Head in the Cloud: Why Content Authoring Tools are Going Mobile

By | eLearning Solutions | One Comment

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 11.43.35 AM

Rewind just a few years, and the authoring landscape was less than ideal. Sure, there were tools available, but they were desktop-based. Authoring, collaboration and changes all had to be made while tethered to a specific computer, which could result in lost work, duplication and frankly, a cumbersome experience.

As eLearning becomes increasingly mobile and accessible, thankfully authoring has followed suit. Cloud-based applications make authoring and update a sleeker process. Hey, if your music, document and videos are all going to the cloud, why not your authoring tools, too? Find out why L&D pros and instructional designers are making the switch – and where cloud-based authoring is going to go next.

Mobile Access

If a learner can access a module from her tablet, shouldn’t the author be able to do the same? Cloud-based authoring means being able to write and tweak content anytime, anywhere, using laptops, tablets and other mobile devices. The sheer accessibility creates a new dimension for authoring – what if, while speaking with a subject matter expert, you could pull up a module and make real-time changes during the collaboration?

Mobile access also creates the opportunity for in-the-moment updates. New and updated information can be quickly plugged into the proper channels and then pushed out to waiting learners, ensuring the latest and most correct version of product information, inventory and learning applications

Fewer Mistakes

Desktop-based authoring tools might be handy to have, but they can also create a minefield for instructional designers. Even the most reliable computer is subject to shut-down, lost information and information duplication, especially when several designers are working on the same project concurrently. When replaced with cloud-based authoring, content is automatically backed up and the latest version of a project stored for authorized access.

Cloud-based authoring also reduces the need for specialty software installation and configuration, so you can tell your IT guy to take a break. More user-friendly and less prone to those keyboard-smashing “oops” moments, cloud-based authoring creates a more consistent experience across a variety of platforms.

Trending Now

Cloud-based authoring developers have only begun to scratch the surface to uncover the full potential of accessible tools for up-to-the-minute changes. Imagine a designer stuck on an airplane, able to use a native app for authoring to actually build an entire module from scratch. What if an employee without a consistent Internet connection could make changes, connect and then upload new information for collaboration?

The applications for cloud-based authoring are monumental for the world of L&D. Better, more current information and the ability to work in real-time with colleagues essentially does away with the main complaints of desktop-based authoring and publishing. Not only is cloud-based authoring the “next big thing” for content creation in mobile learning trends, but it’s simply what makes the most sense.

Game On: Why Gamification Works

By | eLearning Solutions | 4 Comments

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 11.36.42 AM

“My employees play enough games without me giving them the green light to spend time playing more games on my dime when they should be doing productive work. Why would I encourage this gamification fad?” Is this what you think? Well, who could blame you! The term gamification does imply game playing, and goodness knows enough of that goes on in the workplace, but gamification isn’t going to turn your place of business into Animal House! Just as brain games contribute to brain fitness, gamification, technobabble for game-like elements in eLearning, contributes to mastery of a topic introduced in the learning module.

Gamification is not really games; it’s the use of game-like elements to facilitate learning. You can’t simply push knowledge to your learners solely through games without incorporating the other essential elements of eLearning. Let’s look at the why and the how of incorporating gamification.

Engage Learners

It’s getting more difficult by the day to engage an audience. How long can you engage learners using old-fashioned techniques? PowerPoint is so 1990s and early 2000s, but we can take it from the classroom and use it as a foundational stepping stone to computer based learning. The key to engagement is variety and interaction. Gamification is a small slice of the eLearning pie along with storytelling, scenarios, audio, video, graphics, social learning—and that old-fashioned, just-won’t-die element—TEXT.

Provide Immediate Feedback

Gamification provides the format for simulation and for testing. You wouldn’t want a Navy pilot learning how to land on a fully loaded aircraft carrier when he or she could learn by simulation. Think of the savings in cost and in lives by incorporating gamification into the curriculum.

More likely, you’ll use gamification to test your learners’ knowledge on the subject matter presented in the training. It can be used to direct the learner with a high score to a more advanced module and a learner with a less satisfactory score to a review module.

Reward Learners for Successful Completion

Nothing pleases more than the reward of immediate gratification. With gamification, there’s no waiting on test scores. If you participate in the Open Badges program, your learners can collect badges the same way they used to collect them when they participated in scout programs. And, what’s the one thing that employees crave even more than money? Recognition. Badges serve as recognition and respect for a lesson well learned on the way to a job well done.

Human Resource Development Through eLearning

By | eLearning Solutions | 4 Comments

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 9.12.23 AM

Today’s human resource department barely resembles the HR department of the 20th century. The old functions of hiring, firing and tracking infractions such as tardiness along the route from hiring to firing have given way to a broader function. Recruiting and training are still the main function of HR, but the expanded function helps to drive more training than in the past. Each of the following HR functions offers an opportunity for scalable eLearning or blended approaches to training.

Recruiting and Training

When large numbers of employees are hired at once, companies often take a blended approach with some classroom or auditorium orientation to welcome employees to the family followed by eLearning tailored to the individual employee’s job responsibilities. However, when the company hires only a few employees at a time, it makes sense to deliver the orientation via eLearning followed by a personal welcome.

Improving Employee Performance

With employees scattered across the globe, many employees interact solely through email. In a recent CNBC article “Why Johnny can’t write, and why employers are mad,” the article reports that writing skills have diminished thanks to texting, and employers such at T. Rowe Price offer remedial training to bring otherwise qualified employees up to speed.

BYOD and mLearning for polishing soft skills such as employee dispute resolution, motivation, etc., can use vignettes and gamification to drive home the finer points. Mentoring through social media can augment the formal eLearning and involve employees across a wide spectrum of departments.

Encouraging Career Development

While job changes often benefit the individual, the cost of churning employees is steep, and business looks for ways to retain exceptional employees while shedding those easily replaced at a lesser cost. Rather than constantly recruiting and training, HR can encourage the best employees to find a career path within the company, and that always involves training.

State, Local and Federally Mandated Training

Safety training, regulatory training, sensitivity training—it never stops. “Whatever happened to common sense and common courtesy,” you might wonder. You can keep wondering, but somewhere behind the curtain, an army of bureaucrats is paid to think up a steady flow of mandated trainings. Rather than waste time on an equally endless flow of complaints, laughter and other distractions in a classroom setting, custom eLearning cuts to the chase, delivers the training efficiently, and can be updated whenever new winds blow through from the regulatory agencies.

3 Ways to Change Attitudes Toward Learning and Development

By | eLearning Solutions | 4 Comments


Let’s face it: Years of poor training initiatives have left both employees and managers disillusioned by the process of learning and development. In fact, some may consider training a necessary evil, rather than a professional tool. Those negative opinions can sour an entire training program, resulting in disengaged learners and lackluster results. For better output, L&D pros must first get to the root of negative attitudes and restructure programs so participants actually want to, you know, participate.

Necessary Evils

The blame for negative attitudes toward training could be placed squarely on the shoulders of L&D professionals of the past. Training is often seen as a necessary evil because they’re the ones who have made it that way, creating mandatory programs that are required for employees to advance within the company. When training is tied to actions like employee evaluations or bonuses, the learners are only motivated by the reward and not the subject matter. Instead, they take a “Let’s get this over with” approach to any program, knowing that they can’t progress without getting it checked off of their to-do lists.

Changing attitudes is a matter of altering the way employees and management view training. Rather than something to get out of the way, they must view learning and development as a task where they benefit directly.

Changing Attitude

By focusing on workplace culture and the chains of command, it’s possible to make training more effective through better attitudes and in turn, increased engagement. Here’s how:

1. Integrate into Workplace Culture

Rather than spotlighting training as a one-time event, L&D pros should make learning a regular process within the company. It’s a cultural thing: When a new employee starts with an organization that values regular learning achievements, he mimics that attitude. Instead of being a necessary evil, learning becomes a part of professional development instead of just another job task.

2. Highlight Employee Benefit

Some (read: many) employees have a “What’s in it for me?” mentality. When training is perceived to be for organizational benefit only, engagement levels drop. Instead, it’s vital to point out the benefits to the individual actually taking the training. Badges, certificates and recognition can help integrate training into learners’ work-life balance, helping them to achieve goals and improve employability.

3.  Align Strategic Objectives

The L&D department shouldn’t be limited to compliance training and licensing tasks only. Instead, a more holistic view of talent management empowers L&D to align programs and training to organizational strategy. When L&D is better tied to what’s happening on a departmental level, it’s easier to cut the fat and give learners the training and development they really need. Training becomes more effective and learners perceive it as more valuable.

While changing organization-wide attitudes toward training definitely won’t happen overnight, taking steps now to improve the efficiency of talent management and training makes for a good start. Integrating learning into the workplace culture makes training less of a necessary evil and more of a professional tool for growth and development.

The New Metrics: Untapped Ways for Predicting Training ROI

By | eLearning Solutions | 2 Comments

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 8.37.32 AM

When it comes to training ROI, we all know the usual suspects, like post-program progress reports. But when you only use one type of reporting, you might be missing the fuller picture both before and after program delivery. Newer metrics and modern ways to assess the financial and strategic impact of a new training method means you know more about the outcome before it’s even put into practice – giving you the upper hand in creating successful, impactful training programs.

Big Data Application

This year’s “big thing” in training and development, big data allows you to compile what you know about your learners to create the best learner profile possible. Armed with information about when learners are most likely to log on, how they’re interacting with the module and the percentage of overall completion helps you tweak current training efforts, while planning more effective programs for the future.

If your big data numbers show that learners are completing the module, yet failing the post-program quiz, there’s clearly a disconnect between the learners and the material. Big data isn’t a perfect method of determining training ROI, however: Some of the data collected – time of day and number of launches, for example – that doesn’t really apply. To properly predict impact, it’s a matter of weeding out the need-to-know metrics from the stuff that doesn’t really matter.

Manager Input

If you’re not working with learners on a departmental level, you could be missing out on some of the timeliest and most valuable information, gathered straight from the source. Sure, an exit survey can give you a general idea of how you’re doing, but if you want to predict ROI before a program even launches, taking the time to speak with department managers can give you a better picture.

Sending out pre-delivery surveys or talking with managers about their particular department learning gaps give you the insight necessary to dial into specific needs that can easily be fulfilled with the right training. The big data from your last training program can become assessment tools sent out to managers before launching a new one, giving you better grounds for predicting success.

Remember that managers are the ones in the field and on the ground: They’re uniquely qualified to give their predictions based on specific learners and learning gaps. Furthermore, they’re better able to isolate the overall impact of a training program, such as compiling data for sales improvement after a particularly aggressive sales training strategy.

More than just a weak survey or running a few numbers, the new metrics for predicting ROI are much more personal. Taking into account the learner as an individual and calling upon seasoned managers to help creates a more accurate assessment of just how your training efforts will fare in the future.

Articulate Storyline 2: Quick Tips for Instructional Design

By | eLearning Solutions | One Comment

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 5.54.35 PM

Are you an instructional designer who’s stuck on the rapid development eLearning hamster wheel? Are you dancing as fast as you can, hatching custom eLearning modules at the speed of greased lightning? If so, you’ve probably upgraded to Articulate Storyline 2. The first thing you noticed is that it looks even more like PowerPower than the previous generation, and the interface is more in line with Office 2013.

We’ll look at five new features meant to simplify your life, but you’ll want to explore more on your own.

Quick Tip 1: Panic No More

In the past, when the program crashed or (worse) you accidentally closed it without saving, you remember that sinking feeling that raced through your body. You knew you had lost work—how much was the only thing in question. There’s nothing to learn. When, not if you come face-to-face with your next BSOD, Articulate Storyline 2 will automatically back up your work.

Quick Tip 2: Multilingual Interface

Now you can change the interface to work in English, Chinese, French, German or Spanish. How very worldly. Once you’ve memorized the interface, you can drive your co-workers crazy.

Quick Tip 3: Dockable Panels

Remember the dockable panels in Dreamweaver? Well, they’re baaaack. Grab the panels and move them where you want them—Storyline 2 your way. Where have we heard that before?

Quick Tip 4: Flat Earth Society

Flat is back, and it’s a feature, not a bug. On the heels of the flattened Windows and iOS interfaces, eLearning is following suit. Add some quick cool to your next eLearning module with a free flat design template. You’ll find more free templates in the Articulate Storyline 2 community.

Quick Tip 5: Is It Live, or Is It Memorex?

When you record a screen action, Storyline 2 creates three separate action modes: View, Try and Test. When you finish recording, you select “Video on a single slide” or “Step-by-step slides.” If you select the latter, you can insert any of the three recorded modes. But what if you change your mind? You’ll need to re-record, right? Wrong. Behind the scenes, the program has saved the other two modes and you can change to one of the other modes.

You’ll find much more in Articulate Storyline 2 to explore on your own from the enhanced slider interactions and motion path animations to time and sanity savers like the new Animation Painter tool.

Red, White and Blah: 5 Ways to Improve Government-Based eLearning

By | eLearning Solutions | One Comment

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 5.44.51 PM

Depending on your political leanings, you could say that there are many things the government does well on an administrative basis. Unfortunately, eLearning isn’t really one of them. While branches from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Veterans Affairs have utilized eLearning programs in the past, they’ve been lackluster efforts. Text-heavy modules and quiz-based interaction have created a “Let’s get this over with” mentality for learners subjected to the DIY-style of government eLearning.

Therefore, we decided it was our civic duty to discover why government eLearning is so flat and offer ways improve programs: In graphics we trust.

1. Outsource the Job

The elephant (or donkey) in the room here is the fact that most – if not all – government eLearning programs are built and delivered in-house. Tight budgets often mean sloppy DIY jobs: Government workers themselves are the ones putting together training and development for their peers, regardless of past instructional design experience. Simply having the modules developed by a qualified designer can make all the difference in boosting interaction, improving retention and driving better response through a better-designed module.

2. Rewrite the Script

Government eLearning is traditionally extremely text-heavy, which means learners lose focus from the start. Getting rid of outdated verbal and text scripts in favor for something fresh, new and to-the-point can cut much of the fat out of the module. Learners absorb short bursts of training better and the actual training is much shorter, without any loss of information along the way.

3. Create a Message

Government eLearning is notorious for creating an apathetic learner – one who asks “So what?” and heads back to his desk once the training is finished. That’s why it’s vital to create a specific message for each module, reminding learners of the concept and reminding them exactly why the information is important. By dialing in on a specific message and clearly labeling the benefits of the training program, learners are more apt to seek those benefits for themselves by actually paying attention to the subject matter.

4. Upgrade Multimedia

Clipart no more: Experienced CLOs, L&D pros and instructional designers know the power of multimedia as a learning tool. From videos to podcasts, graphics to simulations, multimedia boosts learner engagement. Unfortunately, government programs often operate with the bare-bones multimedia tools expertise available to someone more comfortable in Word than designing an eLearning module. Ditching the basic graphics and adding other engaging multimedia makes for a more effective eLearning experience.

5. Challenge Learner Thinking

What good is eLearning if it doesn’t affect change in thought and behavior? It’s essentially wasted budget money. We understand that not all government-based eLearning can have bells and whistles, but it can offer time for each learner to reflect. Discussion questions and the opportunity to prove what they’ve learned give learners time to reflect on what they’ve absorbed, increasing program ROI through affecting real change.

Even the biggest organizations can fall short when it comes to training delivery without the right tools and expertise. While we might not have much power to affect how the U.S. government designs, implements and delivers eLearning, the real American dream is learning from the past to drive innovation for the future – whether you work for the government or not.