Thursday, December 31, 2015

Vision 2016 - An Interview with Monique Head

Today's interview in the Vision 2016 series is with Monique Head, Senior Manager - Information Security Training and Awareness, PayPal. Monique has been in the learning technology field for over 20 years. Her most recent experience includes the roles of instructional designer and eLearning developer for companies in the cybersecurity and digital payments industries. A major focus throughout her career has been the use of multimedia in producing compelling, dynamic and engaging training tools. Her interests include the use of xAPI to integrate learning events into everyday life and integrate the learning process into “The Internet of Things”.

Below are excerpts from the interview:

What are some of the key eLearning trends that you think would surface, or pick up, in 2016?
First, Augmented Learning will become more possible as technology progresses, to learn in alternative environments, adapting to a user’s environment and situation will become increasing important and relevant. Second, Just-in-Time Learning and the ability to get the knowledge you need when you need it will continue to be a demand in the world of training. This has been a trend for some years but it is not just about ‘Just-in-Time’, but rather allowing the learner to acquire that knowledge as quickly as possible thus limiting time off task.  Lastly these and other eLearning trends will collide with the “Internet of Things’. As using the internet in more provocative ways such as controlling home devices from anywhere or using the internet to connect one’s self with actions and tasks in other locations, the use of augmented reality in learning and just-in-time learning  will give learning within the realm of the ‘internet of things new meaning.

Out of the above trends, anything that you see being particularly beneficial for your domain? How would it impact?
The use of Just-in-Time learning within Information Security Training will become increasingly relevant.  To create awareness based on imminent or real/current attacks and adapt communications based on user behaviors in a real-time situation will give users the specific information they need as they need it to keep data safe.  This will also combine the concept of Just-in-Time learning with analytics to correlate system activity with user knowledge.

What are some positive changes that you would like to see in the eLearning industry as a whole?
It would be very useful to have better adaptation of eLearning to the various environments of the learner.  If we can adapt learning in ways that vary, just as our need to learn varies then learning will be on a parallel course with advances in technology, and be a viable complement as we move toward the ‘internet of things’.

Micro-learning is being talked about everywhere. How important or unimportant is it going to be in 2016?
Micro-Learning will grow in interest in 2016 and increase on an ever increasing trajectory.  To fit the necessary information needed in digestible and retainable chunks, to support productivity in the workplace, continuous access to knowledge is needed.  With the increase in activities in our busy lives, micro-learning is that quick fix of knowledge that will give us that boost we need, when we need it.

Learning analytics: how would that evolve in the next year?  
It can be argued that Learner Analytics and Big Data go hand in hand.  Some exciting tools that will evolve this effort include xAPI. Not only will xAPI make it possible to take learning out of the classroom, and away from the computer, but it will allow for the use of data analytics and learner behavior to make the learning experience an adaptive process.
What are some challenges that your domain anticipates in the context of eLearning development and delivery?
Challenges in workplace training and eLearning development/application are the same as they have been for quite some time – the devaluation for on-the-job training and the learning experience.  The use of technology, for example, should mirror that of training on the use of that technology. Knowledge acquisition while on the job has long been taken for granted in industry and considered as secondary.  An equal emphasis and allocation of resources should be placed on training as an integral part of business culture and infrastructure, as demonstrated in planning and funding. 

Stay tuned for the next interview!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Vision 2016 - An Interview with Todd Kasenberg

Today's interview in the Vision 2016 series is with Todd Kasenberg, Principal, Guiding Star Communications and Consulting. With career stints in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors, Todd brings years of experience and expertise in group processes, adult learning, online learning and marketing communications. Todd’s work has reached and delighted thousands of online learners, in both formal and informal learning contexts. He is an often invited speaker and workshop facilitator, loves to talk apps, mobile learning, and job aids, 
and is a software entrepreneur. 

Below are excerpts from the interview:

What are some of the key eLearning trends that you think would surface, or pick up, in 2016?
I think we are bound to see an acceleration of the use of micro e-learning – short, bite-sized stand-alone lessons that can either be delivered on a schedule, or can be called from more flexible repositories on a just-in-time basis.

We will face our crisis point, as learning developers, for mobile – we need to decide whether mobile is a legitimate channel for delivery of programs any longer than microlearning, and we need to come to grips with the role of mobile in producing job aids. For the latter – the conventional e-book .epub formats just don’t seem to cut it; learners are expecting mobile job aids, perhaps delivered via native apps on iOS, Android and Windows devices, to provide searchability and rich media.

I’m excited, personally, by the evolution of affordable platforms for interactive video, and I think we’ll see it move from a novelty to something a bit more mainstream.

I think we will see more thinking emerge about how the Experience API (xAPI or Tin Can) can enable informal learning, and how things like impromptu search-based study, so much a part of our lives, can be connected to a learning record store.

I think we will continue to see a shift in content approaches – with more emphasis on curation in e-learning, and new ways to accomplish this.

I’ve taken note of promising new platforms – like Elucidat, Obsidian Black and gomo – and I’m impressed with the recent advancements in Adobe Captivate. I think we’ll see more task-specific platforms emerge or get refined in 2016 – platforms that do one part of e-learning really well, like deliver branching simulations (see BranchTrack), case study experiences (see CaseSwarm) or general learning reinforcement (see MindMarker).

HTML5 is in. We’ll witness the wholesale abandonment of technologies that deliver Flash-based outputs. I’m personally giving h5p a spin to see where it will take us, with hopes that it can be further evolved to enable curation and greater portability in learning objects.

Out of the above trends, anything that you see being particularly beneficial for your domain? How would it impact?
My organization continues to work on tools that will answer niches. We’re excited about the possibilities of merging curation as a learning designer activity mashed up with the production of rich multimedia e-books that are, at best, learning program delivery tools, and at least job aids.

I am convinced that 2016 is the year of microlearning. I expect to do a lot of experimenting in microlearning in 2016, and hope that others will collaborate and share with the broader learning community what works well, and what doesn’t. Someone really should start a dedicated forum or community just to address microlearning experiments.

What are some positive changes that you would like to see in the eLearning industry as a whole?
Greater content portability and personalization of content delivery must continue to be addressed. In the marketing realm, so much is blossoming related to personalization – how can we learn from their body of knowledge and apply it to learning?  How can we get past dated notions in compliance training and make sure learners are delivered what they need just when they need it?

I also believe that organizations owe it to themselves to develop Learning Strategies/Plans which celebrate informal learning, and learn how to corral same for the benefit not just of the individuals but of all.  In some ways, coupling informal learning with curation – as in “Hey, colleagues, that was great content, you need to review that” – could be very empowering to many organizations. We just need to figure out how to richly enable that.

Micro-learning is being talked about everywhere. How important or unimportant is it going to be in 2016?
Well, as one who is on the microlearning bandwagon, I believe it will be one of the key things added to most learning designers’ toolboxes in 2016. The toolsets are becoming mature, although there are still a few pieces I can envision that need to be developed to make it really easy to create microlearning experiences.

As a voice of caution, I will say that we still find ourselves in an environment with a lot of compliance training and, as a consequence, lengthy programs. In my opinion, a lot of compliance training is pretty challenging to shoehorn into microlearning experiences, and part of the challenge of retooling will be the temptation to leverage from existing assets. I do believe that is a fool’s choice, though I fully expect to see it as a result of strict organizational budgets and a relatively young body of knowledge; we are likely to see a lot of pretty poor microlearning as a result of this in 2016.

Learning analytics: how would that evolve in the next year?  
My professional practice doesn’t tend to delve too deeply into learning analytics, especially the sort that involves retrospective “big data” type drills-down into what has happened.  My interests in this rest with experience personalization – can learning big data help us understand how to flexibly configure learning opportunities and experiences for individuals? What platforms will help us with that?

For now, I’ve been comfortable with an analytics approach that collects data from learners before a formal learning encounter. I’m sure we can do better than that, but to this point, coupling existing insight with motivation has seemed adequate to my work at trying to deliver relevance to every learner.
Interactive eLearning – how would that look like in 2016?
There’s little doubt that learners themselves now grumble when encountering a Previous/Next e-learning experience. I gather that because time and resources don’t often permit use of great toolsets like Raptivity in the post-secondary education environment, a lot of university students are still being subjected to really poor e-learning. And corporate budgets remain tight when it comes to e-learning, with a lot of expectation that the price has come down for e-learning composing.

I think we will see more use of interactive e-learning in the corporate environment. Whether “big education” follows suit is anyone’s guess – but it is pretty desperately needed, based on what I’m hearing from university and college students.

I also think we will see more use of interactive video in 2016. Interactive video is now a mature and reasonably affordable market, and YouTube’s success just makes it obvious that video is appreciated.

Finally – gamification is pretty big, and a significant part of interactive e-learning. I have observed that the largest barrier to gamification implementation, besides the sheer expense for custom creation of gaming elements, is the relative lack of learning management systems that can pull data from the learning objects to maintain leaderboards and badging.  Would love to be better informed about that.

What are some challenges that your domain anticipates in the context of eLearning development and delivery?
As an agency that develops e-learning for hire, I feel there is a growing sense that e-learning development by professionals is just too expensive. I’m finding a paradoxical mix of e-learning as “black box” (as in, “I don’t get why it costs that – you’re just using PowerPoint and adding a little bit…”) and uninformed cost containment pressures. There’s a lot of sticker shock, and a growing sense that organizations can just point someone savvy in PowerPoint at e-learning mandates.

I think we will need to muddle through with clients who present us with long-duration courseware and ask us to create microlearning experiences from the same. With this, we will experience the usual cost pressures + the relative lack of desire for the organization to push past the traditional e-learning formats.

We need better toolsets for curation of content. We need to be able to update content within a learning object easily when information changes, instead of creating whole new builds.  My clients are getting frustrated with new e-learning builds, and associated costs, with time-sensitive content every year or two.

And the magic bullet for program review of alphas and betas would be awesome, since I’ve struggled with this for years. We need to have a great way to facilitate online review of early e-learning builds that respects the social nature of that process. I know that many composing platforms are now online, and are enabling that – but that doesn’t address those of us using the big player tools like Articulate, Lectora, and Raptivity.

Do share thoughts on your vision for 2016 and stay tuned for the next interview!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Vision 2016: An Interview Series with the Interactive Learning Thought Leaders

Well, here we are again, almost at the start of a new year. So, while everyone is busy wrapping up 2015, it’s a good time to delve into the opportunities that the New Year holds. We decided to do this in a way that could be useful and interesting our readers as well as the entire eLearning fraternity. Our plan is to interview Raptivity’s Interactive Learning Thought Leaders on their vision for 2016, in context of the eLearning industry. This interview series, titled 'Vision 2016' will be published on the Raptivity blog in different parts, with one interview lined up every Thursday.

The debut interview, that is being featured today, is with Caryl Oliver, Managing Director – Learning Solutions. Caryl is an eLearning Consultant and has been a leading voice in online and mobile learning for some 12 years. She is also a founding director of the International Association for Mobile Learning. More about Caryl here:

Below are some highlights from the interview:

What are some of the key eLearning trends that you think would surface, or pick up, in 2016?
I think there are many strands of eLearning that have been developing over the last 10+ years, as I discover whenever I talk to colleagues: from my own area of mobile learning, through major activities like Mathlympics to virtual classrooms and more.  I think 2016 will be a time when we may draw together some of those strands to enable increasing variety and diversity in the way in which we deliver. As we compete for screen space and time, I think we will be challenged to make learning increasingly entertaining and engaging and less and less like ‘traditional’ learning.  Learning in this context is then a continuous process as a part of daily life as opposed to something you have to ‘sit down and do’.
There are those who will be new to delivering by means of eLearning and they will still struggle with the concept that putting their existing PowerPoint online is not eLearning.  For those that are more familiar with eLearning, I hope they will be enthused to look at new ways of making their content increasingly engaging and entertaining.

Out of the above trends, anything that you see being particularly beneficial for your domain? How would it impact?
I am excited about the idea of learning being entertaining and of producing content that engages people in the learning process without them even realizing they are learning.  This sometimes means taking content and turning it on its head, which can be a bit disconcerting for traditional face to face teachers who are used to getting visual clues and feedback from students in front of them.  With online learning there are no clues so the material has to grab them all by itself.

What are some positive changes that you would like to see in the eLearning industry as a whole?
I would like the eLearning industry to be seen as a valid means of teaching and training as opposed to a cheap technological means of delivering the same old material.  Organisations are quick to see that using online delivery saves them considerable money against face to face training but they are slow to see that it requires an investment to get the online material into the appropriate format.   If you scan the job ads you can quickly see that eLearning positions are often low level and focused on technical ability as opposed to any teaching skills.  I hope and believe there will be more respect for eLearning professionals as more people understand what it delivers.

Micro-learning is being talked about everywhere. How important or unimportant is it going to be in 2016?
I have been a mobile learning pioneer for over 10 years.  When we first introduced learning by means of handheld devices, we were using PDAs and we did not have the ubiquitous connectivity that we have today.  We built learning games and then downloaded them from the computer onto the PDA.  They had to be small and simple.

The catch-cry I used almost every day was ‘I want to know just this, I want to know it now and I want it on this device in my hand’.   I also talked a lot about the hypertext mind – where learners did not want to be driven along a specific path but wanted to pick and choose that which they need to know, when they needed to know it.  I used to talk about the way in which different people do jigsaw puzzles – all the pieces are laid out and some do the edges first, others sort all the sky together, others just pick a piece and look for its partner, etc…

The nature of the technology (small capacity) and the learner needs meant that what we produced as mobile learning is almost exactly what is now being talked about as Micro-Learning.  I think this is a healthy progression as just about all technology is now mobile and connected and yet the learner still wants to be engaged in small but relevant bites at exactly the moment he or she needs it.

Interactive eLearning – how would that look like in 2016?
•More self-paced and more self-assessing with less reliance on teacher feedback. 
•More game style approaches with badges and rewards where order is required over eclectic choice. 
•People competing with each other or comparing rewards and badges. 
•More MOOC style with involvement with teachers minimal until end.
•A gradual opening of minds to the opportunity for formerly ‘dry’ topics to be presented in a more engaging way – compliance/governance, etc.. 
•Increasingly moving away from ‘walls of words’ to more visuals.
•More fun – but I think that is my personal aspiration rather than a prediction!

What are some challenges that your domain anticipates in the context of eLearning development and delivery?
While I am continually exposed to new technology, new means of eLearning and new ideas from developers and colleagues, the majority of my clients are working in areas where eLearning is merely a tool to do a job.  It is always, therefore, a process of gently understanding their needs and priorities before trying to excite them about new or emerging means of delivery.  At the same time, my role is to educate them about the way in which they can effectively present their material in an online environment.  This sometimes means we can use something new and different but more often it means bringing the client to a blended approach that ultimately delivers the best possible learning solution for the organization and its learners.

Do share thoughts on your vision for 2016 and stay tuned for the next interview!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Spice Up a Serious Blog by Making It Interactive

We all love reading good blogs and many of us enjoy writing them too. Raptivity team recently received a query from a prospect asking if he could use Raptivity to make his blog post interactive. That was an interesting thought. We have typically seen blogs that are textual or at the most with couple of stock images but never thought of them as an interactive content piece.

This inspired me to try experimenting with this idea. I picked a blog by one of our Interactive Learning Thought Leaders, Desiree Pinder. In this blog, Desiree had shared the ‘Top Writing Mistakes in Storyboards’, and some useful tips to fix them.

I selected a few Raptivity interaction templates that suited the content and ideas and simply customized them using the actual blog content. Then I quickly connected those interactions using Raptivity Linker. Result? A personalized interactive blog!

Click on the sample below to see how a textual blog was transformed into an interactive one.

Spice Up a Serious Blog by Making It Interactive

Interesting, isn’t it? Do share your thoughts through comments below. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

DevLearn Reflections

Just back from DevLearn and still reeling under its effect, I thought it would be the perfect time to share my experience with everyone. Though team Raptivity has been a known face at DevLearn, it was my first visit, and my maiden chance to experience it live, and I must admit, I was bowled over.

I was there with two other team members, for all three days of the conference. I attended visitors at our booth, participated in DemoFest and attended speaker sessions whenever I could grab a chance.

Raptivity Team with me in the center.

Harbinger, Raptivity’s parent company, completed its 25 years of operations on October 1 this year. DevLearn gave us a perfect chance to celebrate this occasion by giving us a chance to talk with many of our customers at the booth. Infact, I also got to meet some customers who have been using Raptivity since 2006, when it was launched. I was overwhelmed and so were they. Loyal customers are a real asset. Apart from these joyous meets, most of the visitors at the booth loved the idea of using Raptivity interactions seamlessly with various authoring tools and LMS.

Talking about speaker sessions, overall, I liked the depth and breadth of topics covered across DevLearn. It touched upon all facets of eLearning development process; whilst also catering to all levels of eLearning professionals, from novices to CLOs. Through dedicated tracks on gamification, videos and BYOLs, one could aim to become an expert in one thing or attend various different sessions to get an overall understanding of what was happening in the eLearning fraternity at a high level.

Coming to DemoFest, it took place on the last day of the conference, and for me, it was the best part of DevLearn. I loved the thrill of real world examples being showcased live. There were over 90 projects being showcased and ours was one of them. There were moments when I could actually relate a project to some of the sessions I had attended, and it was quite exciting to realize that connect. 
DemoFest where Janhavi, Raptivity team discussing with Joe Ganci

On the whole, DevLearn was a fascinating experience for me, wherein I could learn different things, seek validation on different ideas, network with eLearning professionals from across the globe, and even meet some old customers.

If I have to segregate my learning experiences in different buckets, here are some of my key takeaways:
  • There is a lot of excitement about mobile learning. An important aspect while creating mobile based designs is to focus more on user experience and simplicity rather than jazzy animations and interactions. Although, people are open to try out smart-phone based learning, not many have actually implemented it. I personally feel, this is probably due to the lack of tools to support seamless development for smart-phones, tablets and desktops alike.
  • Performance support based designs are something to watch out for, where the role of an eLearning professional goes above and beyond ID and multimedia designer, infact, it becomes comparable to that of a technology professional. It allows us to think beyond LMS and courses, traverses a whole new world of systems and processes where learning happens through various encounters people have with them.
  • One strong message which came out loud and clear was the strategic shift of thinking beyond just tools and focusing on end results. People now consider that tools are just a way to support and complement end results. So, rather than thinking what tool to buy and what can be done with it, many speakers insisted that course creators think about the end goal for their learners and then use various mediums to deliver it such as infographics, videos, mini-modules, courses, discussions over facebook, etc.
  • Agile project management technique was a highlight across various sessions. Since I come from a software product development background, I was very happy to see people’s openness to this technique. People are still trying to figure out how to use Agile in their individual organizations. This is one area where our organization can definitely participate and share more based on our earlier experiences.
  • Natalie’s session on ‘Learning without Boundaries’ was a big motivator. It forced me to think about my foundations for success, which could be described as:
    • Ready to fail and try again
    • Being open to say “I don’t know but can try"
    • Teamwork
    • Ability to understand other’s view point rather than criticizing them

I would end this write-up on the last note I shared from Natalie’s session. As she pointed, I should be ‘open to share what I have learnt with others’, I shared everything that I learnt at this conference. I hope it will be useful for the readers. Looking forward to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dealing with the Top 10 Challenges in Storyboarding — Infographic

Team Raptivity recently explored the topic—‘Difficulties faced by beginners in eLearning storyboard creation’. We collected responses from hundreds of novice instructional designers, course creators and some of our InteractiveLearning Thought Leaders.

Here is an infographic on the top 10 storyboarding challenges derived from our study. It also includes some suggestions to work through them. With biggest challenges coming first, this list follows a descending order.

Dealing with the Top 10 Challenges in Storyboarding - Infographic

Do you face any other challenges related to storyboarding? What tips have you learned along the way? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Guide to Good Online Learning

Good online learning is deceptively simple but very engaging with a depth of knowledge that is delivered almost without the learner realising they are absorbing it.  It takes time and skill to build and embed the level of knowledge and feedback required behind any interactivity, an infographic, a cartoon or other seemingly light-hearted devices.

Here are some cues to take reference from when starting off with your course:

Set the goal
Define the end objective first and test every element against it as you create each unit.

Boring content makes boring online learning
Look critically at what you want to deliver before you start creating online content.  Get the content right before you start working out the delivery details.  Online learners are not excited by our factoids, stock photos and effects. They want to do something, to try something.

Step away from the information dump
Find creative ways to place the course content in a context that is relevant to the learner. Knowledge needs to be provided before it can be learnt and it cannot be tested until it has been learnt - but it can be provided and learnt creatively.

Make it visually appealing
People are attracted to things that look interesting.  Craft a visual theme that is interesting, relevant to the content, and immerses the learner in the course.

Don’t Push – Let the Learner Pull
Create an environment where the learner has to pull information in.  Instead of a series of click-and-read screens, give the learner a problem to solve.  Then provide all of the information that you would normally have pushed by creating access to additional, just-in-time resources.  As the learner attempts to solve the problem, they will pull the information they need.

Less can be more
Online learning units are most effective in a form that takes no more 15-20 minutes for the learner to complete.  Online learners will work at their own pace and in their own order.  Anything that takes longer than 15 seconds to download is likely to be dismissed.

Vary the content
Too much of any one thing is just as boring as too much text. Breaking-up content into smaller combined chunks will allow for a better learning experience.  Give learners challenges and tasks but make sure there are clues and answers readily available.

Engage early and hold on
Online learners must be engaged quickly with information that talks directly to them – not always the same as what we want to tell them first.  There is a fine line between being too simple (one question wonders – no revisits) and too complex (making one activity do too much – lose the thread).  Online learners will revisit engaging material regularly to refresh and ‘play again’.

It’s OK to have fun
By virtue of the medium, online learning tends to work best when it comes across more playfully and with humour - where the learner is in on the joke through being engaged and involved.

There is a place for novelty
What might seem novel the first time can quickly become annoying.  Don’t overdo the use of transitions, text effects and other visual or aural distractions.

All these tips come from my experience in online teaching and learning. I hope they will come in handy for you. I would love to know of any different guidelines/best practices that you follow for good online learning. Comments welcome.

About Caryl Oliver
Caryl Oliver has been a leading voice in online and mobile learning for 12 years and is a founding director of the International Association for Mobile Learning. Caryl speaks regularly at conferences, seminars and workshop on using technology to deliver training and online learning at all levels. By passion, Caryl is an interactive learning enthusiast. Check out her detailed profile here.   

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Think you know Raptivity?

Fresh off the heels of DevLearn 2015, I'd like to talk about a recent experience I had.

During DevLearn 2015, I got to share a few moments with a long time customer - LVMPD and Shay Patel, a member of their content development team. During our meet, Shay spoke of his experiences with the tabbed interaction and wished he had more space for tab title headings on the top row.

I shared the tab orientation feature with him that vertically rearranges tabs to gain more tab space. He was genuinely grateful and surprised that he had completely overlooked that ability. Sometimes when you’re used to viewing an interaction a given way, tunnel vision prevents you from seeing other ways or opportunities.

Here at Raptivity we are focused on both flexibility and ease of customization of our interactions. Effective learning seldom happens in a fixed way or in a rigid format. The power and flexibility of our form-based customization approach in situations like this can shine through and deliver for you quickly and efficiently.

In the spirit of DevLearn 2015 and Shay's 'surprise discovery'  we'd like to extend  a 'Think you know Raptivity?' opportunity with you, our Raptivity audience. Got a Raptivity tip to share that has proved invaluable to you or a way to work with Raptivity that has really made a difference?. Consider submitting it and share it with us. You could just find yours presented on this blog as a 'Tip of the Week' contribution.