Monday, December 31, 2012

Five Ways to Make Online Learning Engaging

A new complimentary whitepaper titled 5 Creative Ideas of using Raptivity in Online Training outlines five innovative ways to make online learning interesting and engaging with the help of learning interactions.

In specific, the paper suggests instructional designers and trainers consider the following techniques.

1. Combining an interactive e-book with a rapid-check assessment to implement an open book test.

2. Using games such as crosswords, TV shows and board games and to make learning fun and exciting.

3. Simulations where user gets to play a role in a situation and apply knowledge to decision making.

4. Using characters to provide opening and closing remarks, intermittent summaries as well as dialogs.

5. Encouraging exploration through the use of walk-through, zooming and other interactions.

While these techniques can be implemented in a variety of ways, the paper suggests over a dozen interaction templates within Raptivity that make the implementation quick and easy. You can download the whitepaper from the Raptivity website.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Using eLearning Tools - It's Like a Relationship

The tools you use for producing e-learning day-in and day-out are no more than a bunch of software, programmed to work in a certain way and produce course output, right? Well, in part that may be true, but you might want to think again about that one.

Consider this: The last time you were stuck with an animation that wouldn't work, or a picture that was looking distorted, or the exam score that wouldn't appear correctly on the LMS - who did you turn to for expert help? The last time you had a great idea on how the tool could be improved, how did you share that with the vendor? And when your team hired a couple of fresh developers new to the technology, how did you arrange for their training?

Products that you use are not just software - they come with professional relationships you build with the vendor, other users and experts in the ecosystem. When you become a user of a product, you belong to a world of professionals that are linked to the product.  Every tool you have in your bag is like a relationship.
That is why I am excited about Raptivity Evolve, a remarkable new initiative that brings value to Raptivity users on an on-going way through new complimentary interactions, webinars, samples and more. Also interesting is InteractivityHub, a vibrant online community,  where  users exchange thoughts and ideas, ask questions and provide answers. The Raptivity Valued Professionals (RVPs) are experts that volunteer their help on community. Raptivity Empower provides an array of complementary services, including in-depth training, to help users get the most out of the tool.

The idea of an innovative software that actively supports an on-going relationship has found good traction amongst e-learning developers. At the end of the day, it is all about relationships.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Infusing Assessments with Advanced Interactivity

Assessments are inherently interactive. There is no assessment unless the learner interacts with the e-learning course in some way. What then does 'infusing assessments with advanced interactivity' mean?

Some instructional designers believe that throwing in some multiple choice questions make learning sufficiently interactive. We would like to question that. Learners are bored to death with the chore of answering the same types of questions: MCQ, Matching, Fill-in and Drag-drop. They need variety. They need to enjoy their assessments. Don't they?

Formative assessments, sprinkled throughout the learning material, aim to perform a knowledge-check. Here, there is huge potential for using a wide variety of exciting interactions.

When the nature of the learning content drives your decision, you might choose interactions accordingly. For example, a product familiarization course may involve labeling, a soft-skill course may use videos or simulations, and so forth.

Sometimes your instructional objective decides the interaction type. This would lead to interactions that require recalling a concept and applying it or simply memorizing it.

Finally, the nature of  your target audience influences the choice of interactions. Competitive audiences will enjoy games, those needing motivation could use other types of interactions.

Summative assessments, which occur at the end of a learning module, aim to evaluate the learner and report a score. Prima facie it stands to reason that summative assessments are more serious business, and should somehow steer clear of interactivity. On close examination, though, we find several situations where summative assessments too can benefit from advanced interactivity.

For example, a compliance training can include an assessment delivered as a simulation exercise. Similarly, when teaching leadership development, games can still deliver. The case of interesting assessments for K-12 is more obvious to make. Several questions can be delivered through game-like activities.

In conclusion, then, both formative and summative assessments can be infused with advanced interactivity to enhance learner engagement, enjoyment and retention, without compromising the key goals of knowledge checking and evaluation.

One great example of a simple interaction that works equally well in both types of assessments is Rapid Check. To see a demo of Rapid Check, click here. To hear about the various ways you can use Rapid check, watch this webcast.

Friday, May 25, 2012

mLearning - What Works? What Doesn't?

This summer's thought leadership webinar from Harbinger Group attracted over 1000 registrants. Perhaps it was the powerful and relevant theme that drew such crowd: Interactions on Mobile. What works? What Doesn’t? The Raptivity-sponsored event provided several insights in interactive mLearning.

Here's a  brief outline of the webinar:
  • The need for interactivity in mLearning
  • Characteristics of mLearning interactions
  • Challenges in mLearning, native vs. web apps
  • Flash vs. HTML5
  • Why HTML5
  • Tips for creating interactive content for mobile
In case you missed it,  you can access the slide deck and the  recorded webinar here.

The webinar speakers were Janhavi Padture, Vice President at Harbinger Group and Robert Gadd, President and Chief Mobile Officer of OnPoint Digital. 'As always, we hosted the webinar three times in the day to cater to Asia-Pacific, Europe and Americas', added Jamaica Bracken, chief anchor.

Friday, April 20, 2012

4 Must-haves for a m-Learning Tool

These days designing and delivering end-to-end e-learning on mobile devices is on everyone's mind. What kind of capabilties must tools have to support m-learning? Here is a quick 4-point checklist.

Device Capabilties
Depending on the target device, user interface capabilities will vary. The m-learning tool should utilize fully the capabilities of the target device.

Ready-to-use templates for all supported devices go a long way in ensuring professional presentation while saving time.
Preview Capability
Due to the wide variety of form factors mobile devices come in, preview of learning material is a crucial step before publishing content.

Media support
With an explosion of device types and browsers, it is important to keep track of media supported by each combination. One way for an m-learning tool to create value would be to alert the user when a non-support type is referred to. Even better the tool could intelligently select an alternative media from multiple media provided.

Both the creation and consumption of m-learning content on mobile devices is substantially different from traditional e-learning. Tool vendors will need to keep the differences in view while designing their wares.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Building Your E-Learning Course Design Tool Kit

If the title of this post makes you think I will list a whole bunch of tools here, let me first set the expectations right. It is my endeavor to take a look at the e-learning course design process here, so that you can decide how to build a tool kit that addresses all process components.

E-learning course creation is all about having a design process in place to build the right course in time. Every instructional designer follows some sort of an e-learning course design process. What I proposed one such process in a recent webinar titled  “Interactive Courses on a Shoestring Budget” organized by Raptivity in November, 2011.

E-Learning Course Design Process

As you may have noticed in the figure shown above, the graphic image of the doughnut has been divided into two parts.

The lower part of the image has process steps such as screen capture, image editing, audio recording and video recording. These steps aid in the creation of assets for the course. These assets add to the picturesque quotient of the course and make it more engaging with videos, images, etc. The lower part also includes one final step of testing, which we will come back to later.

The upper part of the doughnut has processes such as special artifacts creation, interactivity building, content authoring and integration. This is where you assemble the assets and make the course interactive and complete. Interactivity building makes the course content more easy to adapt and retain in an interactive format through games, puzzles, etc. The final milestone is reached when all the assets, interactions, special artifacts created are put together in the content authoring and integration process and thereafter, you test the course on the Learning Management System (LMS).

Every course designer will follow some variation of this process. The process then, forms the basis of your tool selection. Building your e-learning course design tool kit is a matter of identifying the tools that help you execute the process efficiently. Some may be freely available tools, yet others commercially available.
To view the narration of the doughnut given during the webinar, you can view the recording here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Global Poll Reveals Key Trends in e-Learning Design

In a recent online event, we polled hundreds of course designers spread throughout Australia, Europe and USA with four simple questions. The results are quite interesting.

Question 1.
In your experience, over the past several years, are customer budgets per hour of eLearning increasing, decreasing or remaining about the same?

Figure 1: Poll Results on E-Learning Budgets Per Hour of Seat Time

Question 2.
What level of interactivity do clients expect in the courses you deisgn?

Figure 2: Poll Results on Level of Interactivity Clients Want

Question 3.
What types of tools do you currently use for eLearning course creation?
Figure 3: Poll Results on Current Tools in use for E-Learning Course Creation

Question 4.
Do you use a greater number of tools today than you did three years back?

Figure 4: Poll Results on Number of Tools over the Years

My key take away from this set of poll questions is that eLearning budgets per hour of seat time have shrunk, but customers continue to demand higher level of interactivity. Given the pace of technology advancement, producers are able to meet the customer demands by using the right set of tools. That explains the use of a greater number and variety of tools.

Feel free to share your thoughts and interpretations of these poll results.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Raptivity Essential : Now Build HTML5 and Flash Interactions Simultaneously

As Harbinger Knowledge Products unveils a brand new version of Raptivity Essential that lets you publish interactions in the HTML5 format in addition to Flash SWF format, I thought it would be interesting to talk to Shweta Kulkarni, who was involved deeply in the engineering of this product upgrade.

What is the significance of Raptivity Essential?
Raptivity Essential provides a sufficient selection of templates for a novice user to get a hold of interactive learning. This best seller pack of Raptivity helps users create a variety of interactions like interactive questions, brainteasers, presentation aids,  simulations, glossary and surveys.  Many of Raptivity Himalaya users have started their association with Raptivity using Raptivity Essential and eventually went on to upgrade their license all the way to Raptivity Himalaya. 

What prompted you to go the HTML5 way?
As everyone is now taking their courses to mobile devices such as tablets and smart phones, there is a need of quick transition of eLearning courses to m-Learning platform. Course developers who have already made an investment in Raptivity Essential are looking for a solution which quickly migrates their existing content to tablets and smart phones without hassles. HTML5 support for Raptivity  Essential pack will fulfil this requirement and make them HTML5-ready for their future course creation without losing the Flash output.

What makes this a significant milestone?
The entire Raptivity Himalaya library will be available in HTML5 format soon. This release of Raptivity Essential marks a major milestone in that direction. When we started with HTML5 Turbo Pack, and followed up with HTML5 Starter Pack, we were taking baby steps. Now we are nearing 40 HTML5 interactions, the largest HTML5 library of learning interactions available anywhere. And more are in the works as we speak.

What were the technical challenges in porting Flash to HTML5 ?
Most of the challenges boil down to replicating the Flash user experience. For example, take special effects like dissolve, explode, fly, blinds, magnify and so forth. We had coded these relatively effortlessly in Flash. To make them work as smoothly in the HTML5 version wasn't easy.

Standard scroll bars don't work on iPad and iPhone. We designed custom scroll bars. Also, until recently drag-and-drop functionality was hard to implement. We are now betting on new libraries that will make this easy.

Another area is inconsistency in filetypes supported on different browsers. In the Flash world, you worked with an .MP3 sound file and you knew it would work across browsers. With HTML5, you may need .OGG format.

Thanks, hopefully we can do another post on this last topic. Software developers would love it.
Certainly we can. You are most welcome.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Changing Landscape in E-Learning

During the Thought Leadership Webinar on “Interactive Courses on a ShoeString Budget” in November, 2011, I had a good discussion with Jim Hanlin, President and Founder of Best Training Resources. Jim shared his views on the changing landscape in e-learning.

Vikas: What are clients looking for in eLearning programs?
Jim:  What strikes me is that there is a phenomenal change in the eLearning industry in comparison to when eLearning was first introduced. As eLearning is ever growing and getting interactive likewise the clients' demands have also grown over the years. They face a lot of cost pressure on eLearning programs. At the same time, the expectation for developing interactive eLearning courses is also on the rise.

From the Producer’s standpoint – we have to focus on reducing the cost of producing eLearning programs and increase the level of interactivity and graphic rich content. Especially important from supplier’s viewpoint is the decrease in cost for per hour of eLearning development. It has reduced to almost half of what used to be $50,000/hour of level 2 custom content development for eLearning. Suppliers of eLearning courses are looking for tools for better high quality program creation, produce them faster and create them for low cost.

In short, clients are looking for: better, faster, cheaper programs.

Vikas:  How have eLearning development practices and processes changed over the past several years?
Jim: eLearning has made a staggering change from mainframes and dumb terminal delivery to page turners with graphics. All of this was delivered in linear fashion without any deviation from the learner path of learning. In 90s, the standards like AICC and SCORM were developed along with LMS and other tools. Later first generation tools came in which helped developer create courses with similar objectives. Then, there were interactive video discs introduced which were bulky. These were soon replaced with CDroms where courses where stored and means to share it others. Now a days, most of the training is delivered by web based technologies. Technologies such as mobile learning, virtual worlds, cloud based learning, Learning platforms, learning with informal learning applications etc are in great demand.

The advances in technology have triggered the extraordinary growth in eLearning courses development tools. The changing landscape is a win-win situation for both the providers and the clients.

Technology has allowed producers to produce engaging programs relatively quickly and in a lesser cost. For suppliers, technology has helped to get customer satisfaction and retention along with getting repeat business. The advancement in technology has brought about such a win-win situation which is endearing for all.

Vikas: What methods are producers using to achieve results the clients are looking for?
Jim: Today, the real advantage to the producers is that they are able to create innovative, creative, interactive and graphic rich eLearning courses at a much faster pace and lesser cost unlike the old times. The best thing to do is have a right selection of tools and make the best toolbox for developing eLearning programs. This is the ultimate survival tool in the market which will allow the producers to stay ahead in the competition and adhere to the customer demands in time within their shoestring budgets.

Vikas: Thank you Jim for sharing your thoughts with us in the webinar. The key takeaway from your inputs is that “the provider with the best set of tools will be the winner”.

Jim:You are welcome.