Can Authoring Tools Become Your Differentiator?

When working in a custom eLearning development company and interacting with prospects, one often faces this curious question, “What is your differentiator?”

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The answer to this is usually framed around the following points:

  1. Years of experience
  2. Design innovation
  3. Domain knowledge
  4. Instructional design capability
  5. Cost effectiveness

Development technologies, specifically authoring tools, usually don’t appear in the differentiator list. But the way authoring tools have evolved over the last couple of years, I feel they definitely deserve a place in the list. However, it is only possible if you know how to use these tools creatively and customize the output to make it unique.  Here are some quick ways of looking at it:

  1. Challenge the tool – Don’t just be happy with the basic features that the tool offers; explore the tool and discover ways to create unique solutions. Every tool has a strong developer community to help you with your discoveries.
  2. Tool limitation is just an excuse – Most of the times stating that the authoring tools have limitations is just an excuse. There could be few “not so obvious” solutions; however, there are workarounds to almost everything.
  3. Look for creativity – You cannot make the most of the tool if you are concentrating only on the tool functionalities. Look at it not just as a development tool but as a design aid as well.
  4. Select the tool wisely – Select the most appropriate tool based on your requirements; not every tool is fit for every situation.

Modern day authoring tools are not just for rapid development, but they can provide creative, unique, and cost-effective solutions. So go ahead, make them the differentiators for you.

What do you think? Share your comments.

Digital Learning Objects – An Interesting Approach to Deliver Engaging Learning Experiences

One of Harbinger’s most interesting offerings has been Digital Learning Objects (DLOs). Harbinger aims to serves its customers’ digital, blended or ILT requirements through creation of DLOs that can be used independently or as part of larger learning experiences.

Digital Learning Objects

We have an interesting case study that demonstrates Harbinger’s expertise at creating DLOs for the publishing business of one of the world’s largest universities. This high stake, high visibility project required Harbinger to develop multiple DLOs that were platform and device agnostic. Read more here.

And if you are curious to know more about DLOs, then here is what they are: They are self contained digital pieces which comprise of brief stand-alone units like interactive videos, game based assessments, simulations, presentations, tests, brainteasers, etc. These DLOs can be used to convey information, enable interactions through games, illustrate concepts, reinforce learning, tell stories, enable practice, etc. Know more about DLOs here.

Have you used DLOs in your learning experiences? How was your experience? Share through comments below.

A Video Speaks a Million Words

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It’s currently 3 °C in New York City and only getting colder! I make sure the heater in my office is working as it should be before Rachel comes in for the meeting.

“Good morning, Rachel! Nice to have you here!”

“Morning, Steve! Good to see you again.”

I know Rachel from my university days. We had not been in touch till I bumped into her last week at a conference in Toronto.

I own a digital communications agency in Manhattan and Rachel had set up time with me to discuss how her eLearning development company could help me with my business.

“So Steve, do you actively promote video development services to your clients?”

“Not really. It’s mostly the clients who come to us with a requirement. If they need video, we do that for them”.

“And have you thought of offering development of interactive videos to them?”

“Interactive videos? What are those? Aren’t videos just, well, videos?”

Rachel smiles  and says, “Well let’s start with telling you why you should be selling videos more, especially since your client base is all pharmaceutical companies. The healthcare industry, especially pharmaceuticals, uses a lot of videos in many activities. These could be promotional videos for their drugs, marketing videos, training videos, or videos for drug launch and so on. Adding video creation as one of your main offerings will certainly give you an edge over your competitors.”

“Makes sense. Great point!”

“Thank you! Our offshore team in India is skilled in creating engaging videos. Of course, you have seen the example of the hypoglycemia video we created for your competitor, Medical Communications. As you know, when it comes to conveying your message to the audience, video is one of the most effective media you can use. Also, video is a great attention grabber. If a video was available, most audience would opt to watch it before reading any text.”

“These are certainly some useful points for me to remember while speaking with my customers.”

“Indeed. Video can help deliver a consistent message each time. It’s also an easy way to strike personal connections with audience. Video content is social-media-friendly, thus easily shareable with increased level of engagement.”

“Couldn’t agree more with you!”

“Now let’s move to interactive videos. Interactive videos transform a traditional video experience from a monologue into a dialogue.”

“Interesting!”

“Interactive videos have the power to engage, turning viewers into participants.”

“This all sounds great. But how do you do it? Also, can you show me an example of an interactive video?”

“Absolutely! We have expertise into a few tools that can make videos interactive. One of them is Exaltive. Please check out this video to see what an interactive video looks like.”

“This is great stuff, Rachel! I know my clients will love this!”

“I know!. Interactive videos—with their power to turn viewer’s attention into engagement— build customer loyalty with personalized communication and boost sales.”

I am now working together with Rachel on proposing interactive video development to one of our biggest pharma clients.

I know it’s going to be a long term partnership with Rachel’s company.

When Steve Met Rachel

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I recently bumped into my university time friend Rachel at a conference in Toronto. I remembered her as a shy girl from old days, but it looked like she had transformed into a very confident business professional over the years. She handed over her card to me which read that she was a sales head with a well-known eLearning company.

We chatted for a bit, touched upon how life had changed as we have aged, strategies for staying healthy, challenges with everyday stuff, daily activities, hobbies, and of course, work.

Just as I was about to end the conversation with a formal sounding promise to keep in touch, she said something that piqued my curiosity. She said she would be in New York the week after, to meet a customer, who apparently is my biggest competitor called ‘Medical Communications’ and as a matter of fact, a well-known name too in my industry.

Just a little background, I own a digital communications company based in the heart of New York City. We have a special focus on the pharmaceutical sector, with most global pharma brands as our clients.

“What would an eLearning development firm do for a medical communications agency?”

Rachel gave me a confident smile and said, “quite a lot.”

“But I know for a fact that they do not develop any online training! How does a collaboration work in that case?”

“Steve, you are quite right assuming that our main business is to develop digital learning modules. However I would like to throw some light on what it includes. Being a smart businessman, I know you will connect the dots in your mind.”

“I am all ears.”

“We are purely into the instructional and technology part of things, the main content always comes from the client, we don’t write it. But we make sure it gets translated into interactive and engaging outcomes. When the course content comes from the client, we start work on the instructional design and create storyboards. Once the client approves them, we start the development. The development includes multiple things like creating the graphics, icons, graphs, charts, animations, 2D or 3D images and characters. A lot of our work involves creating engaging video content. In the end we put everything together and handover the final product to the client….you get the picture?”

“I guess I do, yeah. So are you saying that your services are not limited to the businesses that wish to develop interactive training, but to every business that would like to create digital content?”

“You got it! For your competitor, we have been developing short two minute videos on the side effects of certain drugs. They have hired a dedicated team of animators in our offshore office in India for the video creation work.”

“So the hypoglycemia video they showcased in the conference in DC last month…was it developed by you folks?”

She just smiled.

“You kidding me? That is award winning stuff! You guys are great!”

“Thank you, Steve. This is all about understanding the client’s business thoroughly, asking the right questions and delivering as promised. With stringent processes and strong project management skills, we can do it fairly easily for industries. Though I sell mainly into the life sciences, my company’s business is industry agnostic. We work with many marketing and advertising agencies as their development partners. With a large offshore team, we can take on work at a short notice and work with tight timelines. The hypoglycemia video from our customer or the drug launch presentation I showed to you earlier are just two examples from the many projects we keep executing on a regular basis. Do you think we can catch up once again in NYC next week to have a detailed discussion?”

Rachel’s words forced me to think a lot on the way things were currently happening at my firm, and I could think of many more opportunities already in my head. I would be a fool to say no to Rachel’s proposition.

I learnt that an eLearning company could be of help to many non-training businesses too, and I am already looking forward to know more in our next meeting.

Note: This blog is a fictional account.

Transforming Webcasts into Interactive eLearning Courses


shutterstock_471046154Webcasts or webinars are a popular medium for conveying information and knowledge to the workforce. In my conversations with various life sciences customers, I discovered that many organizations have a library of webcasts with relevant information that are still being used as part of their learning environment. However, one common feedback received from their learners is that “even if the content is relevant, it isn’t engaging at all!”

In today’s highly interactive media world, watching lengthy videos is surely tedious. That’s when I had the idea of turning webcasts into engaging eLearning experiences!

In a typical webcast, you connect through an online meeting tool to watch a presentation and listen to the speaker. You also participate in some polls or questions through the chat window. Webcasts are presented as live sessions and may be also available as a recording.

Why Convert Webcasts into eLearning Courses?

Webcasts lack interactivity if you are watching a recording instead of the live session; it is a passive experience for the learner. Additionally, there is no method to measure the learning outcomes.

As opposed to that, eLearning modules are on-demand training experiences with audio and video elements, interactive activities, knowledge checks and additional resources. One can even perform tasks in simulation courses. You can take the course at a convenient time. With the advent of mobile learning or mLearning, you can also take a course on-the-go on your mobile devices.

You can measure learning outcomes of the course using learner analytics to know how your learners engaged with the course.

3 Easy Steps for Converting Webcasts into eLearning Courses

Step 1: The fishutterstock_351011930-convertedrst step towards converting webcasts into eLearning is to analyze the recording of the webcast and determine which content lends itself to interactivity. During the analysis, you need to determine if the webcast covers all the key information that needs to be included in the eLearning course.  Else collaboration with a SME is necessary to provide the missing content. Using the webcast recording as source material is a good way to reduce dependency on the SME.

Step 2: The content is chunked into smaller, logical parts and then a storyboard is created. The interactions used in the webcasts, for example the whiteboard animations, polls taken to understand user inputs, online games played as brainteasers, questions from the audience at the end of the webcast etc., could be used to create interactive surveys, knowledge checks or interactive scenarios in the eLearning course. One could even use a portion of the webcast video as part of the eLearning course, if relevant.

Step 3: Once the storyboard is finalized, you can start the development of the course using the tool or technology of your choice (e.g. Articulate Storyline, Custom HTML5, Captivate, Raptivity etc.). The choice of the tool will depend on the devices from which the course will be accessed.

5 Things to Keep in Mind before You Start

  1. Merely converting the webcast into an electronic format is not eLearning; just like cut-glass is not a diamond. You must evaluate the content on several criteria to determine how it can be converted into a course.
  2. It is important to define the learning objectives and the learning outcomes of the eLearning course. It will help in analyzing the content and removing any information that is not required for the eLearning course.
  3. There is no need to include everything that has been explained in the webcast in the eLearning course.
  4. It is ideal to collaborate with a trusted partner company that follows eLearning best practices when undertaking this conversion exercise.
  5. It is essential that the content for the eLearning is self-contained since unlike the webcast there is no instructor available for additional annotations. Additionally, the converted training material should be designed for multi-modal presentations – including desktops, tablets, and smart phones.

Already thinking of converting your webcasts into eLearning?

Write to info@harbingerlearning.com to find out how Harbinger can help you convert your existing webcasts into interactive and engaging eLearning courses.