Monthly Archives: October 2014

Automated Interaction and the Full Potential of Mobile Learning

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Visit any elementary school in the country and the scene would be pretty similar across the board: A student has a question, so he raises his hand and gets immediate feedback from the teacher. Such interactions not only provide answers, but set students on a path to success from day one.

Today, mLearning is being used to communicate and interact with learners, so a smartphone may have more in common with an elementary school than you think – minus the fish sticks at lunch. Mobile learning has yet to reach its full potential, but interaction and accessibility are helping us get there.

Case Study: Rosetta Stone

There’s a reason that language software Rosetta Stone is used by government and businesses alike: It’s highly effective in teaching foreign languages. But Rosetta Stone doesn’t just rely on the content offered, but also delivery and feedback tools, available on most mobile devices.

Say you need to learn Spanish to expand career opportunities. You have a tablet, so you download the Rosetta Stone app. Instead of simply listening to someone else using the language, you’re invited to practice yourself and, thanks to the microphone in your iPad, receive immediate feedback as to whether you’re not you’re on track. It’s the mLearning equivalent to raising your hand in class: You have a question and teacher answers immediately. Mispronunciation and misunderstanding are corrected before becoming a perpetual problem.

New Applications for mLearning

The onboard tools on your tablet and smartphone offer a world of opportunity for mLearning applications. Consider how a few of these tools and applications could revolutionize your mLearning strategy:

  • Geolocation alerts to offer information and language tips based on in-context geographic location.
  • Microphone to record communication and testing.
  • Media viewers for quick how-to videos.
  • Microprojection to share screen with other parties.
  • Cloud storage for group collaboration and uploading larger blocks of new information.
  • Utilizing onboardsensors to gather intelligent data about your learner’s behavior.

Imagine knowing exactly when your learner access his smartphone to match content delivery to his most active usage times, or delivering a new product information video the moment it’s released. Thinking past the usual mobile learning suspects – social networking; alerts; emails – opens a whole new world for eLearning. Automated interaction means immediate feedback without sacrificing speed, time and efficiency.

Unleashing the full potential of mobile learning affords something akin to going back to school: While a few things are noticeably absent in an mLearning environment, onboard tools can simulate a more traditional learning environment . By automating the feedback and interaction process, your learners still benefit from continuous communication and educator evaluation – anytime, anywhere.

Assessing eLearning: How to Create a Comprehensive (and Useful) Assessment Plan

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“Put your money where your mouth is!” It’s the battle cry of would-be gamblers everywhere. And in eLearning, feeling confident when the stakes are high is the result of a solid program, excellent development and of course, comprehensive assessment tools. Without assessment methods in place, it’s practically impossible to see whether or not learning objectives were accomplished. Show more confidence in your method by putting the two most common – and most effective – assessment tools in place to gauge whether or not your eLearning objectives are a safe bet.

Formative Assessment

Formative assessments are typically a more casual way to assess how your learners are interacting and adapting to the material. Formative assessment usually occurs during learning, and often requires a dialog between administrator and learner. Formative assessments are put in place to gather feedback, which is then used to improve on the original material. Some formative assessments can include:

  • A simple survey with questions on how learners are enjoying the course, how they’re interacting with the material and how effective they think the material is from an educational standpoint. Surveys are quick and offer an overall picture of eLearning success.
  • Course evaluation. When the program is finished, learners might have the opportunity to evaluate or “grade” the experience. Answers and grades can then be used for improvement, or to act as a sounding board for further discussion.
  • Discussion/webinars. Want to know what learners really think? Just ask them. Most are more than happy to offer their two cents once a program has finished. Gathering participants in a round table discussion or webinar can give you the candid feedback you need to really improve.

Formative assessment is typically considered a low-level assessment method. While it has its merits, it’s also inherently flawed in one way: It’s completely subjective.

Summative Assessment

If you have a head for numbers, you’ll definitely appreciate summative assessments. Rather than utilizing user opinion, summative assessment uses hard facts to tell you more about the success of a module or program. Using summative assessment, you can get a better grasp on how the curriculum is actually affecting learners in a few different ways.

  • Quizzes and tests. You know your learners can talk the talk, but can they walk the walk? Quizzes and tests ensure that learners are actually absorbing material and not simply going through the motions and clicking through frames.
  • In-field assessment. It’s difficult to narrow down the effects of eLearning in the workplace – but it’s not impossible. By defining criteria for behavior change after the course, you can assess learners based on what they’ve learned and how they’ve put new skills and knowledge to practice on the job.
  • Ranking and achievement. There’s nothing wrong with a little friendly competition, especially when that competition allows you to better assess results. Assigning rankings or allowing learners to unlock achievements with certain actions is fun for them, but informative for you.

When it comes to inspiring confidence in CLOs and L&D professionals, both assessment methods combine to create an overall picture of eLearning. After all, eLearning isn’t just about learner experience or numbers – it’s about both. Putting a plan in place gives you the opportunity to assess and plan, making eLearning less of a gamble and more of a sure thing.

Feeling Lost? 5 Tips for Mapping Learning Objectives

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With so much new technology, technique and trends, it’s easy to let your learning get lost in the shuffle. After all, you want to take advantage of anything that could help your learners, but not at the risk of losing your way – or your focus. By asking some tough questions, properly mapping out your learning objectives and then matching them to the ideal learning outcome, you can see a clearer path from point A to point B. Here’s how.

Defining Learning Objectives

At their core, learning objectives should be three things: Action-focused, learner-focused and consider of existing learner knowledge base. You should be able to clearly specify which learning objectives are informational only, and which require a change to overall behavior. By categorizing objectives accordingly, you can better map how to reach that objective based on the resources available to you and your learners. Past that point, it’s up to you to drill down on learning strategy, using these five tips.

  1. Assess Prerequisite Knowledge. Don’t plunge blindly forward without knowing more about your learner. By offering a pre-test or survey, you can get a better handle on what your learners know and can map based on both objective and current knowledge base to avoid bored learners.
  2. Write Learning Objectives. Use actionable words to describe just what you want out of your program or curriculum. Don’t forget to include supporting objectives, or steps that need to take place in order for learners to reach the goal or objective.
  3. Keep it Concise. While it’s tempting to stuff your curriculum full of content, it can be a case of “too much of a good thing.” Whenever possible, keep your mapping and your content concise by always focusing on the most important tenants of content. By simplifying the content, the way to your learning objectives is less muddled by “noise.”
  4. Utilize Knowledge Assessment Tools. Ask any seasoned road-tripper: The only thing worse than going the wrong way is going the wrong way and refusing to turn around. By using knowledge checks and assessment tools throughout the process, you can see what’s working – and perhaps more importantly, what’s not. Knowledge checks ensure your learners are “getting it” and are on their way to reaching learning goals.
  5. Evaluate Performance. So, did you reach your final destination? Performance evaluations allow you to assess whether or not the material gave you the results you wanted, as mapped in your learning objectives. Asking learners directly is always an effective course of action, but you can also go for surveys, post-program assessments and even webinars to gather intelligent data and ensure you were on the right track.

Of course, the final step is actually perpetual: Making sure you’re continually improving through your experience and feedback. You might find that there are available shortcuts, or that you’re missing something along the way, so you’ll need to adjust accordingly. Mapping helps you stay on track and avoid any unnecessary detours on your journey to reaching objectives.

Social Learning: Hype or Help?

By | eLearning Solutions | 3 Comments

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“Tell me again how Facebook is going to make my workforce lean, mean and efficient and cure every evil that lurks within the walls of our corporate campus!”

</sarcasm>

That’s what some in business think. The thought of repealing the company Facebook ban and turning a bunch of millennials loose on social media somehow just doesn’t ring true in the context of eLearning, does it? Well, now that you put it that way…

What the @$%# is Social Learning?

It helps to define social learning before discussing how to harness its power—just so we’re all on the same page. Albert Banduras defined four pillars of social learning in this social learning theory, the most widely recognized theory on the subject:

  1. Attention
  2. Retention
  3. Reproduction
  4. Motivation

In plain English, if you can’t engage the learner, he or she has no attention span. The goal of eLearning is not to “teach the test,” but to retain the material and then apply it in the workplace (reproduction). And what ties all this together? Motivation does. The medical field teaches that real learning takes place when you “learn one, do one, teach one.” This is not a dissimilar concept.

Social learning enhances eLearning; it does not replace formal eLearning.

How Social Learning Engages and Motivates

Recognition is a huge motivator. When you’re recognized by your peers for excellence, it motivates you to learn and do more—to accomplish more. Further, when peer learning takes place, natural leaders appear.

Sometimes, interactions with peers are the only way to make sense of information. Have you ever read material in a text without understanding it only to “get it” when someone explained it to you?

Social Beyond Facebook

Facebook is for fun and for companies to connect with customers. LinkedIn, Twitter and in-house social media enhance learning in different ways:

  • LinkedIn – Connect with industry experts and leaders and join groups that can supplement formal training.
  • Twitter – Use Twitter as a newsfeed by setting up lists and searching on hashtags. Keep up with regulatory issues and industry issues and make connections, which you can pick up over on LinkedIn after making the initial connection on Twitter.
  • In-house social media – This is where engagement and motivation lead to retention and reproduction, not to mention mentoring.

While you might use Facebook to interact with customers, LinkedIn, Twitter and your own in-house social media can take your learning to new heights.

Evaluating eLearning Performance to Improve Results

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The most telling stage in your corporate eLearning strategy occurs after-the-fact. Evaluation provides you with the data you need to tweak your program into meeting your goals and receiving the highest ROI on your efforts. You’ll want to evaluate the program from two angles to discover how well the learners absorbed the material, and how well it applies in the workplace. When the answer to both is “good,” the training program is a success, and all that’s left to do is tweak the outcomes to “excellent.” We’ll look at three major opportunities to explore the effectiveness of the strategy.

Learner Evaluations Give Insight into Performance

Yes, it matters what the learners think because if the learner isn’t engaged, learning cannot take place. Use evaluations and surveys conducted at the end of the training to assess level of interest, engagement, interactivity and understanding of the material. If job one is to engage the learner, you can incorporate changes into the learning on-the-fly and/or at the next scheduled update based on the feedback you receive from learners.

Testing Tells the Story of Comprehension

Quizzes and tests built into the eLearning program allow you to assess not only the student’s progress but also the overall effectiveness of the program. You can tell by the individual question/answer sets what material needs a little tweaking or a major overhaul. Further, by testing at frequent intervals throughout the program, you can add branches to the program to accommodate areas that might need more explanation to a subset of the learners.

Practical Application in the Workplace

This is the crucial factor that determines the success of your training program. It doesn’t matter how the students like the program or how well the program “teaches the test” if learners cannot apply what they’ve learned in the workplace setting. If increased efficiency on the job is the goal, the metrics will reveal the information you need. If the training addresses safety or other government regulations, you’ll know by a decrease in internally reported infractions (not to mention fewer government fines) that the training hit the mark.

 

Once you complete the evaluations, you can adjust tactics to increase engagement, create remedial training and add components to the training to address workplace issues rather than “book” issues. One of the next steps might be to take your learning social. That one step could help you avoid an eLearning overhaul, engage learners and provide mentors to those who need additional help.

Culture Club: 5 Ways a Chief Culture Officer Contributes to eLearning

By | eLearning Solutions | 4 Comments

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Think about the last movie you saw: Chances are, it began with four or five new movie trailers, designed to hype whatever Tom Cruise action flick you absolutely cannot miss. And there’s a science behind previews: They create a first impression that stays with the viewer until the movie is released by showcasing the very best parts of the film.

Now, contrast that idea with eLearning. When engagement is low, the chief culture officer (CCO) can act as a trailer, helping to hype new programs and shine the very best light on learning and development within an organization. Like a movie trailer, the CCO has the power to whet appetites and set the tone for training initiatives.

Learning and development has experienced a distinct shift in past years: The importance for continual learning is finally being realized, so if your organization already has a CCO, you’re ahead of the game. The inclusion of a CCO on your payroll proves that your organization understands and values office culture as a tool for productivity and employee success. By teaming up with a CCO, the L&D department can get employees excited about what comes next in out-of-the-box ways.

1. eLearning Production.

It’s a CCO’s job to check the pulse of an organization and act accordingly, with a unique perspective on what employees want. Turn to the CCO when producing new content: He can improve engagement by working to produce new training videos or video updates instead of newsletters, which better capture the attention of employees.

2. Setting the Tone.

If you’re asking how to get employees interested in learning on an intrinsic level, turn to the CCO for help. The CCO is responsible for setting the tone in a workplace, so she has the ability to create a culture where employees see learning as a perpetual and impactful way to improve their careers, rather than a forced requirement.

3. Creating an Emotional Connection.

Let’s face it: Not all training material will have employees handing over an Oscar, but a CCO can help suggest ways to create an emotional connection between target learners and the material. A CCO might be the team member that understands employees the best, so he can help create more meaningful modules.

4. Improving Communication.

Learners typically benefit from visual communication; a skill found in most CCO’s wheelhouses. A CCO can help locate ideal media to improve everything from daily memos to microlearning.

5. Showcasing Achievements.

An employee goes above and beyond by finishing a non-essential course online; another gets a high score on a post-course quiz; how do you reward these learners? A CCO can take over the recognition portion of eLearning, especially since an atmosphere of recognition and achievement is part of an organization’s fundamental culture. Leave it to the CCO to motivate learners through regular recognition and kudos.

By getting the CCO involved in your eLearning efforts on a cellular level, you combine workplace culture with learning and development: A lesson in on-screen chemistry if we’ve ever seen one. In fact, adding a CCO to your eLearning cast might be the secret to blockbuster-level success – no hype needed.

CLO Master Class: eLearning for Compliance Training

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If corporate training were an office party, compliance training would be the guy that everyone avoids. You know him: The one always wearing beige and talking about himself in a monotone voice? But while nothing can really help that guy at the office Christmas party, eLearning can help dress up compliance training so it’s not just a one-note way to teach new employees. By condensing the common sense stuff and focusing more on the gray areas in compliance, you make sure that training is really worth employees’ time.

eLearning to the Rescue

Why is it that employees seem to dread compliance training? Well, the first issue is that it’s mandatory. When something is mandatory for all employees of an organization, employees then see the training as something the offers little personal benefit. In short, it’s a write-off.

Through eLearning, however, CLOs can more effectively reward employees for their participation (think badges, recognition and certification), while efficiently tracking completion and participation through a learning management system. The result? The most streamlined, efficient compliance training process possible in which employees actually engage.

Making Training Work

Sitting through slide after slide of compliance training facts? It’s no wonder that employees almost immediately disengage themselves emotionally. Not only is traditional compliance training completely boring, but a lot of the material is common knowledge to those who have worked in the field. To get employees to engage, you’ll need to extract the important stuff from the training, and then dress it up so it matches the tone and brand of your organization. Therefore, it’s vital you remember two tips:

1. Don’t insult anyone’s intelligence. You’re not working with kindergartners: Professionals know the difference between right and wrong. While you may be required to cover certain topics, don’t waste time expounding on obvious stuff. Treat your employees as adults and respect their years of expertise and professionalism. Sure, cover those necessary topics, but move on quickly.

2. Focus your time on the gray area. This is where compliance training goes from a snooze session to a need-to-know course: The gray area. Every organization is going to have policies and situations where employees won’t instinctively guess the right course of action. The right compliance training focuses on those situations so employees aren’t left floundering between black and white topics and wondering what to do. As a CLO, your job is to utilize compliance training to effectively mitigate any gray areas that might have employees scratching their head.

Hey, compliance training doesn’t have to be the boring guy standing alone by the punch bowl. Digitizing the process through eLearning means reducing the resources invested in the same old material, while spending additional time and effort on areas of compliance that employees may question. Sure, it’s still compliance training, but it’s compliance training that employees want and need. Suddenly, the mandatory standard becomes something more than just another soon-forgotten conversation.

Could Simulations Help You Capture the Holy Grail of eLearning?

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The perfect combination of learning, application and performance: It’s what every eLearning professional wants learners to get out of a program. It’s the Holy Grail of eLearning, proving that the delivery and material get results.

Of course, if you really want to capture the Holy Grail, you’re going to need a lot more than a few PowerPoint presentations. Instead, utilizing simulation-based eLearning could help get you there. As learners participate in and test out their newfound knowledge and skills, they’re more likely to engage with the material and apply what they’ve learned in real world situations. The improvement is then properly attributed to the training, and that Holy rests safely in your hands – until your next eLearning task, anyway.

When Simulations Work

While simulations have proven to be highly effective in training and learning settings, they’re not ideal for every situation. Instead, reserve simulation environments, exercises and games for when the training is hands-on and skill-based. When a learner is tasked with following a new technique or changing the way things used to be done, simulations make sense: They give learners a chance to practice in a controlled environment before entering a real world setting.

Simulations don’t really make sense when eLearning is knowledge based only. Take compliance training, for example: Learners don’t need to “act out” or test out compliance before going to work. Instead, compliance training is one of those knowledge-based or “need to know” tenants of onboarding, so information-based delivery methods are usually more appropriate.

Still, there are a number of areas where simulations are highly effective and instrumental in achieving the highest degree of eLearning success:

  • Sales training
  • Safety procedure training
  • Military applications
  • High-risk environments (learners can test out new techniques before applying them on the job in a high-risk situation).
  • Any time a change in behavior is required for the learner to be successful.

 

Making the Switch to Simulation Training

Feel like simulation training is your best bet? Start by identifying which of your eLearning programs would benefit from the addition of a simulation or role-playing situation. Again, focus on learning objectives that are performance-based, like sales or customer service. Any time a learner would benefit from hands-on experience, simulation works.

Sure, simulation can be high tech: Obviously the program used to teach a bomb squad how to dismantle a threat is going to vastly different from a simulation for face-to-face sales. Starting with role-playing among participants, something as simple as designing a simulated customer or service experience allows you to implement simulations in your eLearning program almost immediately.

Eventually, role playing, games and even computerized simulation training can give you method to accurately gauge the proficiency of each learner. In the end, capturing that Holy Grail of education, application and performance may be less about luck and more about practice making perfect.

May the FORCE be With You: Evaluating (and Achieving) eLearning Goals

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The process for eLearning and development can sometimes have more red tape than a crime scene: With so many fingerprints on the process, it can be difficult to actually evaluate whether or not eLearning efforts are effective. And, without proper evaluation, it’s almost impossible to improve.

By creating a streamlined, cyclical process for evaluation, analysis and improvement become organic parts of eLearning development. As you speak with those in the know and deploy programs, you can cycle back to evaluation in one fluid motion. When in doubt, remember the acronym FORCE for the simplest evaluation process.

F: The first step in evaluating your eLearning efforts is to FIND THE GAPS. After all, you wouldn’t be noticing the need for action if it weren’t for areas that were being missed. Whether it’s slothful sales or boring compliance training, you should be able to identify areas in which your organization needs to improve its L&D approach.

O: Once you’ve identified the areas on which you need to focus, it’s time to OVERSEE ANALYSIS. This step can seem deceivingly difficult, since typical analytics require sorting through data and numbers. Instead, revert back to the common denominator by speaking to those “in the trenches:” The actual employees and supervisors undergoing and utilizing current learning programs. You’ll get a more personal take on how programs are working (and failing), while getting the information you need to improve and focus your efforts.

R: After speaking with those in the know, it’s your job to REVIEW THE OPTIONS. If the sales manager has complained that his team doesn’t always have the most current information, you can brainstorm ways to fill that gap: Mobile updates sent in the field might be an option. As you go through the current needs, you fit the puzzle pieces together: Which initiatives would work better with eLearning programs? Do some require face-to-face training? How can you better analyze proficiency in the future? When you’re finished your review, you should have a comprehensive game plan in place to help you accomplish your goals.

C: Have all your ducks in a row? CARRY OUT your plans by implementing your newest efforts. Remember that carrying out your vision doesn’t require a dictatorship-like grasp on your L&D initiatives but working with those who will implement and undergo the learning programs themselves. When you demonstrate and explain the benefits, you can increase manager buy-in to improve your chances for success overall.

E: Once your L&D program has been implemented, you’ll need to EVALUATE AND RESTART the FORCE process. As you repeat the steps of finding gaps, overseeing analysis, reviewing options and carrying out your plans again, you’ll be able to continuously improve initiatives until they’re near-perfect and always conforming to the latest trends and needs within your organization.

The FORCE process proves that eLearning evaluation is not a one-time event. Instead, it’s a continuing process by which L&D pros can always ensure needs are being fulfilled on an ongoing and individual basis. Applying FORCE might be the catalyst you need for perpetual, steady motion forward.

Did Microsoft Buy Minecraft for eLearning?

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It’s officially a done deal: Microsoft has acquired Swedish company Mojang, developers of the wildly popular sleeper hit, Minecraft for $2.5 billion dollars. And while it’s unlikely that the acquisition will change Minecraft gameplay, there’s a strong case to be made for Minecraft application in an eLearning setting. In fact, Microsoft might be making a play for gamification as an education tool, both inside and outside the classroom. By getting their hands on Minecraft, Microsoft uncovers some of the ways the game can be used for eLearning.

Minecraft in eLearning

Minecraft as a learning tool isn’t anything new: Many educators have adopted the game as curriculum in their classrooms. And why not? The game, which pushes players to complete tasks and build worlds based on 3D cubes teaches everything from problem-solving to spatial reasoning. The game’s interface and social capabilities mean players can work together while utilizing critical thinking skills. And, since young students are already playing the game, there’s virtually zero resistance to the material. But consider Minecraft from an L&D perspective: Sure, it’s popular in schools, but can Microsoft configure a way to use Minecraft for more than just K-12 applications? With the right development and application, Minecraft might make the leap from classroom to board room.

Development and Implementation

Before Minecraft can be used as a comprehensive tool, however, Microsoft needs to create some type of working learning management system for the game to be considered a viable training and education resource. When used in conjunction with an LMS, facilitators are able to see which users are playing, the skills being built and areas which need improvement. Without this significant piece of the L&D puzzle, Minecraft remains just another time-waster. With the addition of an LMS, the desktop, console and even smartphone version of the game becomes a tool in the hands of educators and L&D pros. Here’s the thing: Microsoft is already a big player in the education system—perhaps the largest player of all. After all, most kids learn digital technology on a Microsoft machine. By acquiring Minecraft (and learning how to use it for eLearning design and development within applications) Microsoft increases their grasp on the education system.

Microsoft’s Wide Open eLearning Future

It makes sense from a business standpoint to further solidify the educational grasp by marketing Minecraft as an eLearning game that can teach kids and adults alike about teamwork, problem solving and critical thinking skills at school and in the office. As of today, the acquisition is new and the ramifications can only be predicted. But you can be sure that Microsoft will max out the possibilities as they forge ahead with Minecraft now safely ensconced in their wheelhouse. It’s a major coup for an educational giant looking to expand reach for a new generation of learners – no matter what their ages.