Digitization of Education – Modernizing Classrooms for Good

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela.

When I was a young kid, I could not even imagine learning anywhere except for a traditional classroom and in the physical presence of my teachers. There was some noise about desktops as I stepped into teenage, but it was only limited to our ‘Computer Science’ classes once a fortnight where we would learn coding in BASIC language. As I stepped into college, I graduated as a ‘Computer Applications’ professional who frequented computer labs primarily for practicing my coding assignments. Most of my learning still happened in traditional classrooms, with teachers around, and through paper books. (Interestingly, I have progressed from calling them real books to paper books in the last few years). Fast forward to 2020 – The year that changed mine and probably the entire world’s outlook about education. We work remotely, collaborate virtually, learn through online courses, virtual classrooms, and virtual instructor led training sessions, which very amusingly is also how our kids learn today.

Integration of technology into learning and education is not new but the pace at which it advanced through the year 2020, is remarkable. The field of education was in fact one of the first ones to be affected by the disruption caused by the pandemic. Millions of educational institutions had to resort to online teaching – something that was in the pipeline for the longest time and yet never really prioritized. Some were better prepared than the others, but it won’t be incorrect to say that everyone learnt and evolved for better. With this rapid transformation, we also realized that the potential of digitization in education and learning is huge and exciting. While there are many challenges, there are abundant opportunities too. And as we step into 2021, I can’t help but feel amazed by the sheer thought of learning technology progressing by leaps and bounds.

What is Digitization

Wikipedia defines digitization as the process of converting information into a digital (i.e., computer-readable) format. In the context of learning/education, digitization may be better understood as a subset of ‘Digital Transformation’. Digital transformation is best understood as the adoption of digital technology to transform services or businesses, through replacing non-digital or manual processes with digital processes or replacing older digital technology with newer digital technology.

Common Approaches to Digitize

Digitization largely makes use of (but not limited to) mechanisms like:

  • Online learning courses which can be taken at the learners’ convenience and assist in self-paced learning. These courses are usually targeted at building competencies and knowledge in specific subjects or skills. Course creators can accordingly build them as interactive learning modules. using appropriate instructional methodologies like gamification, animations, videos, simulations, scenarios, and more.
  • Online assessments and examinations which make the whole assessment process convenient and hassle-free for both teachers/trainers and learners.
  • eBooks which provide an interface to learners to access learning material digitally and in an interactive fashion.
  • Study assistants and virtual bots which are available anytime anywhere to guide the learner on all their queries.
  • Curating and converting OERs (Open Educational Resources) into interactive videos, nuggets, and more.  

Challenges to Overcome

While the above digitization approaches contribute to bringing a certain level of ease in the system, there are some challenges that still need attention.

  • Transforming Content Appropriately

Learning online works differently from traditional classroom-based learning and hence the approach to design and deliver both should also be different. Digitizing a piece of content is not about converting it as-is to an online format. We need to apply the right learning design strategy, instructional approaches, and learner engagement tactics to make content appealing for online learners.

Breaking longer content into smaller micro-learning nuggets is equally important. These small learning bytes make a good use-case for just-in-time learning and periodic reinforcement.

Responsive design is another important factor to keep in mind while digitizing content. Learners are likely to access online learning content on a device of their choice.

  • Integrating Multiple Systems

While this doesn’t pertain to content digitization per se, but the right system integrations form the core of any digital transformation initiative. All systems in picture need to communicate with each other seamlessly for the transformation to be effective. For example, in a major upskilling initiative in a company, if the learning management system is exchanging data with the performance management system, it will become much easier to measure the impact of any learning program on the employee performance and even predict what kind of learning programs would an employee need.

In the context of education, systems like student information systems should be integrated seamlessly with salesforce or a CRM, attendance management system, learning management system, and even online meeting tool like zoom to track the entire journey of a learner – from candidate to a certified professional.

These are just a few examples, there could be many others. The point I am trying to establish is that learning cannot operate in a silo; it will work the best if it is a component of the entire organizational workflow.

  • Building a Culture of Continuous Learning

In today’s dynamically changing world, it is important for any organization or educational institution to develop a culture of continuous learning. Upskilling and reskilling continuously is the only way to survive in this competitive landscape. People must learn faster than ever before and for that, we need to weave in continuous learning in the organizational culture and not just make it a mandate.

Making learning available in the flow of work, periodic reinforcement of relevant learning content through nudge-learning, using deep analytics and AI to recognize and address competency gaps, are some ways technology can help address this challenge.

The Way Forward

We are in a time where phenomenal changes are taking place in the education and learning domain. Are the new EdTech products capable of helping develop skills that future workplaces will demand? As per a McKinsey report, by 2030, 65% of today’s grade school kids will end up at jobs that haven’t been invented yet. Clearly, today’s jobs are not necessarily going to end up as tomorrow’s jobs. Hence, we need to rapidly address competency gaps, not just through school education but throughout work lives of professionals. In this changing marketplace, learning is no more meant to be confined to the four walls of a classroom, it needs to evolve. It needs to enable learners to acquire new skills whenever they need and wherever they need.

Digitization is the first step towards this transformation. Solutions like AI-based teaching assistants, chatbots, automation, nudge-learning, augmented and virtual reality will take center stage. Where do you stand in this whole transformation? What challenges have you experienced and what results have you achieved? I would love to know. Drop me an email at info@harbingerelearning.com to connect and discuss.

An Educational Program to Help Teenagers Recover from Nicotine Addiction: A Case Study in EdTech

Drug addiction is a severe problem in youth across USA. In fact, prescription drug misuse is the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States. And it intensely affects the lives of teenagers in multiple ways. Substance abuse and problematic patterns of substance use among youth can lead to problems at school, cause or aggravate physical and mental health-related issues, promote poor peer relationships, cause motor-vehicle accidents, and place stress on the family. They can also develop into lifelong issues such as substance dependence, chronic health problems, and social and financial consequences.[1]

As a non-profit organization that aims to transform lives impacted by addiction and substance use through behavioral healthcare solutions, one of Harbinger’s end clients had it on their plan to develop an educational drug recovery program for teenage learners. Their intention was to positively impact the lives of as many teenagers as possible by rolling out the program in multiple schools and colleges to improve its reach. Regarding the program development, the client had two primary requirements – Development of an app and an engaging educational course which would play on that app.

Keeping in mind the preferences and needs of teenage learners, sensitivity around the subject area, and the learning objectives, it was important to get the technology selection and design of the program right. Shared below are some guidelines by the client for each of their development requirements and how Harbinger helped achieve them through its EdTech development capabilities.

  1. App Development

They wanted to set up a drug addiction recovery application (Both web-based and mobile), which would enable individuals to access drug treatment programs based on user modules. Different roles including youth, parents and professionals would use the application. The application would also produce reports and analytics to analyze the impact of each training.

Harbinger studied many environments for their user interface quality, customizability, performance, overall maturity, and durability and finally chose AWS Lightsail environment. We then moved to build the custom web and mobile app for drug recovery. Other essential technology choices that we made were – ReactJS for the responsive web front, React Native for the mobile app, and Laravel Framework to support durability and performance. The app included functionality to give performance-insights to learners in real time. Periodic notifications and customized reports helped in tracking learner progress efficiently.

The below figure represents the solution architecture of the application.

EdTech Solution Architecture

  1. Course Development

In any online educational course, it is important to minimize dropouts and ensure a higher level of engagement for learners, and same was the case here. The client wanted to design an engaging educational experience, which suited teenage learner preferences, based on a 5-stage recovery program. They also wanted to ensure that the program wouldn’t scare the learners away, instead motivate and encourage them to achieve the objective of calling it quits on nicotine.

Harbinger decided to give the teenage learners a Netflix-like user experience. There was chunking of content into smaller modules, as series and episodes. Our designers treated episodes with different instructional and visual design methodologies. Some episodes were made available as comic strips, some as scenarios, some had an inter-conversational interface, while some had gamification components. This built learner interest and ensured engagement to be spot-on. The design of the entire learning program was as a responsive website.

As a result of all the research and efforts that went in, the client could launch a successful drug recovery program that helped improve student outcomes drastically. They were even able to promote this program in schools and colleges, which resulted in the program’s wider reach. Harbinger is very proud of the fact that it has been able to work with the client to meet all desired objectives and contribute to this noble cause of drug recovery. Apart from this particular case, we have also helped many other clients build successful educational technology solutions. To know more about our EdTech expertise or to view a demo of the drug recovery solution, please drop a note to info@harbingerelearning.com.

[1] https://youth.gov/youth-topics/substance-abuse#_ftn

Rapidly Transforming Organizational Content to Learning Experiences

Imagine taking a customer visit report and creating a case study for sales staff; a video recording of a new product demo meeting converted to product learning nuggets; or a zoom meeting recording converted to best practices of handling challenging situations. These all are examples of organizational content or user-generated content (UGC) which we can transform and use to create unique learning experiences. This content is unique to an organization and apart from just content, it captures an organization’s experiences, preferences, beliefs, and values.

The Need to Create Learning Experiences Rapidly

Learning and development function is today focusing not only on technical skills, but even other critical skills such as leadership development, change management, and more. Learning is no more a bunch of classroom training programs. It is a broader construct encompassing a range of experiences employees encounter in a day’s work. HR and L&D are therefore increasingly concerned with creating learning experiences for content which is unique to their organizations. Today’s organizations capture a swathe of content in information systems, and that too at lightning speed.

The key question then is how can one convert this rapidly generating content into learning experiences? How to create learning experiences at the same speed as content generation? How can we use technology and automation, so that there is minimum lag between the time, say, a new product literature shows up and the time product training is rolled out? Learning technology has evolved to enable L&D to systematically harness and transform content to learning experiences and keep up with the velocity of content generation. Then why is this not happening already?  Where are we falling short? The issue is with the process of content conversion that we have been following traditionally.

Traditional Process of Content Transformation

The below image captures step by step phases of the traditional process of content conversion.

Content Conversion Traditional Process

The traditional process is painfully slow,  due to to some or all of the following reasons:

  • Dependency on subject matter experts for sourcing content
  • No discovery process for newly generated useful content
  • Long time cycles of eLearning production
  • The need for repeated and time-consuming reviews by subject matter experts
  • Time gap between release and consumption of learning content

New High Velocity Process of Content Transformation

If we replace this traditional process, with a new process that for high velocity content transformation, tables will turn.  Here’s how the new process looks like.

Content Conversion Modern Process

The conversion timeline for this new process would be less than a week for the same content that would take 4-6 weeks through the traditional route. Impressive? Isn’t it?

Real-Life Demo of Rapid Content Transformation

We, at Harbinger, have a real-life demo of high velocity content transformation. We have implemented this new process to convert an internal leadership meeting discussion into nudge-learning content. Write to us at info@harbingerelearning.com if you would like to see a demo of that.

Online work is generating a lot of UGC that needs to rapidly reach employees through learning experiences. UGC is an opportunity for L&D to facilitate the curation and transformation of content, as well as the distribution of learning experiences. These experiences, if enabled in the flow of work, can motivate employees to learn something new, perform better, and up-skill themselves, which is what all L&D leaders strive to achieve at the end of the day. Technology, when used effectively, can help transform a lot of this useful content and deliver it in the flow of work, saving time and resources.

Have you been struggling to keep up with the velocity of content generation? Do you have some insights to share? Comment below.

P.E.S.E. – A Framework to Support Remote Learning

In my last blog, I touched upon the P.E.S.E. (Prepare. Engage. Support. Evaluate.) framework that Harbinger uses for building and implementing remote learning programs for its clients. Today, we will understand this framework in detail.

P.E.S.E. basically breaks down the successful implementation process of remote learning solutions into 4 distinct phases.

Remote Learning Framework

Prepare

This is the starting point, the first pillar of this framework. This is where we lay the foundation of the success of the remote learning program.

There are multiple considerations you need to evaluate and decide on, at this stage

  • Business challenge that you are solving
  • Knowing your audience in terms of who they are, where they are, and how they are
  • Learning modality to be used for the program – VILT or eLearning, Game-based or videos
  • Role and choice of technology
  • Skillset of existing instructors – Assessing if they require any upskilling or reskilling

Engage

This is the second pillar of the framework. Learner engagement is of paramount importance in remote learning, when you know they can be distracted easily. There are three distinct stages at which you need to take care of learner engagement, in remote learning.

  • Pre-event
  • During the event
  • Post-event

To understand this better, let’s take the example of a virtual instructor-led training (VILT) session and understand how we could engage learners at each stage.

  • Pre-event: Creating a teaser animation video and rolling it out to the audience on the topic of the VILT session. This can generate curiosity and motivate learners to participate in the session.
  • During the event – Using group activities where learners can participate and brainstorm with their group members and compete with others. Sleek and modern visual learning design is also a great hook to ensure engagement from the learners during the event.
  • Post-event – It is very important to indulge in engaging learners post the event to enable better retention and to overcome the forgetting curve. Some ways this could be done for a VILT session are through nudging learners with small learning bytes after the event or sharing job-aids after the session.

Support

The third pillar of this framework is aimed at supporting learners throughout the life cycle of remote learning. The key is to integrate this support in the flow of work. You can consider options like having an AI-enabled virtual coach integrated in an office productivity tool like Slack or Microsoft teams to support your remote learners.

Evaluate

The fourth and the last pillar of this framework is aimed at evaluating the results of the remote learning program against the success parameters that were set. And based on the findings, if there is a need to make course corrections in the program, they can be implemented, and the program can be re-launched.

All the pillars of this framework play an equally important role in ensuring the success of any remote learning program. P.E.S.E. is a scalable and robust model. To know more about it, please drop us a line at info@harbingerelearning.com.

 

Pivoting a Business Model to Support Remote Learning Needs

COVID- 19 has created unprecedented humanitarian economic and psychological demands on our society. Nothing has been left untouched. One of the important business needs for organizations during these times has been to quickly figure out new ways of doing business and identifying potential opportunities. Dr. Anil Lamba, Director Lamcon Finance & Management Services Pvt. Ltd., shared his business model transformation story, in a webinar recently. His institute provides financial training programs. Dr. Lamba has successfully pivoted his business model to cater to emerging market needs of remote learning.

In the webinar, Dr. Anil Lamba talked about what it takes for a business owner to pivot around a business model and adapt to the changed market scenarios. He was accompanied by Utkarsh Mahajan from Harbinger Interactive Learning who spoke about a model to create engaging remote training programs. Here are some highlights.

Early Days of Lamcon and their Foray into eLearning
Dr. Lamba, who is a renowned corporate trainer now, used to be a full time practicing chartered accountant early in his career. From there, he moved to pursue his passion for teaching finance and gradually Lamcon was born. Today, Lamcon trains over 3000 companies across the world.

During the early days of Lamcon, Dr. Lamba decided that he will be the only trainer in the company to provide consistency in service. And that’s when he started to build an ecosystem around himself to meet the needs of their increasing clients. They started developing supporting products. They created a series of videos and that was the company’s foray into eLearning. They also created books. The common figure across all these products was Dr. Lamba. It helped maintain consistency in the entire ecosystem.

Business Model – Pre-Pandemic and Post-Pandemic

Lamcon had a business model where they trained in two ways.

  • In-company programs, conducted on invitation for employees of any company
  • Open programs, which are available for anyone to join

Dr. Lamba used to travel to company chosen venues to deliver these programs before the COVID- 19 pandemic hit. Live training videos were recorded at company locations and were utilized to train the larger employee set who could not make it for face to face training. Open programs were also delivered live. But Dr. Lamba, who has always believed that finance is a subject that everyone should know, always had a lurking thought at the back of his mind. He always wondered why he was training only 20-30 people in a room when this topic was relevant to almost everyone across the globe.

But early this year, due to COVID- 19, all physical training came to a halt and that is when Lamcon shifted to virtual training as the new mode of delivery to address their clients’ training needs. Dr. Lamba feels that it was a blessing in disguise for Lamcon because there is no limit to how many people he can train now. He is not confined by the four walls of a room. As an organization, Lamcon has decided to almost stop all face to face open training programs going forward, even beyond COVID- 19. They will also we will give an option to companies to opt for virtual training.

Lamcon uses Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT), accompanied by eLearning modules. To support higher enrollments, they have shrunk the prices of the training by about 40%.

Productizing a Service

Training is a form of service and if you’re providing a service, you can only grow up to a certain point, beyond which there is a ceiling. Dr. Lamba always wanted to productize the service he provided – the books, videos, and the eLearning they created, was an attempt at the same. This made their service mass producible and there was no fear of hitting the ceiling.

Harbinger’s P.E.S.E. Framework for Remote Learning

Remote Learning Framework

Lamcon worked with Harbinger Interactive Learning to create their remote learning assets. With over 30 years of experience, Harbinger boasts of developing various innovative learning solutions for its clients. And the recent times have been no different. Harbinger has been actively supporting its clients in creating remote learning solutions using the P.E.S.E. (Prepare. Engage. Support. Evaluate.) framework. We will cover more about this framework in our next blog. Until then, stay tuned.

For any queries, please reach out to us at info@harbingerelearning.com.