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!