Content: Our Beloved Dethroned King

Let me take you back in time. The year was 1996. Bill Gates had written an essay with the titled “Content is King.”

Little did we know that these lines written by the Co-founder of Microsoft will form the basis of a moneymaking model in the upcoming decades as the world gets into the fifth gear of technological advancement.

I believe Bill, in his essay, wanted to indicate that the internet will force content to evolve. He tried to hint at the shifting away from typical TV, radio broadcasting, and print media content and the move toward online content, interactive content, and content developed by independent creators. And Bill was right about it.

Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue.

But my views are a little different on this topic. Let’s have a look at Content vs. Me as the Devil’s Advocate.

It’s true in many ways that content is still the king, but not when it comes to actual education and learning. Educational content is cheap and readily available on YouTube or any other streaming channel for free (almost). And there, you will have a highly qualified resource and a non-qualified resource teaching the same subjects or aspects.

So, the question that comes to my mind is: Is this education?

No, it’s a piece of information getting transferred from one format to another. Education happens when minds combine, questioning happens, and the solution or answers are derived. This is real education, which in turn becomes learning and will stay with you forever.

You don’t always need to learn everything; sometimes, information is good enough for you to survive.

To be specific, I am talking about online learning, how I foresee its future, and what will be the most promising bet for the eLearning industry.

Let’s get into perspective.

Who are the new kings of this kingdom then?

1. User experience (UX)

UX is the trickiest piece in the entire schema of things. The user only notices what is missing and what they didn’t get. But when this happens, frustration, anger, boredom, and confusion follow. And anyone who has tried learning will recognize this.

Educating someone is a big responsibility, and with changing dynamics, everyone has limited chances, unlike the historical process. Get your UX right, and you already have a magic wand that you are building.

2. Access and choice for content

How can a piece of content be labeled good if no one can access it and if the learner doesn’t have a choice to consume the right content, or for that matter can’t choose what they deem is right for them?

The best example would be Spotify, Netflix, and Amazon (all of these are content access businesses though, and not content businesses). These business models are not giving you the best movie or music; they provide you with access and choice to pick from their library of thousands.

In digital learning, specifically, freemium business models that charge users for access to content packs, extra exercises, tests, and so on are all examples of faulty, content-led thinking. The true value for users isn’t in unlocking extra batches of your content. The true value for users lies in:

      • Having the freedom to choose what they’re interested in
      • Seeing their progress
      • Interacting with other users
      • Having access to experts
      • Getting their questions answered

The challenge for content providers is figuring out which of these things to focus on, and how. If you would like to know why and how to modernize your learning content, here is an interesting guide for you: Why Modernize Learning Content? Things You Need to Know.

3. Cost

Free as a business model: These five words strike fear in the heart of any commercial organization, especially those making healthy margins in content sales. But believe me, that is the only option left most of the time, NO ONE WANTS TO PAY FOR EDUCATION ON INTERNET.

When I look at the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) (the big ones), I don’t see they are left with any other option other than finding an alternate source of income for revenue generation.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)

These numbers are a testimony to my belief system. There has not been a single year since 2012 (when the madness started) that MOOCs have seen a rise.

The Reason: MOOCs are still an excellent low-cost tool to partially move courses from offline to online. Not taking away the credit they deserve, I would say MOOCs, at the same time, are not the perfect way to solve the problems that lead to a low level of student engagement. For this reason, MOOCs could not become a real alternative to traditional education.

4. Data: The greatest and most promising king ever

Data became bigger and probably most significant when we stopped associating it with information and more with “our information.” Be it Facebook, Twitter, or any tech platform that tracked and utilized information or our information – its use/misuse, availability and above all, its value.

What does all this data, or Big Data, mean for learning?

For a start, it’s the first time we’ve ever really had data to look at. It’s hard to extract user stats from a print book, or from instructor-led training where the best option we had was to get a small survey filled post the completion of the training. Sadly, this option has very poor accuracy.

Sales does give out numbers, but they are never the right indicator of how good your content is. It’s all about how good your sales, marketing, and brand position is.

So, how is content being delivered in the new era and with these new dominant fields?

Cohort-Based Courses/Learning (CBC/L) are the answer to it.

But why? Here are five reasons:

1. CBC/L is the most important innovation in the field of online education
2. Application of traditional methods to deliver traditional education
3. It is scientifically proven that collaborative learning is more effective than learning through passive lessons
4. In MOOC, you get pre-recorded courses, and the logic is to deliver the entire education without human interaction. In CBL, students learn together. It seems like a small difference, but it has an enormous impact on the mindset
5. Learning without any human interaction can lead to depression, anxiety, or even the simplest of things like boredom and lack of involvement in the entire process (the prime reason why MOOC have constantly shown a very low completion rate).

Wrapping Up

CBCs are in their very nascent stage. As with any popular trend, they too will see a swing (both upwards and downwards), but what I am sure about is that, as the offering evolves, the entire definition of CBC will grow too.

Imagine pre-recorded lectures and a community that meets for Q&A sessions and live calls; what will you call this? A course or a gathering?

Similarly, we might see a blurred line between webinars, networking events, or a series of events vs. courses.

The things that would gain more significance or matter more in education are learning and engagement, regardless of how they evolve. Everything then might change the traditional methodology of learning. But I am sure that with those changes, we will see new opportunities for learners and creators alike, which in turn will redefine online learning.

So, this was my take on how content has evolved in the modern era, especially in the education industry, and what should be the right content-related approach to online learning. If you would like to know more about eLearning content/courses or how to develop online learning content the right way, feel free to reach out to our experts on info@harbingerlearning.com.

Successful Transition to Remote Learning: Decoding the New Normal

The world might be grappling with multiple slowdowns today, but if there is one area that the COVID-19 crisis has fast-tracked, it is the adoption of remote work and remote learning.  As organizations try and decode the new normal, there is a complete paradigm shift underway. The huge momentum towards remote work has led L&D leaders to fall back on technology to deliver remote learning. They are leveraging technology to move the needle in a variety of training contexts – skill building, leadership development, sales training, compliance, and education. Remote learning technology is also witnessing a lot of investor interest.

As a corporate L&D leader, you are in a very sweet but tricky spot. You are expected to drive this whole transition to remote learning successfully. But for that, you need to have a sound strategy in place. Do you understand the potential and boundaries of remote learning in organizations? Do you know what are the drivers of successful transition beyond giving zoom accounts instructors and trainers?  Is your business model in-sync with your transition plan?

Harbinger had the privilege of hosting 3 highly accomplished learning and development leaders recently, for a virtual Power Hour, on the topic ‘Successful Transition to Remote Learning: Decoding the New Normal.’ The guests were Christopher McLaverty (Senior HR Business Partner and Organization Development Practitioner), Ganesh Natarajan (Co-Founder of 5F World and Kalzoom), and Walter Davis (Head of Talent and Learning Technology at Aggreko). The discussion was led and facilitated by Dr. Vikas Joshi (CEO at Harbinger Group).

Key Challenges and Drivers of Remote Learning

Vikas opened the session with some fascinating statistics indicating the increased investor interest in remote learning and then moved on to talk about the key challenges that organizations face when moving to remote learning. Some of them being,

  • Engaging learners
  • Managing stakeholder expectations ​– Internal customer, executive leadership, and learner
  • Creating classroom-like experiences
  • Selecting technology​
  • Internet connectivity

The panelists talked about how they addressed these challenges at their workplaces and managed a successful transition.

There was a lot of interesting discussion around the drivers of a successful transition to remote learning​, which includes, right early wins, careful revision of metrics and measurement, and most importantly, the use of the right technology across the whole learning experience.

Tips for Transitioning to Remote Learning

After a detailed and insightful discussion with the panelists, Vikas shared some useful tips for organizations to plan their transition to remote learning. As an L&D leader, for a successful transition, you need to

  • Align training programs with business strategy​
  • Make internal customers and L&D co-owners of the transition​
  • Assess new capability gaps and focus on them​
  • Design it as a learning journey instead of discrete sessions​
  • Pilot a training session and then scale-up​
  • Define KPIs and measure impact​
  • Integrate L&D in the flow of work​
  • Invest into systems and technology

Remote learning is here to stay. The sooner you adapt to it, quicker you can reap the benefits.  L&D leaders need to sensitize executives and customers about the boundaries and potential of remote learning. They also need to educate instructors, curriculum designers, and learners on how they should prepare for remote learning​. And yes, not to forget, technology is a key driver in this whole transition​.

Here is the link to the Power Hour session recording.

Have you been struggling with transitioning to remote learning? Or have you successfully navigated this challenge? What success stories, experiences, or tips do you have to share? Please comment below or drop us a note at info@harbingerelearning.com.

Emergence of Remote Learning

The Definition

Remote learning is any kind of learning that happens outside of a traditional classroom because the learner and facilitator are separated by distance and/or time. Remote learning can be real-time or flexibility timed, in other words it could be synchronous or asynchronous.And the role of technology can vary;  the primary reason for variance in technology is that we cannot assume that every remote learner has got access to equivalent technology infrastructure.

The History

Remote learning is not an entirely new concept. We can equate quite a few attributes of remote learning to distance education. In the late 1800s, at the University of Chicago, the first major distance education program in the United States was established, in which the teacher and learner were at different locations. One of the pioneers of distance learning, William Rainey Harper was of the idea that many would benefit by taking up the first two years of college in their hometowns. This led to the founding of American community colleges. But it was never a smooth sailing; the adoption for distance learning took some time and efforts. In fact, it was said that distance education was designed to provide educational opportunities to those who were not among the elite could not afford full-time residence at an educational institution. It was looked down on as an inferior alternative to traditional education.

However, the need to provide equal access to educational and learning opportunities has always been a part of our society’s democratic ideals. Things kept progressing, the adoption rate kept increasing and then the COVID-19 curve ball hit all of us. Ironical as it may sound, it gave us all an opportunity to iron out any shortcomings of distance learning models, and implement it as remote learning.

The Current Context

Today, COVID-19 outbreak has changed the way people work, learn, and teach around the globe. To mitigate the risk of virus and keep people healthy and in turn engaged, organizations and educational institutions are willing to trade off in-person interactions in favor of remote work or virtual events.

In the case of remote work, organizations and educational institutions are keenly observing and studying the effects of the pandemic situation on productivity, efficiency, work quality, customer satisfaction and more. And with a possibility of downturn in economy, at least in some business segments, this might well turn out to be a double whammy. A recent article from Harvard Business Review has in fact flagged that the current pandemic situation will lead to a significantly changed world. And what is more important is that we need to be prepared for the changed world.

This is where remote learning starts to emerge as a major contributor towards balancing things.  Helping us successfully navigate through the current situation, achieving collective goals, and at the same time helping us to be prepared for the new normal, remote learning is taking an increasingly central role in shaping up a better world.

 

 

7 Cool Tips for Effectively Using Web Meeting Apps for Online Training

With the COVID- 19 outbreak early this year, a big chunk of the global business and education community moved online. Right from classrooms to instructor-led training, everything went virtual. And the use of web meeting apps and tools shot up drastically. With so many people using such tools these days, some tips to use them effectively could come in handy. So, here are a bunch of those.

Tips to Effectively Use Online Meeting Apps for Training

1. Put a face to the voice

Whenever possible, try to put on your videos while you are on a web meeting. It helps to build a connect and also lets you make eye contact during the web meeting or online training.

2. Create the right ambience

Make sure the place where you are sitting is well illuminated and there are no distractions in the background. And in case you get caught in a situation wherein you cannot avoid the distractions then you can customize your background with a virtual one. Pick one of the pre-loaded ones that comes with your tool or use a custom background.

3. Ensure safety

There are a bunch of things you could do to create a safe meeting space. To start with, it is a good idea to have the meeting password feature enabled, it adds a layer of security. You can also enable the waiting room where all the participants can gather before the meeting starts and once you allow them in go ahead and lock the room. This way you can avoid any unwanted guests. And last but not the least, as an organizer of the meeting you also have the option of disabling the chat and video functionality of the participants.

4. Know your recording options

As a trainer, the simplest thing you could do here is click on the record button on the main screen  but if you want to get very specific, then you can select what do you exactly want to record, – audio-only, chat only, audio + video. Most of the web meeting tools come with all such recording options.

5. Learn the shortcuts

With extensive usage, I have come across features in my web meeting tool that I didn’t know existed earlier. Like, you can use the space bar to mute and unmute yourself during the meetings. Earlier when I used to be in a group meeting, I had to literally scramble to click on the microphone button. But now I have a more efficient way to do it. This option works with tools like Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams.

6. Collaborate effectively

There are many ways to collaborate effectively in a group meeting. Like, you can have a collaborative annotation session. Annotation tools let all the meeting participants draw and highlight what is on the screen. This can be immensely helpful when discussing visual materials, such as mockups, graphic designs, etc. You could also make use of breakout rooms to let your audience discuss and collaborate amongst themselves.

7. Display participant names

Imagine a situation wherein you are addressing a student in an online class and you happen to forget their name. It can get awkward. To avoid this, enable the option to ‘Always display participant’s name on their videos.’

These were some tips that have helped to make my virtual meetings and training sessions effective. Hope these come in handy for you too. If you have any questions and want to know more in detail about any of the specific tips, please drop us a line at info@harbingerlearning.com.

Will AI transform eLearning?

We are already experiencing how AI is affecting some facets of our lives. How you ask? The movement sensing lights that go on when you enter an unoccupied conference room or a parking area, intelligent sensors in cameras now that detect a smile and help take good pictures, cars with automatic parking features, Alexa switching on the living room lights, and Google adding items to your shopping list! We have personal assistants in our smartphones that we have rather got used to. The buzz around AI in eLearning has also acquired lot of weight in the last few years. Needless to say, AI is the primary topic of interest at most learning and technology conferences these days. I happened to attend Learning Solutions 2019 Conference in Orlando in March this year, and not surprisingly, AI took the center stage. It was evident from the numerous sessions being conducted around AI and many renowned speakers talking about its impact on the current eLearning scenario. Following are some interesting trends and insights that caught my attention.

Chatbots

Chatbots have become synonymous with AI in eLearning. They stole the show at this conference as well by being the most discussed AI application.

Vince Han, CEO and Founder of Mobile Coach, talked about how chatbots can be an effective solution in connecting learners with resources and job aids they need, and when they need them.

Hugh Seaton, CEO of Aquinas Learning, touched upon how chatbots offer a way to easily create and deploy interactive and adaptive learning sequences in learning engagements. He walked the audience through creating a simple chatbot based on Google’s DialogFlow.

Joe Ganci, President of eLearning Joe, helped identify ways to incorporate a chatbot in your learning project and gave examples of how chatbots can introduce a course and deliver pre-work, give embedded performance feedback during the course, and share personalized tips after the course.

AI and Instructional Design

AI and its effect on instructional designers was the next most discussed thing after chatbots.

A panel discussion titled ‘Where is instructional design heading?’ which was conducted by industry’s instructional design experts discussed how instructional design needs to evolve as new technologies and approaches emerge. The panel gave tips on what can best help instructional designers prepare for where instructional design may be heading.

Poonam Jaypuriya, Vice President of eLearning at Harbinger Interactive Learning, talked about why the fear of AI replacing humans in the learning workforce is unwarranted.  She emphasized on how instructional designers’ role has evolved with the emergence of AI in the learning ecosystem.

With so much to ponder on, it’s but natural to think how AI is making inroads to eLearning and revolutionizing the learning industry.

Apart from the above points, here’s how AI could impress.

  • eLearning powered by AI will differentiate learners’ learning speeds and suggest different paths of learning depending on their current level of mastery.
  • The key to building successful learning experiences lies in asking the right questions. AI-powered platforms can be used to create questions, assessments, and quizzes with greater speed and efficiency.

As I understand, the overall research goal of AI is to create technology that allows computers and machines to function in an intelligent manner. Time will only tell whether AI in eLearning lives upto the hype or not, but for now, the future seems to be bright.