Designing a “Dual-Mode” Course!

When dealing with K12 providers, one of the common issues we need to address is the need to have teaching aids in the course. Most of the time, we create two versions of the course – one for the learner, without the teaching aids, and one with the aids, for the teacher. We recently completed a course for a K12 provider who needed to teach kids a chapter of history using World War II photographs as a medium.

We used a neat trick in this course that helped us to identify exactly what features needed to be stripped off for the student version of the course – We simply created a dual-mode course! All the teaching aids for the course were accessible through a button, so the student version simply had that button disabled!

We didn’t need to create the same course twice, and we could easily identify what information needed to be given as teaching aids. This also allowed the teacher to concentrate on going through the course using the teaching aids alone, while the students focused on the content that was being taught. You may ask, how can the teacher ignore the content being taught? They don’t!

Curious to learn more? Write to info@harbingergroup.com.

Using Course Interface as an Engagement Tool!

Course interfaces tend to become a bit monotonous these days. This has become even more common with the use of rapid interaction authoring tools, where the Graphical User Interface (GUI) is only customizable as far as their colors. The form, the shape, and method of interaction are all features that still need to be individually programmed and created from the ground up when they are needed.

We recently completed a course for a K12 provider who wanted to teach kids a chapter of history through the use of World War 2 photographs. Most of the solutions available had interfaces featuring Back and Next buttons, maybe fancy page number panels, or perhaps a spin-wheel with the various pages on them. There was nothing that could be used to blend into a story and give a more environmental connection to the content that was to be taught in the course.

Then it hit me! I remembered the old View-Masters we used to have and how we used to spend so much time as kids looking at various places or photographs through them, and thought to myself “Why can’t kids today experience the same thing?” Right there was the interface we were looking for! What better way to have attention focused on the photographs that were to be used as a medium for teaching this chapter on history? We created the course with this vision, if you’ll pardon the pun, and needless to say, the kids loved it!

We created a GUI that made it look like the learner was viewing the photographs on a View-Master, with the tip of the circular view-disk peeking out from the top. Clicking buttons on either side of the disk allowed the learner to move ahead. The content to be taught is accessed through push-buttons built onto the View-Master frame, allowing the learner to view the story behind the photograph as well as the things to be discussed regarding the photograph.

Want to share any such “WOW” moment in your course design? Post your comment here or write to info@harbingerknowledge.com.

Presenting Boring Content…

We often talk about “making” a course interactive or engaging, but how can we approach content that is not engaging in itself? “Converting” flat and uninspired page-turners into something that actually engages and retains the learner’s interest is not as easy as it seems, and we learned this the hard way. This would be best demonstrated by explaining how we worked on one of our courses.

The job seemed simple enough when it first came to us – a course explaining company policies. A drab page-turner made in Powerpoint, the content was capable of putting even the Instructional Designers to sleep! The content was vital and important information, to be sure, but if it failed to interest the teacher, how would it ever engage the learner?

The content that came already used some interactivities created in Articulate Engage, and was published using Presenter. But those interactivities were as engaging as pressing a “Next” button that appeared in different places on the screen. Let’s face it – Tabs and Process interactivities are still page-turners of sorts. Do we add more of these interactivities? Maybe turn some of the content into interactive diagrams or a “click-and-reveal”? That would only serve to reduce the number of screens in the course, not make it any more interesting than it was. The solution had to be much more radical.

We were eager to try out some branching scenarios, but the scenarios given didn’t leave room for much engagement, and neither did the final seat-time of the course permit us to use some creative stories or building up and elaborate atmosphere. Using Articulate Storyline, we managed to hit on a solution that gave a most beautifully interactive way of navigating through the course. Since we couldn’t use branching scenarios with what we were given, we decided to turn the entire course into one big scenario!

We used a scenario where it’s the learner’s first day at the company (which it very well might have been in real life), and they are being given a tour of the office. This allowed us to place each module in a separate virtual location, each one in a different “room” in the office. Just like an office, the learner is free to move between the various rooms, creating a non-linear navigation for the course.

We often use mentors or guides to better engage the learner, but with the scenario of several rooms, we managed to get closer to creating the office environment – we had no less than 5 different mentors in our course! Each mentor guided the learner through a different set of rooms, creating an effect of that person having expertise in that area, just like a real office!

The content itself was presented as a visual treat. The various “rooms” allowed to us have different backgrounds for each module, and have the content appear in styles that was similar to what you would find in that “room”. We created “click-and-reveal” interactivities on non-Engage screens, with various visual effects, giving some more interactive opportunities for the learner.

Where the original course was interactive with “sit-and-stare” Powerpoint screens in between, the new course tied them together into a beautiful bundle that was engaging and interactive even on non-Engage screens.

The crowning glory of this whole project – it was done in less than a month!

Interested to learn more? Write to info@harbingerknowledge.com.

Platform-Agnostic Interactive eBook: The Next Big Thing is Here!

This blog post covers insights into the emerging trend of platform-agnostic interactive eBook. We will discuss the following questions in this blog post:

  • Why to make eBooks “interactive”? What are the benefits of the interactive version?
  • What types of eBook are most effective in the interactive avatar?
  • Any difference in the development process of interactive eBook from the conventional version?
  • How much interactive eBook would cost, compared to its conventional version?
  • Finally, why it’s the next big thing?

eBooks are one of the most widely used formats for consuming digital content. And in its current form it’s very easy to produce as well – at the simplest, just make a PDF and that’s it! eBook readers were used to these flat page turners, until iPad came along. Today, devices like iPad and the whole world of tablets have opened up a great opportunity for eBook readers to “experience” the content, by virtue of innovative interactive means, and not just “read” it. Interactive eBook is a new paradigm.

eBooks are all around us, for all types of content – be it trade publications, or educational content. Out of these two, educational eBooks are best suited for interactive version. Imagine reading about various forms of triangles and actually “constructing” them as you read. Or, instead of just reading about the human anatomy, you are able to keep labeling various parts of a human body and test your learning. There are unlimited possibilities to bring alive the eBook with the help of learning interactions and multi-media elements.

Want to experience interactive eBook first hand? Write to bijoy@harbingergroup.com to see some great examples. Alternately, you could listen to Bijoy showcasing interactive eBooks @ the Learning Technologies 2013 conference [London, 29-30 Jan 2013, Stand # 15] or meet Bijoy @ the Tools of Change 2013 conference [New York, 12-14 Feb 2013, Booth # 104].

Development process of the interactive educational eBook is not different from the conventional process of developing interactive educational content. Starting point remains with subject matter and the learning goals. Next is instructional design process, to create storyboards and to identify the interactive and multi-media elements to be in the eBook, and finally authoring the eBook, packaging and publishing. For interactive eBook developers, good news is that no new learning curve is needed. But yes, as far as authoring and packaging of the eBook is concerned, the development platform / language / tool would depend upon whether the eBook would require supporting multiple devices & platforms, or a particular or proprietary device / platform. HTML5 is by far the most preferred option, since it allows the output to become accessible on multiple devices & platforms. But, other tools such as iBook author could also be suitable if the eBook to be made specifically for the iOS platform. Are you curious to know if your current development process can support producing interactive eBook? Write to deepali@harbingergroup.com for guidance.

Alright! So far we have discussed the educational benefits of interactive eBooks and that developers won’t necessarily need to learn anything new to produce interactive eBooks. But, now the real business viability question: would it cut a deep hole in the pocket, both for the developers as well as for the customers? Well, it would cost more than producing a flat PDF for sure, but how much more, that would entirely depend upon the level of interactivity and multi-media elements. Have a question about how much your eBooks may cost to turn them interactive? Write to info@harbingerknowledge.com for help.

So, should you or should you not invest in interactive eBook? Let’s remember only this: there are already millions of children and adult in the world [and the number is growing rapidly, everyday!] who are now used to the highly enriched, engaging and interactive experience of consuming digital content. Flat page turner won’t cut it for them anymore. So, be prepared to give them what they want before they reject what you have to offer!

Harbinger’s Thought Leadership Forum – Session #1: The Best and The Worst of Educational Outsourcing

As we had mentioned in our previous post, Harbinger’s Thought Leadership Forum, in its first edition, has taken up a topic that’s very relevant to all of us in the educational outsourcing business – What to do and what NOT to do in the educational outsourcing business.

And sharing with us decades of knowledge and experience on this subject is Kim Sullivan, Senior Editorial Director of Words and Numbers, Inc.

In a freewheeling chat with Kim, we learnt many interesting facts about educational outsourcing. She strongly emphasized the need for quality, transparency, trust, consistency, domain knowledge and creativity. Educational Outsourcing in not a factory business and should not be termed as a BPO [Business Process Outsourcing].

Given below is the link to the audio recording of the interview by Bijoy Banerjee, AVP – Business Development. We look forward to reading your comments on this post or you can also write to us at info@harbingerknowledge.com.

Session #1 | Aug 2012
Topic: The Best and The Worst of Educational Outsourcing
Expert: Kim Sullivan, Senior Editorial Director of Words and Numbers, Inc.
Podcast duration: 12.5 minutes

Click here to listen to the podcast.