mLearning Propels Generation X to the Top of Their Careers

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generation x

The Matures have retired; the Baby Boomers are easing their way into semi-permanent, semi-retirement; and the Millennials are texting their way through the company door. Now it’s up to Generation X to inherit the helms of business and industry. Gen Xers born between 1965 and 1980 have grown up and matured alongside technology. Many continue to be early adopters, easily upgrading their devices along with their technical acumen. Leading-edge businesses are already leveraging Gen Xers’ use of mobile devices and preparing them to take over the reins through career development programs that include mLearning.

Paging Gen X to the C-Suite

It’s a leap from the front door to the C-Suite, but continuing education plays a key role in preparing Gen X for senior management jobs. Experience and innate interpersonal skills help to propel careers, but without consistent and concerted learning, the employee will never make it to the top. We’ll look at two ways employers can ease the transition to the upper echelons through mLearning.

Method No. 1: On-Demand, Real-Time Access to Unlimited Knowledge

Smart businesses anticipate needs—their needs as well as their customers’ needs. These companies plan for contingencies rather than relying on crisis management. They groom junior employees to step into senior positions using mLearning in a dual role for career development—formal and informal learning that can take place anywhere, anytime.

Employees can seamlessly grow their technical skills by accessing a library of technical information when and where they need it—continuing on-the-job training. By compiling a library of on-demand leadership mLearning programs, self-starters will take the initiative to create their own career paths. In addition, management can encourage employees to explore options at Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) such as Coursera. When free time intersects with mLearning, businesses can create deliberate succession to the top.

Method No. 2: Leapfrogging the Competition through Social Learning

The Mad Men series introduced many of us to the world of the “good old boy network.” Some of us remember first-hand the attempt to figure out the difference between flirting and networking at Jerry Rubin’s Studio 54 network get-togethers in the ’70s. Today, companies can implement a robust social learning program where it doesn’t take long for natural leaders to emerge. Mentor/mentee partnerships can develop naturally, and those who exhibit self-motivation will set up their own Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) to direct their own career advancement. And that’s one clue that you have a budding leader to watch.

5 Emerging EdTech Trends to Watch in 2015

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While the rest of the world is making plans to eat better, exercise more, and spend less, the eLearning industry is making some resolutions of its own in 2015. After a banner year in 2014 (thanks to the $91 billion in global spending) the edTech market is expect to grow at a rate of 20 percent per year through 2017, according to IBIS Capital.

With edTech at the helm of eLearning innovation, perhaps it’s not what’s being developed, but how it’s being used. The trends in 2014 told us that edTech was emerging as a key player among other applications, delivery systems, and strategies. In 2015, we’ll see that edTech reigns supreme for creating and delivering engaging, personalized content on the fly.

Our resolution for 2015: Make the most of these edTech trends.

  1. eCredentials for eLearning

If a learner takes a course without anyone around, does he still get credit for it? It’s old “tree falling in the woods” adage and it’s a major concern for both learners and facilitators alike. Upon completing a course, a learner should get credit for the time and effort expended; it’s a form of experience-based currency.

That’s why we love the ideas of nano-degrees: Recognition for the various training and development received as part of a comprehensive L&D strategy. Nano-degrees are already being adopted by organizations like AT&T, Google, and Autodesk as a way to help entry-level employees find a long-term place within the company. Want to move up? Take courses, learn more, and gather nano-degrees to prove tech skills, take on new projects, and gain credentials.

  1. BYOD Wearable Tech

We know that wearable tech isn’t exactly breaking news for 2015, especially since 2014 meant smartwatches, fitness trackers, and Google Glass. But last year’s fascination with wearable tech will create a need for better-designed eLearning programs that take wearable tech into consideration. It’s still a “bring your own device” scenario: Organizations aren’t handing out wearable tech to employees for training purposes. But more and more employees are adopting the technology on their own time, which means harnessing its power for eLearning and training purposes should be a priority going forward.

  1. Big Data Improvement

Organizations are still configuring the best way to use massive blocks of data mined from sources like surveys, module usage statistics, and completion rates, but 2015 should paint a clearer picture. By properly evaluating gathered data, it’s possible to build a module that is highly personalized to each user’s learning style, as well as knowledge base, feedback, and real-time use statistics. To create a program that responds to each learner as an individual means increased engagement and information retention: The holy grails of eLearning.

  1. Contextual mLearning

Hey, mLearning is great for quick, on-the-go information. But mLearning makes the leap to the next level when it’s combined with contextual-based learning. Consider it the Foursquare of eLearning: A mobile phone that uses GPS and even QR codes to help a learner get definitive information when and where she needs it most. Expect organizations to make mLearning location-, interest-, and specialty-related going forward.

  1. Platform Agnosticism

Despite what any smartphone commercial would tell you, there’s not much disagreement on platforms in the eLearning world. Instead of creating an application with just one platform in mind, developers will spend more time developing eLearning applications and games that offer a full-featured experience across all platforms. After all, what’s the point of a beautifully-developed training app if it only works for iOS? Expect platform to play second fiddle to user experience.

Out with the old; in with the new, innovating, and exciting: That’s your eLearning resolution. After all, watching edTech evolve and adapt to learning applications is a lot more fun than resolving to swap donuts for carrot sticks.

Say “Bonjour” to the Gamification of Language Learning

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There’s a reason that 80 percent of the human population sticks to just one language: The time it takes to learn a new language is long, the process is hard, and the maintenance can be tricky. In the past, brushing up on your French meant anything from listening to long audio lessons or taking a course at your local community college – either way, it was a major commitment.

But today’s language learning might have more in common with Xbox than it does a traditional blackboard, thanks to the complete gamification of education. When language lessons team up with gaming, goals, and gadgets, the result is something truly magnifique.

From Rosetta Stone to Duolingo

Blame it on the Stone: Back in the days when AOL ruled the Internet and dial-up was the name of the game, Rosetta Stone software offered a revolutionary way to learn a new language. Instead of the more common method of repetition, the idea behind the wildly-popular language software was to use instant feedback, voice recognition, and yes, even games as a way to build language intuition.

Fast-forward about 20 years and now, language games are everywhere: From free online programs to mobile apps, the idea that learning a language can be organic and fun means more and more people can identify themselves as bilingual.

Why It Works

Here’s the thing: Previous incarnations of language learning meant you mastered a few phrases. What’s more, the monotony of repeating “elle” and “il” meant that language courses began with gusto and then fizzled with the realization that being monolingual wasn’t so bad after all.

Gamification learning essentially turns the idea of repetition on its head by teaching users to challenge themselves past just a few phrases. By hijacking your phone’s microphone, for example, you can get instant feedback on pronunciation and conversation. When you nail a chapter test, you score badges and unlock achievements that engage you to keep playing. And of course, the sheer convenience of logging in and playing a five-minute game session means you’re more likely to stick with it.

Getting Personal

Perhaps the best argument for game-based language learning is the idea that interactive eLearning should be highly personal. By offering each learner a completely individual experience, language learning games actually track performance and offer lessons based on mastery. If a learner were to take a face-to-face course, he’s automatically subject to the speed and understanding of the general population. Stuck on a topic? Unfortunately, it’s time to move on.

Game-based learning effectively respects the learner as a complete individual. If there are topics of weakness, a chapter or level can be played and replayed to mastery. Personalization can go even further by allowing the learner to set a level of understanding and pace: Know a little French already? Go straight to conversation. Starting from scratch? Here are some basics.

Game-based language learning is especially exciting because it makes learning a new language hyper-accessible. Anyone with a computer, tablet, or smartphone has access to award-winning eLearning methods, engaging graphics, and games that teach and entertain simultaneously.



The More the Merrier: How Asia Mobile Crowdsources eLearning Development  

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What do you get when you combine a tech-hungry market with some of the brightest developers in the world?

It’s called SEAMAC: The Asia Pacific Mobile App Challenge. Over the course of the next few months, app developers will compete to create creative solutions using smartphones as the platform. From eLearning to health, social engagement to shopping, the next big thing could be a contest away. Winners receive SGD $25,000, plus a trip to Barcelona to showcase their app at the GSMA Conference there.

It’s no secret that the tech market in Asia is one of the most robust and innovative in the world. And, by meeting growing demand and expectations with a genius way to tap into the brightest stars on the app circuit, Asia Pacific Mobile is essentially crowdsourcing development.

And why not? The Asian market needs near-constant innovation, and not all the best ideas will come from big-name app developers, particularly when it comes to eLearning. It’s those developers and even hobbyists who experience microlearning, mobile learning, and social learning who are on the cusp of something big.

Asian Tech Trends

To better illustrate just how desperate the need for large-scale innovation in Asia actually is, consider these stats and predictions, as compiled by Forrester Research:

  • Tech spending is expected to increase by about 5 percent in 2015.
  • Fifty-seven percent of companies say that an increase in customer expectations is their main reason for increasing their communication tech spending.
  • With the rise of mobile messaging apps, more and more Asian organizations are focusing on mobile methods of engagement.
  • Successful companies will begin to adopt tablet and laptop-based communications, first with employees, and then for customers.

Here’s a problematic stat, however: While 82 percent of Asia-based employees prefer to view training material on their smartphones (microlearning), only 56 percent of Asian Pacific organizations have smartphone-supported eLearning materials.

Why Crowdsourcing Works

Using contests, hackathons, and crowdsourcing app development serves a dual purpose for champions of innovation: Not only does it become a meeting of fresh minds, but it serves as promotion for the various apps and developments. It’s a great way to drum up interest and bring awareness to a real need for new ideas and solutions to a market hungry for new technology.

The model isn’t unique to Asian Pacific markets, however. Here in North America, app development competitions are cropping up, sponsored by cell service providers, post-secondary institutions, and private companies. A high school team, for instance, won a Verizon-sponsored competition with Tactillim, a virtual chemistry lab.

Whether it’s a virtual classroom or corporate training delivered straight a smartphone, inviting innovation is allowing Asia Pacific to lead the pack when it comes to new tech and more importantly, new tech at work.

508 compliant

Is Your eLearning 508-Compliant?

By | eLearning Solutions, Engage and Retain | One Comment

It’s a dilemma many instructional designers face: sacrifice interactivity or 508 compliance. It doesn’t have to be an either/or situation, even if budgets and timelines dictate rapid development. Instructional designers must find a way to substitute eyes and ears for those with vision, hearing and mobility disabilities. You can design and develop one set of courseware for use by those who need accessibility features and those who don’t.

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How edTech is Improving Special Education (and the Surprising Way it Affects Corporate Training)

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Visit any special education classroom in the United States and one thing is abundantly clear: Special education has come a long way in the past decade. You’ll likely see children interacting with technology, using specialized tools for learning, and most importantly, enjoying the experience with teachers and aides.

With the evolution of edTech in training and education applications, children with special needs are some of the most prolific beneficiaries of the latest and greatest gadgets. And while special education is getting a huge helping hand from the tech industry, some of the concepts used to make learning more accessible for individuals with special needs can be applied to make training and development more accessible, too.

Tailoring Tech

The world of adaptive and accessibility tech is probably a lot larger than you think. Entire websites dedicated to tools which allow children with special needs – be they physical or mental – the opportunity to enjoy many of the same experiences of their peers. From tools that allow more comfortable interaction with technology, such as oversized switches and joysticks, to accessories which make devices easier to see and hear, special education classrooms can take advantage of available programs, games, and devices.

Consider a child with autism, for example: With communication delays, he’s not always able to express himself in class. Armed with a communication augmentation devices that offers pictures as well as words loaded onto a tablet, the child can correctly decide context and choose the right words to improve communication. Suddenly, what was once a massive road block in special education becomes nothing but a tiny bump on the way to further development.

Bluetooth-Assisted Learning

While much of the technology available for special education focuses on improving delays and specific mental development issues, Bluetooth-enabled technology is helping to make education easier for children with physical disabilities. Computer accessories which connect wirelessly to devices can make children feel more comfortable using technology, such as an oversized track ball mouse or webcams that track facial and head movements for individuals without the capability for hand movements.

Sites like TechMatrix help match special needs with the right assistive technology to ensure that all children get the chance to learn, play, and grow at school.

Adaptability at Work

Innovation in the special education sphere is downright inspiring: Tech companies seeing a need and coming up with a way to fulfill that need so no child’s disability remains a stumbling block. While learners in a corporate setting may not need the type of assisted tech available to special education, there’s something to be said for inclusivity in eLearning design. In corporate training and education spheres, ensuring that learning is adaptable to each personal learner will net better results every time.

When learners feel like individuals, whether it’s the ability to access a module via mobile phone or using Bluetooth devices to navigate programs, retention improves significantly. Take a page and a hefty dose of inspiration from the children and teachers who know a thing or two about adaptive technology and you might just find what your modules have been missing.

Homeschooling 2.0: 3 Reasons Why eLearning and Home-Based Education Make the Perfect Pair

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Book house and apple

What immediately comes to your mind when you think of the word “homeschooling?”

If you’re imagining fundamentally religious families, frazzled moms, and social ineptitude, your attitudes toward home-based education are woefully outdated. Sure, homeschooling once had a less-than-positive reputation, but it’s 2015: Technology has completely revolutionized the idea of homeschooling. Less home-spun history and more hardcore tech might explain why three percent of all American kids were homeschooled in the 2012 to 2013 school year.

Homeschooling has come a long way, thanks in large part to eLearning applications which make the idea more structured, more collaborative and ultimately, more respected. Check out three ways that eLearning is making all the difference in homeschooling for 2015.

  1. Collaboration Opportunities

One of the major concerns for past incarnations of homeschooling was the pure isolation of home-based learning. It seemed like a bit of a catch-22: In a survey by the National Center for Education Statistics, 91 percent of homeschooler parents decided against traditional education because of a negative social environment, but homeschooling removed the social aspect completely, reducing ability to connect and collaborate with peers.

Now, thanks to applications like Google Docs, students can easily connect and collaborate with learners like themselves. Whether it’s a group project, a Facebook page for “history class,” or even video-based learning on YouTube, homeschooled students easily add a social aspect to what was once lonely learning.

  1. Interactive Lessons

Mainstream schools are catching up, but one of the main freedoms of homeschool curriculum is that it can be adjusted to any budget. With the right technology, homeschooled children could be ahead of the pack when it comes to hands-on learning. From webcam-based assignments and simulations to playing an interactive iPad learning game, the sheer availability of resources and devices improves both motivation and retention for kids who are engaged.

  1. Individual Experience

It’s almost impossible to mimic the amount of personalization homeschoolers received in a mainstream school setting. After all, homeschoolers have the opportunity to opt out of both standardized testing and curriculum. The Common Core is a major sore spot for many public school parents, who may feel as though standardization reduces their kids to numbers, rather than individuals.

Luckily, the learning resources available to homeschoolers are available to all. While technology can’t bridge every complaint and learning gap for parents and kids, it’s a great start. Parents can use games, apps, devices, and tracking to ensure a personalized learning experience both in and out of the classroom.

Homeschooling may still be plagued with stereotypes, but thanks to eLearning, it’s becoming a real option for parents who want to give their children a personalized, interactive, and safe learning experience. While it’s not right for everyone, the addition of edTech to homeschooling is making even the staunchest of mainstream school supporters sit up and take notice.

Is Hillary Clinton a Subconscious Supporter of eLearning?

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hil pants

With sights set on the White House in 2016, Hillary Clinton’s stance on hot-button issues like health care, immigration, and education are under scrutiny. And, thanks to concern surrounding the newly-adopted Common Core standard, politicians have been forced to take a closer looks at what’s working and what isn’t when it comes to education.

In a speech given at the 2007 meeting for the National Education Association of New Hampshire, Clinton publicly denounced the current No Child Left Behind law. Never mind that she voted for the law in 2001; she’s now concerned that it stifles individuality as teachers struggle to help their students conform to nationwide standards.

“How much creativity are we losing? How much of our children’s passion is being killed?’ It’s Clinton’s battle cry just two years before the election in which, for all intents and purposes, she’s expected as the Democratic nominee for President. But while Clinton rallies against heavily standardized testing and requirements, she inadvertently becomes a champion for one of the simplest and most effective ways of personalizing education: eLearning.

Clinton’s Education Position

If you were to distill Clinton’s overall opinion and position on education reform, it might be hard to find: Clinton has never released an official position on the current Common Core program being adopted by most states. She has, however, spoken out against holding children and teachers to the same standards and utilizing testing as a baseline for proficiency. She has also publicly denounced the high cost of post-secondary education, as well as revealed plans for a $600 million dollar female education initiative to encourage female students to attend post-secondary schools.

A push for more personalized, creative, and inclusive education? Sounds like eLearning to us. After all, not only is eLearning highly accessible and low cost, it can be adjusted for an adaptive learning experienced based on the learner’s level of understanding, areas of weakness, and preferred learning style.

eLearning: A Political Power?

Adding eLearning to the current curriculum might be a way to satisfy both sides of the argument. While Clinton prefers a more personalized approach, others know that testing is necessary in establishing guidelines for higher educational standards across the board. Adding eLearning resources, like in-class eLearning style gamification, kids’ coding software, online homework resources, and casual testing could make all the difference in a personalized and inclusive experience that still operates on a state-wide baseline.

What’s more, eLearning could effectively reduce areas of weakness for kids that are struggling. Software and eLearning programs can correctly identify areas where a child may need extra help, and then display the necessary resources to help that child catch up to his peers. Meanwhile, children who are ahead of the class can add additional resources which to challenge and engage.

Therefore, we contend that although she hasn’t stated it specifically, Mrs. Clinton is a supporter of eLearning in the classroom through her current position on education in America. After all, if anything can bridge the gap between standardized testing and creative individuality (and Democrats and Republicans) it’s edTech.

Bridging the Gap: Face-to-Face Social Learning

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Many employees existed before computers, the Internet and social media. Back then, televisions had knobs instead of remotes, rabbit ears instead of cable cords. People used to wait anxiously for the mail in the hopes of receiving a letter, and people ate meals with one another and got together for Happy Hour instead of texting each other while driving home. Course studies involved face-to-face interactions with an instructor and other students. Imagine that!

Once the Internet took off, learning moved quickly from the classroom to the computer. We learned the term “social learning” once we realized that social media opened up a world beyond Facebook likes. Learning moved from the computer to our smartphones, and today, we’re in a state of constant connectivity. It’s hard to believe that centuries ago all knowledge was handed down by word of mouth from person to person.

Is it still possible for people to learn through human interaction?

Pixilated Learning

Learning from thousands of pixels on a screen has become the norm, but instructional designers still abide by the four principles of social learning put forth by Albert Bandura, Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University: attention, retention, reproduction and motivation. His social learning theory states that people learn from one another just as they have done through the ages through a process called modeling. First they observe others’ behaviors, attitudes and results, and then they imitate them. It’s similar to the doctor’s mantra “Learn one, do one, teach one.”

Back to the Future

Bandura’s social learning theory dates back to the 1970s, so the question isn’t, “Can Bandura’s four principles exist outside of the eLearning environment,” but more accurately, “How can we get people to learn outside of the electronic laboratory?” His theory names how we learn—by modeling. There’s no doubt that education has benefited from eLearning, but have we benefited socially from a steady diet of pixilated learning?

Finding a Balance

Blended learning is a mix of classroom training and electronic learning, and that’s one way to bring the human element back into learning, but it’s not the only way. If your company has moved entirely to eLearning and mLearning, there are much easier ways to supplement pixilated learning without redeploying classrooms, instructors and equipment.

Socializing Learning

Based on Bandura’s principles, enterprises can use in-house social media to bring the human element to learning. Peer pressure is a wonderful motivator, and when we reach for excellence and someone notices our efforts, we begin to self-motivate. Natural leaders (mentors) step forward to offer help, and people begin to form networks. When we reinforce formal eLearning through social learning, we retain what we’ve learned, and we can more easily reproduce results in the workplace. Through social learning, partnerships can form, collaborative learning can flourish, and workplace friendships can form.

But social learning is only the beginning, a bridge between eLearning and face-to-face interaction. If social media can topple governments, then social learning can bring us together.

Does Your Onboarding Process Leave Employees to Sink or Swim?

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“Welcome aboard! Here’s your workstation. Sink or swim.” If that’s the sum of a company’s onboarding process, it could spell disaster for the employee and the company. A new employee who enters the lion’s den without proper onboarding can turn from gregarious and confident to shy and withdrawn, afraid of getting fired. The first-impression door swings both ways. The employee has already impressed the company. Now, the company must make a good first impression. Improper onboarding can mean a rocky and short-lived tenure for the employee and a botched opportunity for the company and the employee.

What is Onboarding?

Just as we socialize children, onboarding socializes employees into the corporate culture. The process transfers knowledge, skills and corporate behavior expectations to the new employee while increasing employee retention, productivity and effectiveness for the company. At the end, the employee should feel a sense of pride toward the corporate brand and culture.

Surf’s Up: Ramping Up for Success

The onboarding process begins with the interview. If the interview process assesses candidates for their likelihood to adopt the corporate culture as well as their skills and character, the new employee will more readily and quickly adapt to the workplace.

When developing an onboarding plan:

  • Set goals and objectives
  • Allocate human and technological resources
  • Create a checklist
  • Evaluate and tweak

Checklist for Success

  • Forms and paperwork. Everyone hates paperwork, so get it out of the way.
  • Corporate culture. Use a combination of technology, social learning, networking and mentoring, etc. to coach the new employee.
  • Job responsibilities. Instead of relying solely on technology, this is a good time to bring the manager into the fold.
  • Everyone hates rules and procedures but they’re the WD-40 of a well-oiled machine. Spend some time developing an engaging eLearning/mLearning program to cover all the do’s and don’ts as well as regulatory compliance and ethics. Add WWYD games, scenarios and interactive quizzes to lighten serious topics.
  • Follow up. In addition to following up with new employees, superiors should be available to the employee to ease the transition.
  • Assess and evaluate the employee and the onboarding process and make necessary adjustments.

Missing the Boat

Avoid these missteps:

  • Focusing on the negative instead of the positive. Do not, do not, do not… When everything is couched in negative terms, it shuts down the employee and stifles communication and creativity.
  • Hanging the employee out to dry. Here ya go; you’re on your own. When an employee enters the workplace for the first time and it becomes evident that the company is unprepared for his or her arrival, it signals, “You’re not important.”
  • Discouraging dialog. Effective communication requires input from both sides.
  • Conducting the entire orientation through manuals and eLearning. While technology plays an important role, it’s equally important not to forget the “human” component of human resources.

Finally, onboarding is an ongoing process. It doesn’t happen in a day or a week. Like a fine wine, it gets better with time.