children using computer programming, I was intrigued.

Q: What's unique about SPARK's new program?
A: The main point is that "programming" is a medium of learning. It makes you think, it unleashes your creativity, it helps hone your problem-solving skills, it helps you apply your math and reasoning skills, and finally it is a lot of fun.

Q: What motivated you to do this experiment?
A: I learnt programming for a living, and that too when I was far past the school age. Even so, I realized the addictive nature of programming, because it was so much fun, so conducive to creativity, and so limitless in possibilities. The connection of programming with learning has already been established firmly by eminent folks like Seymour Papert of MIT and Randy Pausch of CMU! I just had put two and two together to see the great value I could offer to our school children.

Q: So, which programming language do you use?
A: The choice of language is critical. We use Logo. The language must be such that it has a low barrier for learning, that it facilitates learning by providing embedded learning objects (like the Turtle in Logo), and that it does not snare the user in a complex process of edit-compile-run cycle of industry-standard languages. The other obvious (but still not understood by many) important point is that the goal is not to teach programming, but to use it as a medium of learning.

Q: Tell us more about Logo.
A: Logo works great with children. It is easy to befriend (no complex syntax) and has an entertaining paradigm.It gives instant response to your commands, thus creating a direct connection with the computer. It offers the full power of programming (i.e. semantic capabilities offered by the best languages). It does not enforce "structured programming" methodology that industry quality languages do, and encourages free thinking and exploration. It has embedded learning metaphors/objects that children can easily relate to. The Logo Turtle embeds geometry and motion and allows children to bring their bodily experiences/knowledge to the learning process. Logo allows the teacher/instructor to continue adding such learning metaphors through interesting challenges and problems.

Q: What was your Ah-ha moment?
A: There were several Phew moments as we worked our way setting up the whole thing. But once we got into the act of teaching, it was great fun. Finally when the children got it, they loved it. Here are some quotes.
  • I loved the class ... It was an unforgettable experience ... I want to learn a lot more ...
  • Now I know computer is not just for games and movies ... I can actually talk with it ...
  • Besides programming I learnt Math and techniques of solving problems ...
  • Logo is fun ... The Turtle is cool ...
  • I learnt how to think systematically ...

Q: Show us some of the stuff your children built using Logo.
A: Check out the interactive below. It's all their work. It is important to note that every line, curve, and object you see in these images has been drawn through programming effort (which in turn involved thinking, planning, design, geometry, and calculations).

Q: Do you see Programming as an inherently interactive learning medium which helps people learn how to think and solve problems?
A: Absolutely. Programming envisages a child sitting at the computer and communicating with it continuously. Interactive languages like Logo create a direct link with the computer. The child types a command and the computer responds instantly. Through error messages the child discovers errors in his/her thinking. It is a most pleasant conversation in which infinite patience, immense power, and untiring servitude are offered by the computer to the learner.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Google Buzz and Social Learning: Connect the Dots

Now, the deafening Google Buzz is here. It resides right inside Gmail, requires no separate account, and makes it easy to share your pictures, links, videos and updates with your Gmail contacts. When you share something, others presumably like it, comment on it and a threaded discussion starts.

So, who is Buzz for? Some say Buzz is for Twitter drop-outs. Others feel Buzz is Google's answer to Facebook, and is particularly useful for those who care for extra online privacy. Yet others feel email-centric knowledge-workers will tiptoe into social networking through Buzz.

I want to learn your ideas on how Buzz can help in social learning - if at all. What do you think? By the way, do you use Gmail?

The Wave may not have reached the classroom, but is the classroom ready for the Buzz?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Emerging Trends in Interactivity that Training Professionals Cannot Ignore

In this post I would like to relate five emerging trends in interactivity that training professionals cannot ignore. I will also name a few tools that help you leverage those trends.

Interactive Presentations
Presenters are increasingly relying upon interactive elements to help their presentations come alive. Trainers and teachers can no longer make do with bullet points. Learners expect interactive elements in your presentations. Examples of tools that help you build interactivity to your presentations are YawnBuster, Flash and Silverlight - to name a few.

Virtual Worlds, 3D Environments, Learning Games
These interactivities create immersive experiences. Second life, Proton Media, Teleplace are some of the tools that let you do that.

Rapid Interactivity
Tools for building interactivity quickly and easily have lowered the entry barrier to interactivity building. Raptivity is a great example of that. Over 200 readymade interactivity templates are part of Raptivity and you don’t have to write a single line of code to create a branching simulation or a crossword or a 3 dimensional tour or a virtual world experience.

Composite Applications with Widgets
In web-based learning environments, composite apps are a big value-add. I recently completed a leadership development program for 40 managers. And the entire training program was delivered over a blog. The blog posts contained Raptivity elements, exercises and modules the learners to complete, and I used a Twitter gadget inside my blog. The Twitter gadget was my way of communicating with them in real time instantly.

User-Generated Content from Social Interactions
Embedded social interactions bring content alive. These are fascinating and they are a breeze to set up. It’s extremely easy to embed social interactions to bring content alive. Sidewiki is an interesting tool. Its a little Wiki that sits on a website and people who know stuff in addition to what they see on a website, can go ahead and add it to Wiki. So, here’s the site and here’s the little SideWiki with user generated content. Together, the result is richer than the original content. TeemingPod is another tool that lets you embed social interactions into your training content.

So, if you are a learning professional, these are some of the things you need to aware of and there are several technologies you can take advantage of. At first, the tools may look intimidating, but let me tell you, it’s never been easier to set up a learning environment, to bring interactivity to your learning content than it is today.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

iPad: Is this the beginning of handheld education?

Today's Wall Street Journal carries an article by Jeff Tachtenberg and Yukari Kane titled 'Textbook Firms Ink E-Deals for iPad'. While it is widely known that major textbook publishers are adapting their texts for the electronic format, the intoduction of iPad has given that trend a further push - or so it seems from this article.

McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Pearson Education, Kaplan are all on the bandwagon already.

Compass Intelligence, a market research firm in Scottsdale, Ariz., estimates that technology spending in the U.S. educational market could grow to $61.9 billion in 2013, from $47.6 billion in 2008.

Apple is known to enjoy an edge in the educational sector because of its Macintosh, and already has a presence in educational content through iTunes U.

According to the authors, publishers will be interested in iPad apps that allow the ability to play video, highlight text, record lectures, take notes, search text and take quizzes.

The message of this article resonates with another article in Business Week that I posted earlier on this blog.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How Will the iPad Change Interactive Learning?

One of the things that has always bothered me about m-learning is the small form factor of a smartphone device. The key idea of e-learning is engagement, and the more you can immerse the learner in an online experience the better. The optimal balance of screen size and handling convenience has long been elusive. Now the iPad shows a ray of hope. You get a good size screen that you can hold and carry around easily - just like the Kindle. And it seems capable of doing much more than the Kindle - although it lacks the glare-free e-ink of Kindle.

Sporting a 9.7 inch multi-touch screen, the iPad is supposed to revolutionize the way we surf the internet, watch television and movies, read books and newspapers. Can it revolutionize the way we learn?

As learning professionals we will need to design learning applications that effectively exploit the new capabilities iPad offers. We will have a lot to learn from app developers. It will be interesting to see how app developers render richer applications for iPad - it is almost certain that they will be different from laptop browser apps and smartphone apps. There is a new unlearning and learning curve waiting here for app developers. They need to take advantage of the larger size and touch capabilities while reducing the dependence on keyboard.

With devices like iPad and its competition, which will soon follow, I see the potential for a sea change in interactive learning. If these devices are affordable and ubiquitous, you get a cruicial new property to host learning experiences. The handling experience mimics a book - something learners are familiar with. Two or more learners can easily work together with such devices - with better off-angle display capabilities. Intuitive touchscreens and accelerometers make it easy to allow interaction. Being connected at all times will mean the opportunity to embed social learning experiences in structured learning.

Nearly all advantages of m-learning will be available to users of these devices. No need to be near a laptop, greater mobility, easier access to learning at the point of performace, to name a few. All this without the limitations of screen size. What a blessing.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Podcast for Training Magazine

Here is a summary of the podcast I recently did with Training magazine Senior Writer Margery Weinstein about a better way to learn.

Margery Weinstein: When you say "interactivity in training," what are you referring to?
VJ: Learners are better engaged when their trainer establishes a two-way dialog. Monolog, as we know, is boring. This is true regardless of the learning modality – be it classroom instruction or e-learning. By “interactivity” I mean an artifact (such as a piece of software) that allows for a two-way dialog that is non-trivial. I would say a button-click is too trivial to qualify being called interactivity. A multiple-choice question isn’t a whole lot more interactive either. On the other hand, a jeopardy game, or a sales simulation are examples of interactivity. Here the learner is fully engaged in a dialog with the computer, or the teacher or another learner.

Margery Weinstein: How can technology be used to enhance, rather than hinder, interactivity during training?
VJ: That’s a great question. Contrary to common intuition, the initial use of technology in any form of dialog can actually hinder, rather than enhance, interactivity. Consider PowerPoint presentations – many of them are simply quite boring. Or consider a variety of e-learning courses that are online page flippers at-best. Why does this happen? The problem is not the technology, but the way we use it. By introducing technology, we eliminate some of the direct interaction. However, we don’t always provide equivalent technology-based interaction in its place. What we do provide is menus and buttons. Meaningful interactions go beyond mindless button clicking. They provide a context that is sufficiently engrossing and invite action from the learner. Once the learner acts, they provide a response and build a two-way dialog. When technology is used to build such experiences, you will see it enhancing, rather than hindering interactivity.

Margery Weinstein: What is the biggest mistake trainers make when it comes to interactivity, and what's the best way for them to avoid making this mistake?
VJ: We see trainers approaching interactivity in a couple of different ways, and both have their problems. Some trainers confuse slide transitions and bullets and special effects and navigation buttons with meaningful interactivity. They implicitly assume these mere interface elements will somehow deliver interactivity. No wonder, learners are disappointed with the results. On the other hand, some training professionals flex their programming muscles and build highly interactive experiences from scratch. This delivers highly engaging courses, but only at considerable cost, time and maintenance overhead. The best way to enhance training with interactivity is to re-use interactive templates that are customizable. Rapid interactivity is a great paradigm for trainers that want to get ahead with interactivity quickly and easily. You pick a template, fill in the content, customize the look, tweak the behavior and publish the interactive object and include it in your course. So you build a learning game in minutes rather than days! That is the power of rapid interactivity.

Friday, January 1, 2010

See You at Olympia 2, London

I look forward to opening this year's speaking calendar in London, at Learning Technologies 2010, Europe's leading organisational learning and learning technology conference. The topic is Emerging trends in interactivity: what every learning professional must know and why. This session will give the audience an overview of the state-of-the art in interactive technology as well as specific insights into how you can utilize emerging new tools and approaches like rapid interactivity and embeddable social interactions for developing effective learning materials.

Interactivity is no more the exclusive province of bespoke suppliers. Every learning professional - whether a teacher, trainer, course developer, subject matter expert or instructional designer - must think about building interactive experiences for learners. Clearly, technology is advancing rapidly to help make this happen.

In my recent blog post on trends in interactivity, I have outlined the general direction technology is taking to facilitate two-way interactive communication. In the upcoming session, I plan to help build a perspective that will help learning professionals make sense of new trends in the months to come, and help them stay on top of them, as they steer their learning ecosystem into the future. A synopsis of the talk is available online.

I am looking forward to meeting several users of Harbinger Knowledge Products as well as partners and industry peers at the Olympia 2 London venue. It's a relief to know that there is a wired 1Mb internet connection in each seminar theatre.