Trending Now: Wearable Tech’s Impact on eLearning

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Don’t make the mistake of dismissing wearable tech as a passing trend: According to Juniper Research, 13 million wearable tech devices were shipped to lucky consumers. By 2018? That number skyrockets to 180 million. While the idea of first-person simulation and virtual reality might still sound a little like Back to the Future to the average learner, present-day devices and applications are making wearable tech in the now for eLearning tasks. Find out how some organizations are harnessing the technology and where you can expect it to affect the way you implement eLearning for training and development.

Mobile Device Wars

When you think “wearable tech,” a few usual suspects probably come to mind. After all, the idea of utilizing technology physically worn by the user isn’t exactly new – fitness enthusiasts have been wearing diagnostic wristbands for years. But gym rats aren’t the only ones reaping the benefits of wearing their tech on their sleeves, thanks to other devices and apps. Check out just a few making waves in the eLearning sphere.

  • Google Glass. Though Google has yet to release sales numbers for their wearable computer glasses, a report by Business Insider suggest that the tech giant will be shipping as many as 21,000,000 units per year by 2018. When combining eLearning and Google Glass, we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of capabilities and applications, with everything from simulation-based training to in-class and client facial recognition and even pulling exact product specs when and where you need them the most. Expect Google Glass (or similar wearable computer devices, like the Sony SmartEyeGlass) to act as a major player going forward.
  • Theatro. A wearable device specifically for those who find themselves on the sales floor, Theatro is a major breakthrough for the retail market. When worn, the device can compute analytics for daily employee performance, can ping the wearer’s location and even offers communication tools for messaging and sending vital information to sales reps when they need it the most. It creates a smoother line of communication and real-time analytics for better insight and improved results.
  • Smart watches. More accessible to the everyman, L&D pros should be especially cognizant of what smart watches mean for content delivery. With the available to stay connected 24/7, smart watches can do everything from sending messages and delivering information to allowing the user to quickly access learning catalogs and share materials quickly with colleagues. And, since smart watches are integrated with the user’s other tech devices, eLearning becomes an organic and continuous process.

A huge trend for 2014 and going forward, wearable tech still has a lot of untapped potential, owing to its newness and a lack of device availability. But while it may make up a small part of your eLearning strategy today, growing availability and a changing learner will make it a larger player going forward. Consider the tech “one to watch” and you won’t get stuck in the past.

The CLO vs. the CEO: 4 Ways the Chief Learning Officer Influences Business

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As far as positions go, the Chief Learning Officer (CLO) is sometimes considered the “little brother” to more established roles, like the much-revered CEO. But, despite still being fairly young in the timeline of business, the CLO might actually have more sway than you’d expect. While it’s unlikely that the CLO would ever replace a role such as CEO entirely, the two positions share a lot of common ground and a similar amount of influence. By syncing strategy and aligning vision, the CEO and CLO give the perfect one-two punch to keep moving forward.

CLO 2.0

Today’s CLO doesn’t much resemble the officers who directed training in the past. Today, CLOs are expected to be leaders, game changers and influencers in order to do their job effectively. With the ability to understand organization strategy, fill gaps in learning and development, assess and assimilate organization culture and change the dialogue surrounding talent management, CLOs take on the responsibility of driving forward motion. While other officers might utilize administrative tools to analyze, strategize and act, CLOs use the most powerful force of all: People.

With heavy sway over everything from workplace culture to social media, the CLO may be one of the most effective influencers of all. We know that where the head goes, the body follows: If employees aren’t the head of an organization, what is?

By overseeing the following facets of L&D, the CLO takes on the role of influencer:

  1. Onboarding. With the CLO at the helm, the directive is clear: Search for the right talent and then entice them onboard. The CLO sets the tone for the right type of employee and is responsible for getting them started.
  2. Retaining Talent. Once that new talent is successfully onboarded, it’s up to the CLO to help them understand their future with an organization, putting the right people in the right places to keep talent fulfilled while successfully filling responsibility gaps.
  3. Succession Planning. The CLO plans the trajectory for the best talent, keeping key players trained, primed and ready to take on new roles within the company. CLOs aren’t only responsible for employee retention, but ensuring that each person follows their ideal employment path to their fullest potential.
  4. Aligning Aptitude with Training. CLOs are adept at spotting learning gaps in the system, helping to create new learning programs that match employee aptitude with the right type of training, keeping the organizational machine running smoothly throughout.

The CLO has a unique opportunity to essentially steer the direction of an organization based on the power of the people. Creating this strategic shift can highlight the CLO’s power to utilize the workforce to ultimately affect much more than just isolated L&D. The CLO and CEO might be two entirely different roles, but their influence on the course and direction of an organization may, in fact, be parallel.

The New Social Club: How Social Media is Changing eLearning for Good

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According to the Pew Research Center, 74 percent of Internet users have and use social networking accounts. And why not? We live in an increasingly social world, so keeping in touch via Facebook, reading news through Twitter and updating your professional credentials via LinkedIn makes sense. But while you might use social networking for staying in touch, you might be missing out on one of its most powerful applications.

The thing is, you probably use social media for eLearning already: The time you watched that informational video someone posted to their Facebook news feed, or when you used a Twitter hashtag to read up on a new technology. In fact, one could argue that because they’re built around information-sharing, social media networks are veritable eLearning machines. By harnessing the propensity for users to absorb, experience and share online, you can improve eLearning engagement and reach.

Corporate Social Networking

The value of social media as an eLearning tool isn’t lost on organizations that have already put the method to the test. Corporate social networking services like Yammer and Jostle already offer company-branded social networking to keep sharing within a closed circuit. Employees can post information, share videos and provide status updates, allowing for microlearning within the company. While not a complete alternative to traditional training and development, social networking acts as a supplement for a generation of workers who are social, tech savvy and eager to share.

Cracking Open Campuses

Here’s the main issue with eLearning as a whole: Currently, it’s more or less flat. Organizations offer training and education to their employees without the promise of credit and with limited knowledge-sharing between departments and the organizations themselves. When credit is issued, it’s typically only for courses which result in certification. All other learning goes, essentially, unnoticed. This can create a disconnect between learner (employee) and the pursuit of informal learning, causing organizations to miss out on an entire subset of employee education.

Social media promises to change all that. With tools like the Tin Can API, users can keep track of all learning–and not the only type that happens in a classroom. From reading a book to answering a question on social media or even playing an educational game, it’s possible for learners to track their informal education with tools like bookmarklets, social media profiles and even book scanning apps.

By freeing up data and recording learning experience, learners have a new way to find and process information, as well as share it via social networking to extend overall reach. Instead of education and training experience belonging to the corporation, the learner himself can take ownership of the things he’s learned, posting his achievements on Twitter or sharing a video via Facebook. He now controls his education and how it’s shared.

Exciting things are happening between social media and eLearning. While their relationship status might still be complicated, it becomes clearer through innovations which strengthen the bond between learning and social sharing.

eLearning VS e-Learning: Deciphering Industry Terminology

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In the eLearning industry, you’ll find that there are two ways to spell, type and search the term “eLearning.” And while a tiny hyphen might not make a big difference, it provides some hefty weight to the argument that eLearning has made the transition from fleeting e-trend to viable and sustainable training method. Believe it or not, the conscious shift to going hyphen-free in the industry could help you better understand the direction of eLearning in the future – whichever why you spell it.

Rebranding eLearning Mind

We here at eLearning Mind aren’t immune to the discussion. In fact, when rebranding the company, there was lengthy discussion in how to spell eLearning: Hyphen or no hyphen? In the end, we decided with the sleeker, more modern eLearning Mind, and have noticed many colleagues in the field following suit. Sure, it’s easier to type, but it also reminds users that eLearning is just that: Sleek and modern, with a larger influence on the word “learning.”

We’d like to take credit for the change in collective consciousness, but admit that some stats and trends swayed our opinion on just how important that hyphen really is to the industry as a whole.

eLearning Stats and Trends

A quick Google search proves that when it comes to search terms and results, it’s actually “e-learning” that takes the cake: It returns 6,000,000 results to eLearning’s 3.5 million, so e-learning is the more popular term, right? But those results can be extremely deceiving.

While e-learning might reign supreme on Web results, Google Trends paints a different picture. When comparing the search terms “eLearning” and “e-learning,” it’s actually eLearning that sees the upward trend. E-learning has experienced a downward trend in search queries since its peak at 2004, while eLearning has experienced a consistent upward trend since the same point. Currently, the term “eLearning” is queried and posted about far more than the term “e-learning.”

Shifted Market

Consider “eLearning” Web 2.0: While e-learning might have been the most common moniker when eLearning first exploded onto the L&D scene, the hyphen has now gone the way of that in email, ecommerce and other digital-based products and services. It’s proof of progression: It seems as though the hyphen stays present for trends, but disappears when that trend solidifies and proves its online merit.

For SEO purposes, the importance of the hyphen (or lack thereof) is clear: While e-learning returns more results, today’s searcher is much more likely to peck “eLearning” into the keyboard to learn tips, trends and news on the steadily growing industry.

We’ll admit: We never realized how much difference a small line could really make in the grand scheme of things. But dropping the hyphen is a sign of progression and a shift in how the general public thinks about eLearning in general. By putting a larger emphasis on the term “learning,” eLearning points us toward continuing innovation in education, training and development – hyphen-free, of course.

Tablet-Based eLearning: Which Tablet is Best?

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You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t have a tablet in their briefcase, backpack or purse in this day and age. In fact, TabTimes estimates that 64 percent of Americans own and use a tablet daily. And while tablets are perfect for surfing the Web, awesome for gaming and amazing for productivity, it’s their capacity for eLearning that really benefits organizations.

By adding the ability to learn on-the-go and just-in-time, tablets are a must-have for training purposes. The best part? Much of your workforce probably already has a tablet in-hand – you just need to harness the technology for learning and development.

Case Study

Consider this: A pharmaceutical sales company has a mobile workforce that is constantly on the go. Headquarters receives new product information that needs to be pushed out to all sales reps immediately. What’s the best way?

Instead of peering at a tiny smartphone screen or rushing to find a computer, reps can pull out their tablets and easily get the latest information no matter where they are, creating a well-informed but also unified workforce with the push of a “send” button. Because tablets offer a bigger screen than a phone, yet are easier to set up and connect when compared to laptops, they’re perfect for quick bites of information that can easily be digested and shared.

Of course, sales teams aren’t the only departments benefiting from quick, accessible information via tablets: From showing a quick presentation in a meeting to pulling up inventory stats on an assembly line, tablets put data, training and information directly into your workforce’s hands.

Social Learning

Another major benefits of equipping a workforce with tablets is the fact that tablets encourage social learning. Think about it: How many times have you leaned over to show a friend a game on your tablet, or shared a screen while watching a video? Training and development via mLearning – and using a tablet specifically – can help create that same effect: Learners working and sharing together to grasp new concepts and ensure understanding through social learning.

Best Tablet for eLearning

The bottom line? Tablets are a must-have for eLearning applications. Sure, there might be over 200 million tablets in use worldwide, but to utilize the devices for eLearning can cause compatibility concerns. When Flash was king (and being used for eLearning applications), creating modules for both iOS and Android could cause problems. However, with the emergency of more universal design tools, such as HTML5, it’s easier to create programs which are compatible with a number of operating systems. This means organizations may not actually have to equip learners with the same tablet, but can utilize the devices their learners already own and love.

Thanks to the changes to design tools and industry standards, eLearning has become more adaptable to tablets. It’s no longer a question of which tablet works best for eLearning, but how best to create broad capability for any operating system.

Perhaps the focus shouldn’t be on which tablet works best for eLearning, but the actual tablet specs instructional designers should keep in mind. Most tablets in use today are in the 8-ince to 11-inch range, with touch screens and limited hardware add-ons. By designing modules that are interactive, intuitive and respect the screen size of tablets in general, tablet-based eLearning becomes more attractive and accessible.

Based on users and compatibility alone, instructional designers should be especially conscious of designing for the Android market, which controls a whopping 61 percent of the market share, with Apple’s iPad taking up 36 percent. By catering to these two specific  operating systems, designers cater to the vast majority of tablet users.

Tablet usage is projected to grow by leaps and bounds for the foreseeable future. By adding tablet-based course development to your instructional design wish list, you capitalized on a growing trend while giving your learners the fastest, most accurate information – anytime, anywhere.

Tablet-Based eLearning: The New Frontier

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How interesting that the writer’s axiom, “Show, don’t tell,” helps to remove the written word from today’s learning ecosystem. “Show, don’t tell,” originally meant, “Paint a picture with words.” Today, it means, “Show me already,” with l earners running from the two-dimensional, flat experience of reading. They want organic, experiential learning, and tablet-based learning delivers.

What is Tablet-Based Learning?

Tablet-based learning is a subset of mLearning, a hybrid learning that combines elements from mLearning with elements from eLearning. However, hold a tablet in one hand to see how weight and balance issues can detract from the learning experience.

Context is King When Selecting a Device

Context is the major driver in selecting a device format. For example:

  • Goal – Is a tablet device consistent with the goal of the training?
  • Time – Is the length of the training manageable with a tablet considering its weight?
  • Location – Where will the learner access the learning module?
  • Portability – Goes hand in hand with location. Will the learner have a tablet with him or her when viewing and interacting with the learning module?
  • Access – Will the device have connectivity (4G for smartphone vs. Wi-Fi for the tablet) when the learner needs it?
  • Functionality – Can the tablet perform and accommodate the information the learner needs?

Designing for Tablet-Based eLearning

Below, you’ll find a few things to consider when designing for the tablet:

  • Screen size – IDC, which tracks trends, reports that the predominant screen size is 7–8 inches and is on track to remain the largest segment of tablet screen sizes through 2017, with the 8–11 inch screen gaining momentum. Tablet-based learning scales up to the PC screen easier than it scales down to the smartphone screen.
  • Fingertip input – Selecting options is better than on the phone, but text entry is cumbersome. (Where’s a stylus when you need one?)
  • Engagement – According to a Google report, multitaskers now embrace multi-screening—using more than one device at a time. The least simultaneous screen usage (9 percent) occurred while viewing videos vs. 25 percent simultaneous screen usage while playing games, a talent probably honed from driving while texting. Include more video and fewer, simpler games, such as game-based flash cards.
  • Navigation – More flexible for tablet-based learning than mLearning. It’s less critical to reserve the top of the screen for navigation than it is when designing for the phone.
  • Orientation – Not as critical as for the phone, but landscape is usually best.

If it’s your first foray into tablet-based learning, expect some trial and error during and after development. Or, decrease the learning curve by consulting a professional to get you started on the right foot.

Big Data, Big Applications and Even Bigger Results for eLearning

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There’s a lot of buzz surrounding big data. From banks claiming the next big thing for interest rates from your phone company promising you better offers, the huge supersets of data being harvested from personal information, online activity and even buying history is big news for business. But when custom eLearning comes into play, big data can make a big difference in how you interact with learners in the L&D arena. Knowing what your participants are thinking and tracking their learning-based actions helps you build a better machine, so long as you know which information is important and which is just noise.

A Major Case of TMI

When you utilize big data applications and technology to harvest information from your eLearning module, you need to be prepared for a case of TMI: Too Much Information. While it’s helpful to gather metrics based on users and their interactions with the modules, not all news is necessary.

Organizations must sift through and categorize information based on what it helpful to future programs. Some of the need-to-know stuff might include information such as:

• Are users finishing the program?
• Are there users who are failing the post-program quiz several times before getting it right?
• Do you notice that many users are clicking through the course too quickly?
• Are users skipping entire sections?
• Are potential issues broad-based or isolated to just one or two users?

All of these questions can be answered with the right tracking and harvesting of data. Of course, by the same token, there’s plenty of information that you can choose to ignore, especially as it probably won’t make a difference on the design and outcome of your course. The time of day an individual interacts with a program, or the amount of times the module was launched before it was completed won’t matter much unless you notice patterns across all users.

Utilizing Big Data

Once you have the information gleaned from your data sets, you’ll need to decide how to act based on those results. If you notice that many of your users are simply clicking through sections without interacting, for instance, perhaps an option to test out of certain sections would make for happier learners. If the data points to learners who experience the entire course, yet fail the post-course quiz, the content might require some additional tweaking so concepts are clearer.

In essence, big data can help you tell the story of the outcome of your eLearning efforts long before learners act. By interpreting the data and targeting areas which may need fortification, additional design elements or even a complete redesign, you create more effective modules tailored to your learners’ specific needs. Put the buzz to work by tracking learner interaction and then understanding exactly what that interaction means for training and development.

eLearning Made Easy: Avoiding a DIY Disaster

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You wouldn’t cut your own hair or Google “How to plumb a new home,” but too often eLearning is expected to be a DIY venture. Even if you can find the instructions on a well-meaning “How To” website, your organization’s training and development should never be left to an amateur effort. By taking stock of what services and features you’ll need, you can work with a qualified instructional designer and get professional results. There’s a large spectrum of eLearning, and getting started is about way more than just a Web search.

Deciphering the eLearning Market

Chances are that if you did run a search for eLearning, your reaction would be best described as “overwhelmed… and a little scared.” The eLearning market is vast and innovative, with new ideas, concepts, theories and products being pushed and published daily. Your first order of business? Deciding which concepts and products will work best for your particular L&D situation. While some might gravitate toward the idea of a video series, another solution might involve a blended approach by combining face-to-face and mobile training.

Trying to navigate eLearning trends and concepts solo might be a lot like searching “How to sail across the Atlantic.” You might find the answer in theory, but you’d still be a lot better off with a seasoned captain when your boat hits the water.

Organizational Assets

You don’t have to outsource all of your eLearning needs. Your organization probably has assets on-hand to make the process easier. Whether it’s a script you’ve used for sales training in the past or PowerPoint presentation media that can be utilized in a new program, using what you have makes the most of your eLearning budget and allows you to save time and be a bigger part of the process. No, you don’t want to attempt building an eLearning module based on a set of instructions, but your instructional designer will be more than happy to include your current assets and materials in the process.

Implementation and Tracking

We’ve all done it: Googling a fever and self-diagnosing a rash, courtesy of forums, websites and FAQs. Obviously the Internet is no substitute for a doctor, so why would it replace an instructional designer? Even after a program has been designed, you could be missing vital metrics when the delivery and implementation is left to a DIY project.

Talk to your designer about better ways to track data such as completion rates, end-of-completion quiz results and engagement metrics or your L&D project isn’t fully finished. Like a Web health diagnosis, you don’t necessarily have the tools and information to paint an accurate picture of how you’re doing.

Keeping costs low and production in-house might seem like your first priority, but attempting to DIY eLearning could come back to haunt you. By having a plan in hand when you talk to your instructional designer, you can use what assets you have to create a partnership – and a truly stellar L&D program.

Extreme Makeover, Video Edition: Implementation and Best Practices for eLearning Videos

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Since there has been eLearning, there have been eLearning videos. And why not? A natural fit for a variety of eLearning types, videos can help foster higher engagement levels, create an emotional connection to the subject matter and quite frankly, spice up what would be an otherwise lackluster topic. But for every example of stellar video implementation, there’s probably a few that could stand to undergo a bit of a media makeover. Rethink the way you see video as a method for engagement, enhancement and ultimately, learning.

Status Update

Who says you have to save video for social occasions? Sure, a full video production will cost you, but that doesn’t mean video can’t be used as a regular tool as part of your eLearning strategy. Consider this scenario: A sales manager needs to share the latest status meeting with her team. She could type up a memo or report and send it via email, but not everyone will open the attachment to read through. Instead, she could set up a quick video with her smartphone, film a two-minute status update and hit “share” for an alternative to the usual. More team members watch the video (perhaps on their mobile devices), score the information and can go on with their day.

It’s incorrect to assume that video eLearning automatically has to break the bank. By integrating video utilizing tools your team already has in-hand, it can be a quick and cost-friendly way to share.

Bookending Modules

Another way to cut costs and make video eLearning more accessible is via “bookending.” It’s a technique whereby the eLearning module is flanked by a short video clip, before and after the actual subject matter is presented. In this way, learners are automatically engaged with the material before it begins, as well as getting a personal follow-up once the module has been finished. When a large block of video training is out of reach, bookending reaps the same benefits with less time and money.

eLearning Video Best Practices

Before you start shooting videos with your iPhone or writing scripts for your spokesperson, there are a few things that separate “good” videos from the very best, no matter your scope or budget. Keep these in mind going forward to rethink the utilization of video in your eLearning program.

  1. Look who’s talking. Before you hire a random voice actor to read your video script, remember that who’s talking really matters in terms of expertise, enthusiasm and engagement. The best person to provide voice or face time on a video series is someone who knows and is highly passionate about the subject matter. That expertise and passion can then be conveyed to the learners through everything from body language to voice cadence and facial expressions.
  2. Have a script. Definitely have a script in mind, even if your spokesperson is a total pro. It acts as a roadmap for your expert. Just be sure to leave a little room for adlibbing and a generous injection of personality so your on-camera pro stays loose and comfortable.
  3. Leave room for graphics. Beware of a video that takes up the whole screen. While videos are generally pretty engaging, reinforcing what the expert is saying with text, graphics and other media on the same screen can help learners gain a better grasp on the subject matter.

By all means, continue utilizing video as part of your custom eLearning strategy. But think outside the video tutorial when it comes to making video a part of consistent and constant learning and you’ll find that it has more applications than basic training.

What’s the Difference Between eLearning and mLearning?

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The battle of the learning modules, eLearning vs. mLearning, is heating up. Mobile devices have all but replaced the notebook computer, and that’s prompted a change in how business delivers learning. No one leaves home without a smartphone in all but the most remote locations on planet Earth. Other factors come into play, and we’ll look at those before we look at design differences.

eLearning vs. mLearning? Which is better?

It’s not a matter of “better.” eLearning is designed for larger screens and often runs longer than mLearning, which provides on-demand learning on mobile devices. Bite-sized modules keep the learner engaged and increase the retention rate regardless of the delivery platform, so eLearning is now breaking down long sessions into shorter modules. Your audience and the context in which they learn help to determine the best format for delivery:

  • Attention Span is lower today than it was a couple of decades ago. To hold the learner’s attention, less is more.
  • Age influences attention span. Older employees who did not grow up in the computer era have longer attention spans and can absorb information in longer presentations on the workstation (eLearning) easier than younger employees.
  • Context often determines learning delivery. On-the-job learning often takes place “in the moment” when the only available computer is a smartphone.
  • Bring your own device (BYOD) has transformed on-demand learning with 24/7 access. The morning commute on public transportation, waiting to get a haircut and standing in line at the food truck all lend themselves to short sessions.
  • Social learning – Younger people enjoy learning via social media.

Design Differences

When designing for mLearning, the learning concepts are the same, but the delivery is different. You can’t just “shrink” the screen.

  • Navigation must be simple and is best reserved for the top of the screen.
  • Use landscape orientation when possible. Think of your design area as an index card.
  • Keep scrolling to a minimum.
  • Present information in sound bites where possible. (Think minimalist PowerPoint.)
  • Design with an eye toward short access times.
  • Design with time in mind—no longer than 10–15 minutes. You don’t have to fill all that time. If a minute-long video tells the story, particularly for in-the-moment learning, don’t waste the learner’s time.
  • Speaking of video and audio, be mindful ofdownload sizes.
  • Keep gamification simple—flashcards and quizzes with no more than three possible answers.

The writing is on the wall—there’s a clear trend toward mLearning, and it’s time to devise an affordable plan for mLearning development.