Accessible eLearning Using Inclusive Design – A Case Study

At Harbinger, we help our customers effectively solve their eLearning accessibility challenges. We combine accessibility and UX knowledge to deliver solutions that help organizations meet their specific accessible eLearning requirements. Every project is worked upon by adopting the persona approach where you understand each persona’s need and then propose a solution.

In our previous blog posts, we have discussed at length:

In this blog post, we will look at an interesting case study on eLearning accessibility. This case involved the use of a high level of interactivities including simulation-based assessments for learners to successfully complete the courses. It also focused a great deal on how to create innovative and engaging eLearning content that is accessible for all.

Introducing Our Client

The accessibility project was taken up for a prestigious educational institution which is the largest of the 34 colleges of the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. Providing higher education to 27,000+ students each year, our client is also the largest open-access institution of higher learning in Washington.

The college promotes student success by providing high-quality, flexible, and accessible educational programs and services. It was awarded $11.8 million by the Department of Labor to lead a nine-college consortium for three years of health IT workforce activity and one year of evaluation and reporting. A major initiative was to develop methods to provide faculty and students with exposure to electronic medical record (EMR) systems.

The consortium provides access to actual EMR systems. However, our client wanted to design and implement an initial introductory step for students and faculty enrolled in health programs. They wanted the students and faculty to go through this step before using an actual EMR system. And this is when they approached Harbinger, following which we proposed an impressive solution as discussed below.

What was the Objective?

The objective of the project was to create a fully accessible, engaging, and immersive online learning experience while upskilling learners on the usage of EMR systems. It was also to make learners career-ready for the healthcare industry.

Who was the Target Audience?

The target audience for the special courses designed and developed by Harbinger as part of the project primarily included nursing, medical assisting, health IT, radiation tech, and medical coding/billing students.

What was the Solution?

After a detail study of the learners’ persona, the typical training process, and the new learning goals to achieve, Harbinger proposed building accessible and interactive simulations-based training courses.

Simulations offer many benefits:

  • Providing faculty and students with an opportunity to learn about EMR systems without having to manage the technical complexities of working with an actual system
  • Providing individual instances for students versus a shared virtual classroom
  • Providing instant feedback on the submitted work, which an evidence-based online learning practice

The solution encompassed the design and development of simulations for different EMR software systems. A solid instructional strategy was implemented to make courses accessibility compliant, enable more effective learning, and create great learning experiences.

Three basic types of simulations were created as part of assessments: Show Me, Let Me Try, and Test Me. The solution supported Section 508 compliance on desktops, laptops, and tablets as well as SCORM 1.2 compliance.

What was the Solution Approach?

Let’s deep dive into what made this program special for both our client and the Harbinger team.

Instructional goal and strategy

The instructional goal was to design courses in a way that offers students an opportunity to learn about EMR systems in a self-paced manner without having to manage the technical complexities of working with an actual system. The courses also needed to allow learners to perform hands-on activities to demonstrate their understanding of concepts.

It was an intelligent strategy to adopt a design approach that enables learners to learn, see, practice, and test different features and functions of the EMR systems.

1. Learn: This aspect of the course enabled learners to gain conceptual understanding of the Open EMR system. The conceptual information was presented using a combination of text, animations, images, and audio, and served as a precursor to the simulations.

2. See: This aspect of the course enabled learners to view a demonstration of the tasks and functions that can be performed in the Open EMR system. The demonstration was designed as a self-play animation and simulated the look, feel, and working of the system.

This section had all the basic features of a video that enabled learners to view the demonstration as per their need. These demonstrations were referred to as the ‘Show Me’ simulations.

3. Practice: This aspect of the course enabled learners to apply their understanding of the features and functions of the Open EMR system. The practice activity was designed as a simulated interaction supported by step lists, prompts, and instant remedial feedback.

The practice activities were designed to enable learners to explore the system without any restrictions and risks and learn by practicing. These practice activities were referred to as the ‘Let Me Try’ activities.

4. Test: This aspect of the course enabled learners to assess their conceptual as well as practical understanding of the Open EMR system. The assessment consisted of multiple-choice questions as well as scenario-based and simulation-based questions.

The assessment was scored and not intended to provide any remedial feedback. Upon completion of the assessment, the learners received a final report with diagnostic feedback. This feedback may either indicate successful completion or a recommendation to retake the course. These assessments were referred to as the ‘Test Me’ activities.

Understanding the persona

One of the first steps in creating any eLearning project is to understand the targeted personas. Persona is a profile of a product’s typical customer. It is used to understand key traits, behaviors, goals, responsibilities, and needs of a specific type of user.

Note that there are diverse disabilities and hence diverse accessibility personas a business may need to serve. Understanding this helped us consider how we can cater to all these learners and their accessibility needs.

Taking the template route

The program was vast and meant to be used by various consortium members. It was required to be easily rebranded for each member group and simple to maintain and update for future content changes.

To address this need, the Harbinger team proposed a template approach for the development process. With personas already in place, our team understood the various accessibility obligations. With these insights at hand, we designed templates that conformed to accessibility standards, allowed richer learner experience, and ensured browser compatibility.

Using custom HTML framework was a natural choice to give priority to accessibility and interactivity. It’s constantly a challenge to make an eLearning course accessible when the course demands high interactivity. To add to the challenge, the project had 70+ simulation-based assessments.

The following accessibility checks were taken care of in the project:

Page titles: The page titles were adequately descriptive as user moved from one screen to another. They were also different from other pages.

Image text alternatives: The templates were designed in a manner where it highlighted the need to provide alt text to every image. The Harbinger team made sure we received the correct input from the SMEs to convey the purpose of an image, including pictures, illustrations, charts, and so on.

Text: Appropriate color contrast was used for the text versus the background color. A color palette was provided to the user to change the color contrast of the text against the background color.

Interaction: The courses were highly engaging. We made sure the essence of the courses is not lost by ensuring all the elements are accessible through the keyboard.

General: In general, it was made sure that all the moving, flashing, or blinking content was taken care of. The images or text did not flash for more than three times in a second.

We provided multimedia alternatives like captions, transcripts, and audio descriptions.

Flexible architecture

It was the backbone of the entire program. An important aspect of the program was to build an architecture that allows for changes to be done to the eLearning courses not only by the development team but also by the client’s team.

This was primarily done to address the business scenario or challenge of ensuring the courses don’t become obsolete if the EMR tools undergo enhancements in future. Keeping this in mind, Harbinger not only developed the courses using an architecture but also enabled the client’s team to make changes at their end with the help of detailed documentation and training.

Course structure

The structure for the course followed a three-level hierarchy: Course->Topic->Pages.

A Final Word

The accessible and interactive simulations-based training courses provided opportunities to perform hands-on activities for learners to demonstrate their understanding of concepts. Since these courses were accessible, even learners with disabilities could take them.

The simulations have been successfully piloted by several colleges and have been extremely well-received. It was also requested that these simulations or courses be demonstrated to numerous grant recipients across the country as a positive example of instructional assets.

Through this project, our client has been able to achieve their objective of providing students with hands-on practice or exposure to EMR systems. In terms of cost, our client benefited from Harbinger’s cost-effective and rapid delivery, which helped with the foundation to complete the project at a highly competitive cost. The project also enabled our client to achieve their core objective of learner outreach.

If you’re looking to build accessible eLearning courses or make your existing content accessible, contact our accessibility experts at info@harbingerlearning.com.

How LCMS Revolutionizes the Creation and Delivery of Learning Content

The future of learning is here, and L&D is at the center stage delivering effective learning support to employees. This is amid the changing dynamics of learners and the learning ecosystem and changing competency demands of high-performing organizations – all intertwined and growing like a magical beanstalk overnight.

Businesses have significantly transformed and accelerated their digital transformation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even the preferences of learners and modes of learning have evolved rapidly. Moreover, the learning ecosystem has witnessed the implementation of newer technologies.

For the future workplace, L&D will play a crucial role in building a culture of continuous learning throughout the organization to meet its business goals. Not to forget, content is key to achieving business goals through a learned, skilled workforce.

With today’s workforce working in the hybrid mode already, training programs need to be resigned as mere learning programs. Classroom training needs to be converted to blended learning, which includes self-paced learning and synchronous online training. In this case, content is not confined to training rooms and in physical copies as in a traditional setup. It is available in abundance in many formats inside different systems.

Challenges in Managing Enormous Volumes of Content

L&D needs to increase access to content and prioritize specific learning interventions over others. They need to think about how content can be integrated into the flow of work, so that the workforce and the business can grow as much as possible, given the availability of shorter, faster, and integrated type of learning.

Large enterprises and off-the-shelf eLearning content providers deliver content through various learning management systems (LMS’s) in different formats. The challenge these organizations now face is to manage this ocean of content.

Here are some common challenges faced when one is tasked with managing large volumes of content:

  • Due to the changing persona and learning preferences of learners, long-form content needs to be repurposed and delivered in the form of short courses
  • Learners want to learn in a social environment and contribute to the content
  • Enterprises want the content to be consistent across their organization
  • Content undergoes continuous changes due to compliance, process, implementation, and methodology changes within or outside the organization
  • Course authors are spread across different work locations as ‘work from anywhere’ is taking predominance
  • As enterprises migrate or use multiple LMS’s, managing multiple content formats is a big challenge
  • It’s also a challenge to create, deploy, and manage various versions of courses

What is LCMS and How to Deploy It?

Thankfully, all the above challenges can be addressed through one solution: learning content management system (LCMS). An LCMS is an integration of LMS and content management system (CMS). It’s an environment that allows developers to create, store, reuse, manage, and deliver learning content from a central repository. LCMS’s generally work with content that is based on a learning object model.

Any business looking to move to a learning object approach or capture intellectual capital through knowledge management should consider deploying an LCMS that comes with the required storage (data warehousing) and content management capabilities.

However, implementing an LCMS is more than just implementing the system. It needs careful planning of the L&D team’s processes to become fully efficient.

The planning phase can be categorized into four stages:

Stage 1: Define

This is the first step in the process. It starts with identifying business needs such as:

  • a) Reusing the content to be published in various formats.
  • b) Making courses available in different languages.
  • c) Making courses responsive in nature.
  • d) Revamping the look and feel of courses while keeping the content the same.

Stage 2: Design

Based on the business goals, learning consultants, instructional designers, and programmers can work together on:

  • a) Identifying the reusable learning objects (RLOs): RLOs are reusable, transportable, and context-independent chunks of instruction that are managed and delivered digitally. Such a design approach enables cost-efficient, speedy development of learning that offers a consistent message while cutting down learning maintenance costs.
    An example of RLO could be an image or organizational chart used throughout the corporation and housed in the LCMS, so that it only needs to be updated in one location.
  • b) Tagging each RLO with the metadata tag: An LCMS’s successful and efficient deployment largely depends on the effective development and application of learning objects – which are media-independent, reusable pieces of information organized by a metadata classification system.
  • c) Designing templates to increase interactivity and engagement: This approach leads to a major reduction in operational costs while improving learner engagement and driving business growth. Besides, other aspects like latest design style, seamless navigation, and accessibility support can be taken care of while designing these templates.
    Once done right, the templates could be used by authors/SMEs to create content that can be automated.
  • d) Defining the folder structure to store content and media assets for easy search and updates in the future.
  • e) Setting up best practices like ‘defining file naming conventions’ to help quickly locate the required files.
  • f) Creating output presentation templates that allow publishing courses in various formats such as PDF, Word Doc, XLS, and SCORM package.

Stage 3: Develop

  • a) Extracting all reusable assets and content from existing courses.
  • b) Extracting content to be stored in a modular folder structure with standardized naming conventions: This is to ensure the use of automation during the content population process.
  • c) Creating a document that outlines how to structure the old content in LCMS format: This basically helps identify the parts of the content that can be mapped as RLO, what the metatags should ideally be, and so on. It ensures one uses the capabilities of LCMS to the fullest while migrating the content.
  • d) Copying all media assets into an appropriate folder structure.
  • e) Authoring courses in the LCMS using the templates and media assets available in it.
  • f) Performing quality checks to ensure the migration is done correctly.

Using LCMS for new content creation is now easier as one simply needs to follow three basic steps: use the required template, upload assets, and create courses.

Stage 4: Delivery

The final stage is making this authored content ready for delivery. To enable this, an LCMS can provide a bunch of output templates like creating a document, PDF, SCORM package, and using the course content as RLO. One can publish content by simply selecting the output template and the RLOs.

Once the process is set for the design and delivery of the content, the benefits to the business are unlimited. The business can quickly and effectively tap the potential of the content in their organization.

Given below are few of the business benefits we have seen for Harbinger customers that implemented an LCMS and revolutionized their content:

  • Better business growth
  • Reduced operational expenses: A global training and competency management leader’s operational costs decreased 81% after Harbinger migrated their courses to an LCMS while meeting custom content modernization requirements.
  • Increased learner engagement
  • Quick launch of new product lines using reusable content
  • Increased go-to-market speed
  • Increased rate of customer acquisition and learner adoption
  • Higher course completion rate
  • Integrated, robust, and scalable learning ecosystem

Wrapping Up

To sum it up, an LCMS provides organizations with complete control over the learning content lifecycle, from authoring to publishing to even creating the learning content analysis. This streamlines several key processes.

An LCMS is also useful for a large and varied base of users, such as content developers, instructional designers, and project managers, as they can customize learning content to accommodate different output requirements. It does make LCMS one of the best ways to restructure and repurpose online learning content

Not surprisingly, with an LCMS, organizations get a comprehensive tool to meet modern learning needs. If you have any query related to LCMS or need help with implementing an LCMS-based content strategy or enabling scalable, rapid content development and delivery using LCMS, reach out to us at info@harbingerlearning.com.

Chatbots: A Good Way to Engage and Enable Learners

We’ve come a long way from the Turing test-Eliza to Siri-ALEXA-Google Assistant since the evolution of chatbots in 1950, when Alan Turing, an English computer scientist, published “Computer Machinery and Intelligence.” The journey has been long, and manifestations have been far and wide. Organizations are relying on chatbots for enabling them to provide proactive customer service and also helping them to deliver scalable, personalized solutions. Chatbots in the workplace, as trainers and mentors, can have a significant impact on learning outcomes.

In this blog, we’ll discuss the different types of chatbots that are utilized based on their capability to deliver specific solutions. I will elaborate the concept further by providing a case study of a real-life chatbot solution deployment for a quick-service restaurant.

Types of Chatbots

Chatbots are classified into three types based on their capabilities:

  1. Simple chatbots,
  2. Smart chatbots,
  3. and Hybrid chatbots.

Simple chatbots or FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) bots have a predetermined flow or questions. They are rule-based, task-specific with minimal capabilities. When interacting with users, these chatbots do not infer anything from previous interactions or conversations. Instead, they follow predefined paths. During the chat, the user may be prompted to select options related to their query. The chatbot then identifies the next step in the conversation based on the user’s current selection. These chatbots are well-structured and compatible with customer-service functions, and they can be viewed as an IVRS (Interactive Voice Response system) on the chat.

Simple chatbots are very effective for learning the tasks or operations which have unique business rules and often undergo changes, like SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) at healthcare organizations. Compliance training can be another good candidate for a simple chatbot.

By 2024, the global chatbot market is expected to reach $9.4 billion.

Smart chatbots are AI (Artificial Intelligence) enabled and are designed to simulate near-human interactions with customers. These chatbots can hold natural-language conversations and understand intent, language, and sentiments. These chatbots need programming to understand the context. They require a lot of data to comprehend and are difficult to implement. Smart chatbots have been tweaked to create virtual assistants. Siri, Amazon Alexa, for example, accumulate knowledge from every human interaction. AI-powered bots can quickly adapt to each individual’s learning needs and help them obtain a more meaningful learning experience.

Hybrid chatbots meet that middle ground. They’re a combination of simple and smart chatbots. Hybrid chatbots can understand intent and context and do some rule-based tasks, making them a balanced instrument for consumer interaction. When used in eLearning, hybrid chatbots can improve both learning efficiency and user experiences.

Chatbots have seen their full potential in customer support, product support, sales support, travel booking, and more. However, chatbots in learning and development have not been explored to their full potential.

Chatbots are becoming an integral part of enterprise training. One such use case is content curation and presenting information to employees in the flow of work. In light of new technologies and easy access to constant connectivity, learners’ expectations and behaviors continue to change. Learners now do not want to wait for L&D (learning and development) teams to run a training class or eLearning module. A chatbot can become the differentiator by bringing information/knowledge on-demand in the form of micro-nuggets. This eliminates the requirement for a learner to go through a complete course to comprehend a concept or acquire an inevitable fact.

Case Study: Chatbot for Quick Service Restaurant

At Harbinger Interactive Learning, we implemented a chatbot at a large enterprise.

The quick-service restaurant chain had floating staff, and hence training them on the various operations of the restaurant was a challenging task for the L&D team. The following were the significant challenges faced by the L&D team:

  • The information was scattered across several documents and in multiple formats.
  • The staff came from multiple linguistic backgrounds.
  • The staff used email to ask questions or seek responses to their queries, and the process was person-dependent.

To overcome these challenges, Harbinger eLearning experts implemented an AI-based chatbot solution having the following unique differentiators:

  • The chatbot was voice-enabled and could take queries and respond in multiple languages. This not only helped minimize individual dependency but also overcome linguistic barriers.
  • The chatbot was able to search through documents from many sources and deliver precise information about the document.

AI-based chatbot business benefits

  • Cost Advantage: The enterprise saved costs on creating courses specific to operational information. A major advantage was that the learners got information when needed, in the flow of work.
  • Enhanced Efficiency: The operational efficiency also increased, thereby helping the staff to serve the customer better.

Future Enhancement Plan

The solution has a potential for further enhancement.

The chatbot can be upgraded by presenting an analytics dashboard. This dashboard can monitor frequently asked questions and offer insight to the L&D team so that they can optimize their training/onboarding activities and other learning initiatives.

Have you tried creating a bot? Do share your experience with all of us in the comments below. Or if you have any questions about our AI-powered chatbot solution, please email us at info@harbingerlearning.com.

Five Questions Every Gamification
Enthusiast Asks

If you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve heard about Gamification and want to include it into your training programs, or you have already implemented it, and want to do more with it. During my conversations with various customers, I realized that they all have few common questions while learning or implementing Gamification.

This blog addresses all those common questions that most Gamification enthusiasts usually come up with.

Question 1. Our eLearning training programs are not working; employees leave them halfway. Should we implement Gamification-based learning to bring employees back to the training?

Even before talking about implementing Gamified learning programs, we as consultants like to identify the reasons why training programs may not be working by asking the following questions:

  • What is the business problem the training program addresses?
  • What is the learner profile?
  • Is the quality of course content relevant, engaging, and up to date?
  • Has the program been pitched/communicated to the learners?
  • Has the course been designed as per the learner’s demographic?
  • Is there a lack of sense of progression and achievement?

To summarize, understand what your people need, design the course to engage them, and measure progress. Then gather feedback to find out what can be improved – because it always can!

Question 2. A majority of our workforce are millennials. Can gamification be the answer to make the eLearning programs effective?

Millennials are an immensely social and technologically savvy generation, yet they require continuous motivation and stimulation. Being natural gamers and digital natives, gamification appears to be an appropriate solution to attract and motivate millennials to work efficiently in the workplace. Simple game elements can be used in eLearning programs to redesign mundane courses and make them more interesting and engaging. They also help the learner perform better at work.

Question 3. Our workforce is adult learners and playing games is not what they like. Would you still recommend Gamification for this audience?

The terms “gamification” and “game-based learning” are frequently misunderstood. “Game-based” and “gamification” are two different eLearning strategies.

Game-based learning is where the learner plays games and, in the process, learns. For example, “Who wants to be a millionaire” is a game and we all learn in the process as we play that game.

Gamification, uses game mechanics such as leaderboards, points systems, badges, and up-leveling to tap a learner’s natural human drive for competition and achievement.

So, depending on the type of training topics such as marketing, sales, onboarding, financial training, compliance, money laundering, and others, the actual characters or structure of the course can be defined and designed.

Gamification as a learning strategy can definitely be considered for all age groups and for a variety of topics.

Question 4. Is implementing Gamification expensive and how can I justify the return on investment (ROI)?

This question should be valid not only for gamification but for any kind of newly launched learning program. All projects should be undertaken with a clear business goal in mind. For example, how has the training improved measurable business outcomes like improved customer ratings, successful handling of the number of support tickets, sales outcomes, better quality output, reduced number of customer escalations, and many more.

About cost – Gamification when implemented with the right technology solution is not expensive. Harbinger has designed a gamification framework that helps our customers implement the right gamification solution rapidly and in a cost-effective way.

Question 5. Can we implement Gamification to sustain for the long-term?

Gamification should not mask the symptoms of a broken system. Companies should implement it with a proper strategy on how it can sustain learner’s interest in the long term.

A study conducted by Karl Kapp over the course of three years demonstrates that a well-designed gamification strategy can sustain learner’s interest over time. In the sample study, he demonstrated that the impact of various game elements such as leaderboards and rewards continued to have a positive effect on its learners.

Therefore, Gamification as a strategy for eLearning programs is definitely effective if implemented with a thorough analysis of the business problem and learner’s profile.

What are your thoughts on gamification as an approach for content planning? Please comment below or drop us a note at info@harbingerlearning.com to discuss more.