xSMART – The Framework to Drive Your Content Modernization Initiative

In my last blog, I touched upon how organizations are looking at modernizing their existing learning material to adapt to technology disruptions and meet the modern-day learners’ demands. Modernization is being used as a transformational strategy to deliver business results by creating unique experiences for learners. Harbinger has built a framework to aid modernization. This framework, known as xSMART, is a solution accelerator designed for teams to successfully implement and execute a content modernization strategy. This framework is an enabler to handle large scale modernization projects. Let’s take a deep dive into the specifics of this framework and uncover the value that it brings on the table.

The x Factor

This is the first layer of the modernization framework in picture. The x factor here is for the automation this framework brings along to handle volume work. The faster we are able to figure out the role this x can play, easier the modernization journey would be. Automation will ensure that the modernization strategy is executed in a rapid and cost-effective manner. At times, this could even be the deciding factor in terms of the modernization initiative taking off the ground or not. To put things in better perspective, several steps are described in detail below where automation is bound to play a crucial role.

Extraction of reusable assets from legacy courses

Consider the following scenario: An organization is sitting with hundreds of hours of legacy digital content developed using a variety of legacy authoring tools including Flash. Now, content wise, these courses are still relevant, however the source files are missing.

To ensure that the modernization process is rapid and cost effective, we need to figure out which content is reusable and the ways to  extract it. This step is important to ensure that we do not end up developing digital learning material from scratch. For instance, images, video, and audio components used in legacy courses could qualify for reusability.

As part of the xSMART framework, Harbinger has built custom automation utilities which can extract content at a page level for all the courses, even if the source files are missing.

Template driven production to achieve scalability

In the typical eLearning development process, storyboarding is done first and then screens are developed. Nothing is wrong with this approach, but when we are talking about migrating hundreds of hours of learning material, then it might not be the best option.

At Harbinger we have flipped this approach for modernization, we analyze legacy courses and based on the results, we create a template library. This template library is the guiding factor for modernization of courses. Our instructional designers propose replacing screens within a legacy course based on the new templates that have been developed. And once we have the templates ready and identified for each screen, then automation comes into play to populate the extracted content into these templates. This innovative approach helps us modernize large volume of courses.

SMART

The second layer of the framework talks about the design of modernized content. This also gives us an opportunity to align strategy with actual development. Let’s take a deep dive into this level.

Searchable:We all have been hearing about how learning needs to happen in the flow of work, at the point of need. To make this possible, a key aspect is to ensure that content is easily searchable. Today, we might be designing our content to be delivered through a LMS but what if we have to deliver it through a mobile application. Does it mean we need to go through the process of designing the content again? The answer is no, if we are using the xSMART framework as a guiding tool. Modernization is an opportunity for us to make our content easily searchable. It could be achieved in two simple steps, instructionally identifying key learning objectives and metadata tagging of content with relevant keywords.

Micro:Today a lot of focus is on making content available as bite-sized nuggets. But at the same time, let’s acknowledge that not every online course needs to be delivered as a micro-learning nugget. For example, a certification program might be best delivered as a two-hour course. So how do we solve this dilemma, whether to go micro or macro? The beauty of the xSMART framework is that it enables you to address both these concerns in one go. While modernizing the two hour long course, we are able to identify key learning objectives and pull them out as standalone SCORM packages to be made available at the time of need. In continuation to our example of a certification program, the micro-learning nuggets could be pushed as a reinforcement tool. This feature enables us to address our current as well as future learning needs.

Accessible: Accessibility is all about inclusiveness, a way to ensure that no one is excluded. The xSMART framework ensures that modernized content is available for everyone. Whether it is Section 508, or WCAG 2.0, or any other geography-specific accessibility standard, it is recommended to implement them at template level. For a particular modernization initiative, we generally use a set of pre-developed templates. And implementing compliance standards at a template level ensures that for every screen we do not have to perform the same set of activities. This improvisation is yet another contributor to the rapid development process. 

Responsive: For most of us it would be difficult to imagine a day without our mobile phone. Mobile devices have become an integral part of our lives. Apart from communication and entertainment, they also are a source of lot of new learning these days. And this is what compels us to contemplate responsive design as an important part of our modernization strategy. Responsive eLearning design is all about giving an optimal user experience, especially at times when your users are experiencing stuff like NetFlix. There is a lot that goes into creating optimal user experience for learners consuming content on mobile devices. The xSMART framework enables us to get things right, the first time itself. Some examples being, implementing the best practices for audio syncing, ensuring that assets load on the course screen in an optimal manner, usage of right type of rich media elements, using device specific features like swap for content interaction, and more.

Trackable: The good old SCORM has been around for a long time and would probably continue being there for a longer time. But at times, there is only so much insights that a SCORM package can bring. Stakeholders are looking for more flexibility and deeper analytics on learner behavior and performance, and very rightly so. These additional insights can help us in continuous improvement of our digital learning strategy. xSMART enables you to think beyond SCORM and implement additional tracking capabilities to generate detailed analytics and insights which help in making informed decisions. One such example is xAPI. Of-course, this has to be supported by relevant technology infrastructure such as a Learning Record Store (LRS) or a custom application with a robust backend to capture detailed analytics. But imagine a scenario, where this advanced track ability can help us get insights on how is the learner progressing towards achieving their goals or how is their performance graph moving for a certain competency. xSMART enables you to take this plunge and generate powerful analytics.

In the next blog in the series, we would peel one layer further. We would take a look at the benefits that key stakeholders can get out of this framework. And it won’t be a spoiler if we reveal who our key stakeholders are; it’s the modern day learner, learning and development heads, and CXOs. Till then if you have any thoughts or comments, please feel free to drop us a line at info@harbinegrlearning.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.