6 Key Things to Consider as Universities Plan to Go Online

Universities across the globe are seeing a huge drop in number of students enrolling for campus education. They are also facing a higher drop-out ratio due to student inability to pay fees in wake of COVID- 19. It is being predicted that many universities and higher-ed institutes may have a sustenance challenge in the coming months if they do not act fast. Mid-tier and small universities, which always had a campus curriculum, are suddenly under a pressure to completely go online.

Going online does not only pertain to delivering classes online using zoom or WebEx; but instead, a complete digital transformation of academic operations and delivery. It affects everyone in the university. And such a transformation can take years to be successful. But do universities have that amount of time in hand? The obvious answer is NO. Then how can a university get this done right rapidly?

Here are few short-term solutions that a university can consider while going online:

1) Use Google Meet or Zoom to take online classes.

2) Use default Moodle with minimum customization to host all your online class details. It does not take more than a couple of weeks to get this up and running.

3) Add some engagement in your online sessions through interactive games, quizzes, exercises, and more.

4) Use a simple nudge system like short emails with key points, concepts, and definitions to reinforce learning content

5) Offer a few free online sessions to attract new registrations to your classes

6) Try and create some marketing collateral such as student success testimonials, parent experiences, and more to promote on social media and university website. Marketing it right would help you get more online registrations to classes and eventually sustain the university.

To get this all streamlined and implemented rapidly, perhaps the most appropriate thing would be to interact with a consulting company which has been into the online learning industry for a considerable period of time and has enough experience in the following fields:

– Technology selection

– Systems to go online

– Tools for teachers, students, administrative, and support functions

– Content development expertise to convert Instructor-Led Training (ILT) to online-friendly sessions

– Rapid yet effective innovative solutions to reduce dropout

– Student engagement solutions for pre- and post-class

Once your short-term system is set, then you can start planning the long term. Do ensure you consider all aspects stated above.

What are some interesting solutions you have used in your university which can be shared with other fellow educators? Do share your thoughts in the comments below.

Supporting Online Workplaces: A Case for Building Better Integrations

With the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic, HR and L&D leaders are finding themselves inundated with messages such as “7 Steps to Make Work from Home Effective” or “How to Take your Classrooms Online Quickly”. These messages address the immediate concerns of the leaders who must support a dispersed workforce that faces travel and commute restrictions. The key issue here is tools and technology that enable remote work and training.

Looking beyond the current challenges, however, reveals deeper issues that we must address in a timely manner. These issues broadly break down into two categories: process issues and people issues.

Process Issues

Let’s face it: No matter how sophisticated the enterprise software systems, underlying many workplace processes there is a tacit assumption that people meet at work. For example, consider an online performance management system. Typically, a manager and a direct would both have access to such a system.

A frequent use case might be both of them accessing the system to look up and record key points discussed during one-on-one meetings or continuous performance reviews.

The employee experience, however, differs greatly when those one-on-one meetings or performance reviews occur over a Zoom video call. Or when performance feedback is shared over Slack. Such communication technologies must be weaved into the system of record for future referencing. This is a simple illustration of a process issue underlying remote work. Additional use cases are easily found throughout employee life cycle from recruitment to separation.

People Issues

A big part of coming to work has to do with developing a sense of shared mission, becoming part of a work culture, belonging to a community of peers, and regenerating the drive to move forward. When people work from remote locations, their isolation causes them to start weakening their purpose, shared values, affiliation, and motivation.

Technology may provide infrastructure and integrated processes may facilitate workflows. But what about the soft yet critical drivers of success such as purpose, values, affiliation, and motivation? This is where integrated collaboration and social network technology helps. For example, a set of online team-building games, pulse polls, chatbots, nudge platforms for micro-learning content, and other engagement applications, carefully integrated with collaboration and networking platforms will go a long way in restoring the sense of workplace in the home office.

A Bonus

Better integrations between systems of record and systems of engagement have an additional payoff. With workplace going online, organizations can extract additional value out of the vast stores of behavioral data. These include communication patterns, engagement levels, workplace technology usage, and many more. By leveraging the power of analytics and BI platforms, HR and L&D leaders can generate valuable insights into talent and work data.

Next Steps

Once you see the immense payoff of building better integrations, the next step would be to look for the low-hanging fruit. Start with an inventory of workplace technologies you use. This would include a variety of HR tech, learning, and collaboration platforms such as HRIS, LMS, team portals, enterprise social networks, virtual meeting platforms, office productivity solutions, and so forth. Then look at a list of processes that are disrupted due to increasing levels of remote work. These might include training, performance management, employee engagement, recruiting, and so on. Finally, work with a systems integration consultant who has deep knowledge of HR and learning processes to identify low-investment, high-returns integrations that can be built quickly.

The growth in virtual work is likely to be a sustained trend. The COVID-19 pandemic only serves to illustrate the need for leaders to get their organizations better prepared for remote working possibilities. With better use of the right tools and techniques, HR and L&D leaders can more accurately help direct funds to enhance employee engagement, productivity, and ultimately organizational effectiveness.

This blog was earlier published here: http://www.vikasjoshi.com/supporting-online-workplaces-a-case-for-building-better-integrations/

eLearning Conversations – A Passive Way to Learn

A dialog between two characters to present a scenario for learners – Does this sound familiar? All of us who have been associated with eLearning development, mostly have developed such samples showcasing conversations and scenarios.

There was a time when such conversations were considered an engaging way to learn. To make it more effective, voice-overs were added. But, let us step-back for a moment and think if it is an engaging and active mode of learning? Isn’t it a pretty passive way where the learner is simply watching the screen and is only following what is being displayed? The question that arises then is, if such conversations or scenarios are not very effective, then how do we solve this problem? One possible solution that I can think of is to have the learner interact with the system as part of the scenario. And based on how the learner interacts, the system can respond to the learner and take the conversation ahead. With advancement in technology, chatbots could be used as an important element of this.

Chatbots are a great way to engage learners in a conversation and experience the scenario unfold. To explain it better, imagine a conversation between a doctor and a patient on the symptoms to observe for a disease. The doctor needs to recommend the right medication. To train a doctor well on this scenario, we could have the doctor (learner) converse with a bot which acts as a patient. The bot would respond to the doctor’s examination questions. This would help the doctor to know the right set of questions and gather as much information as possible before getting into the actual scenario. This bot could even be voice-enabled which will allow the learner to talk to the bot.

And how do we take this to an eLearning course? Well, in an eLearning course, a bot can be embedded instead of the conversation slides. And when it comes to questions or assessments based on the scenario, the course can continue like usual. Such chatbots can be created using variety of technologies such as Google DialogFlow, Microsoft Q&A Maker, and Amazon Lex.

Chatbot in eLearning

Interested in seeing a demo? Feel free to reach out to us at info@harbingerlearning.com.




The 4D Development Methodology for Modernization

In some recent blogs, I mentioned about the xSMART framework for modernization and its benefits. In this blog, we’ll have a look at the 4D development methodology which operationally complements the xSMART framework.

A typical modernization project could be divided into 4 distinct phases – Define, design, develop, and deliver. This 4D development methodology enables teams in managing and executing modernization projects in a controlled manner.

Let us look at all 4 phases in detail:


This phase is the foundation of any modernization project and kicks in as soon as project scoping begins. It ensures that short and long term business objectives are tied with the outcomes of the project.  Some basic questions that L&D stakeholders need to answer during this phase are listed below.

  • What are the business objectives that we want to achieve at the end of this project?
  • Are we looking for as-is conversion or is there a scope for enhancements, instructionally and visually?
  • Would we require SME support during the modernization process?
  • Should the modernized courses be accessibility compliant?
  • Do we want to consider micro-learning as one of the key value propositions?
  • Is there any preference for any specific tool or technology for modernization?

There is a possibility that for some of these questions might not fetch immediate answers and that is perfectly fine. Atleast, there would no ambiguity on the knowns and unknowns as we move to the design phase. And that is a key achievement.


The define phase sets us up for designing a solution which is geared towards meeting specific business needs. In this phase, we’ll look at three key areas to focus on prior to getting into the development phase.

  1. Change log format for communicating edits: Change log is a tool which helps bring in agility in the development process. It could be designed using an excel file or a word doc. Since we are not doing an overhaul of the existing course from an instructional design point of view, we need not do the entire storyboarding again. Change log can be used to communicate changes to be made at a screen level in a course.
  1. Design and development of template library: Whatever authoring mode we choose, the key is to develop a library of templates which is reusable. These templates are designed after analyzing the legacy courses to ensure best fit. At this stage, a thought might cross our mind that what is the need to analyze courses and then design a template library, couldn’t we simply develop a template library which could be used across all types of courses? Well, to answer it, yes it is possible, but it is not necessary that one size will fit all. This phase is to ensure that every design aspect is fulfilled using the best possible solution. Another important benefit that we get using this approach is that it gives us an opportunity to implement accessibility and compliance standards such as section 508 or xAPI at the template level itself.
  2. Quality checklist for various combinations: During the define phase, we generally would have shortlisted the browsers, devices, and operating systems on which modernized courses would run. We would have also decided on the accessibility standards being implemented. The design phase can ensure that we have all the performance and functionality features captured in the QA checklist. It is important to have these checks in place before production starts.


It is time to get the production wheel rolling in this phase. To start off, we need to extract all reusable assets and content from existing legacy courses. If source files are not available, then a custom automation utility can be used to extract content from existing courses. Extracted content can be stored in a way that it enables us to bring in automation into play while developing the courses. For example if we decide to go with custom HTML5-XML based course development, then extracted content could be easily populated in the XML structure using an automation utility. This would help reduce development timelines further.

While the content extraction team gets busy, the instructional design team can start churning out change logs simultaneously. They can review the existing courses screen by screen and record their recommendations in the change logs. These recommendations can be used to build new templates. Client stakeholders can review and sign off completed change logs.

Once the template library is ready, the production process literally takes off. All efforts that have gone into planning the modernization project culminate at this stage. The production team can start producing and releasing modernized courses rapidly, after successful content mapping with existing courses and quality testing.


Once courses are developed and the first version is released, there are certain steps and processes to be accomplished before we label it as a successful delivery. The first version of the courses is delivered to review teams through specified file sharing protocols. Once reviewed,  issues are logged in a pre-defined tool or system, and then sent back to the development team for fixing, retesting, and delivering it again.

The fundamental objective of this 4D development methodology is to streamline the entire process and make it compatible with the xSMART framework. It would be wonderful to know your thoughts and any experiences you might have had with this working methodology. You can drop us a line at info@harbingerlearning.com.

Benefits That An Organization Can Reap Through Content Modernization

In my last blog, we looked at how the xSMART framework could help in driving the content modernization initiative. In this post, we’ll talk about the benefits that the key stakeholders, namely – the modern-day learner, the L&D heads, and the CXOs, can derive from the modernization initiative.

Let’s begin with talking about the consumer of content – the modern-day learners. For them, the biggest benefit that modernization brings along is that they can be in-charge of their learning. They can consume content at the time and pace which best suits their needs. For example, they can consume content through their mobile-devices when they are commuting, and when in office, they could switch to their laptops or desktops. Since modernized content could be made available in various formats, sizes, and shapes, it could meet varied learning needs and preferences of individuals. 

For L&D heads, there are multifold benefits that arise out of this initiative. It helps them to align the modernized content to competencies rather than just being driven by learning objectives. Couple this with detailed analytics and it gives us a recipe for a faster and efficient way to close on the skills gap. The other key benefit they can derive out of this is culture transformation – moving from a culture of training to a culture of learning. Modernized content developed once can be deployed in multiple scenarios. For example, content which is broken down into micro-learning nuggets could be SCORM packaged and made available through the LMS or it could even be made available and searchable on a mobile-app through metadata-tagging.

For CXOs, the biggest benefit that the modernization initiative brings on the table is the broad-scale opportunity to align their learning, talent development, and performance management strategies with business goals. The other key benefit is that it gives them an opportunity to future-proof content against any technology disruptions and increase its shelf life. For example, if an organization wants to enable AI-based learning solutions, then implementing a modernization initiative could become an overhead. It will be better to have such aspects addressed during the initial modernization exercise itself. Modernization gives us this opportunity and benefit.

Many more benefits could be derived from the modernization initiative. Not necessarily all of them are covered in this blog post. We are all ears to know your thoughts on the same. Reach out to us at info@harbingerlearning.com.