Thursday, March 27, 2014

Use Crowdsourcing to Improve Products, Design New Products, or Solve Problems

"Two heads are better than one”, I am sure all of you would have heard this saying and many of you might agree with it too. It's a proven fact that two people working together have a better chance of solving a problem than someone working alone. But what if you could ask a crowd of people to work together to solve a problem? The results could be incredible.

This method, called crowdsourcing, is defined by Wikipedia as “the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.”

There are many companies using crowdsourcing today to improve products, design new products, or solve problems.

Lego’s Cuusoo crowdsourcing platform is a site that allows users to interact with a LEGO project team and give input on new products. The products are released based on fan submissions. The benefits for LEGO are an abundant pool of resources that supply new product ideas and word-of-mouth online marketing.

Eli Lily funded InnoCentive, the global leader in open innovation crowdsourcing competitions, as a way to connect with people outside the company who could help solve problems. The company pays the solvers from $10,000 to $100,000 per solution.

The Raptivity team employs crowdsourcing for both feedback and testing. The team contacted power users and asked for input on a new demo prototype called Raptivity LinkerBeta. This new product was launched recently with the beta customers being involved right from conceptualization phase. This customer feedback at every stage ensured that the product offered features for novice and advanced users both.

If you are interested in becoming a member of our power user group, please send us an email (info@raptivity.com).

We will be glad to hear of any creative ways used for crowdsourcing at your company. Do share them with us.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Best Practices for Instructional Design in eLearning

As technology progresses, assuring the quality of educational experience continues to increase in significance. This, in turn, has led to a surge in the number of Instructional Designers(IDs). IDs are seen as professionals who can facilitate explicit eLearning outcomes. The accomplishment of these outcomes are determined by the techniques used.

This blog highlights some valuable nuggets of information from an ID’s perspective to help you build and deliver high-quality eLearning material.

Choose the appropriate tool(s)

Selecting the appropriate tool would majorly be determined by your course objective and target audience.

  • Select a tool that is suitable for your target audience (Choose a user friendly tool if you are dealing with beginners) .

  • Make sure you are fully aware about budgets. Choose a cost effective tool based on your budget.

  • Be accustomed with the editing and integration capabilities of the tool. Fast editing is time efficient.

  • Select the tool that integrates with LMS or other media tools easily.

  • Decide the level of interactivity required for your project. Pick the tool according to the required interactivity levels.

  • Be fully aware of the platform to be used by your learners. Opt for a tool that will help accomplish the objective.

  • Do you have team expertise? Choose a tool that your team is comfortable with this will help you save effort, time and money

  • Align your media needs with the tools that you choose to work on, authenticate the tool with the file types to be used.

  • Determine how an eLearning course is going to be presented to users. Make sure your tool is well aligned to the output you want (LMS, CD-ROM, Mobile, Podcast etc).

Content Staging

Remember the golden rule when presenting content, bridge the gap between the learner and content by emotionally involving the learner in a dynamic way (Storytelling, humour, etc).

  • When presenting your course learning objectives, make sure you coherent the entire course benefits for your learners and not just the features.

  • Split the training into small segments to help the learner tread easily to the end.

  • Format the text so that it’s easy to read.

  • Use scenario-based learning; it gives the learner a role to play.

Design Plan

A design document is essential to make sure the team involved in the project is on the same page before commencement of development.

  • The Design Plan should contain metadata including the course name, description, timeline, notes from the client, and a section that outlines each page or types of interactions in the course.

  • Make sure this document captures global information on font size, colour, paragraph and text alignments and image appearance. This will help in standardising the course.

  • The document should talk about the timelines for sign-offs to be received by the client, and whether they should be after each major step or after a development phase.

  • Decide on the slides that are to be interactive and the ones that are going to be animated.

Storyboarding

Storyboarding helps in branching scenarios, deciding on appropriate interactions and also in introducing assessments at suitable intervals. Depending on what your project demands, add or design storyboard documents that fit the need. When designing, remember to be consistent. This helps the learner understand the course better.

  • Draft a storyboard from start to finish. It will help in understanding how a learner is going to experi­ence a course.

  • A storyboard should contain slide information, graphics, audio and video instructions, On-screen text, navigation instructions and interactivity instructions.

  • Make sure your storyboard is routed through your subject matter expert (SME) and other stake holders before you freeze it.

Let’s see what some of the eLearning gurus have to say:

  • Less is more: Keep the number of words low, audio narration brief, and avoid gratu­itous stories and visuals - Ruth Clark

  • Provide clear standards (a style guide) on how to format your eLearning: fonts, colors, logos, resolution size, file types, etc - Jill Kirtland

  • Document everything when you are involved in an eLearning asset-recycling effort. It is like high school and college math, you only get partial credit for having the right an­swer; you receive most of the credit for documenting your work - Joel Gendelman

The eLearning Guild’s 62 Tips on Effective eLearning Instructional Design is also a great resource to refer to. Click here to access it.
If you have some more tips on designing an excellent eLearning course, right from staging the content to preparing the indispensable documents to the final product, do share them. For any queries, please post in the comments section below. I will be happy to answer them.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Wrapper for Raptivity Interactions

Raptivity for many years has done a fantastic job of providing a means of creating interesting, fun and educational interactions that anyone can create. The interactions are stand-alone pieces that can be embedded into web based training, mobile learning, an instructor led course or as a part of a web site. This is really a different “modus operandi” than many vendors in the online learning industry. But you know – it works. Most of us have one or two core rapid development tools that we use for our work. The drawback to those tools is often the interactivity – or lack thereof – that comes pre-packaged. What if we had a tool that would “package” or “link” together the interactions we’ve built with Raptivity?

Concept

Say for instance, you created the following interactions with Raptivity for a course you are working on: Flash Card, Adaptive Question, FAQ,Pyramid, Advanced Hub and Spokes, and a Multiple-Page Assessment. Open up a new tool in Raptivity called the Raptivity Linker and drag each of these interactions into it. You would be able to move the sequence of these interactions around simply by dragging and dropping a thumbnail image of those interactions into the appropriate place. Simple. Publish and you have yourself a nifty course of instruction created completely of high quality Raptivity interactions. Neat-oh!

Ah but you want more. I know you do. You can say it. But Greg, what I really want is….

How about if you could select the type of navigation the wrapper takes upon the completion of an interaction placed into the Raptivity Linker? Cool. You can do that. You can have a Next button, a Back button or a button that opens up a Table of Contents, each of which takes you to another interaction.

“I want to create my own look and feel for the wrapper”, you say? You can certainly choose a color scheme or background image for your wrapper. You can move the location and appearance of the navigation buttons. You can even add images to the table of contents. Speaking of the table of contents I know many of you desire numbers in your tables of contents – and the rest of you don’t. You both get your way. Just make your choice.

What’s the difference?

Raptivity is going about this to simply be able to “link” your interactions together into a “short” course. This is not the same as building out full web based course.One way to look at this as a great way to create numerous branches within a scenario based course. Go ahead, use your base tool but use the Raptivity Linker to link together your interactions for each branch of the scenario. Add those into your course as needed. You get the best of both worlds. Your base tool handles the course navigation, the introductory and conclusion text for the course, each objective and scenario while the various Raptivity Linker “short courses” provide the interactions for the rest. Cool!

Mobile delivery? Of course! This is perfect for mobile delivery. Many Raptivity Interactions output to HTML5. Linking a series of these together and adding a short assessment is perfect. Just don’t get too lengthy with these. Remember, mobile learning needs to be short – less than five minutes or so tops on a smart phone and really no longer than 15 minutes or so on a tablet type device.

Examples

Example 1
I am a big Lectora fan so, let’s use Lectora to set up what it does best – SCORM packing, full navigation, base shell, and the setup for all textual content. I want Lectora to keep track of my course and user variables and work with the LMS to do bookmarking and other administrative work. Because I don’t want a boring page turner course,I’ll use Raptivity for the interactions. No big deal so far you say. This is what we already do. Here is the difference. Let Lectora provide the navigation only to the launching point of the scenario. Then use Raptivity Linker to link together the scenario itself. Not just one interaction. Pre Raptivity Linker, you could embed only one Raptivity interaction on any one Lectora page. Now, you can now insert an entire highly interactive scenario onto one Lectora page. For example, create your Raptivity Linker interactive scenario by linking a “3D Cube”, a “Role-based Individualized Simulation”, followed with a “Branching Question – Explorative Type” assessment. You can do this multiple times in the course which truly adds to the overall course.

Example 2
Another example is even simpler. We all know that mobile learning is not simply making WBT content available on mobile devices. See my blog series on eLearning Industry’s web site (http://elearningindustry.com/moving-to-mobile-what-are-the-gotchas). We want small snippets of information for mobile devices. Use Raptivity Linker to link together a short series of Raptivity interactions such as “Panning Cards”, “Memorize and Recall”, and a “Multi-Page Assessment” output as HTML5 for mobile delivery. Short, sweet, and to the point. Raptivity Linker gives you that option now. A great way to present content on mobile devices without forcing the user to open multiple different learning packages.

Conclusion

Moving forward I suppose it would not be a great leap to create a full blown rapid development tool to compete against the likes of Lectora and Articulate Storyline. I’d vote against that. I think Raptivity’s greatest advantage to those of us in the online learning community is in creating highly interactive interactions that people actually want to use. The type of packaging I’ve described in the Raptivity Linker is as far as I would like to see them go down this road. I don’t want to see energies spent on re-creating what other vendors have already done. Other vendors don’t do the interactivities well. Raptivity does and that is what I need.

When I first started using Raptivity I’ll admit I wanted to know what to do with the interaction. I did not understand that I was only building interactions. This works great if all I need is one or two interactions put into a course that is being built to add to it. But let’s face it, there are so many fantastic interactions in Raptivity now that we really have a great opportunity to link several of these together into short “snippets” or “experiences” of interactions. These can be used as stand-alone items or be embedded as “learning experiences” within a larger course.