Fashion Tech: What Intel MICA Means for Wearable Tech in 2015

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Intel pulled out all of the stops when debuting their new smartwatch, MICA (My Intelligent Communication Accessory) , displayed like a piece of art in a glass case at IDF 2014. And in a way, MICA is a piece of art, doing away with the overtly digital design offerings available from Samsung and Motorola. Instead, Intel created wearable tech that people actually want to wear; a statement piece for fashionphiles and tech geeks alike.

Intel’s slow takeover might have to do with the hefty price tag of $495, but slow-moving sales notwithstanding, Intel is pushing wearable tech into new territory. What does it mean for eLearning and the mobile tech industry on the whole? You might be surprised.

Right on Target

While technically MICA can be worn by either gender, its high-end styling has a clear target: Women. The snakeskin band and large gemstone practically eclipses the touch screen on the back of the piece, making it a statement piece first and a smart watch second. As a standalone device, it doesn’t act as a companion piece to your smartphone, but rather a messaging, scheduling and reminder machine in and of itself.

Fashion Tech: A New Market

What Intel is hoping to achieve is to capture the previously neglected women’s market. They don’t want to clunky, obviously digital devices offered by other brands. The Intel MICA might be one of the first smartwatches where design meets functionality to create a new brand of “fashion tech.”

Tech Implications

Not in the market for a statement smartwatch? Don’t make the mistake of ignoring the Intel MICA altogether, since its mere existence says a lot about where tech is headed. A changing attitude toward smartwatches and other wearable tech toward being fashion accessories and not just novelty items proves just how mainstream the technology has become.

Not sure how it affects eLearning? Consider this scenario: A company is releasing a new product line. To celebrate the release, clients are given preloaded (and fashionable) smartwatches, which can alert them to announcements, reminders and even short messages about the product line periodically. While some might dislike the idea of getting too gimmicky, it could be a win-win situation: Clients get a stylish new smartwatch, while companies push their marketing.

Smartwatches could also be a sneaky way to stay in near-constant contact with employees. By offering smartwatches as a perk, it’s easy to send status messages and reminders, allowing everyone to be on the same page at the same time.

The age of smartwatches is still in its infancy, but the Intel MICA proves that it’s heading in the right direction. After all, beautiful things can happen when fashion meets function.


Does Brain Training Hold the Key to Better eLearning?

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If you own a smartphone, then chances are that you’ve downloaded a “brain training” app: Meant to improve the way your brain functions, these sneaky games are designed to affect processes like memory, problem-solving skills and even processing speed. But brain training games like Lumosity, Elevate and Brain Workshop might be more than just a way to kill time, especially when applied to training applications. Understand how and why they work and you might be able to unlock a new realm of engagement in your custom eLearning design projects.

Brain Games for Learning

Research the effects of brain training and you’ll get a pretty mixed bag of opinions. But whether or not it’ll make you smarter isn’t really the argument, here: It’s whether or not brain training can actually create more effective learners.

There are a few characteristics that are shared among brain training apps and games that, when translated to eLearning projects, can create a cognitive learning atmosphere that is unequivocally more effective than flat initiatives. Regardless of what you think about brain training, it highlights psychological phenomenon that can make for more effective eLearning efforts.

The Psychology of Brain Training

If you’ll look closely, you’ll find that most brain training games and apps utilize the same techniques for improving cognition and thought process. That’s because they rely on certain theories about the characteristics of the brain and how it works. Consider how the following concepts could enhance eLearning as a whole:

  • Mirror neurons. The brain contains a type of brain cell, called mirror neurons, that make it virtually incapable of distinguishing between watching something happen to someone and experiencing the same thing personally. It’s why you automatically cringe when you see someone get hurt; your brain reacts as though you’re experiencing the pain. When applied to an eLearning atmosphere, it could mean that situational examples and visual media (especially when experienced again and again in a game-like setting) can be just as effective as experiencing that situation personally.
  • Instant gratification. We all know about endorphins: They’re the feel-good hormones that flood your brain when you’re happy or stimulated. Brain training games appeal to the part of human nature that wants to be immediately rewarded for effort. Using points, achievements or even completion percentages can help learners experience that same instant gratification, so they don’t have to wait to see the fruits of their labor.
  • Those cute characters and silly animations? They’re not as superfluous as you think. Brain training games appeal to a brain process known as “primal aesthetic sense.” When situations and visual stimuli are overly exaggerated, it engages the visual area of the brain and results in improved engagement and memory. By adding a little dramatic flair and focusing on exaggerated media, it’s possible that learners could absorb information more effectively.

Brain training apps might just seem like a harmless bit of fun and a way to stretch your memory and focus, but they can also provide a lesson in engaging eLearning. By utilizing some of the lessons learned from the theories behind these games and apps, you could be on the cusp of truly cognitive learning.

All Greek to SME: 5 Questions to Ask Your Subject Matter Expert Before Starting an eLearning Project

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The topics on which SME’s advise are about as diverse as the SME’s themselves. From tech to healthcare, education to software, your subject matter expert is there to add the meat to your eLearning module. When working with an SME, it’s your job to extract the necessary information and divide between the need-to-know and the nice-to-know. Luckily, no matter where your SME’s area of expertise lies, you can use the following questions to get high-quality, targeted information – no matter what the topic.

  1. What is the ultimate goal of the module?

Your SME should be able to explain the end goal of your eLearning projects. Whether it’s a better understanding of a certain concept, compliance training or learning a new behavior, you and your SME should be on the same page as the overall design and purpose of the course. Starting with this question sets the tone for the rest of your work together.

  1. Can you divide between informational and behavioral subject matter?

Not all learning is created equally. Sometimes, the module is purely informational: You learner needs additional knowledge. Other times, the goal is a change in behavior. In the end, your SME should be able to tell you what the learner should know and accomplish by the completion of the course.

  1. Why is the information important to the user?

Subject matter experts are fountains of knowledge and perspective, but there can definitely be a case of “too much of a good thing.” An SME can get so excited by a topic that their input becomes a data dump, leaving you to sift through and try to locate the right stuff. By asking your SME about the importance of the topic at the beginning of your collaboration, he or she is better prepped to share with you only the most relevant, targeted information.

  1. What are the learning objectives?

Who better to help you dial in on the learning objectives than the person most passionate about the material? Not only can discussing learning objectives help you extract better information, but it can help you create learning objectives that motivate and move your learners. By knowing how and when they’ll topically reach the end goal, learners are incentivized.

  1. Can progress be measured?

Your SME can tell you whether or not a learner’s proficiency can be measured after completing the modules. Sometimes, the answer is no: It’s difficult to measure purely knowledge-based subjects. If the information was behavioral, however, there may be ways to assess a learner’s knowledge absorption using simulations, testing and other assessment tools.

Consider your subject matter expert your partner in crime for the duration of the design. Ask the right questions and you’ll receive the information and insight you need to create the meatiest eLearning module possible.

5 Ways to go Beast Mode for Interactive Design

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Interactive design isn’t for the meek; it’s a hardcore way to engage learners and get the most out of every module. But some eLearning companies and programs don’t always seem to automatically lend themselves to interactive components: More serious topics included. If you really want to engage your learner, you’ll need to go beast mode in the design process, seeking out every opportunity for interaction and using the right media whenever possible. Here are some ways to unleash your inner design beast for the most captivating content possible.

  1. Consider Learner Tech

Here’s the thing: You might be pumped to use a new technology, but unless the learner has the means to receive and process that tech, it’s for nothing. If your learner only had the capability to view VHS tapes, you’d have to make your module compatible with VCRs, no matter what you’d prefer to use.

Always know what platforms and devices the learner will be using, otherwise your interactive components can and will fall flat without the capability to experience them.

  1. Focus on the Look and Feel First

Before you start plugging in content, lists and quizzes, make sure you first nail the overall look and feel of a module. After all, it’s hard to get a learner to engage when the interface is completely out-of-touch. By making sure that the user navigation, menu options, resources, gloassaries and buttons line up with a design aesthetic that learners respond to and love. Once the overall design, look and feel is accomplished, you’ve cleared a path for the main components.

  1. Respect the Learner

Are your learners going to be using the module in different languages? Have they already achieved a certain level of knowledge? The more you know about your learner, the more respectful you can be in designing engaging, interactive content. Catering to your learner on a personal level helps reduce boredom and frustration, two things that can turn any module with muscle into a 98-pound weakling.

  1. Choose Media Carefully

Sure, media is great: It breaks up the monotony of text-only eLearning. But not all media is created equally or appropriate for all modules, devices and platforms. Always choose media with your learner in mind and you’ll have a better chance at engagement. If a video doesn’t play or pictures won’t load, your learner gets frustrated and disengages.

Media – whatever you choose – should seamlessly play across a number of platforms, which means testing and retesting to make sure you got it right.

  1. Actively Look for Interactive Opportunities

Ready to go full beast mode with your design components? You need to actively seek and find areas where interaction is not only possible, but ideal. Find creative ways to bring content to life from a design perspective, like breaking text lists into image-based parts, or using an interactive quiz to close out a chapter. If something could be improved by getting a learner to interact with the module, indulge that interactivity and your eLearning program will be better for it.

Whether you’re a chief learning officer or eLearning project manager just starting your eLearning project or it’s nearing completion, you can become a total design beast by maxing out your interaction options. Bulking up your module with more user engagement is never a bad thing.

3 Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes When Deploying an LMS

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Sure, it sounds like a match made in eLearning heaven: A system by which you can deploy, administer, track and assess your efforts with learners. What could be simpler? But while using an LMS can make your job easier and more effective, making huge mistakes during deployment could cause your LMS to go off the rails before it ever leaves the station. Proper eLearning project management can be accomplished by knowing what it really takes to deploy an LMS, and subsequently watching for common missteps, all go a long way to ensure that you have realistic expectations and eventually, real results.. (Check this resource post if you’re wondering what is a learning management system.)

  1. Planning a Too-Tight Schedule

The process of deploying a new learning management system from start to finish is going to take some time, but too often organizations don’t budget enough for the work that goes into the task. From choosing and setting up the LMS, to creating administrative roles, uploading curriculum structure and working on user profiles, deploying an LMS takes time: Around an average of four months.

Be realistic when planning a deployment timeline. Being generous with your schedule means you have the space, time and manpower to deploy it right the first time and only when you’re ready.

  1. Overbuilding the LMS

Think about an LMS as choosing a car off of the showroom floor: If you wanted, you could load it up with all the bells and whistles, but if you’re just looking for a commuter car, do you need them all? Seeing all of the features that come along with your chosen LMS can get you excited, but it can also leave you with way more work and technical components than you really need.

Remember that the more features you add to your LMS, the more prone you are to technical difficulties and slow deployment. Instead, flip the switch on the features that you need right now and leave the other bells and whistles until you really need them.

  1. Deploying without Testing

Even the most advanced LMS is going to have some bugs. Whether it’s sketchy audio, device incompatibility or interactive components that won’t interact, your LMS might be a little fussy at first. Deploying your new LMS to the masses without a few test runs only means headache for you in the future. Users will come to you with their questions, tech support issues and concerns, so it’s vital that you test, retest – and then test again.

Get a beta testing group together, made up of users who will interact with the LMS much like your eventual learner, but who are technologically savvy enough to understand why they’re experiencing errors. Log those errors and utilize that beta testing to make your LMS perfect. While it might seem like an unnecessary step, taking the time to test means fewer tech-related issues going forward. It also gives you a better chance to really get to know your LMS and what it can (and can’t) do.

We get it: Deploying an LMS is pretty exciting in the world of L&D. But don’t let the excitement of a new system cause you to deploy without the proper prep. Instead, take your time and work out the bugs so that deployment is smooth, simple and seamless.

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.

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

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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.

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 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.

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.