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: http://www.raptivity.com/CarylOliver.


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!