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.

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.

Harbinger’s Thought Leadership Forum – A Series of Podcasts With Leading Industry Professionals

Harbinger is proud to announce the launch of Harbinger’s Thought Leadership Forum, an unique place where learning and industry experts come together to talk about thought leadership, trends, challenges and solutions in the learning outsourcing business.

This forum is meant for all of us in the learning business. You can access blogs, case studies, white papers and podcast of interviews with the learning experts. It’s going to be an exciting place for knowledge sharing and thought leadership in the learning domain. We welcome you to connect with this forum.

In its first edition, the forum 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.

Watch out for this first podcast in the series starting next week where you can listen to Kim Sullivan sharing her experiences with Bijoy Banerjee, AVP, Business Development.

Harbinger at the Training 2012 Conference & Expo

– An account by Mona Sharma, DGM – Projects, and Exhibitor at the Conference

Date: February 13-15, 2012

Venue: Atlanta, GA, at the Georgia World Congress Center

Visitor’s Profile: Professional trainers, consultants, and academics, HRD professionals and senior executives, Instructional designers & other related professionals.

Exhibitor’s Profile: Business Development Services, Training and Talent Development Services, Authoring and Publishing Platforms, Custom Content and Communication Services, Learning and Performance Services, Digital Literacy and Desktop Productivity Assessment Services, Train the Trainer Workshop and Consulting Services, Distance Learning, Employee Selection & Orientation, Ethics, Leadership Training, Motivation, Presentation Skills, Problem Solving, Project Management, Team Building & Performance, Videoconferencing, Writing Skills, Translation services, Training Documents Development Services.

The training 2012 conference & expo was an event designed for learning, training and performance professionals. It was a midsized conference with approximately 700 – 800 attendees. There were around 65-70 vendors exhibiting in the expo hall, a varied mix of vendors, providing content development services, transcription and translation services, technology solutions, train the trainer services, corporate training and corporate entertainment services too! It was very encouraging to witness that people worldwide were taking learning and training so seriously.

With the assurance that we were at the right place at the right time, we got busy with setting up the booth, the fun and creative part of the exhibition booth preparations, where we presented our eLearning Products and Custom Content Development Services.

We exhibited Raptivity, our interactivity building tool which allows you to quickly and easily create elearning interactions such as games, simulations, brainteasers etc. and embed them directly into your online courses. There are around 170+ interaction templates to choose from to make your elearning courses interactive.

Along with our products, Harbinger also presented its Custom Content services offerings. Visitors showed keen interest in experiencing our expertise in content development using Flash, HTML5, Lectora, Articulate, ToolBook and our own tools Elicitus and Raptivity. All our learning solutions got an overwhelming response.

 

Edumercials: One of our unique offerings was development of ‘Edumercials’- short for Educational Commercials, which are 5-6 minute self playing animations that are either story or scenario-based and put across a concept in an interactive way. Edumercials can be used as standalone just-in-time learning pieces or they can also be integrated within elearning courses to make the courses more engaging. Quite a few visitors signed up for the raffle to win a 5-minute free edumercial.

Single Source Solution for Mobile Learning: Our mobile learning conversations led us to discussions about the platform independent ‘Single Source’ solutions being offered for mobiles and laptops. The iPad demos and especially the interactive e-Book, was well appreciated by everyone. Many were surprised to see Flash based animations, video and audio integrated in an eBook developed in HTML5.

Interactive ILT: Some visitors who engaged in virtual classrooms or face to face training were interested in our Instructor Led Training services where in we offered to instructionally and visually enhance their presentations and develop facilitator and student notes for them.

We had an exclusive range of elearning samples for both desktop/laptop and mobile tablets ranging from Product, Process, Soft skill and Leadership and Management training to K-12 training. All these samples were also made available on our showcase so that they could be viewed at leisure. (https://showcase.harbingerknowledge.com/ ; Username: training2012-visitor; Password: password1!)

Visits by the Industry Expert: Well known speakers and thought leaders from the industry visited our booth and were impressed with our instructional approach and the apt use of interactivity in our courses.

The expo ended after two full days of meeting new people, interesting conversations and demos and assurances of exploring a new relationship with Harbinger! Through Harbinger I have attended other International Conferences in North America and visited customer sites for project discussions, however this was the first time I experienced being a presenter in the conference booth.

I would say I experienced a very different Valentine Day’s eve by connecting with many new people and prospects! I look forward to meet with them again in the next upcoming conferences!! Till then bye and enjoy the new ways of Learning!!!

Instructional Design for Mobile Learning

Ever since it made its presence felt, instructional designers have been coming up with innovative ideas to create effective mobile learning. Is it sufficient to just convert existing online courseware to a mobile platform or does the real challenge lie in designing courseware from scratch for the mobile platform? With smart phones and tablet PCs also entering the mobile learning foray, and thanks to the new possibilities that come with these gadgets, these questions have risen anew: what makes for good design when developing mobile learning courseware? How do we use the mobile platform so that it plays a meatier role in mobile learning than just a display device?

Let’s take a look at some strategies that are being used in mobile learning:

1. Keep it short and just in time: One of the catch phrases going around eLearning vendor workplaces especially is ‘just-in-time learning’, which involves learning modules that you can access just when you want them. For example, viewing important information on new product updates while you’re on your way to an important sales meeting; receiving the right information at just the right time can help you clinch that deal! Does that mean learners are willing to spend an hour going through a course on their smart phones? Not necessarily! Learners prefer accessing courseware over their mobiles in short bursts. Shorter learning modules that deliver key messages in a short time span work better for consumers of mobile learning. So, tell your learners exactly what they need to know and give them only important information they can use.

2. The mobile’s part in learning: When planning the high level design for a mobile learning venture, think about how you would want your learners to use their mobile devices. Do you just want them passively browsing through your course pages or could their mobile devices be used more interactively? For example, your learners could click photographs or shoot short video clips or audio interviews, which could then be used as part of responses to online group discussions or even to initiate discussions with other participants. Essentially, get your participants to do more with their mobile devices than just viewing text on the screens.

3. Make interactivity more meaningful: To make interactivity more fun and meaningful, it should leverage the inherent features of the mobile medium. I recently came across this TED talk, wherein Mike Matas demonstrates an interactive eBook created for the iPad and iPhone. Not to come across as biased toward the iPhone and iPad, but what really grabbed me during this talk were the different possibilities for making content interactive. At one point Mike Matas interacts with a conceptual animation of how a windmill works by blowing across the screen of the iPad to make the windmill turn! That’s interactivity at its engaging best!

4. Apps for Learning: Apps are becoming an increasingly important part of the learning experience on tablets and smart phones. This is especially true of a growing number of iPad owners who define their iPad experience by the apps they use. An example here is the app created by the American Museum of Natural History, which provides visitors with additional information on over 140 displays in the museum. And this is in addition to offering visitors customizable tours, directions to different exhibitions, theaters, restaurants, shops, and restrooms in the building! Another example is NASA’s Visualization Explorer app, which is available for the iPad. This app provides users with high-resolution movies and stills and written stories about advanced space-based research.
When designing mobile learning courseware, instructional designers could look at how best to weave apps into the design strategy. Rather than designing courseware to be deployed in the traditional course interface, the design strategy could revolve around using apps that give learners more opportunity to learn through practice.

5. Mobile and Social Learning: Needless to say, mobile learning and social collaboration go well together! I experienced this first hand at a blended learning program conducted for mid-level management in Harbinger. The blended learning design included twitter feeds that participants could access over their mobiles. These feeds played an important role in the learning design because they contained information that the participants would need to successfully complete a mobile assessment at the end of the session. If you hadn’t been accessing these tweets, not only would you miss out on an important modality in the blended learning program but you would also find it difficult to get a good score on your assessment.

Both the apps described in point 4 (the American Museum of Natural History and NASA’s Visualization Explorer) allow users to connect to and share information on social networking websites.

These are just five different ways of ensuring engaging and effective learning design in mobile learning courseware. I’m sure there are a lot more out there, but these five should get instructional designers thinking and looking out for more creative ways to make learning mobile.