Digital Learning

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Machine learning is helping unsigned artists make Spotify pay

Usually only artists that are already quite successful can access an advance on royalties, but Swedish startup Amuse wants to help level the playing field.

In 1997, David Bowie partnered with an insurance company to create Bowie bonds – a kind of asset-backed bond that gave him (and investors) a share of the current and future royalties of his music. Bowie correctly predicted that his music would only become more popular, but he didn’t want to wait years into the future to reap the rewards.

But maneuvers like this are pretty much only open to superstars, like Bowie. For a struggling musician hoping to break into the industry, the way that it’s all set up can be a massive headache. When musicians get signed to a record label, they can get an advance on future royalties, in order to finance renting equipment or studio space, or even shooting music videos. An advance effectively functions as a loan – financed by revenue from other, successful artists – and the artist has to pay it back if and when their music starts to bring in money too. But this is only open to comparatively few artists.

Amuse, a Swedish music distribution startup founded by former Universal Music Group label heads and other industry experts, is trialling a new service that aims to let more artists access future royalties before they earn them, using machine learning to predict what those royalties could be. Here’s how it works: artists upload their tracks onto Amuse, and those tracks are distributed onto streaming platforms such as Apple Music and Spotify. Then, a team of experts at Amuse analyse where the streams are coming from, what kind of stream they are (for example, if they come from premium users), and how many streams different artists get.

A program that Amuse has developed in-house assigns each of those characteristics a value. It then calculates how much an artist could expect to make in future royalties and offers a corresponding upfront payment, called a Fast Forward Advance. An artist who has 300 followers, all of whom are from Brazil, will be offered a lower Fast Forward Advance than someone who has 5,000 followers that are spread out throughout the world or are in the country the artist comes from (so far, the bulk of the artists that use Amuse are Scandinavian, partially because Amuse is headquartered in Stockholm).

Although Amuse is also a record label with some artists signed to it, the major difference is that it’s also a free distribution service, so an artist simply has to sign up to use it (without signing to the label) in order for their data to come into Amuse’s hands and for them to be offered an advance. In order to finance the system, Amuse charges a fee between 10 to 20 percent of the payment it offers. In terms of risk, the artist only pays back the royalties that they are expected to make.

Currently, the commercial music industry works on a large scale – moving big sums of money around to advance artists, but keeping them in debt for years if they fail. Amuse envisages its tool being used for something more quotidian – a smaller artist might use it to finish filming a music video or to rent some equipment for a last minute gig, for example. The company says that the smallest advance it has given out so far is $400 dollars and the largest $100,000.

If an artist becomes more popular while using the service, then that’s factored in and they get a new offer from Amuse. “If they become more popular, then they earn back that money much quicker, and then we’re done with that transaction,” explains Diego Farias, one of the founders of Amuse. “Then, they’re eligible for a new Fast Forward advance, and then their valuation has increased.” If they don’t make the money that they were predicted to, then nothing happens – they don’t have to pay it back.

Although it’s early days, Amuse says that nearly 100 artists offered the Fast Forward Advance have so far accepted, out of roughly 400. Paul Allen, who is the head of Data and Insights at Amuse, says the Fast Forward Advance was a natural move as the company was already using similar streaming data and tools to identify artists it might be interested in. “Now, we’re just taking it one step further.”


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Five ways AI will enable lifelong learning and transform the workplace

Over the last few weeks, the Labour Party has raised the prospect of a National Education Service in the UK. As well as creating fierce political debate, this has brought mainstream attention to the idea of 'cradle-to-grave' learning – continuous education and training throughout peoples’ working lives. 

It is a much-needed discussion. Beyond the political machinations, the spectre of the artificial intelligence revolution looms high in discussions on the future of work. Media column inches have been combining images of Elon Musk and The Terminator to underline, without too much subtlety, that AI is going to take our jobs and render humans superfluous. 

Beyond the tabloid hyperbole, it is important to recognise that artificial intelligence-driven automation means that the pace at which workers’ skills and knowledge will become obsolete is going to accelerate.

As a result, 'always-on' continuous learning will become increasingly critical. There is an air of serendipity in the fact that, while artificial intelligence is the root cause of this disruption, it is also the solution for navigating it. 

Here are five critical ways in which AI will provide the enabling technology to make lifelong career learning a working reality:

Powering careers by developing smart training plans

AI can already help learners and thus L&D professionals discover new training content relevant to their individual training needs.

AI is able to analyse what is available through existing online learning systems and wider sources from video platforms such as Youtube and Vimeo to online learning and teaching marketplaces such as LinkedIn Learning, and make intelligent decisions based on what will help individual learners most.

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you

AI offers improved cradle-to-grave learning because it does not approach education with a fixed mindset. As a result, it will help instil what noted educational psychiatrist Carol Dweck calls a 'growth mindset' in everybody. 

Instead of seeing employees’ current performance in digesting and internalising training and then categorising them on their perceived abilities, machine learning algorithms will begin to understand employees’ own patterns of learning and tailor future content and encouragements to how they learn best.

The countless hours spent at desks compiling course catalogues or reviewing unstructured data such as open question feedback will be freed up by AI.

The knock-on effect will be a new generation in the workforce with the confidence that they can grow and develop. This not only creates a more confident workforce but, potentially, a more productive one, an enormous potential productivity boost to the economy.

AI virtual coach 

Imagine all that personalisation and assistance described above delivered via a responsive voice assistant that learns and speaks to each employee in the most beneficial way based on their personality, interests and training needs.

Learners will soon interact with an AI assistant embedded in various elearning platforms that recognises and responds in their spoken language making proactive, tailored suggestions and autonomously offers advice, guidance and coaching.

In future, AI-powered virtual coaches will be better able to understand variation in human sounds and tone and thus able to recognise signs of frustration or excitement, enabling learning and development programmes to be even further optimised to individuals’ needs and abilities.

A universe of high quality content

This is likely the hardest element to swallow as people involved in training, but AI will also automate content creation.

We can all accept that there are limits to the amount of high quality training material we are able to produce (hence why there’s a lot of bad material out there!) AI content creation engines will analyse an instructional article and then automatically produce a new learning asset by combining the text, additional reputable sources and video clips derived from previously published content.

Through detailed analytics of user engagement and response to created content, the algorithms will also learn what works best in content creation and optimise course content at the individual user level. 

Unleashing untapped human potential

Perhaps the most critical way in which AI will enable lifelong learning is by unleashing the potential of the human L&D professionals. AI’s first significant disruption to existing practices will be to reduce the rote administrative tasks that currently dominate L&D professionals’ to-do-lists.

The countless hours spent at desks compiling course catalogues or reviewing unstructured data such as open question feedback will be freed up by AI. 

This will enable practitioners to spend more time considering the needs and skillsets of learners, the strategic training requirements of a business and developing new and creative approaches to learning for the future. Thinking creatively and strategically will become a premium and will lead to better enterprise training programmes.  

AI is anticipated to be as big a transformation to the economy and society as the industrial revolution 250 years ago. L&D professionals must expect disruption via automation, but they need to harness it and be active in helping workers be truly adaptable and equipped to upskill in step with rapid change. There has never have been a more important or inspiring time to be involved in workplace training.  

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6 Ways To Create Pull Learning Content

Recent learning trend reports tell of a move from push models of learning to a pull model. But what does that actually mean? And what do you need to do to make sure your learning pulls people in and even achieves that elusive 'viral' quality? How Is Digital Transformation Affecting L&D? The Difference Between Push And Pull Learning Content

Push and pull are terms that are very familiar to web content strategists and marketers. However, many L&D teams are only just waking up to the power of—and demand for—different types of content strategies in learning.

Pushing It

Think back a few years to conversations with people commissioning training about how learners will get to a piece of learning. Common answers would have been "we'll send an email to learners" or "line managers will tell their teams about it". If the team had thought more about the marketing strategy for their learning, perhaps they might have been a poster campaign or a message in a newsletter. These are all ways of pushing content out to people. This isn't the only way to do things.

Pull Content Is Different

Pull presumes people will come to you and, if you provide an engaging and valuable experience, they'll keep coming back. They might even want to tell others and you can achieve that elusive viral quality. But, to quote Field of Dreams, it is true with learning that "if you build it they will come."

With an increasingly web-literate audience within most organizations, people are used to hunting down information as they need it. So many people are active consumers of information and learning. Yes, that time you spent on YouTube teaching yourself to knit/to moonwalk/to wallpaper/what makes a good TV (delete where applicable) was learning – especially when you went on to practice and master said knitting or moon walking. We define our learning journeys, judge the quality of the resources, and chart our own progress towards our goals.

That doesn't mean that push strategies are pushing daisies. There will still be learning that people need to do and in a certain time and format. But if organizations fail to monopolize on learners' inherent learning habits and preferences, they're missing a huge opportunity.

How To Create Pull Learning Content

Here are 6 things you can do to make the most of modern learning and browsing habits.

1. Think Resources, Not Courses

With learners designing their own journeys, the notion of a curated course isn't always important. It can be more important to have a set of resources with which learners can fill their gaps. These resources can use the same mix of video, infographics, eLearning, etc. that comprise a traditional course. However, you might want to focus on resources people use at the point of need, including job aids such as quick-start guides and checklists.

Just because you're organizing a resource base doesn't mean you're just presenting static information. There's still plenty of space for all types of learning including diagnostics, activities, quizzes, games and even structured assessments.

2. Make It Easy To Find

If you're going to create a resource base, you need to make sure people know where it is. A platform – LMS, intranet, or otherwise – needs to give people easy and quick access to resources. Consider the value of good categorization and search functions. But remember, your audience will never get that far unless you have an awareness campaign to herald the platform's launch and then regular signposts to make sure people remember it's there.

Don't feel that you need to do all the promotional work, though: Never underestimate the power of sharing. People will want to pass on an impactful and useful resource so actively encourage this. The snowball effect of sharing and resharing is what makes something viral.

If people are going to be looking for content at the point of need, think carefully about the devices you're targeting. Will those people be likely to need that information when all they have to access it is a phone? Or over mobile broadband? Or on their own devices?

3. Keep It Granular

Recently, I wrote a blog post on microlearning. Cutting your content down into small pieces that deal with self-contained concepts is a good way to go in a pull strategy. If you're creating learning about a new sales process, you might include a refresher on features, advantages, and benefits. It might be better to break this refresher out into its own resource so it's easier to find if people go looking for that specific information.

4. Make Your Objectives Clear To The Learner

Sometimes, it's a challenge to engage people with certain topics. When learning is mandatory, it can make sense to spend the first few minutes hooking the learner emotionally before you outline the learning's full benefits. Put yourself in the mindset of someone who's searched for that content. The first thing they need is confirmation that the learning will fulfill the need that drove them there. So make sure it's clear at the start what the learner will get out of their time. We've all turned off a video or gone back to the Google results page because a creator hasn't got to the point quickly enough.

5. Consider Whether You Need Tracking Or Analytics

SCORM tracking is a staple of eLearning. It allows us to neatly track what people have completed and the newer xAPI (where available) allows us to do that in lots of fresh and interesting ways. But consider how much tracking individual learner progress matters and, if it does, what do you want to do with that information. If you want to analyze the amount of people visiting content and which content, how many resources the average person visits, how frequently, what time of day, from which devices and so on, then you're in the realm of web analytics. It's perfectly possible that you want to both track completion and compile analytics. Understanding what data you need to fulfill the learning's KPIs is very important.

6. Listen To Your Audience

Finally, seek out and listen to feedback. Run focus groups to find out what your audience want and what they need. When your learning is up and running, gather feedback to make sure it's hitting the spot. After all, a pull strategy is all about having the right information available, right away, and only the people on the ground can give you that real insight.

If you want to know more about creating effective training for your corporate learners in the digital era, download the free eBook Time To Transform: How Is Digital Transformation Affecting L&D?.

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Are Companies Making Progress In Digital Transformation?

The term “digital transformation” is now ubiquitous. Nearly every company’s leaders and board of directors see the potential of digital transformation to create new value and improve their competitive positioning. They are investing in building out capabilities to transform their business. Unfortunately, some companies build digital capabilities but don’t generate value that changes their competitive position. So, are businesses really making progress in these investments? Where are we in efforts to succeed at digital transformation? Here’s my view and what I believe must happen next.

Digital Transformation’s Current Status

For the last 18 months, the focus of digital transformation was understanding the capabilities that companies needed to develop or implement for their digital journeys. In addition, consulting and advisory firms responded to this effort by coming up with frameworks and the Target Operating Model (TOM) companies needed for building those capabilities. This led to a problem.

The problem is the digital world is moving fast and we don’t have 10-20 ears of experience to know what works and doesn’t work. Disruptive technologies force new operating models or new capabilities, but companies can only hypothesize as to what those capabilities should be. Frameworks are untested. Thus, TOMs and frameworks are built in a vacuum. They don’t reflect reality; they only reflect the best thinking at the time as to what a model or framework should be. This is part of the reason for the abysmal number of transformation failures.

That is where the digital transformation market is now – companies need to move the discussion from building/implementing capabilities to how to measure the value a company extracts from that effort. But they struggle to do this. Here’s the issue: Only a paucity of metrics exists to measure progress in digital transformation and understand if companies are getting any juice from the squeeze.

Companies need to be more realistic in the capabilities they are building. They need a new framework to look at what works rather than what is theoretically meant to work.

In understanding where we are today with digital transformation, we have two important examples of how business transformation evolved in the past.

The first is the internet bubble. It was clear in the late 1990s that the internet was a hugely disruptive technology and capability and that it would reshape business and companies. There was an enormous rush to build websites and buy technologies – much of which, if not most of it, was wasted. And every consultancy and research house expended enormous resources and time to build a framework for the capabilities needed to succeed in the internet age. Consultancies touted massive projections as to how much market share would be captured or lost.

Then the burst came. Although the internet was an extremely powerful and disruptive technology, the capabilities that companies rushed to implement were not well understood. So, the frameworks and the effort to create the capabilities didn’t yield much value.

Here we sit, almost 20 years later. We understand much more clearly how to utilize the internet, and we’ve built on top of it. Amazon and other firms leveraged the internet to create tremendous value. But most companies spent a lot of money on websites that were just sophisticated brochures. In the last 10 years, those sophisticated brochures matured and began enabling e-commerce to get much more value out of them. But that’s almost 20 years after we started the internet journey. It’s kind of shocking how long it took for those technologies to consistently take market share.

We’re moving into the same trap again today. We now have a raft of new, disruptive technologies ranging from Artificial Information (AI) to chat box to analytics to Robotic Process Automation (RPA), all of which collectively promise a massive breakthrough in performance. But we’re going down the same path as we did with the internet – we’re building capabilities against unproven maturity models and frameworks. If history repeats itself, which seems highly likely, much of this digital investment will be wasted.

Another example is the distributed computing revolution. The same story played out there. It was clear that distributed computing and PCs were far cheaper and far more powerful than mainframe computers. Companies rushed to take advantage of this and spent huge fortunes to equip their employees with PCs. Think about what we believed in the mid- to late 1980s around distributing computing and the capabilities needed for that. There is a world of difference compared to what we now know 30 years later about how to get the wanted productivity from PCs.

The path for the internet and PCS is a very natural path for the way technologies evolve. It’s inevitable to start with the technology and vision, then think about capabilities and then to evolve to hold organizations accountable to extract value. That last step is the hardest, and that’s where we are today in digital transformation. Hopefully, we can shorten the time from the initial vision to consistent value capture compared to how long it took us to do that with distributed computing and the internet. We built capabilities against unproven models and then had to go back and rework those.

In the case of digital, we went from three or four years ago to realizing that these technologies will inevitably create tremendous market value and we need to adopt them or be left behind. So, we went from vision to capability building. Now companies need to figure out how to extract value; otherwise, they will waste a lot of investment. The only way to succeed is to build metrics that measure progress toward extracting value from investments. That’s what needs to happen now.

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The irrationality of cheating at gamified learning

Game mechanics can make the learning process more sticky, but they can also encourage cheating. How do you make sure that the logic of the game doesn't overtake its intended educational purpose? 

As I came to the end to the end of my daily vocabulary exercises, I clicked on the little icon that said "Ranking" on the side of the screen. It had become a sort of habit -- you might say a guilty pleasure -- to check my progress against others learning languages on the same website. There had been a certain satisfaction when I first spotted my name amongst the top ten of users who had started at the same time as me, or the moment when my overall ranking passed from the ten thousands to a mere four figures. It was meaningless, of course. There was no prize for winning and no-one would be impressed by my progress up the charts.

It was just one of the little rituals that somehow made the process of improving my French more compelling.

On this occasion, however, upon clicking and redirecting, I was greeted by something quite different to what I had expected. No charts, no leaderboard, but a polite notice in an unassuming sans-serif. "Regrettably," it began, "we have had to temporarily disable leaderboards on Memrise after extensive cheating has been brought to our attention, some of which has been slowing down the site for the whole community."

Memrise launched in private beta three years ago and is just on the verge of launching its non-beta version 1.0. In 2010, it was named one of Techcrunch's start-ups of the year and last year garnered a whole swathe of favourable press, from Fox News' Cool Site of the Day to MIT

Technology Review. The idea, founder Ed Cooke tells, is "pretty simple: make learning as effective and enjoyable as possible".

Cooke is an Oxford University graduate who became a Grand Master of Memory at 23 (for which he had to memorise 1,000 random number and ten decks of cards in an hour) and went on to coach American freelance journalist, Joshua Froer, to become 2006 USA Memory Champion. So when Ed talks about packing Memrise "with all the science we can muster", well, that's a fair bit of science. In this case, a combination of "vivid imagery", "elaborate testing' and "spaced repetition" taking advantage of the effect first noticed by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus in 1885 stating that last minute cramming is a lot less productive than a little and often over a longer period.


Memrise couples these techniques with a wiki library of "mems" (mnemonics) and what Cooke calls a 'Farmville-style learning game, where you plant words, grow them, water them, and see in your "memory garden" the scope and splendour of all the things you have learned.' Since its Facebook app launched in 2009, Farmville, with its addictive simplicity and viral transmission, has provided the model for a trend towards "gamification" that has taken the worlds of business and marketing by storm. It was while being mentored by one of the bosses of Zynga, Farmville's creators, that Memrise developed its garden metaphor and game-like interface.

They are not, however, the only language acquisition site on the block. Duolingo only went public in June of this year but it quickly racked up a few hundred thousand eager users. The brainchild of reCAPTCHA inventor Luis von Ahn and his graduate student, Severin Hacker, the idea came from a desire to "translate the web into every major language". The problem, von Ahn told me, is that "machine translation is just not very good yet." It soon became apparent that such a task would take millions of people - happily, "there are over 1 billion people learning foreign languages in the world and many of them translate some stuff while learning." Luis and his team put two and two together and Duolingo was born. 

If the model sounds like it takes its cue from the "artificial artificial intelligence" of Amazon Mechanical Turk, its more the case, as von Ahn delicately puts it, that "Mechanical Turk was inspired by earlier work". In 2002, von Ahn created the ESP Game which was bought by Google and became Google Image Labeler. His PhD thesis in 2005 was the first work to talk about both "human computation" and "games with a purpose". Duolingo shares with Memrise certain elements familiar from computer games -- you can gain points and lose lives -- but von Ahn is wary of the word "gamification". "Everybody," he says, "is 'game-ified' now". Ed Cooke likewise, calling it a term 'you have to hate' while allowing that incentives like leaderboards and point scoring are important for keeping people interested "minute by minute".

The suspension of Memrise's leader boards, however, seems to raise the question of what happens when the logic of the game starts to overtake itself. Margaret Robertson, game designer and managing director at Hide&Seek design studio, spoke to me of a "desire to cheat" which lurks behind the competitiveness of gaming, and in the case of Memrise this seems to have run riot. The original suspension message spoke of "bots", "dummy courses" and even a "small army of children" employed to rack up scores. Cooke didn't wish "to glorify some of the bizarre lengths people have gone to cheat on Memrise" but he did point to a "whole genre of YouTube videos" on the topic, some of which -- showing twelve windows open at once auto-completing each other -- have notched up several hundred views.

For theorist Ian Bogost, author of How to Do Things with Videogames, the problem is not with gamingper sebut comes from mistaking games for "points-machines" rather than what he calls "experience-machines". As Robertson puts it, games are "safe spaces we opt into"and a good game will circumvent the temptation to cheat by "preparing for it and embracing it" much as many of the classic console games did.

Both Cooke and von Ahn told me about plans to incorporate more competitiveness and more gameplay into their respective platforms, so perhaps the cure for gamification's excesses is simply more gamification.

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The opportunities and challenges of digital learning

Twenty years ago this week, one of my very first writings on education policy appeared in print. It was an opinion piece I wrote while teaching middle school in East Harlem, in which I described my school’s struggle to effectively use classroom computers. Two decades later, as a professor of economics and education policy, I am engaged in several research projects studying the use and impact of digital learning. 

Much has changed since I taught middle school. I am struck by the extent to which recent technological innovations have created many new opportunities to better serve traditionally disadvantaged students.

First, increasing speed and availability of internet access can reduce many of the geographic constraints that disadvantage poor students. Schools serving higher-resourced families are often able to recruit better teachers and administrators—perhaps the most important school resources—even without additional funding.

Unlike teachers, however, technologies have no preferences for the schools in which they work. The resources available on the internet, for example, are equally available to all schools with the same internet access and internet access costs the same for all schools in the same area, regardless of the student population served. Students can now access online videos that provide instruction on a wide variety of topics at various skill levels, and participate in real-time video conferences with teachers or tutors located a state (or even a continent) away.

Second, the evolution of touch-screen technology has enabled very young children to engage in technology-aided instruction. Prior to tablets, it was difficult for pre-school, kindergarten and even early primary grade students to work with educational software because it required use of a mouse or keyboard. Now there are a hundreds of applications that can effectively expose children to early literacy and numeracy skills.

Third, advances in artificial intelligence technology now allow teachers to differentiate instruction, providing extra support and developmentally-appropriate material to students whose knowledge and skill is far below or above grade level norms. The latest “intelligent” tutoring systems are able to not only assess a student’s current weaknesses, but also diagnose whystudents are making specific errors. These technologies could enable teachers to better reach students who are further from the average within their classroom, potentially benefiting students with weaker academic preparation.

And these technologies scale easily so that innovations (or even good curriculum) can reach more students. Much like a well-written textbook, a well-designed educational software application or online lesson can reach students not just in a single classroom or school, but across the state or country.

While technologies such as virtual instruction and intelligent tutoring offer great promise, unless the challenges that are associated with implementing them are fully understood and addressed their failure is almost surely guaranteed. To date, there is little evidence that digital learning can be implemented at scale in a way that improves outcomes for disadvantaged students.

Hundreds of thousands of students attend full-time online schools, but a study released last year found that students of online charter schools had significantly weaker academic performance in math and reading, compared with demographically similar students in conventional public schools.Computer-aided instruction has been studied extensively over the past twenty-five years and the findings have not been encouraging. Consistently, programs that are implemented widely and evaluated with rigorous methods have yielded little to no benefit for students on average.

What are the key challenges?

Let’s start with student motivation. If technologies can draw in otherwise disenfranchised students through the personalization of material to a student’s interest or through gaming technology, they could benefit disengaged, poorly performing students. However, these technologies often reduce oversight of students, which could be particularly detrimental for children who are less motivated or who receive less structured educational supports at home. It is also possible that these technologies will be less able to engage reluctant learners in the way a dynamic and charismatic teacher can.

Moreover, approaches that forgo direct interpersonal interaction completely are unlikely to be able to teach certain skills. Learning is an inherently social activity. While an intelligent tutor might be able to help a student master specific math concepts, it may not be able to teach students to critically analyze a work of literature or debate the ethics of new legislation.

The experience of Rocketship, a well-known charter school network, illustrates this concern. Developed in the Bay Area of California in 2006, Rocketship’s instructional model revolves around a blended learning approach in which students spend a considerable amount of each day engaged with computer-aided learning technologies. The network received early praise for its innovative approach to learning and, most importantly, for the high achievement scores posted by its mostly poor, nonwhite student population. In 2012, however, researchers and educators raised concerns about graduates from Rocketship elementary schools, noting that they had good basic skills but were struggling with the critical analysis required in middle school.

More broadly, it is important to realize that technologies can be either substitutes for or complements to resources already in the school. To the extent that they are substitutes, they are inherently equalizing forces. For example, well-designed and structured online content might provide critical support to a novice teacher who is too overwhelmed to produce the same coherent and engaging materials that some more experienced teachers can create.

However, in many cases it may be more appropriate to think of technologies as complements—e.g., when they require skilled teachers or students with strong prior skills to be implemented well. In these cases, technologies must be accompanied with additional resources in order for them to benefit traditionally underserved populations.

Perhaps most importantly, systems that blend computer-aided and face-to-face instruction are notoriously difficult to implement well. In recent studies of the popular Cognitive Tutor math programs, teachers reported trouble implementing the program’s instructional practices that revolve around collaborative work, making strong connections between computer-based activities and classroom instruction, and maintaining the expected learning pace with many students who lacked prior math and reading skills.

Finally, even with the best implementation, digital learning is likely to benefit students differently depending on their personal circumstances and those of their school. For instance, non-native English speakers might benefit from online instruction that allows them to pause and look up unfamiliar words. Likewise, we might expect an online course to be more advantageous for students attending a brick-and-mortar school with very low-quality teachers.

Indeed, some recent research finds exactly this type of heterogeneity. A large IES-funded evaluation of computer-aided instruction (CAI) released in 2007 found that students randomly assigned to teachers using the leading CAI products fared no better than students in control classrooms. Several years later, then graduate student Eric Taylor, decided to reanalyze the data from the study, focusing on whether the impacts of these technologies varied across classrooms. His analysis suggests that the introduction of computer-aided instruction had a positive impact on students in classrooms with less effective teachers and a negative impact on students in classrooms with more effective teachers.

In recent years, the worlds of online learning and computer-aided instruction have converged to some extent, morphing into what is often referred to as blended- or personalized-learning models. There are a number of interesting projects underway across the country, including pilots supported by the Gates Foundation’s Next Generation Learning Challenge, and the emergence of charter networks with a goal to provide truly personalized learning for every student, such as Summit Public Schools in California and Washington.

In order for these new endeavors to be successful, they must overcome the challenges described above.

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Why a K-12 Operating System is the Next Step in the Evolution of Edtech

Nearly ten years ago, I started my career in education as a math teacher at a new alternative high school serving over-age, under-credited youth in New York City. My students were labeled “at-risk” of dropping out because they were 16-21 years old and previously unsuccessful in high school. Many suffered from chronic absenteeism, caused by factors such as homelessness, family responsibilities, and/or incarceration. If we, the educators, were going to serve our students well, we were going to have to get pedagogically creative.

If we, the educators, were going to serve our students well, we were going to have to get pedagogically creative.

One of the first curricular tools I built to share—on the first day of school—was a public, student-friendly gradebook on Google Sheets. (Yes, this was before Google Classroom existed!) Students could track their progress and identify which skills needed extra work at any time. Little did I know this experience would eventually propel me to help develop a school operating system that tackles technology issues plaguing educators and supports them with more opportunities to offer individualized instruction.

Creating a Toolbox—and Filling It

After creating the gradebook, my colleague and I developed a curriculum aligned to New York state math standards. We scoped and sequenced the curriculum according to a set of power standards representing scaffolded skills. If students mastered a power standard, they could move on and didn’t need to wait for others. This competency-based system made sense; if students were chronically absent, holding them accountable to a pacing calendar would prove futile. 

To supplement in-person support offered during class and lunch periods, I published a simple Google site to house my lessons, assessments, and other resources. If students missed class or needed additional help, they could go to my website and access the day’s lesson as well as videos and digital exercises from YouTube and Khan Academy.

Abbas Manjee's standards-based Algebra 1 scope and sequence. Full size image here.

As my students submitted work, I tracked everything in my gradebook. My goal was to minimize the information asymmetry that tends to exist between what teachers know about their students and what students know about their performance. At the time, I had no idea this system was called “standards-based grading.” I was so green at this point in my career that I probably assumed every classroom in the 21st century operated this way. I didn't realize what we were trying to build was innovative.

It felt like every tool I used in the classroom was inherently designed to work in isolation.

The following year, I wanted to ensure that when students did come to class, they could participate and engage—or at the very minimum—access the content via a class set of iPads. I stepped up my game by adding even more videos and assessment exercises to my class website, mining resources from IXL and CK-12. I generated logins for my students and started “blending” instruction using the free content from these publishers. This worked nicely for my students, who felt like I was carefully attending to their learning pace and providing them with targeted learning materials.

By the end of year, more than half of my students passed the Algebra 1 state exam. For context: in years prior, every one of these students had failed this exam at least once. Of those who failed again this time around, many had never come so close to passing and looked forward to retaking it in the summer. 

Enter the LMS

I was proud, but also exhausted. The time required to maintain the number of tools I was juggling was eerily close to the time I used to spend working as an investment banker. I dedicated hours every week copy-pasting student achievement data from multiple systems into one gradebook, analyzing each student’s progress and assigning work based on need. The last thing I needed was another system to maintain, but that’s exactly how my third teaching year started: my school administration decided a centralized system for grades was necessary to assess how all classrooms were doing. They bought a learning management system (LMS) and asked us to start using it. 

Procuring the LMS was purely an administrative decision, fueled by a desire to monitor school-wide trends to make resource allocation decisions. I couldn’t fault school leadership for this, but I still hated using it. I didn’t want to change the way I’d set up my class because my model working for my students. Now, in addition to importing data from IXL, Khan Academy, and an adaptive learning program called Carnegie Learning, I had to transfer the achievement data from my gradebook into another system. It felt like every tool I used in the classroom was inherently designed to work in isolation. 

By the end of that year, my patience had grown thin. I stopped updating the LMS on a regular basis and wondered how long it would take before somebody noticed. My colleagues had mixed feelings about it too. Because the LMS was designed to contain a lot of tools for teachers in a single view, it was clunky and cumbersome to use. For example, it didn’t integrate with Google Apps, which we had spent the last three years using. Nor could I customize features to align with my class set-up, or remove certain features altogether. 

Building and Brainstorming

After three more years teaching in alternative high schools, I left the classroom to join Kiddom and address this interoperability problem. In an ideal world, teachers would be able to access a set of tools driven by their classroom needs and aligned to an instructional model of their choice. Administrators would be able to measure and take action from macro-level trends, manage and review curriculum, and enable educators to incorporate the instructional models and technologies that serve their classrooms best. 

Unfortunately, teachers are constrained by tools that are ineffective or redundant. Many education technologies are not interoperable. School and district leaders continue to spend an inordinate amount of time piecing together data to understand what’s really happening. When that takes too long or doesn’t work, they resort to classroom observations—because they’re easy to do.

During my time at Kiddom, I’ve had the opportunity to apply my teaching experience and work with a team of designers and developers to tackle these problems head-on. At first, we focused on teachers and learners and the tools needed to enhance a singular classroom experience; this led to a simple, visual standards-aligned gradebook. Next, we connected this gradebook directly to digital content publishers like CK-12 and Khan Academy so that teachers could access teaching resources in order to differentiate instruction efficiently and save time.

Because every classroom experience plays a role in the larger ecosystem within a school, we designed a set of collaboration tools to help teachers work together, share, and learn from each other more effectively. We then focused on the information asymmetry that exists between classrooms and their respective administrative bodies. Working with and listening closely to public school administrators, we brainstormed various ways we could support school systems from the top-down and bottom-up.

A K-12 Operating System

The result of this work is Kiddom Academy, a K-12 school operating system supporting collaboration and individualized instruction. Using Academy, administrators can identify and act on aggregate achievement trends, manage curriculum and assessment, and efficiently integrate other tools they’ve come to rely on. They can set up frameworks for a range of pedagogies in line with their organizational goals. Classrooms gain access to a comprehensive library of standards-aligned resources and curriculum development tools. Beautiful, actionable reports help students, teachers, parents, and administrators monitor progress and take action. 

A K-12 school operating system is the next step in the evolution of education technology.

A K-12 school operating system is the next step in the evolution of education technology. Interoperability matters in schools and districts now more than it has ever before, because we’ve come expect it everywhere else. For example, I can purchase a pair of concert tickets using my EventBrite app, and then export the information directly into my iPhone calendar. So too should teachers be able to use a variety of learning apps in their classroom and expect them to work together seamlessly. As we see more content and pedagogy-specific tools in the market, we can expect increasing numbers of teachers to find and patch together the tools that work best for them; administrators will be no different. 

My teaching experience helped me understand that I didn’t need to buy a blended learning or personalized learning product. I had a process and practice in place, and needed a set of interoperable tools. I can’t imagine how much more passion and creative energy I might have offered my students and colleagues if I wasn’t staying up late every night copying and pasting data to differentiate instruction. “Personalized learning” might be trendy, but it isn’t new. Teachers have been trying to enhance and individualize learning using the tools at their disposal for a long time. 

That’s why at Kiddom, we’re hell bent on designing and implementing technology that enables all students to learn via pedagogy and pacing optimized for them. We’re betting big on the idea of building a system for other learning apps to run on—rather than in—to help schools plug and play the tools they find most effective. We can’t wait to see how schools will use Kiddom Academy to execute their vision for teaching and learning.

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Why Is Gamification An Epic Formula For eLearning Assessments?

Gamification Of eLearning Assessments: An Epic Formula

I just completed an eLearning course on compliance training. While I loved the use of an Instructional Design strategy that made the compliance training engaging and interesting, I wasn’t looking forward to taking the assessment. That was partly due to my inherent fear of assessments. But then, I was in for a pleasant surprise, as the assessment was gamified. Instead of dreading the assessment, I was now looking forward to taking the assessment. There are many learners out there who echo similar sentiments, and providing friendly-competition in the form of a gamified assessment might help. This article shares the benefits of using gamification as an assessment tool in online training.

Takes The Stress Out Of Assessments

Learners do not want to go through boring assessments that do nothing to enhance the learning experience.

For one of our clients who wanted an onboarding training program, we implemented the gamification of the eLearning assessment. We did this through a maze game, where a new hire has to find his way across the campus to attend his first project meeting. The learner taking the training gets to help a character in the gamified assessment navigate through the maze. This added an element of interest in the assessment.

Learners are motivated to score well, as only then can they help the character in the gamified assessment reach his destination.

Improves Learner Engagement

The purpose of assessments in eLearning is not to overwhelm learners. Assessments are primarily used to gauge the learners’ understanding of the content covered in the course. Training managers can use the results of the assessment to check whether the eLearning course has met the training objectives. Overwhelming learners with complex assessments is the last thing you want in your online training program. By using gamification for eLearning assessments, learners can enjoy a relaxed learning experience. This, in turn, improves learner engagement and contributes to learning retention.

Impresses The Millennials

According to the Pew Research Center [1], Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S labor force. Gamification of eLearning assessments is sure to impress the Millennials. In another eLearning course for new hires, a majority of them being Millennials, the elements of gaming were used in the assessment.

New hires loved the challenge of guiding a character to progress from one level to the other. Each level was represented by a building, and the learner had to attempt questions that were posted on entering each building. New hires also loved the storytelling strategy that was used in the gamified assessment. The prospect of assisting the character who was a new hire in the organization helped learners relate to the story.

Provides Effective Feedback

Gamification of eLearning assessments can help deliver effective feedback in formative as well as summative assessments. When learners have difficulty completing a particular level of the gamified assessment, it can point to difficulties in that particular content.

It is essential to gather the assessment results of learners taking an eLearning course. By applying learning analytics in online assessments, it has become possible for training managers to identify improvement areas for learners and also evaluate if the assessment is aligned with the learning objectives.

Delivers High Impact Learning

The best part of the gamification of eLearning assessments is that learners are constantly challenged. Learners score points, progress in the game, receive feedback and do not feel pressurized. It’s a game, after all! Here’s how a gamified assessment delivers high impact learning:

Gets learners hooked to the training Drills down the learning objectives Stimulates recall of prior knowledge (For example, knowledge gained in one particular module of the training needs to be recalled to cross one level) Provides learning guidance (The learner is required to use his knowledge gained from the course to get a good score)

By gamifying the eLearning assessment in the online onboarding training, we ensured that new hires reaped the maximum benefit from the course. The bar was set to a high score of 80%. New hires who were unable to meet the scoring requirements were allowed reattempts.

If you have not tried gamification of eLearning courses yet, maybe you should begin by gamifying eLearning assessments in your online training programs.

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Virtual training just stepped up a gear

Every year organisations invest billions of pounds on learning and development with much of that money being spent on developing interpersonal skills, partly because research suggests this type of training is relatively effective in terms of impact.

Traditionally, things like leadership, negotiation and communication skills have tended to be delivered face-to-face, most commonly in a role play format. Participants act out scenarios and practice skills with their trainee group and are given feedback.

However, as new technologies such as virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence and robotics start to make inroads into all aspects of organisational life, it looks as if interpersonal skills training is set to get a little less personal.

The reason that this transformation is underway is simple. If VR can be used in computer gaming to immerse gamers in interactive worlds, why not use Immersive Virtual Reality (IVR) technology to provide virtual humans as interpersonal skills training partners?

It’s important to remember that these virtual humans act as agents - their responses are restricted to whatever has been preprogrammed. 

Using a Head Mounted Display (HMD), participants can be immersed in a 3D world experienced from a first person perspective, where they encounter and interact with virtual humans, objects and environments. New technologies, such as the use of sensors, promise to enhance this experience still further by reflecting the movements, body language and even the expressions of participants.

What this means is that technology can now enable us to use virtual humans as training partners. But it’s important to remember that these virtual humans act as agents - their responses are restricted to whatever has been preprogrammed.

They are not avatars controlled by and responding in real-time according to the wishes of a real human. That said, a trainer can monitor the overall training experience, and may even select which preprogrammed responses the virtual training partner deploys.

IVR offers organisations a number of advantages over traditional training:

Accessibility. As we all know, time and resource issues, such as cost, logistics, staff scheduling and availability can limit the effectiveness and accessibility of conventional training. Once programmed, however, virtual humans are available 24/7, do not need briefing or consulting, and are relatively cheap to run. They also enable frequent practice from almost anywhere - even from home - which should improve training success. Less stress, more learning. Existing applications show that people using IVR are able to form a sufficient psychological connection with virtual humans to have meaningful, purposeful, interactions. At the same time virtual humans are perceived as sufficiently artificial to alleviate the stress normally experienced in social evaluation situations. This means that trainees can practice in a relatively risk-free environment, potentially reducing anxiety, decreasing resistance to learning, and increasing training transfer. The simulation can also be modified to adjust stress levels to individual tolerances, providing more or less challenge, for example. Make training scenarios more relevant. A big problem with training is ensuring that learning and development gains are applied in the work context. IVR increases the likelihood of successful training transfer as it allows simulated training scenarios (and learning pathways) to be tailored to individual trainees and their real life work situations. The VR environment can replicate the work environment.  Virtual humans can be programmed with many different behaviors and characteristics. They can even be modelled to physically resemble a trainee's manager or colleagues, for example. Create new experiences. IVR gives greater flexibility and scope for innovation than conventional training as it enables any situation to be simulated, imaginary or real. Raucous audiences can be created for public speaking scenarios, for example, to provide more challenge. It’s even possible to use doppelgangers - a virtual recreation of the trainee - to help coach and provide feedback.  More and better feedback. IVR allows greater choice over how to deliver feedback. Instead of the conventional post-training debrief, feedback can be given in real-time by the reactions of virtual training partners, or by giving additional information during the exercise depending on the trainee's actions (signaling if they make a mistake, for example).

Feedback can be automated, triggered by sensors in the environment that monitor the trainee's behavior, or prompted by the trainer.

Despite these potential benefits, it nevertheless is true that IVR is still in its infancy and that many questions remain. Does a trainee's personality make a difference to benefit gained, for example? Might the technology – headset and IVR experience - discourage highly anxious trainees? How do older people react compared with younger trainees? 


Even in the absence of further research, though, IVR is likely to become an integral part of interpersonal skills development and other aspects of learning and development. Inevitably this will prove transformational, disrupting the delivery of services by many traditional providers.

I would argue, however, that IVR won’t entirely replace conventional training, but instead become part of a blended training approach. Virtual humans will make great training partners for practice purposes, but they won’t replace skilled human trainers.

Given the relentless progress of technologies such as AI and machine learning, however, that may not be much comfort for trainers as they contemplate what their industry will look like in years to come.

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Use Gamification In The Workplace: Redefine Learning By Boosting Engagement And Collaboration

Use Gamification In The Workplace For Efficient Content Delivery And Increased Learner Interaction

New-age learners access gamified eCourses, not with an intention to win but to learn and achieve. For instance, earning badges on completing a certain level is exciting, but not the end goal. Learners thrive to gain intrinsic motivation through an internal sense of achievements that appears after successfully accomplishing a task. Game-based learning is designed effectively, to drive the optimum benefits from an eLearning strategy.

What Success Through Gamification Looks Like?

With digitization, gamification is becoming the most preferred trend in workplace learning. It captivates learners’ attention through engaging games, ensuring the delivery of memorable learning experiences. Each gamified learning asset provides different benefits based on course, strategy, motivators, and more. But, while designing or executing an existing form of games, elements help to drive success. Few of these elements are listed here:

Implementation of gaming concepts aligned with the psychology of gaming (determination, encouragement, and more). Effective strategies linked to defined objectives and training outcomes, which are directly connected to the workplace where learners apply knowledge and expertise. The inclusion of incentives, that do not focus on competition, but on achievement. The outcomes should always be that players know they have learned something new. Realistic, dynamic, and engaging tasks or scenarios that need critical decision-making and problem-solving skills. More focus on learning behaviors that highlight the customized needs of modern learners. Recognition of different ways people learn and get motivated to perform better in the workplace. Effective Design Framework Of Gamification

With optimum marketing efforts, eLearning gamification needs a plan. It is significant to think about the business objectives, target audience, and their behavioral changes. Rather than implementing scores, points, and leaderboards, gamified learning is benefited by a well-structured gamified system. Therefore, gamification framework is designed to help organizations encourage a certain behavior that accelerates engagement and collaboration. Let us present the following 6 steps in this framework:

1. Define Goals

Like any other activity, even gamification approach starts with different business objectives. Few of these goals include increasing sales, customer satisfaction, quality of innovations with reducing costs of development on new products. Each objective can differ but all that matters is the end results from the overall gamified learning program.

2. Outline The Target Behavior

The next step in this design framework is to delineate the target behavior essential to attain the business objectives. If the business goal is all about boosting customer loyalty, then different forms of behavior can drive the overall learning experience. For instance, the level of engagement that a learner requires or if a customer promotes company’s products and services, these are the forms of target behavior in this regard.

3. Define The Participants

Before designing the gamification network, it is crucial to understand the learners. There are varied elements that decide which gaming elements will best suit the tailored needs of learners. For instance, the degree of innovation in eLearning or social engagement can be of influence.

4. Devise Different Activity Loops

The next step following that of defining business goals, target behavior, and knowing the target audience is to drive learner engagement. To get learners into a gamified program is one thing and to keep them engaged for long is another. Therefore, engagement loops are designed to motivate learners to access more courses and reflect the same type of behavior time and again. There are 3 stages in this loop—first, there needs to be motivation to depict the desired behavior, then the action in accordance with that behavior followed by an instant feedback.

5. Add The Fun Element

It is important to ensure that gamified eCourses are complete fun and exciting. Therefore, rewards and scores are given to the learners to grab the same level of engagement till the course is completed. For many of the learners, collaboration and competition are the important emotions that make them continue playing.

6. Game Elements

Lastly, different gaming components, including badges, avatars, achievements, virtual goods, leaderboards, and more are added to these eLearning courses. By choosing among these elements, a coherent and interactive experience is created.

The Final Word

The above-discussed gamification framework holds the capability to gamify eLearning courses in today’s digital learning environments. Fun is also a must-have! So, it has become significant to gamify the courses to incorporate strategies that engage learners in multi-faceted ways and reinforce the overall learning experience.

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VR As Immersive Learning Technology

How Immersive Learning And Virtual Reality Are Intertwined

Immersive technology is the technology that fades the line between the real and the simulated world by creating a virtual environment to communicate information. Immersive technology enables mixed reality.

Immersive learning is a completely new buzzword, which uses computer-based technologies to create a productively engaging simulating environment for learning. Learners learn as they 'do', tracking their progress through assessments. Learners learn by performing the task with the freedom to fail and face bad consequences. The learner has to apply logical thinking to solve problems, like a pilot learns how to fly and also deal with a mind storming decision that can be harmful if performed in the real word for the first time—but these events in mixed reality will not be as bad.

Immersive technology and simulation-based learning have been adopted by educators, mostly where the skills needed are of a challenging nature—for example, military field operations, medical surgeries or procedures, or corporate training. Immersive technology enhances learning in terms of productive engagement, learning speed, improved retention, and hands-on experience. Immersive technologies feature gesture recognition, brain-computer interaction, and speech reorganization.

Why Use Immersive Learning?

It has been observed that learners learn easily and better when 'doing'. Immersive learning gives learners a sense of reality to perform the task effectively.

Immersive learning uses technologies to optimize the learning process. It provides learners with a high-quality learning experience, 100% attention rate, better retention rate, and 360° interactivity.

What Is Virtual Reality?

Virtual Reality is computer-based technology which can be used to create simulations using sensors and AI. VR creates a 3D simulation of the real world using certain devices. Instead of merely sitting and observing things, learners get the opportunity to interact with the virtual world and get immersed in this Virtual Reality.

Why Use VR As Immersive Technology?

Here are some reasons to use Virtual Reality for immersive learning.

1. Visualization

Visuals are the best way to grasp difficult concepts and make a boring lesson interesting. It is proven that presenting something visually helps us understand and remember. For example, if a learner has to learn how to perform a surgical operation, VR can really help them understand by allowing them to view and perform the operation without putting anyone’s life in danger.

2. Productive Engagement

VR helps to create productive engagement where the user is self-motivated to take the training. VR equals exciting, innovative, and effective engagement.

3. Improve The Quality Of Training

Another advantage of VR is that the user will be gaining hands-on experience, which is only possible by actually doing and not just by observing. When there is a need to simulate a dangerous and expensive situation, VR is the ideal solution for eLearning. Learners can practice and test their knowledge with no physical barrier.

4. Create Interest

VR provides 360° interactivity, which creates strong interest. VR can help to create an enriching experience which is not possible to experience in real life. Using VR technology increases learners’ interest in taking the training.

5. Low Risk

Learners have very little room to make mistakes in a hazardous environment. By using VR, we can recreate the same environment. Learners can now master dangerous tasks in a safe and controlled environment.

6. Low Cost

VR is considered affordable since it simulates training which can be addressed to a larger audience in the workplace. Training, at all times, needs to be held in a physical environment, similar to all employees. Therefore, learners are able to complete the remote training using a VR headset.

7. Hands-On Experience

VR offers an opportunity to test new assumptions and techniques to boost productivity. Learners can gain the valuable experience they need to perform the task in the real world by performing the task rather than only observing.

8. Right To Fail Safely

VR technology allows learners to fail and make mistakes without serious consequences. In this way, the learner experiences the consequences of their wrong decision—something that is not possible in real world.


The possibilities of using VR as immersive learning technology in various fields are endless. VR can be a major success if used for immersive learning since, like we discussed, Virtual Reality creates immersion in learning.

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The 10 Most Critical LMS Requirements For Any Online Training Program

Presenting  A List Of  Top LMS Requirements For Modern Online Training

You don’t.

When shopping for an LMS, look beyond bells and whistles and sleek presentations. Instead, zero in on the most critical Learning Management System requirements your organization truly needs and can use.

And focus on those features capable of bringing definable value, either in increased ROI or improved KPIs.

1. Robust Analytics And Report Generation

Robust analytics and report generation ranks as a must-have tool in any LMS. Within the LMS, an easily-accessed dashboard should let you pull down progress reports and other learner data. Also, it should include an application program interface (API) or webhook that leverages data to trigger an automatic task in the system.

This might mean giving a badge to a learner who has passed a specific milestone. Or, for example, consider an account that has been suspended because the customer, partner, or employee requires more training: Once the user has gone through the remedial instruction you determine, the API or webhook automatically reactivates the account.

Related reading: New Tech is Sparking a Bright Future for Learning & Development

Confirm also that the reporting function can be adapted to your specific requirements. The LMS will, of course, track how many users have completed the course and the time spent on a task.

But those statistics do not indicate real user engagement or whether the LMS has had any real impact on your business goals. So, you don’t want to lose track of the question of which success metric you should measure by utilizing the LMS.

Those metrics could be more sales volume, more applicants, or fewer support calls.Whichever measurement you set, the LMS must reflect that information in its assessment data as well instructional materials. Instead of relying on a standard reporting template, create your unique model within the LMS.

2. Course Authoring Capability

In addition to delivering and tracking the eLearning program, an LMS also creates and hosts the instructional content.

Many modern LMSs, like Northpass, contain course authoring tools. This permits your organization to create content-rich text activities, audio, videos, visuals—within the LMS itself. Without that capability, you would need to originate the content via a separate creation software, like Captivate or Articulate, and then import it into your LMS. An LMS with an embedded natural course authoring tool eliminates that step.

Another factor to consider when creating courses within an LMS is whether the software is SCORM 1.2 compliant. If so, the LMS will then accept all the instructional content in whatever format without any technical glitches.

3. Scalable Content Hosting

Similarly, as your LMS hosts your content, you’ll want the ability to make updates to the courses effortlessly. As your organization grows, you'll require an LMS that can welcome more learners and undergo any necessary upgrades as learning requirements shift to match organizational needs.

Further, if you have assets, objects, or activities embedded in several courses, the LMS should allow you to alter those elements in every place they are used rather than having to upload the changes multiple times in multiple areas.

4. Certifications

If your organization trains a great many external users—such as channel partners, resellers, customers, and service agents—certifications provide assurance that those extended enterprise groups are appropriately trained in your product.

Besides the training aspect, certifications elevate an organization’s brand value and build an ecosystem of users. For example, HubSpot Academy certifies inbound marketers, which serves the dual purpose of producing more expert marketers while also reinforcing HubSpot’s market-leading expertise in that area.

5. Integrations

Your LMS should never operate on an island. The ability to integrate with other SaaS software ranks as an essential requirement.

Like most modern organizations, you probably utilize a host of software programs, whether for CRM (SalesForce); employee onboarding (fountain), virtual classrooms (GoToTraining), HR (BambooHR), as well as Google Analytics. Through the API, have the vendor or your internal staff configure the LMS so it can exchange information—such as user records—with those programs.

6. Community And Collaboration

As they progress through the LMS, learners at specific points may want to reach out to internal experts or other users. This exchange of ideas and knowledge fosters a sense of community and keeps learners engaged in the process. eLearning works well when it is delivered in conjunction with peer-to-peer and other personal interactions.

A social networking platform, discussion boards, file sharing, and virtual chats enable learners to collaborate and share ideas.

These social learning communities also offer a window into how learners are progressing through the program: Are there areas where users need more help? Do they desire training in an area you hadn’t considered previously? Use that data to develop courses your users want. Or you can gather user-generated content to create more courses and information useful to your learners.

7. White-Labeling Vs. Branding

Most LMSs allow the organization to add its logo and brand name throughout the learning program. This feature lets you shape the look of the LMS somewhat.

This feature is often called white-labeling, but it would better be referred to as branding. There is more to white-labeling than merely changing the colors or adding a logo. Double check the LMS features list to ensure you get full control of the CSS/HTML editor for advanced customizations.

8. Mobile Capability

Today’s eLearning takes place on several devices: a desktop, tablet, or smartphone, and sometimes all 3. To optimize the learning experience, the content must adapt to any device.

A course authoring tool or LMS should enable the content to fit on any screen size, thereby delivering instruction in an easy to read format. It also means the learner can advance through the LMS from whichever device he or she chooses to use.

9. Customer Support And Success

Customer support entails more than having a help desk to call when glitches or other problems occur. Optimal customer support goes beyond just an 800 line for technical questions.

In that regard, you might want to know if the LMS handles support internally, or is it outsourced to a third-party? Do they assign an account representative who oversees the partnership from the first day and through every step of the process?

And the relationship between you and your LMS vendor must be a valid partnership, not one that ends after installation or deployment. Today’s customer support revolves around ongoing customer success.

Avoid an LMS vendor that offers only a boilerplate implementation solution. Partner with an LMS vendor that takes the time to know your business challenges and how the LMS can overcome those obstacles.The LMS in-house experts should understand your instructional needs so they can make recommendations based on your unique case.

This leads to customer support that is proactive, not reactive, and an association based on ensuring your success.

10. The Key Learning Management System Requirement: Supporting Your Mission And Culture

Perhaps the most critical element of an LMS is whether it supports your organization's mission and culture. So ask yourself these questions:

Are we a fast-moving, innovative company whose training needs change quickly? If so, is the LMS agile enough to pivot with those rapid shifts? What do we want to use the LMS for?  Do we require an LMS solely for skills building or dispensing technical know-how? Or, do we envision the LMS as a platform to build the overall industry expertise of our customers, channel partners workforce?  Is the LMS more about supporting our brand values?

Lastly, since we live in an era that places a premium on User Experience (UX), find an LMS that supports a terrific UX for your users. There’s no better way to show how valued your users are to you than by providing them with a smooth UX as they progress through the LMS—especially onboarding. Plus, great UX keeps learners engaged.

As you review your LMS requirements and start comparing vendor partners, it is easy to be dazzled by a lengthy list ofoptions—they all sound so appealing. But to pick the right LMS for your needs, remember to let the purchase be guided by the features and requirements most valuable to your organization.

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5 Ways Technology Helps Your Employee Retention Strategy

As millennials become a larger part of today’s workforce, companies have to adapt and innovate in the way they use technology. Employee retention is vital for helping companies grow as it allows the very best talent to develop their skills and thrive.

Losing great employees is something that can silently sneak up on your company and a big exodus can cause real damage. Not only will you have wasted a huge amount of company resources in training and development, but finding new talent isn’t always so easy.

If you’ve been trying to find employee retention strategies that incorporate the latest technology trends, Saxons has the answer. We’ve highlighted 5 retention strategies that truly make a difference in the modern workplace and will help to keep your employees happy. Read on to find out more or visit our Leadership page for more of our leadership related blogs.

Set job expectations for applicants  

The last thing a new employee wants to step into is a company culture they didn’t expect to find. And, as companies, the last thing wanted is for a new hire to leave before they can fulfill their potential.

Thanks to career portals and social media outreach technology, job seekers can easily learn more about their career development options and your company’s culture. This can be a huge sell for potential employees if you properly direct them to information that’s relevant to their ambitions and paints an accurate picture of their ideal job.

Flexible hours and working remotely

Who doesn’t like working out of the office or changing their working hours when life demands it, right? Well, it’s a good question and technology now allows employees to work flexibly from anywhere they need to – it’s fair to say that the days of the traditional 9-5 office job are well and truly behind us.

However, that doesn’t mean you ignore your employees once they’re out of the office. It’s critical that commutation and collaboration remain a big part of everyday life at your company. The last thing you want is for your employees to not feel like they’re part of the team or that their input isn’t valued.

But, it’s not just about keeping your local employees happy and satisfied with flexible working schedules. Modern technology has opened up a huge remote worker talent pool for companies to explore. It’s this kind of innovative approach that can really diversify your workplace and further boost collaboration among co-workers at your company.

Career development through eLearning initiatives

Nobody looks forward to the prospect of a dead-end job that simply isn’t going to go anywhere. One of the best employee retention strategies is simply helping your workers get to where they want to be. Lack of career development is a sure way to drive your employees away and waste your valuable company resources.

So, help your employees by establishing eLearning initiatives, creating innovative digital courses, and having readily accessible digital libraries. This shows that your company cares about the ambitions of your employees and wants to see them fulfil their every potential.

With that being said, this kind of eLearning approach does require for employees to have their career path laid out clearly. Otherwise, you may find that your employee retention strategies fall apart if career development begins to stagnate at your company.

Simple communication networks

Technology has made it easier than ever for your employees to stay connected, securely access company data, share work, and much more at any time of the day. This kind of freedom really aids employee retention as your staff will feel trusted in how they personally approach their workload.

Creating a strong communications network allows your company to easily build teams and encourages collaboration across every department. Again, these are all vital ingredients for increasing job satisfaction and productivity among your employees.

Thankfully, there are lots of innovative tools to make use of if you aren’t already. Slack and Microsoft Teams are helping to redefine how employees communicate and teams manage projects. Additionally, Dropbox and Google Docs make transferring files secure and instantaneous. All you have to do is make the right choice for your company and most importantly, your employees.

Innovative technology improves productivity and wellness

Stress is something that can creep into any workplace and technology has the keys to help reduce this. Perhaps, your employees need reminders for deadlines, automatic updates sent to them, ongoing online training or the ability to easily reschedule meetings?

Thankfully, the right technology can easily provide your employees with the tools they need to feel less stressed and more confident. There’s only so long a person can be under stress before it effects their productivity and impacts their health. No matter what, don’t lose sight of your employees’ wellness when developing your employee retention strategies.

Are you interested in modernising your workplace with the technology needed for your employee retention strategies to work? To learn more, please visit the IT Solutions pagenow. Alternatively, you can speak to a member of our team about any of the employee retention strategies you’ve read here by contacting us now.

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IT Systems Training with Impact: A behaviour change-based approach

You might know the best process for delivering systems training – but what can you do to design that training so that it delivers real, measurable impact?

"Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do."
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Goethe seems to have measurable impact nailed. I'm not entirely sure he was thinking about systems training when he said that, but to me it sums up measurable impact pretty perfectly.

Because when we talk about measurable impact or results (which in digital learning we do… a lot), we're really talking about changes we can observe and measure. What are people doing differently as a result of the training? How have their behaviours changed?

Every piece of systems training is different and will target different learning environments and objectives, but here are a few common scenarios:

Scenario 1: You have a new system and you want your learners to get up to speed with using it as soon as possible. Scenario 2: You've upgraded a system and need your learners need to adapt the way they currently use it. Scenario 3: Or maybe your system hasn't changed at all, but you need to iron out non-standard behaviours in the way your learners currently use the system.

In any of these scenarios, the overall goal of the training is to embed new behaviours and capabilities. And that's where theories on behaviour change can help inform your design.

The COM-B model for behaviour change

There are a number of different behavioural change models, but recently at Brightwave we've been looking at the COM-B model.

The COM-B model is widely used in government and public sector organizations as a framework for exploring the factors that generate behaviour change and how they each interact.

The three factors are:

Capability: This means a person's knowledge and skills. What is the person's current knowledge and skill level. Opportunity: This refers to all the factors around a person that could make the desired behaviour possible. What prompts or changes could be put in place? Motivation: What motivates that person to make decisions or do what they do? What are their habits or routines?

Once each of these three areas has been evaluated, you can then identify what types oflearning intervention will be effective to bring about the desired behaviour change.

A good way to think about it is: what are the enablers and blockers to the behaviour change, and how do they interact?

A short analysis using Com-B

So let's think about how this would work in the context of systems training project.

Take scenario 3 as an example:

"Your system hasn't changed at all but you need to iron out non-standard behaviours in the way your learners currently use the system."

The learners already know how to use the system but may be lacking knowledge in certain areas, which is leading to errors and non-standard behaviour.


What are the enablers that could make the behaviour change possible?

The overall opportunity is essentially our learning blend, but this could be made up of various different solutions:

Digital learning Face to face training

There could also be physical or environment opportunities; what can change about the learners' working environment that might make the behaviour change easier?

For example:

Performance support material Mentoring and support Technology or IT support

On one side, this is evaluating what the learner is currently doing and why they're doing it. On the other, it's looking at ways to motivate the learner to change their behaviour.

For example, a learner might be motivated to use the system in non-standard ways because it's quicker and they don't want to spend additional time filling in extra fields etc.

"Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it."
– Dwight D. Eisenhower

But perhaps after questioning your learners, you find out that they'd be motivated to use the system correctly if it would save them time on admin tasks and improve data management.

What does this analysis tell us?

This is a very brief example evaluation, but you can see that by analysing the three factors of Capability, Opportunity and Motivation, you can identify the enablers – but more importantly the key gaps (or blockers) – your training needs to target to produce real behavioural change and therefore, measurable business impact.

Learners need to:

Understand how to use the system to close knowledge gaps that are barriers to behaviour change Have an environment and learning solution that makes closing these knowledge gaps as easy and pain-free as possible Relate to why they should use the system correctly so they are motivated to understand the learning and adopt the new behaviours and shed the old ones. 

What can we take from it?
I think we're all familiar with number 1: this is the heart of what our solution needs to achieve. I'm not going to ponder on the best approach to do this as that's probably a whole other article itself. But I think the key thing we can take from the Com-B model is that this part of the solution shouldn’t be considered in insolation to the other factors.

That means when designing your learning solution, think not just about what knowledge needs to drum into your learners' brains but how your solution can stimulate motivation and engagement too – because these factors are key to real change.

And alongside that, consider the opportunities you can leverage to make the learning process take place with the least friction possible. What will make new behaviours easier to stick to in the long term - it could be on-the-job aides, in-system pop-up reminders or support roles?

Motivation - the missing part of the puzzle?

But for me, ultimately it's the motivation factor of the Com- B model that is most useful when it comes to thinking about systems training and behaviour change.

Because motivation is often overlooked in systems training design as capability related objectives tend to take a front seat. It's easy to focus on the knowledge gaps that need to be filled rather than why our learners should be motivated to fill those gaps! The benefit of the Com-B model is that it forces you to explore motivation from all angles.

What can you do?

So how can you get your learners fired up to get to grips with your system? After all, I think we'd all admit it's not the most exciting of subjects…

But unlike other types of training, systems often has a direct impact in our learner's jobs. Small changes in behaviour here can add up to significant personal benefits over time. It's highly likely that they'll be using the system every day or week.

That gives you a direct line into what gets them fired up.

Think about it: I'm sitting here writing in a word processing program I use every single day. I could definitely tell you a thing or two about my frustrations and aspirations for this particular piece of software… and if someone offered me a chance to really get to grips with it, I’d be very grateful!

That's because I can recognise how using this program in the right way would make my job easier and more productive. It's not something that keeps me awake at night but it's definitely something I'd be motivated to do.

In the same way, we want to get our learners to understand why this our training is going to make their lives better.
That means really thinking about why your learners, not just your organisation, will benefit from the training. So of course, increased profit margins, better efficiencies etc. may be a key part of the reason why you've commissioned the training, but that might not be what resonates with your learners.

"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."
– Nelson Mandela

For example, imagine you're introducing a new system. Of course this is going to be a big upheaval for your learners. But perhaps think about the frustrations they may have with the old system and communicate how the new improved system will make their jobs easier. Being transparent and honest, speaking in your learner's language, is how to generate the necessary enthusiasm.

In closing…

Hopefully this short investigation into the Com-B model has piqued your interest. Why not try it out on your next project, and see what insights it opens up for you? And most importantly don't neglect to design for motivation. After all it's what keeps us all striving, working and, well – learning.

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5 Strategies to Manage Change In a Digital Workplace

While the digital workplace is here to stay, change continues all around us. The changes companies must manage and adapt to in a digital workplace are impacted by many internal and external factors including technology, budgets, business model, politics, location, processes, leadership, legal and tax barriers. 

In their 2017 digital workplace trends study, the Digital Workplace Group (DWG) describes seven dimensions of which companies should take note when trying to determine where they fit as a digital workplace. These dimensions are: 

Communication and business intelligence Collaboration and community Services and workflow Structure and coherence Mobility and flexibility, Strategic alignment and management Organizational readiness

Effectively managing change requires a clear understanding and thus the first step is to complete a full assessment of the state of your business. These techniques listed here can be used to effectively manage change. 

Related Story: Your Digital Transformation Won't Succeed Without Cultural Change

Recognize Change Must Be a Big Part of Your Strategy 

From the leadership team to the front line, it’s vital people recognize that change is important and necessary. Change plays a key role in strategy and is vital to establishing and maintaining a sustainable competitive advantage. “Technology adoption is faster than ever. Jobs are being replaced by automation, AI, and robotics —change is coming. Seventy-one percent of industries and leaders expect widespread adoption of AI and robotics in the near future,” said Mika Kuikka, President of Arcusys. 

As the nature of work changes, organizations need to accept that change is an inevitable risk and put in place a strategy that reacts quickly to change. Flexibility is key. Change avoidance or reluctance puts companies at a disadvantage in relation to competitors and creates an environment of stagnation. In the digital workplace where the pace of change is accelerated, the need to expediently managing those changes is amplified. Change management experts, project management office (PMO) leaders, and CIO’s need to be in sync in how and when to approach and address change. They should all play a key role in strategy and attend related planning sessions to avoid costly oversights. 

Related Story: Why Some Businesses Thrive in Times of Constant Change

Don’t Just Embrace Technology, Pursue It 

In almost every aspect, technology is transformative and enables the digital workplace. Technology is infused in every aspect of communication, collaboration, messaging, financial reporting, banking, and resource management, amongst many other areas. 

To give an example, customer relationship management (CRM) is one of the primary areas that has changed significantly over the years, with many successful digital workplaces automating a significant portion of this customer-centric role. This change has allowed companies to leverage cloud-based CRM tools like HubSpot and others to accelerate formerly manual face-to-face time-consuming tasks. 

From the start of the sales pipeline to handling all customer interactions, these tools streamline the customer relationship management process and release resources for deployment elsewhere. Changes are more readily managed through technology instead of manual processes. 

Technology has also advanced other key areas like financial reporting from being just crunching numbers to providing customizable high-value insights that leaders can use to make better, quicker decisions. Many companies are investigating and using cloud-based financial reporting tools like Intacct and others to help them transition to a digital workplace environment. “Today, new technology takes the mobile world completely for granted. The cutting edge of innovation around machine learning, analytics and edge computing is built on top of that advancement — and many others — as a deep foundation,” says Ross Smith, Chief Architect at PITSS. Accepting or embracing technology is no longer sufficient: companies looking to transition to a digital workplace or more effectively manage change in a digital workplace will need to actively pursue technology that enables strategic goals. 

Assemble a Digital Workplace Task Force 

A successful digital workplace is unlikely to have emerged by chance if some areas of your business are digital and others rely on manual processes. Transforming an entire company to a digital workplace requires intentional effort across the board. This means assembling a digital workplace task force that is responsible for working with all levels of your company to plan, execute, monitor and control digital initiatives and policies. Its focus should be on why, when, and how processes, technology, and resources will get the work done to enable company-wide goals. 

This task force should consist of cross-functional team members who can provide a 360-degree view of the business and reduce the chances of any blind spots. Smith explains a digital task force can, “drive digital change back into your operations and your bottom line. If you don’t make it an organizational priority to create such units, then you are leaving the opportunities of new technology on the table.” 

Build Your Culture Around Your Vision For a Digital Workplace 

Having only a digital workplace task force is also not sufficient by itself. Business leaders need to gain buy-in from all levels of your business. Transitioning to a digital workplace and managing change is unlikely to be successful if the general business culture does not support it. 

Employees at all levels will need to be on board. This is where leaders and change management experts can help to communicate, monitor, and manage the impact of changes on employees and processes. But saying “leaders” does not automatically equate with senior management — senior managers may be as resistant to the changes necessary as anyone else. Building a digital workplace culture works well when all employees have an understanding of the benefits to themselves as well as to the company. 

When it comes to building a culture that embraces the digital workplace, eXalt Solutions founder and CEO, Leslie Swanson says "don't worry about failure, it's part of innovation. Risk taking must be encouraged. Cultivate a "fail fast" culture". Quickly determine what works and what doesn't and move on". 

Conduct Frequent Process Reviews to Establish Best Practices 

Transitioning to a digital workplace and effectively managing it are two separate things. This is not a “set and forget” exercise. Changes are always occurring due to the factors mentioned previously, and these changes can create additional obstacles or risks. To address these, it is vital your company conducts periodic process reviews and establishes best practices to get ahead of any looming issues. 

The benefits of a digital workplace are many, provided your business can accurately conduct a maturity assessment and be successful at developing strategies to effectively manage change.

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A Starter Kit for Instructional Designers

A 2016 report funded by the Gates Foundation found that in the U.S. alone, there are 13,000 instructional designers. Yet, when I graduated from college in 2008, I didn’t know this field existed. Surely a lot has changed!

Instructional design is experiencing a renaissance. As online course platforms proliferate, institutions of all shapes and sizes realize that they’ll need to translate content into digital forms. Designing online learning experiences is essential to training employees, mobilizing customers, serving students, building marketing channels, and sustaining business models.

The field has deep roots in distance education, human computer interaction, and visual design. But I’ve come to believe that contemporary instructional design sits at the intersection of three core disciplines: learning science, human-centered design, and digital marketing. It requires a deep respect for the pedagogical practices that teachers have honed for decades, balanced with fluency in today’s digital tools.

Most people with “instructional design” in their job title are involved in converting “traditional” written curriculum or in-person teaching into an online course. But they can also be creating learning apps, museum exhibits, or the latest educational toy. My classmates from Stanford’s Learning Design and Technology master’s program have gone on to design for big brands like Airbnb and Google as well as edtech upstarts including the African Leadership University, General Assembly, Osmo and Udacity.

Over the last few years, we’ve traded resources, articles and work samples as we try to build our own starter kit for this fast-moving field. Below are some of the lessons and resources that I wish I knew of when I first went on the job market—a combination of the academic texts you read in school along with practical tools that have been essential to practicing instructional design in the real world. This is not a complete or evergreen list, but hopefully it’s a helpful start.

Lesson 1: Start with a deep understanding of your learners.

No matter what type of learning experience you’re building, it’s always smart to start getting to know the people you’re designing for. To conduct learner research it’s helpful to combine practices from design thinking with those of participatory research or teacher action research that educators have been practicing for many years.

I typically start by developing an Empathy Guide like the one put together by the Stanford or reviewing the free book by Giff Constable, “Talking to Humans” to structure productive conversations. After conducting observations and interviews with target learners, I synthesize my findings into learner archetypes.

Then, I test instructional concepts and product ideas by building rough prototypes that I put in front of learners to get their feedback quickly. The has a great Prototyping Dashboard you can use to organize the hypotheses. If you’re looking for a crash course in the entire design thinking process, you can check out the free courseoffered by or the free resources from IDEO’s Teacher’s Guild.

Lesson 2: Ground yourself in the fundamentals of learning science.

Teachers have spent decades learning how to reliably help students master new skills, debunk misconceptions, and connect their prior knowledge to new concepts. To be a good instructional designer, you should steep yourself in the research on learning and teaching. The best and most digestible books I’ve found are “The ABCS of How We Learn,” a 2016 book by Daniel Schwartz and “How People Learn,” the 1999 foundational text edited by John Bransford, Ann Brown, and Rodney Cocking. If you’re looking for a crash course in digital education specifically, recordings from Stanford’s lecture series on Education’s Digital Future are all available for free online.

Lesson 3: Determine the “powerful ideas” you want to teach and build your curriculum using backwards design.

To get serious about education technology, you have to read Seymour Papert. His “Mindstorms: Children, Computer and Powerful Ideas” is a classic that is critical to helping you realize that all the ideas about edtech that we think are so unprecedented have actually been mulled over for decades. Pay particular attention to his chapter on “powerful ideas” where he describes how essential it is to find the enduring, transformative concepts that you want to teach and put those at the forefront of your design approach.

Once you’ve read Papert, use the Understanding By Design Framework to structure your curriculum. This approach helps you clarify your target outcomes and how you’ll collect “evidence of learning.” This curriculum design approach is used by teachers who work in traditional classrooms, but holds up just as well in the digital realm.

Lesson 4: Go study other great teachers and other great learning experiences.

Before becoming too beholden to the particular features (or limitations) of a technology platform, try to think bigger and more creatively about how you can meet the needs of your learners. One of the best ways to do this is to seek out inspiration from other learning designers. For example, look at the examples of host educationthat Airbnb puts together. Look at the altMBA program that Seth Godin runs using Slack. Watch how Angela Duckworth delivers messages to camera. Check out the beautiful animations produced by Amnesty International or the interactive lessons produced on Oppia. And look at examples of tangible rather than screen-based technologies that have been produced by groups like Paulo Blikstein’s Transformative Learning Technologies Lab.

Rather than limiting yourself to looking at educational resources produced by schools or universities, find examples of instructional materials from other sectors to get ideas. The field is so new that there are no definitive ways to do it “right” and lots of approaches are worth learning from.

Lesson 5. Get a lay of the technological landscape, but don’t let your LMS hold you hostage.

If you’re going to be an instructional designer who specializes in online courses, you should get familiar with your platform options and be prepared to speak to the pros and cons of each. Start with the “big four” that most people have heard of: Coursera, Udacity, Udemy, and EdX. Check out the list of global MOOC platforms curated by Class Central, but realize there are entirely different ecosystems of platforms that specialize in corporate training or adaptive learning. Then also read some critical perspectives from the likes of Digital Pedagogy Lab or the MIT Media Lab.

No current online education platform is perfect, but focus on being able to speak to the distinctions between them and make a recommendation based on the learning goals. You don’t need to master all of the options, but it’s helpful to keep a pulse on the major players. Perhaps more importantly, design content and learning experiences that are “platform agnostic,” meaning that you can easily transport them to another platform. Finally, check out the blogs of online learning pioneers like Connie Malmud who have been chronicling the field for many years and who has helpfully compiled a glossary of common terms.

  Lesson 6. Don’t try to migrate an in-person experience into an online format.

One of the biggest mistakes people who are new to instructional design make is trying to replicate or simply migrate an offline experience onto an online platform. Instead, the better approach is to think about what the technology can do uniquely well and then design your experience to leverage those affordances. Allan Collins and Richard Halverson’s book, “Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology,” is a useful place to start, along with the perspectives and research of Mitch Resnick and the late Edith Ackermann of the MIT Media Lab.

Lesson 7: If you build it, they won’t come. Understand the fundamentals of digital marketing.

People will not automatically show up for your online course—unless you’re working for a big-name institution like Y Combinator or Harvard University. As online courses have proliferated, the market for students has also fragmented. To be an effective instructional designer, you also arguably need to know the basics of digital marketing and how to write compelling copy to get someone to click through, enroll in, and persist in your course.

One useful post on strategies to drive enrollment and sales of an online course was produced by the founders of Groove. Udemy has also created a great toolkit to help online course instructors market their learning experience. These strategies might seem distasteful to people whose primary focus is learning outcomes, but the reality is that if you don’t attract the right population of students to your courses (even if they’re free), all of your hard work and pedagogical design is moot.

Lesson 8: Collect student feedback. Iterate. Share what you learned.

Finally, perhaps one of the most important lessons is to get out from behind your computer and actually go meet the learners who experience your courses, apps or experiences. Set up Skype calls to interview them. Pore through the feedback they submit on surveys.

Some of their input will inevitably sting—especially when you’ve spent months building a course and someone only watches two videos before leaving a scathing review. But listen for the underlying pain points. Synthesize your feedback carefully and make changes, but avoid designing by committee. Finally, share your data, your lessons, and your failures with the broader learning design community when possible.

The field is fast-moving but still has a lot to figure out. The more creative pioneers we have who are pushing the boundaries of how to design compelling, thoughtful learning experiences in new formats, the better.

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Training Instructors to Use Tech Tools

Many people have a negative view of training, which can be evident if you search for #ihatetraining on Twitter. Training can be especially challenging when it comes to teaching faculty members to use new digital technologies and tools. However, conducting and/or receiving training can be a positive experience. Training that focuses on several integral strategies can lead to effective and efficient outcomes for all individuals involved.  

Instructional designers and faculty members who provide professional development, peer support, and/or administrative representatives to instructors  should be aware of these strategies when conducting trainings on technologies and online and classroom teaching practices. Here are six effective training strategies that you should consider:

1. Build Relationships 

Training should offer the opportunity to apply new knowledge directly into daily practice. In order to best achieve this, the importance of faculty-trainer relationship should be addressed first. Building a professional relationship allows the trainer to understand the faculty member’s baseline of knowledge, learning style, and comfort level with technology. It also fosters open communication and could lead to possible opportunities for collaboration.

Some initial strategies for building a relationship with faculty are:

Have a positive attitude about instructional design. Display energy and confidence during interactions. Enthusiasm and zeal are inviting traits. Utilize probing questions. For example, “How is your semester going?” Ground yourself in customer service (superior communication, compassion, patience, self-control, etc.) Utilize positive reinforcement to increase retention and desire to continue learning technology applications.

2. Stay Informed

Research is an important aspect of training. Researching latest trends in higher education, instructional design, and eLearning can serve as a catalyst for training development in place of a needs assessment. Often times, faculty are unable to articulate what they need to know because they don’t know what exists.  

3. Practice What You Preach

Trainers should have an “inside scoop” on what is involved with teaching courses prior to training. It is essential for trainers to have first-hand knowledge of the entire process of building a course: designing, developing, implementing, and assessing learning outcomes.  

If a trainer has not taught in higher education, then it is beneficial to co-teach a module or a course with a faculty member. Co-teaching offers a full-spectrum view of course facilitation from beginning to end, which will offer first-hand experience on the intricacies involved with online courses from the faculty’s perspective. Co-teaching can also serve as another aspect in relationship-building.

4. Meet Them Where They Are

Faculty bring a plethora of history to any learning experience, and effective trainers properly leverage those experiences to heighten professional development. However, it is important to keep in mind that faculty have numerous facets to their job, and teaching is a small part.

Some faculty may not be as familiar with technology tools as one would assume. Therefore, it is important for trainers to differentiate their training levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. For example, if faculty members are only familiar with discussion boards in their LMS, then the initial job of the trainer is to teach them how to create amazing and engaging discussion board before exploring more complex instructional design components.

Another suggestion is to provide mock simulations, so faculty can test out new tools/strategies before implementing them in their courses.  

5. Bridge the Gaps

Trainers have the opportunity to view courses across several departments. This exposure can offer a unique opportunity for trainers to serve as a bridge between faculty members. Often times, faculty yearn to collaborate across departments, but they are not aware of what other faculty are doing.  

Trainers have the ability to bridge the silo gap between departments by sharing strategies and research with all faculty members. This also has a potential to strengthen the trainer-faculty relationship as it can lead to a personal connection on top of the professional relationship already established.  

6. Be a Leader

Effective trainers proactively support faculty and allow faculty to share experiences with one another. One way to establish this is by creating an online faculty learning community within the institution.  An open source platform that provides job aids, quick tips, and course development tools is an effective approach. Trainers and faculty should be able to post things to increase collaborative opportunities.  

After trainings have concluded, faculty have mastered the tools, and the learning community is established, it is imperative for trainers to stay available. There will always be a software update or random technological glitch to get in the way and when those moments occur, faculty will need the support of the trainer. Also, faculty will always benefit from ongoing training and follow-up re-teaching of content. 

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5 Reasons that Electric Bikes Are Like Blended Learning

My new obsession is electric bikes. Not that I own one.

Being an academic, I’ll need to do 10,000 hours of research before I am comfortable contemplating any action. At this rate, I expect to be in the market for an e-bike purchase in spring of 2018.

Like all my obsessions, I understand electric bikes through the lens of learning and technology.

Here are 5 ways that electric bikes are exactly like blended learning:

1 - The Passion of Early Adopters:

A growing number of my colleagues are commuting to campus on an electric bike. They are replacing a drive to campus in a car with a ride to campus on an e-bike. Reasons vary. Some are riding their electric bike because they live too far away to ride a traditional bicycle. Others ride their e-bike to campus because they can arrive without getting sweaty, avoiding the need to shower. What all of these electric bike owning colleagues have in common is their passion for e-bikes. They are electric bike evangelists. They talk about how their e-bike changed their life. Not only do they get more exercise, they look forward to their morning and early evening ride. The purchase price of the e-bikes were justified by saving on the parking passes and gas, but these practical commuting decisions gave rise to a larger belief that electric biking is the future of transportation.

We hear much the same things from those educators who have gotten into blended learning. Talk to faculty teaching online courses, and they marvel at how the medium enables them to deeply interact with their students. The asynchronous nature of much of online learning creates space for all the students in the class to contribute to discussions and debates - through the mechanisms of discussion boards and blogs and wikis - space that is normally constrained and finite in a traditional 50 or 90 minute residential class. Flipping a mostly residential course, by having course content and curriculum be delivered before the class through online lectures, creates new space in the face-to-face discussion for active learning.  Class is invigorating when the teaching model moves from delivering content to coaching and mentoring.

2 - A Dedicated Community of Practice:

The small and growing number of electric bike people on my campus have started to find one another. They are meeting to talk about how they chose their e-bike, where they get it serviced, and what rides in the area (with big hills) they are now willing to tackle. These campus electric bike pioneers are starting to convert others. There seems to be many more of us who are talking about getting an e-bike than who actually own one.  The enthusiasm of these early electric bike owners is contagious.

This small group of e-bike converts reminds me of those faculty who were amongst the first to teach online and to use technology to flip their residential classes. The first professors to make the transition to online and blended learning faced a good degree of skepticism from their colleagues. Most were skeptical themselves. They wondered if technology would get in the way of what they love best about teaching. They worried about what would be lost when eye contact was replaced by screen time. When the give and take of a good lecture was substituted for recorded video presentations and discussion boards.

What most faculty found, to their surprise, was that online and blended teaching is pretty great. Maybe not better than traditional face-to-face teaching, but usually better than a straight lecture based (large enrollment) course. Online and blended learning encouraged, rather than inhibited, interactions with students.  The medium of online and blended learning still required all the expertise of an experienced educator. The difference being that now online faculty could teach students who were also full-time workers, who were unable to move to campus, and who relied on online learning to participate in higher education. For those teaching blended courses, the technologies of classroom flipping opened up more time for active learning and intensive instruction.

3 - The Potential to Convert Non-Participants:

One reason that I’m excited about electric bikes is the promise of getting my wife to ride one.  She is not a big bike rider, mostly because of all the hills that surround our town.  With an electric bike, we will both able to tackle longer rides through our hilly community.  The idea that e-bikes convert non-bike riders into enthusiastic cyclists is one that we hear often.  The new breed of pedal assist e-bikes are simple to ride.  You operate the bike like any other non-powered bike.  The electric assist only kicks in when you are pedaling.

The idea that e-bikes have the potential to turn non-riders into riders mirrors that of online learning.  Those taking fully online and low-residency courses would often be non-students if not for the flexibility that this method enables.  A fully online or low-residency student can work towards a degree while also working.  There is no need to quit one’s job and move to a campus.  A student can navigate online courses in smaller chunks, on their own schedules, freeing up the time necessary to work and care for family.

4 - Quality Is Expensive:

If you have priced an e-bike, you know that they are expensive. The price is dropping, but the average e-bike seems to come in between maybe $1,500 and $2,500. This is much more money than most recreational non-electric bikes. The reason that e-bikes are expensive is that the components are costly. An e-bike will be heavier, so better brakes and derailleurs are necessary.  The main additional cost of an e-bike comes from the electric motor. A quiet, light, powerful, and reliable electric motor is expensive - as are the controllers that and battery that make it work.

The extra expensive of a quality e-bike is really no different than the extra expense of a equality online or blended course.  In a good online/blended course, you are not taking anything away from a traditional residential class.  You are layering on top of this course everything that makes teaching at a distance or flipping the class possible.  This involves putting together recorded lectures, simulations, low-stakes assessments, and assignments that students interact with digitally.  Increasingly, quality online and blended learning is also mobile friendly - adding a new level of complexity.  Quality online and blended courses are best built by a faculty (subject matter experts and experienced educators) working with an instructional designer (an expert on learning science and learning technologies).  The extra inputs of high quality online and blended learning raise the costs of instruction.

5 - Costs and Growing Inequality:

The fact that high quality online and blended education is more expensive, not less expensive, than traditional face-to-face learning means that the benefits of these methodologies are not evenly distributed. Wealthier institutions and those that charge higher tuitions can afford to hire both faculty and instructional designers. The more affluent a residential campus is, the more likely it is that larger enrollment introductory courses are moving towards a blended and flipped instructional model. The quality of online education is directly proportional to the resources available to create the courses and invest in the student learning experience.

Will expensive e-bikes create the same sort of divide in cycling that we see in higher education? Will there be a class of wealthy riders who can afford the benefits of power-assisted riding, where those with less resources will be forced to struggle up hills unassisted?  Will quality e-bikes be reserved for the affluent, creating two classes of riders?

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What You Need To Remember During eLearning Project Reviews

A successful eLearning project stands on multiple pillars and involves many aspects that ensure success. With a variety of stakeholders, like instructional designers, subject matter experts, project managers, end learners etc., collaboration and review are essential to ensure a successful eLearning course development process.

What are the challenges that need to be covered during eLearning project review?

Instructional designers and project manager have to ensure that pre-requisites and needs of the project have been duly met. The learning objective identified in the analysis phase of the eLearning course development process should be kept true to. The pain points of the learners have been considered. The learning environment and its constraints have been accounted for.

Reviewing a course is essential to ensure quality and that goals are being met. Here are some of the things to remember when reviewing eLearning courses:

Stakeholder satisfaction

Every eLearning project has a multitude of stakeholders. The success of the course, whether developed in-house or by an agency, is influenced by how satisfied the stakeholders are with the results and output of the project.

  source: kyanite consulting Defining scope and expectations

For each stakeholder, one thing that helps keep everything focused is defining the scope and expectations of during each phase of eLearning review.

Establishing scope makes sure that reviews are better from both a qualitative as well as quantitative perspective. Though key stakeholders share reviews during each iteration, what makes the process better is if kind of feedbackexpected is specified before each iteration.

For example, for an eLearning storyboard review, the focus of feedback should be content. At the implementation stage, the focus of eLearning feedback should be responsiveness and delivery method. Doing this can save teams from getting entangled in pointless issues that are not relevant at that particular stage.

Timely feedback management

For project managers, the task is then to create a strategy to collect and prioritize eLearning feedback. No matter what eLearning methodology is being used, stakeholders need to be kept in the loop on what feedback is being processed through.

In order to achieve a satisfactory project, one practice that teams need to adopt is exchanging feedback early and often. Teams that are using the Successive Approximation Model (SAM) as an eLearning methodology are already work with an agile process of course development that presses the importance of evaluation when developing iterations of your eLearning design. For teams using the ADDIE (Analysis-Design-Development-Implementation-Evaluation) as an eLearning methodology, contextual feedback is even more critical, as it helps log issues and provide background in the next iteration.

A good way to make sure that stakeholders are onboard from start to finish is to create prototypes or mocks initially, and then build up the project once validation has been received. This way the chances that the end project works for everyone is higher. Kineo shared a framework for stakeholder management that lays out steps for ensuring better engagement. These include:

identifying stakeholders prioritizing among them determining level of support needed from each identifying messages and actions identifying ‘owners’ for each stakeholder meeting stakeholders, and reviewing regularly Learner Driven Iterations

The success of an eLearning course development process for end learners is seeded in how much they can retain and transfer into practical application. Whether developing eLearning for students or corporate learning solutions, unless learners are able to transfer their learning from out of the learning environment, the course is not achieving its intended goal.

Thus, learner feedback is vital when reviewing eLearning projects.

  source: Shift Learning Evaluating engagement and retention

Surveys are one option. They provide a simple and consistent way to measure how learners react to the course. Have they been satisfied with the eLearning content? What could be improved? How would they rate the course? Such quantitative data can be gathered via surveys easily. This method may be easier when developing corporate learning solutions because of the one-on-one interaction learners have with the course. In case of eLearning for students in schools, blended courses may also need feedback from teachers and instructors.

But what about qualitative eLearning feedback? Typically such feedback is gathered during alpha and beta tests, by asking learners to try new modulesbefore they are added to a course. To gather qualitative feedback during alpha and beta tests, instructional designers and project managers can use zipBoard. Learners can mark up screen shots of the course, and leave their comments on those screens so that eLearning reviews have more context.

When to ask for feedback

The other question is when this feedback should be collected. Of course, as with other stakeholders, getting feedback as quickly as possible is beneficial even from learners because it helps make corrections early on rather than later at the cost of time, effort and resources. But what is certainly not a good time to solicit feedback is right at the end of a course.

Apart from the alpha and beta phases, building review cycles into the course is one way. Trying to collect feedback right at the end of an eLearning course development process can often be unproductive as it does not give the learner enough time to process all the eLearning content they have consumed, and also makes them provide feedback for the entire course in one go. Rather, check points in the course for collecting feedback work better. These checkpoints can be implemented in your eLearning templates itself so that there is a standard process in place.

Quality assurance

Quality assurance checks are vital to make sure the details are accurate and consistent. Issues such as the right image being in the right place, videos functioning as intended, spelling and grammar checks — all need to be reviewed to assess the course.

For a lot of teams, their QA and testing process still consists of Excel sheetswith columns for issue name, description, priority, person assigned to etc. This method has two problems.

source: BA Times Challenges in quality assurance It does not scale well as volume of feedback and teams grow. Excel sheets may work for a team of 2–3 people but as the number starts to grow to five or seven or into double digits, tasks get muddled and difficult to organize, feedback breaks down, tracking changes becomes tedious, and ultimately issues become overwhelming. It provides no context. There are no visuals which can lead to ambiguity. Defining the problems at their exact location and capturing them with annotations helps other collaborators see specifics and save time when implementing changes. Better eLearning tools and processes

An effective alternative is zipBoard, which provides a systematic task management workflow and also the option to annotate and communicate via comments on a live as well as mock course.

QA can be more effective not only by using better eLearning tools, but also by setting up more effective processes. One such practice is setting a dedicated number of review cycles, depending on the complexity of the course and the number of stakeholders involved. Especially when working with subject matter experts, an effective QA setup can cut down on a lot of hassle.

Andy Petroski, an eLearning project manager with nearly two decades of experience, talked of how every step of their development process is followed by SME review and feedback. While the development team can ensure functionality, SMEs can check for accuracy and consistency. This setup also highlights why collecting feedback early and often is useful because it helps with stakeholder satisfaction.

Value Matters

A better review process will enable teams to create more value in the project. Each and every aspect — curriculum, eLearning design, course content, and delivery system — can be improved to add more value for the client. The end result is quality work delivered in the allocated time.

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Mobilizing and Securing Digital Learning Environments for Limitless Learning

Academic institutions have always found ways to push boundaries. Today, the ability to rapidly adopt new learning, teaching, and business models has prompted department heads to work with campus CIOs to accelerate IT and business transformation initiatives that improve offerings while also reducing costs.

Older siloed IT systems no longer sufficiently address new learner demographics and demands. Schools are seeing a rise in nontraditional over traditional student enrollment, and online learning is becoming an integral part of the educational landscape.

“Today’s average student is no longer the 18-year-old whose parents drive her up to college in a minivan,” said Ted Mitchell, former undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Education. “Instead, the average student may be a 24-year-old returning veteran, a 36-year-old single mother, a part-time student juggling work and college, or the first-generation college student. The faces we picture as our college hopefuls can’t be limited by race, age, income, zip code, disability, or any other factor.”

Moreover, aging IT systems can’t thwart increasingly advanced cyber threats. This makes it difficult for organizations in higher education to protect student privacy, financial data and transactions, health services data, and myriad other sources of sensitive information.

What’s needed are ways for academic institutions to mobilize and secure digital learning and working environments at lower costs. Today, learning leaders and campus IT are teaming up with strategic technology providers like VMware to scale and improve services; provide anytime, anywhere access from any device to required education resources; and mitigate threats while protecting academic brands.

What’s Driving the Transformation in Education?

There’s no denying that education’s future is digital. According to a recent survey, more than half (54 percent) of students bring at least two Internet-connected devices with them to campus; another 22 percent bring three to four devices.

Campus IT’s primary role is to satisfy student and faculty demands for secure access to the apps and data they need on all these devices. But student and faculty aren’t the only constituents. IT staff must invest time maintaining, updating, and upgrading software that supports the business of education—from financial aid and development offices to campus security.

Because many traditional teaching resources, learning platforms, and campus operations still depend heavily on legacy applications to run critical processes, academic institutions incur more maintenance costs and exposure to risks than necessary. Investment in secure cloud and mobile technologies enables academic institutions—from community colleges to research universities—to introduce better ways of learning, new experiences, and inventive business models that drive successful outcomes.

Enhancing Education Delivery Through Improved IT

Over the last generation, college enrollment has increased due to economic recession, de-industrialization, and increasing demand for skilled workers. Greater and more diverse participation in learning has brought challenges and opportunities to higher education. Taking a software-defined approach to modernizing IT provides a foundation for core education platforms that can deliver more responsive and student-centered operating models.

For nearly two decades, academic institutions have lowered capital expenses by consolidating data center infrastructure using server virtualization. Now, they are further reducing cost and risk while improving operational efficiency with hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), where virtual compute, storage, and management comes bundled in a tightly integrated software stack that runs on industry-standard x86 servers. HCI lowers total cost of ownership by enabling campus IT to shift to low-cost, high-volume server economics and to simplify management. HCI offers high-performance, software-based infrastructure that can be used anywhere—for example, for maker spaces—eliminating the need for dedicated computing spaces in libraries or other facilities.

In their quest to efficiently deploy and monitor apps and infrastructure across physical, virtual, and cloud environments, campus IT teams are relying on intelligent operations management and automation. For campuses using an Ellucian student information system, solutions like the VMware Connector for Ellucian help automate and update the delivery of apps and resources to student digital backpacks. As students add and drop classes throughout their academic careers, their digital backpacks seamlessly reflect their academic journeys. Solutions like these help campus IT deliver a secure and consumer-simple student experience while streamlining costs.

Scaling Education with Public Cloud

Experts suggest that to compete, universities must innovate, adopting fluid architectures that encourage partnerships with private industry and online learning. That’s where cloud computing comes in.

The physical setting for a large-scale research effort involving many parties can vary from a single dedicated research campus community to multiple concurrent environments that include university labs, corporate centers, and national labs. Modern IT-as-a-service capabilities, cutting-edge research environments, supercomputing, virtual labs, and creative learning spaces are best enabled by hybrid cloud services.

A five-year study at the University of Massachusetts found that a blended structure (face-to-face plus online learning) led to increased engagement with course material, which promoted more active learning during class meetings and ultimately improved student success. And a multiyear trend report by the Babson Research Group shows growth in online enrollments continues to outpace overall higher-education enrollments. To support these shifts in online learning, universities are turning to public clouds to fortify and future-proof their data center models.

Cloud solutions such as VMware Cloud Foundation™ are giving higher-education IT leaders the unprecedented ability to move workloads and applications into and between clouds. The cloud helps them affordably meet the expanding needs of online learning and cutting-edge academic research—without downtime and while keeping cross-campus data secure.

“Making a very consistent experience for everyone means we’re breaking down some of the barriers that we’ve had in the past about accessibility to resources,” said Mark Ellersick, technology support analyst at Western Carolina University. “That is something we’re very excited about.”

Cultivating Exceptional Learning through Digital Workspaces

Learning today is less about place and more about purpose. The modern campus depends on connectivity and collaboration, not just physical spaces. Globally, device diversity is a campus reality. For campus IT, the job isn’t just to deliver apps to disparate devices, but to ensure seamless experiences between them.

Regardless of whether they are on- or off-campus, students can use digital backpacks (the educational flavor of digital workspaces) to gain secure access to all the resources they need. Digital backpacks simplify IT management and the reliable delivery of today’s high-performance learning environments with relevant native, web, and 3-D applications that personalize student experiences and help evolve teaching models.

Academic institutions seeking to meet on-demand education requirements are also deploying virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to modernize computing infrastructure and offer secure digital workspaces to all faculty, students, and staff. Highly reliable and secure, virtual desktops improve productivity while reducing the IT management load.

“[With virtual desktops,] students have technology that suits their needs, with the ability to study from anywhere and via the device of their choosing,” said Ian Rowley, IT Services desktop manager at University of Aberdeen. “We’re already getting great feedback in our internal student surveys and expect this to carry on through to external rankings, which ultimately will help to attract more students to come here—as well as the very best academics.”

Protecting IP and PII

Technology-driven learning creates new opportunities, but also generates new risk. As educators, students, and staff demand nonstop access and innovation, security remains a top campus IT priority. On campus and off, students, professors, and business partners want to ensure that intellectual property (IP) and personally identifiable information (PII)—including birthdates, social security numbers, addresses, paystub information, and more—are protected.

As any campus that has experienced a public data breach can attest, hindsight is 20/20. Traditional, policy-based checklists of security functionality are no longer sufficient. Preventative measures are integral to a holistic cybersecurity strategy because campus data is now accessed anytime, anywhere across a wide variety of devices.

Taking a holistic architectural approach to security enables campus IT organizations to extend security from the data center to the cloud and to edge devices. VMware’s software-defined infrastructure provides campus IT with inherent and granular security on-premises and off, while protecting apps, data, endpoints, and identity.

Earning High Marks in Higher Education

For students and educators who demand greater personalization and access to learning resources anytime, anywhere, on every device, IT innovation is critical. That’s why leading global academic institutions are expanding learning opportunities with the cloud, creating exceptional mobile experiences, and better protecting PII and research data. This modern, integrated approach enables limitless learning for a new generation.

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Online courses don't work, but education can still be disrupted

The labour force is changing at a rapid pace. Technology is generating entirely new industries and jobs, while eradicating antiquated ones. Some may feel uneasy with these shifts, attempting to come to terms with how to survive, but others see them as an opportunity. In 2018 we will see the arrival of Homo adaptus - the newest class of worker.

Homo adaptus understands that it needs to be in a state of constant evolution. Rather than resisting technological developments, it seeks to use them as a tool in order to thrive. As stated in the World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs report, the most valuable skills are critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity. However, they are not gained solely through academia, but through experiential forms of learning. 

Until recently, a professional had two options: continued education, managed by conventional educational institutions; or online education. The former doesn't fit Homo adaptus's lifestyle and requires a major investment of time and money. Conversely, online education, which is accessible, affordable and relevant, hasn't lived up to its promise. The rate of completion for those who sign up for an online course is only five to ten per cent. Sitting by oneself to watch a video course with Gmail and Facebook appearing in neighbouring tabs is a challenge, even for the most focused students. 

  The US National Academies of Sciences published a report in 2017 called Where Are We and Where Do We Go from Here? It stated: "The education system will need to adapt to prepare individuals for the changing labour market. At the same time, recent IT advances offer potentially more accessible education."

Alternative educational platforms have emerged to bridge the gap between what professionals know they need and what they can access. The altMBA is an educational programme founded by marketing guru Seth Godin. "It is part of a new era of non-video-based online learning," Godin says. "Instead of mimicking school or creating infotainment, it is cohort-based, project-oriented and transformative."

The altMBA takes place over the course of one month, during which participants are put through a rigorous curriculum of intensive study and work. Through teamwork, coaching, and tri-weekly online group sessions, each participant has to complete 13 projects in four weeks. The programme emphasises the belief that participants learn most effectively through creating and critiquing one another, rather than by passively attending lectures.

San Francisco-based startup Jolt is creating micro-campuses in venues such as co-working spaces and function rooms. This is designed to give local people access to high-quality education without the need for new infrastructure. Participants receive unlimited access to classes and programmes such as Product Management or Hacking Freelance.

Jolt's plan to mix online and offline worlds involves a live-video session with a world-class practitioner. Twelve students sit around the table, watching and conversing online with an expert who may be located anywhere in the world. After the class, the participants go on and mingle, creating valuable connections with similar-minded professionals.

"We found the ultimate learning experience is conversational and experiential," says Roei Deutsch, Jolt's CEO. "Knowledge is no longer owned by an institution, but shared in the minds of practitioners." The educators are put through intensive vetting, which includes training for effective content creation, workshops and peer reviews of each discussion that they prepare. 

Both examples are new education systems that are built with the Homo adaptus in mind. To make a real difference, though, they'll need to be quick to adapt themselves.

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This Is How Generation Z Will Bypass College

School originated to train obedient factory workers but hasn't evolved much since then.

Coursera and the University of Phoenix paved the way for people to digitally learn from a distance. Next, traditional and leading colleges began offering online courses--sometimes for free. Then institutions allowed degrees to be completed online, for example, Georgia Institute of Technology partnered with Udacity and AT&T to offer the first online Master of Science in Computer Science from an accredited university that students can earn exclusively online for a fraction of the normal cost.

But are these education changes too little too late for Generation Z who has their sights on more innovative and agile education alternatives? 

7 Ways Generation Z Will Replace a College Education

1. MissionU

MissionU is a one-year college-alternative program that has no upfront costs. MissionU only gets paid once students earn at least $50,000, then students pay back 15 percent of their income for the first three years.

Each MissionU major is designed to prepare students for specific, high growth fields. Their highly specialized curriculums are developed with industry experts to give students the skills and experience they need to succeed in the workplace of tomorrow. MissionU was founded by Adam Braun, the entrepreneur who also founded the nonprofit, Pencils of Promise, that has built over 400 schools across the world.

2. Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS)

CAPS is reimagining learning. According to the CAPS website...

"The Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) programs are nationally recognized, innovative high school programs. Students fast forward into their future and are fully immersed in a professional culture, solving real world problems, using industry standard tools and are mentored by actual employers, all while receiving high school and college credit. CAPS is an example of how business, community and public education can partner to produce personalized learning experiences that educate the workforce of tomorrow, especially in high skill, high demand jobs."

Programs like CAPS are really compelling for Generation Z who is really interested in making a strong and relevant connection between what they are learning and how it will apply to their future.

UnitedHealth Group (UHG) is a company benefiting from their involvement in CAPS programs. Pat Keran, senior director of innovation at UnitedHealth Group, said, "These kids are talking about careers at a young age and we want to expose them to potential ones at UHG. We realized that the technology skills that our college students had were developed young. As we dug a little deeper, we realized that high school students would be equally as competent. So if we are going to get the same output in the end, why not get on the radar even sooner?"

The experience Generation Z derives from participating in a CAPS program is so strong that many are considering forgoing college.

3. Thiel Fellowship

The Thiel Fellowship is intended for students under the age of 23 and offers them a total of $100,000 over two years, as well as guidance and other resources, to drop out of school and pursue other work.

Recently the Wall Street Journal reported some impressive results of this "build new things instead of sitting in a classroom" effort: "64 Thiel Fellows have started 67 for-profit ventures, raised $55.4 million in angel and venture funding, published two books, created 30 apps, and 135 full-time jobs." The Thiel Fellowship was founded by PayPal cofounder, Peter Thiel.

4. UnCollege

UnCollege aims to change the notion that going to college is the only path to success. UnCollege encourages Generation Z to get out the classroom and into the real world where they learn through experimentation, coaching, and mentors. UnCollege replaces the typical freshman year with a real world experience and is a fraction of the cost of one year at college.

Participants spend ten weeks living abroad; another ten weeks attending workshops, networking, and building a portfolio that will impress future employers while living in San Francisco; and then twelve weeks involved in an internship putting their newly developed skills to use.

Dale Stephens is the founder and ironically a recipient of the Thiel Fellowship.

Travel, learn, and intern is a college-alternative formula Generation Z can get behind.

5. altMBA

The altMBA is an online leadership and management workshop. Founded in 2015 by bestselling author Seth Godin, the altMBA uses digital tools like Slack, WordPress, and Zoom to engage more than 100 students in an intense four-week process.

Each session of the workshop is led by a cadre of coaches, who engage with students in individual and group work. During the workshop, each student publishes the results of the 13 assigned projects on the public altMBA site. The program is synchronous, with regular deadlines, group discussions, and face-to-face video calls. The tuition for the program is $3,850.

When Generation Z is at an age to consider an MBA, the altMBA or other options like The $100 MBA will be more prevalent and appealing to this cost conscious and digital-first generation.

6. WeWork

WeWork, the office-sharing giant, is launching a private elementary school for "conscious entrepreneurship" inside a New York City WeWork next fall.

In the pilot program, Generation Z students will spend one day a week on a farm outside of the city for hands-on experience. The rest of the time they will spend in Manhattan, where they'll get lessons in business from both employees and entrepreneur-customers of WeWork. The founders hope the school will encourage kids to become "disruptive" as young as possible.

7. Mishmash 

Generation Z will leverage their online resourcefulness to uncover the right learning platforms to level-up their know-how and skill sets. Resources like General Assembly,, Udemy, Udacity, Coursera, and YouTube are already giving Generation Z the learning edge to leapfrog college.

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A New AI-Powered App Transcribes Your Conversations in Real-Time

Transcription on the Go

If you have to deal with transcribing interviews as part of your daily work (like we do), you’ll find a welcome partner in the new Otter app. Developed by former employees from Google and a speech-recognition veteran Nuance, Otter is a free service that transcribes speech on the go through the power of artificial intelligence (AI).

Voice transcription services aren’t new. There are a number of apps available out there, sure, but none seem to work like Otter — and we’re not even talking about the AI aspect yet. Most voice-transcription apps that are free aren’t very accurate, and those that work really well are often too expensive. Additionally, none transcribe in “real-time” as Otter does.

AISense, the startup that developed Otter, saw an opportunity here. There was a market ready for Otter to penetrate, as it proved during its launch at the Mobile World Congress this past week. “This is a perfect time,” AISense CEO and founder Sam Liang told CNet.


This app not only has market trends working in its favor, but it also benefited from a ton of work that has been done recently on voice and AI. There are speech recognition algorithms, which most of us are familiar with because of virtual assistants trained to “talk” to us — Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s creatively named Assistant. In fact, Amazon is supposedly close to developing another “real-time speech translation” service using Alexa.

On top of this, promising algorithms have been built to produce synthetic speech. Google’s DeepMind proved it can already mimic human speech with astonishing accuracy and clarity.


All of these developments made it possible to design the Otter app, Liang explained. “With AI tech and deep learning in the last few years, the accuracy for speech recognition has improved dramatically. A few years ago, this system wouldn’t be usable,” he told Cnet.

Otter has a rather simple but intuitive approach to voice transcriptions. As soon as you install the app, available for free for both Android and Apple users, it asks you to do a short and long recording — which you start by pressing the app’s mic icon. These become the basis for your “voiceprint” so that Otter can identify you in the recordings you make.

Why does it need to identify you? Well, because Otter’s live transcriptions are ideally separated by each speaker. Also, the raw transcript of a live conversation you’re recording appears almost immediately in front of you. Otter’s AI also automatically puts tags in every recording and transcription you save for easier file management.


Of course, it isn’t flawless. Otter has certain issues with punctuation, which it tends to leave out, and has difficulty working in crowded places or with loud noise in the background. Plus, you can’t transfer audio recordings not done directly using the app.

Still, for those who do interviews, take copious notes during classes or meetings, or would simply like a hands-free way to record their thoughts as text, an app like Otter could make life much easier. After all, who transcribes speech for the fun of it?

Better try it out while it’s still free, though. AISense plans to implement a subscription model to access extra features later on.

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How to Succeed as a Digital Learner

If you work for an organization today, you were most likely expected be ready for the future, yesterday.

As a result, the ability to learn digitally has never been more of an asset. You don’t have time to wait for the next class that’s offered — you need to learn now.

But let’s take a step back: Do you even know what it is that you need to learn? Not what you want to learn, but what you need to learn. To quote the over-quoted, you don’t know what you don’t know.

From a leadership development perspective, there are a variety of excellent digital tools — such as self-assessments, 360 assessments or knowledge pre-checks through various learning platforms — to help you learn what you need to know. Try either of these approaches to start:

Increase your self-awareness through a multitude of online assessments and then look at the gaps, or opportunities for improvement. Then work on these gaps. Look at where you want to be, what role you want to be in, and what skills are needed in that role.

Great — now you’ve figured out what you need to learn. If you have access to some great digital learning products, this is where our real conversation begins. If you don’t, look at what your HR/Learning and Development/Talent Management group offers.

Based on what I’ve seen, about 80% of L&D organizations have purchased excellent digital content for their organization, and the learners in the organization don’t know they have it. Just check — you may be surprised.

Time is Your Most Precious Resource

Once you’ve got the content, remember the age-old wisdom: “There is no time like the present.” There are 2 parts to time; deadlines and creating space for yourself.

Deadlines: Set a deadline for completing your learning. Tell someone that matters that you set this deadline. Make a pinky-promise. Bet on a cup of coffee or a drink. Make it count in the real world if you follow through on your intentions.

Making space: Set blocks on your calendar to learn. If it’s not on the calendar, it won’t happen. It’s as simple as that.

Learning Doesn’t Mean Watching or Reading

Aristotle once said, “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”

After you read a motivating book or watch a transformative TED Talk ever, does your behavior change instantly? Probably not without intention.

After you learn a new skill, be very purposeful about how you will practice it. Write down how putting it to use felt. (Spoiler alert: It won’t feel good the first time. Or the second or the third. But you’ll get the hang of it.)

If it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth it, and you would’ve arguably set your sites too low. A new leadership skill is quite likely the hardest habit to form. It’s not easy to embrace conflict or give direct feedback. It’s not easy to plan collaboratively or start thinking strategically.

Reading an article about the “32 Things Never to Say in Front of Your Boss” makes for a great diversion from work, but it doesn’t make it more likely that you’ll practice what you read. If you reflect on how your last meeting with your boss went, and run through that article like a checklist — then you’re getting somewhere.

Celebrate Your Success

Once you’ve learned something new, and practiced it, pat yourself on the back! A great way to do this is to reflect. I love the DayOne app. Capturing new experiences that went well is really important because humans are naturally wired to remember our failures, and try to learn from them. We should take just as much effort to learn from our successes.

Writing down your successes is a great way to ensure that you turn infrequent behaviors into frequent habits. We always love to learn in collaboration with our clients, partners, and practitioners in the field. Here are a few questions to spark a discussion:

What other ideas do you have for being a savvy digital learner? What is the skill that you most recently developed digitally? What is a digital learning experience that you experienced and loved?
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User Experience Reveals Today’s Top 20 Learning Management Systems

The network-based media and publishing company, eLearning Industry, has published a list of the current top 20 learning management systems (LMSs).

Heading the list are:

Looop - the chosen platform for companies including ASOS, Sky, Startupbootcamp, MoneySupermarket and Financial Times. Learn Amp - a Learning and Engagement Platform that helps to find, upload or create learning and track a team’s progress. Agylia - a mobile, flexible and global LMS that enables learners to access digital learning on their preferred devices, wherever they are, whenever they need it. Skolera - a unified learning platform that allows teachers to deliver streamlined, integrated learning to learners, and can interact with students and parents.

Others on the list are, in order of precedence: iSpring Learn; MATRIX LMS; NEO; Bolt; TalentLMS; Unicorn LMS; Skillcast LMS; Docebo; Totara Learn; UpsideLMS; Learndash; DynDevice; Litmos; Moodle; Open edX, and Brightspace.

These placings result from analysing the LMS reviews submitted to eLearning Industry in its capacity as the world’s largest online community of e-learning professionals.

Christopher Pappas, owner and founder of eLearning Industry, commented, “Each of the user reviews has been verified – to make sure it’s a genuine review by a genuine user of that particular LMS.

“In addition to publishing the ‘league table’ of the top 20 LMSs, the eLearning Industry site also makes these reviews available to readers – so that they can check our reasoning for themselves. We believe that this makes the whole process as transparent as possible.”

The position of each LMS in the ‘league table’ is determined by each LMS’s:

System Usability Scale: The most widely used and validated metric for measuring ease of use. Perceived Usefulness: The degree to which a user considers that the LMS maximises their work performance. Net Promoter Score (NPS): The metric that quantifies, via a one-to-10 scale, how much users are likely to recommend the product.

“As a knowledge-sharing platform to help e-learning professionals connect in a safe online community where they can stay up-to-date with the latest industry news and technologies, we believe that publishing this list is a valuable – and much-needed – initiative,” Pappas added. “Hopefully, our community members will agree.

“If so, we have plans to make this list a regular – if not constantly updated, continuous – publication.

“There are, currently, well in excess of 1,000 LMSs on the market – and that number continues to grow – so it can be a daunting prospect to have to find the ‘right one’ for your organisation,“ he said. “Hopefully, this list will provide at least a few shortcuts for potential LMS-buyers.”

The list of the current Top 20 LMSs is available via eLearning Industry’s website.

About eLearning Industry

eLearning Industry is a network-based media and publishing company founded in 2012. Comprising the largest online community of e-learning professionals in the industry, it was created as a knowledge-sharing platform to help e-learning professionals and instructional designers connect in a safe online community where they can stay up-to-date with the latest industry news and technologies, and find projects or jobs.

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How to bring company culture into the age of the digital workplace

It’s no secret that the digital workplace bolsters productivity. But beyond driving simpler and more efficient processes, it can also amplify workplace culture. And in our increasingly diverse and geographically scattered organisations, that’s a key benefit.

Good workplace culture isn’t simply regarded as a perk these days – it’s a business imperative with a demonstrable impact on the bottom line. As Gallup’s most recent 'State of the American Workplace' report revealed, workplaces with lower employee engagement scores suffered 18% lower productivity and 16% lower profitability.

For employees, a positive culture is so important that they prioritise it above material benefits such as a salary raise, according to a UK survey. And, in a survey of senior executives, 94% of them say culture is the most important element in driving innovation.

As the digital workplace continues to evolve, here are three ways to make sure your workplace’s culture keeps pace:

Involve HR, but put ownership on the CEO and leadership

Somewhere along the way, HR became responsible for all things people and culture. Yet this responsibility should not be relegated to one department – especially since organisational leadership has more power to make lasting changes.

Cultural improvement efforts require leadership buy-in – especially from the CEO. Getting CEO buy-in establishes a top-down precedent that will lead to broad adoption. If your CEO doesn’t already embrace culture as best as he or she could, illustrating the effect good culture has on the bottom line is sure to open his or her eyes.

Good workplace culture isn’t simply regarded as a perk these days – it’s a business imperative with a demonstrable impact on the bottom line.

After all, CEOs are tasked with running a profitable business above all other goals, so it helps to speak their language when introducing a new initiative.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, is a great example of a leader who does all he can to champion organisational culture. I think he puts it well in his book, 'Delivering Happiness': “Your personal core values define who you are, and a company’s core values ultimately define the company’s character and brand. For individuals, character is destiny. For organisations, culture is destiny.”

Align culture goals with what employees want from their workplace

With millennials establishing a larger presence at work, they’re bringing their own work styles to the office. For example, millennials are more apt to blend their personal and professional lives. They might keep in touch with friends and family throughout the day, but they’re also willing to answer work-related emails in their time away from the office.

Leadership should be open to adapting to these work style shifts rather than resisting them. Therefore, it’s up to workplace leaders to find out what their employees prioritise out of their experience at work so they too can prioritise it. If millennials feel supported in their varying work styles, they’ll be more likely to cite a positive culture, engage further with their work and stay loyal to the organisation.

Incorporate fun and creativity within the digital workplace where appropriate

The digital workplace came about for functional reasons, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a vehicle for the lighthearted and quirky parts of an organisation’s culture.

For example, many of our customers use a social wall in their digital workplace for employees to share fun and timely updates throughout the day. A kudos corner or shout-out zone is also a great way to highlight the efforts of employees who are going above and beyond.

These simple acts of recognition allow all employees, regardless of location or time zone, to share in celebrating the big and small successes. Commenting and sharing provides a social media-like experience and is a great way to remind your employees that they work in a community of other interesting, smart and funny humans.

Getting creative with how you can allow your employees to take a break from their daily routine says a lot about an organisation’s culture, and employees will take note of that. Basing all your processes in a digital space doesn't mean that your workplace culture has to suffer. In fact, the opposite is true. 

The age of the digital workplace makes the flourishing of workplace culture more possible than ever before and provides an avenue to extend some of the great aspects of your physical workplace culture into the digital workplace, if leadership is mindful about how to implement it.

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How Gamification Leads To Success In The Modern Learning Space

In today’s modern world, most of the enterprises are choosing game-based learning as a way of engaging employees who enjoy fast-paced and mobile collaboration. It is not just a child game, but game mechanics are applied to learning in the workplace.

Boost Engagement, Improve Productivity, Fortify Retention: Gamification Leads To Success

Industries using flight simulators, product inventory for sales personnel in the retail sector, and other consumer marketing apps also use games, irrespective of different demographics. Therefore, badges, scores, and leaderboards have become natural extensions for better workplace performance. There are several training programs that fail to engage workforce because they convey information in a decontextualized manner which is too text heavy. Therefore, it is crucial to incorporate exciting games and reimagine your training program completely.

The Need To Simplify And Engage

Gamification is the application of game mechanics to drive behavior in a non-gaming context. The prime objective is learner interaction and workplace performance, as opposed to gaming for fun and entertainment. Today, employees feel disengaged when going through lengthy training programs to understand a company’s products and services. Also, little has been done to deploy feedback tools to monitor employees’ progress. Different activities including accounting, sales enablement, training platforms, and others make learning more daunting and time-consuming.

The Fogg Model

The Fogg Model of Behavior is a behavioral model designed by Professor B.J. Fogg to demonstrate the relationship between incentive design and game mechanics.[1]

To drive learners’ behavioral response, trigger, motivation, and ability are 3 major factors. Ability is the time and attention resources required to accomplish any behavior. Without these, it is difficult for employees to perform the required behavior. To achieve this, it is essential to motivate employees with badges and scores on successfully completing a module. Apart from ability and motivation, a trigger is necessary to bring an expected behavior. Trigger instructs the participant to complete the target behavior at the right time.

Game mechanics serve as the basic building blocks to impart engaging learning experiences. These help to satisfy learners’ desires through strategies that are applied to digital learning. Discussed below are some of the gaming techniques used to meet human desires:

Rewards are central to eLearning gamification. Learners are given tangible or intangible rewards for completed actions through points, achievements, badges, and more. Status
It is the rank achieved by learners during the gamified learning program. The status of participants should be easily accessible by trainers to assess their performance matrix. Achievements
Achievements may be long-term goals where learners must perform more efficiently to achieve desired results. Once an employee reaches a certain level and receives a reward for his achievement, a badge is displayed to encourage others. Points
For an effective learning experience, players earn points on completion of a certain level or behavior. Points boost motivation and enable learners to perform better during the entire program. Avatars
Some people complain that they miss the presence of an instructor while accessing online courses. Gamification overcomes this challenge by using avatars or learning agents to customize the overall experience. Leaderboards
Leaderboards display ranks and scores achieved by participants, thereby driving competition across the organization. These aid employees to perform the desired behavior. The Mobile Buzz: Learning On The Go

Today, more than 80% of mobile downloads are games. So, using personalized mobile devices to gamify your learning experience is an optimum choice. Gamification for mobiles has reactivated the interest of employees who are mostly traveling or working from offsite locations. It has enabled learning ‘on the go’, thereby increasing learner interaction with the fun element added to it.

The blend of technology and learning has always sought the attention of educators as well as employees from different organizations. Gamification strategies are seen for different aspects including healthcare (wellness programs), military (simulations), and government offices (behavioral tactics). So, whether you enjoy games or not, it is essential to understand their role in reshaping the modern learning landscape. Undoubtedly, game-based learning helps to explore the whole environment, so that employees can perform more efficiently in real life. The concept is not new as trainers implement games to motivate and inspire their personnel. When applied correctly, games enhance the overall learning experience and delight learners of all ages.

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Fact Or Fiction? Debunking The Top 5 eLearning Myths

A simple online search will show you some pretty interesting claims about eLearning – but how do you sort the fact from the fiction? Read on to learn the truth behind some of the most common eLearning myths.

Debunking The Top 5 eLearning Myths

eLearning is fast becoming one of the most popular methods of delivering training. Whether you are training employees in-house or selling online courses to the world, there’s an eLearning answer for everything. But the increasing popularity of eLearning has spawned many myths, and these might be putting you off taking the plunge and getting your eLearning project up and running. In this article, we’re going to debunk five of the most common eLearning myths, and give you some tips on how to choose an eLearning platform that’s right for you!

1. eLearning Is Expensive

Let’s knock this off nice and early! This is one of the easiest eLearning myths to debunk. eLearning is usually a fraction of the cost of delivering in-person training – both for you as a trainer and for your learners. In fact, in some cases, it is up to 25% cheaper.

Most of this is down to time-savings. Think about how much time you spend preparing training materials, organizing venues, booking speakers, and making travel arrangements – and all of that’s before you’ve even delivered the training! You only need to invest the time to build your eLearning course once, and then you can deliver it as many times as you like to an unlimited, global audience.

Providing your training as eLearning is also more cost-effective for your learners. Instead of taking time off work they can learn on-the-go when it suits them, so there are savings for them too.

2. It’s Really Difficult

This is another common misconception! Today’s eLearning platforms are easier than ever to use, even for non-technical people. You don’t need to know how to code or use complex software – today’s eLearning platforms offer easy web-based interfaces you can use to build eLearning in the cloud. Most eLearning platforms offer a free trial period, so you can easily compare different platforms to decide which one is right for you.

Even when it comes to designing your course, there is a range of graphic design, video and other online tools that can help you create interactive and engaging courses – all you have to do is provide the expert subject matter knowledge you already have.

3. I’ll Lose My IP

As more and more eLearning courses are created, and more innovative ways to deliver content are discovered, questions about intellectual property (and copyright) are bound to arise. Most reputable eLearning platforms let you create your courses and keep your intellectual property, no questions asked.

Remember your courses –including their design and content– are unique. This means you have every right to double check whether you will retain the IP with the vendor before creating your eLearning course. If it’s not a problem, they’ll be able to show that their terms and conditions will protect your IP in your course content.

4. It’s Impossible To Track

This might be true of some older, less sophisticated eLearning platforms, but reporting is usually a central feature of most modern eLearning platforms.

Most platforms will let you track how many learners have completed your courses and what grade they got in their assessments. Other things you can track include sales, how products are performing against others and how many people have used your coupons and discount codes. The bottom line is you can definitely find an eLearning platform that will allow you to track the data you need to measure the success of your project!

5. I’ll Lose Money By Selling My Courses Online

It’s true, some eLearning platforms take a cut of your course profits – but not all do. If making money is the aim of your eLearning project, make sure you do your research and pick a provider that won’t hit you with charges when your courses starting flying off the e-shelf!

Remember –if it seems too good to be true–it might just be. It pays (you) to ask the question about whether your provider will take a cut of your hard-earned profits!

Bust These Myths By Asking These Questions! Are there any hidden charges that will tip you over your eLearning budget? Does the eLearning platform make it easy for you to create eLearning courses? Will you own the IP to the courses you create, or will the eLearning provider own this? What reporting features does the eLearning platform have? Will these meet your needs? Does the eLearning provider take a cut of your profits?
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Aligning On Purpose Is The First Step To Learning Design

There is a common approach of first presenting, then exemplifying, assessing, and finally repeating when it comes to designing an eLearning course. Without that being totally wrong, it is not always the best approach for every learner or every need. If you’re interested in a framework for creating a more comprehensive view of your learner’s needs, read the following article.

The First Step To Learning Design: Align On Purpose

Present-exemplify-assess, repeat…Does this look familiar? Do your eLearning courses all follow a similar structure? While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, it is not the best approach for every need. Read on, if you’re interested in a framework for developing a more comprehensive view of your learner’s needs, and in turn the purpose that will inform your design approach.

One Size Doesn't Fit All

The purpose of training is to achieve an outcome - today, our target audience does "x", and tomorrow, we want them to do "y". Of course, new knowledge is often part of closing that gap, but let’s remember our target audiences aren’t empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge. They are more complicated, and designs need to address not only knowledge transfer but also attitudes, awareness, support for application, and more.

Get At The Heart Of The Purpose

We’ve identified 7 key questions to explore, define, and to help identify the challenges a designer must address:

Is training mandatory, or will users choose to take the training on their own? If so, what is their intrinsic motivation to engage with your solution? Do you need to promote the solution and establish a compelling reason for users to engage? Awareness of need.
How conscious is your audience of their current knowledge and skill level? Are they coming to your solution with a clear understanding of their strengths and weaknesses? Or do you need to provide tools to help them recognize their starting point, and where they need to go? Knowledge.
With what policy, process, procedures, or other information will your audience need to develop fluency to achieve the desired outcome? Skills and behaviors.
In what new practices, skills, and tasks will the users need to develop competence? What do they need to change, or stop doing altogether? Application.
Will users need support applying these new skills and implementing processes and practices back on the job? Reinforcement.
Are there key messages, or facts and information that will need to be kept top-of-mind over time? Updates.
Will policy, process, procedures, or other supporting information change over time? And how important is it for users to have this information at their fingertips?

Use these questions to engage stakeholders and project sponsors, so as a team you have a fully formed understanding of all the solution outcomes, and what the challenges are to achieve those outcomes. Then, let these inform the kinds of experiences you create to achieve your goal.

Want to take deeper dive into designing learning solutions that deliver results? Check out The Secret to Getting Learning Results Isn’t What You Think.

Design For The Need

Now that you have a clear purpose, put it to good use. It’s all too common to see 'solutions' that don’t really fit the problem, where for example the need was really only to raise awareness and communicate, but the designer chose a needlessly complex learning model. Or where the desired outcome was a true behavioral change, and all the program did was share information. So, take care not to over or under-design for the need you’re facing. And remember that you might best meet some learning objectives by producing a string or blend of design models that extend across different delivery mediums, and over a spaced calendar. In this way, you create a learning campaign rather than a single, static event. The output may include a self–paced online course with a main menu and a series of topics, a stand-alone learning activity, an online webinar, or a combination of things.

Looking for more insight on how to design the appropriate solution for a give challenge? Check out Learning models: Useful blueprints for learning designers.

And Now, The Content

Now that you have a clear purpose, and an appropriate design for that purpose, you'll likely find that the "content" you started with will need some work. We love our Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) but let's be honest; they are often blinded by their passion for their content. In their mind, the more content, the better.

But with our clear purpose and associated design, you will almost certainly want to narrow the focus of the content, and likely require some additional. Don't try to fit a square peg into a round hole. If you take your SME along with you for the ride of defining purpose and design, they'll be a willing partner to provide the right content to get the right outcome.

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4 Secrets Of Successful Informal Learning Initiative

Gartner has estimated that a massive 90% of social collaboration initiatives fail. Find out what you need to make sure yours isn't one of them!

What Are The Secrets Of Successful Informal Learning Initiative?

In the pursuit of more efficient and effective training methods, many learning managers are turning to social learning technologies to get a better return on their investment. In a survey [1] by global management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, 82% of respondents said that their organization had implemented an internal social network of some kind. With informal learning making up around 90% of all work-based learning, this is only logical.

Creating a more collaborative learning environment is a good first step towards better training results, but it’s not a simple switch that you can flick on. Tapping into that huge vein of informal learning takes a lot of work and sadly, many learning managers underestimate the effort involved.

Gartner has estimated [2] that a massive 90% of social collaboration initiatives fail due to the so-called 'provide-and-pray' approach – the false idea that a new initiative doesn’t need extensive internal promotion and marketing. According to Jacques Bughin of McKinsey, if a social network is to be a success, 30-40% of staff should be using it on a daily basis. If you don’t secure that buy-in, your social learning initiative will gradually wither and you won’t get the results you’d hoped for. As with so much in learning and development, learner engagement is the fuel that keeps your informal learning initiative running.

1. An Engagement Strategy

Informal learning can lead to a huge repository of organizational knowledge, and an exciting and varied learning program that helps learners go further in their careers. To get there, you need to have a clear engagement strategy to ensure that learners participate in the first instance.

Use reward and recognition to give them an incentive to share their knowledge. A gamified platformgives you a world of new ways to make the learning experience more fun and more addictive. If your LMShas plenty of customization options, use them to build a relevant and meaningful online space that makes sense to your learners and reinforces the common values in the organization. It’s also important to make the platform as easy to engage with as possible. That means ensuring it can be accessed on all devices, including mobile.

2. An Open Community

Informal learning works so well because it aligns with the modern learner’s need for autonomy. Your learners want an open platform that they can explore and use to discover new things. You want them to contribute and share their knowledge and ideas.

It can be tricky to balance your learners’ need for autonomy, and the needs of your organization. To achieve the right mix, you need to give the learners a sense of ownership. Instead of prescribing a rigid company-sanctioned curriculum, create open-access discussion groups and make sure your learners can find them easily.

You can support this further with game mechanics, awarding points, and badges to the top contributors. Not only will this give you a fun and relevant knowledge resource, it will also let you identify who the real experts are in any given topic.

3. A Dedicated Admin Team

Because of its nature, an informal learning initiative has a lot of moving parts. You need to make sure that every member of your Learning and Development team is on board with the initiative’s aims, and understands their role in achieving them.

If you can get the managers excited about the possibilities of informal learning, they can become extensions of your admin team, engaging their own teams, and highlighting any valuable user-generated content.

When any new initiative is introduced, the organizational culture needs to adapt to accommodate it. This necessitates changes in behavior that cascade from the highest levels, downward. With all the managers playing their own small role, this sets a positive example for everyone else.

4. Recognition From The CEO

Engaging all your managers works in a similar way. The only difference is that you need to go a little further up the chain. Getting the CEO on board has a huge effect on engagement. I’ve seen the impact first hand with Growth Engineering’s own clients. One CEO shares a short video on the platform every month, and this regular feature has become a huge driver for traffic.

Reinforcing the message of the learning campaign doesn’t need to be complicated either. The above CEO doesn’t spend time sharing figures and stipulating targets. He merely says 'thank you' for all the hard work everyone in the company does on a daily basis.

The important thing is that these regular updates from the top legitimize the platform in everyone’s eyes, and improve the chances of learner buy-in.


A social learning platform won’t save your organization all by itself. Real success relies on the people behind the initiative. If you want to a return on investment, social features let you get the most out of your intellectual capital. With passion, dedication and an open learning culture, you can finally harness and capture all the power of informal learning and make use of your learners’ hidden knowledge.

The benefits of leveraging informal learning are enormous, but to reap them, you need to make sure that your campaign is engaging for the learners. Once they are convinced of the platform’s worth and begin using it regularly, you might just achieve stunning results in places you hadn’t even expected.


Transforming the business through social tools. Gartner Says the Vast Majority of Social Collaboration Initiatives Fail Due to Lack of Purpose.
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5 Ways Technology Impacts Learning Today

There is virtually no area of life that has not somehow been touched by advances in computer science. One area that has undergone a significant revolution is education. This article will discuss 5 ways in which technology impacts learning.

How Technology Impacts Learning Today

Computer and communications technology have changed the way human beings live. In the past, if someone wished to learn something, they went to a school and studied directly under an instructor. Nowadays, however, it is possible to take courses, and even earn degrees without ever stepping foot in a building. In addition, non-degree learning, in the forms of continuing education, exam prep, or professional education, has become more accessible than ever through new eLearning and mLearning technologies. Here are some of the ways in which technology impacts learning:

1. Accessibility 

There are at least several ways in which technology has made learning more accessible. First, learning opportunities are no longer restricted to those who have the time to attend in-person classes. Technology, such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets, allows users to take classes and to engage in exam prep activities wherever and whenever they wish. In addition, mobile media options allow learners to choose the medium (video, eBooks, interactive quizzes) that is best for their learning style.

Finally, online and mobile learning options offer significant opportunities for collaboration. Learners have the opportunity to interact with people all over the world as they develop their academic knowledge and professional skills. Collaborative learning is important in an era where national borders are no longer as important as they were when it comes to doing business.

2. Motivation And Accountability 

Mobile learning apps such as those created by Pocket Prep offer instant feedback on what the user has learned. As the learner becomes more proficient, he or she can track their progress and stay motivated. This same feature also holds learners accountable. Since their work is automatically being graded and recorded, the user cannot dodge the reality of underperformance. This can serve as a reality check for someone who may need to focus more on learning order receive additional help. In fact, mobile apps and computer programs do a very efficient job at pinpointing those areas in which the learner has difficulty and needs assistance.

3. Cost Effectiveness 

Publishing print exam prep guides, textbooks, and other physical learning materials are expensive, and those costs are passed on to learners. The same holds true for teaching in a traditional classroom environment. While there is certainly a place for standard books and classes, new technologies have made it less expensive for students to get the education or exam preparation that they need. This not only makes learning opportunities far more accessible, but it also evens the playing field between learners who may come from different economic backgrounds.

4. Convenience 

Not so long ago, adults typically worked nine-to-five jobs, five days a week. In this new economy, however, people often find themselves working on weekends and evenings. This makes it difficult to take classes that meet at a specific time. Asynchronous learning is now a real possibility with the advent of mobile learning options. For example, smartphone and tablet apps allow working adults to sneak in some study time whenever they have a few extra minutes at lunch or during a break.

5. Relevancy 

Before internet use became widespread, instructional material had to undergo a lengthy publication process. After publication, changes would require a significant amount of work as the material would need to be republished. The process of republication was costly in terms of both time and money. Newer technologies allow content producers to easily change online content, apps and eBooks so that the information remains accurate and up-to-date. This helps ensure that learners are receiving the freshest, most accurate information and training available. Mastery of industry knowledge correlates with success in passing exams as well as on-the-job performance.

The only thing that may restrict the ways in which technology impacts learning is a lack of understanding about these new learning options and how they work. It is important for educators and administrators to learn more about available options so that they can integrate them into educational programs as well as counseling for students and potential students. Similarly, HR departments and professional development staffs need to stay on top of these technological advances so as to incorporate available products into the workplace culture.

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Learning Analytics and the Value of Understanding L&D Metrics

When learning & development organizations successfully prove that they aren’t merely cost centers—that they reliably and verifiably deliver positive results to the bottom line of the enterprise—they inevitably gain stature and influence with business leaders. By establishing a solid metrics and measurement program, underpinned by a learning analytics process, learning leaders gain access to the evidence that illustrate their team's everyday impact.

Analytics turns learning metrics and measurement into insights that enable informed decisions and actions. Learning insights may include process efficiency, alignment of employee skills to business needs, and the impact of learning on key organizational metrics like staff turnover and leadership development capabilities. When analytics are leveraged effectively, they can influence not just how courses are designed or how the L&D function is staffed, but also larger decisions such as hiring and competency development.

The benefits of structured and consistent development and communication of learning analytics may extend to all levels of the organization.


When learning experiences are constantly being reevaluated for effectiveness via analytics, a few things tend to happen. Learners are more likely to be engaged when they receive the right level of training, which in turn spikes knowledge transfer and application. Learners are also more likely to enjoy a supportive and motivating work environment, as learning analytics can help diagnose non-learning issues that impact performance.

L&D organizations have much to gain from investing in L&D analytics, including identifying and addressing obstacles to learning effectiveness. Basing recommendations and budget requests on learning analytics adds a degree of professionalism and credibility to a business unit that is often at a loss for hard numbers. It also enables learning leaders to prioritize effort and make changes to better align with business goals and optimize the organization’s function.

Business stakeholders benefit from analyzing L&D metrics by being able to see where their investment of time and budget goes. They can see how the learning organization is addressing and impacting operational efficiency, learning effectiveness, employee performance, and ultimately business results.

Choosing the Metrics to Analyze

When we talk about metrics and measurement, we’re typically referring to gathering data on three areas: efficiency, effectiveness, and outcome.

Efficiency is generally thought of as learning-centric metrics—number of learners, hours of training, cost to produce content, etc. Efficiency measures can be useful as supplemental data and are of interest to internal L&D staff. Their value to business stakeholders is limited, though.

Effectiveness metrics are evaluations-focused—Levels 1–3 on the Kirkpatrick scale—and include things like learner satisfaction, quality of deliverables, knowledge acquisition, and performance impact. Some of these things are more valuable than others when it comes to proving business impact, but effectiveness measurement is the area where both L&D and business stakeholders share common ground. Unfortunately, too many metrics and measurement initiatives don’t go beyond effectiveness to the third category…

Outcome metrics are ultimately what really matter. Outcome looks at bottom-line results, such as revenue and cost reductions generated by the learning initiative. To the extent that efficiency and effectiveness metrics matter, they provide validation and explanation for the outcome.

Potential Pushback to Analytics

Some learning professionals are hesitant to initiate a learning analytics practice for two reasons: the perception that they must address everything at once, and concern that leadership will use the insights in a penalizing way.

Systems thinking and optimizing ongoing operations are two keys to success. Systems thinking helps escape the L&D-only mindset and into the perspective of the business. Systems thinking informs the questions to ask, your stakeholders, data to gather, accountability to provide and use data, the technology platform, standards, definitions, and reporting that drives use.

One of the first steps should be to review the current state. What metrics are you gathering, if any, and are you using them to inform decisions? If a metric is not informing a decision, there’s no need to keep gathering it. If it is, optimize the specific data and learn how to turn it into insights that inform decisions that matter to L&D and the larger organization. Over time, add more metrics, always keeping in mind the decisions they inform.

There will be metrics that you actively manage and metrics that you monitor. What’s the difference? You manage metrics that need optimization and other adjustments. There are other metrics that may already be optimized, so they just need monitoring. Further, determine target thresholds for the monitored metrics that will trigger an “alarm” for active management.

For learning professionals who lack experience with L&D analytics, there are many resources available, starting with the Center for Talent Reporting. Critical thinking, the ability to think like a stakeholder, and the ability to ask good questions are key when proving the business value of learning.

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There’s a Data Analyst on the L&D Team?

Employees and their managers want to know if training measurably improves performance. CEOs and senior leaders are asking, “Where’s the evidence for learning and development’s impact on business results?” CFOs are asking, “What’s the return on investment for the dollars we spend on employee development?” There’s a rise in demand for L&D talent who can answer these questions with evidence and proof.

Data Analysts: A New Breed of L&D Talent

A new breed of L&D talent is using data and analytics to answer questions about learning’s impact on business results and employee performance. L&D data analysts use analytics to inform decisions about learning strategy and data for learning solutions design, deployment and investment. And while the titles may be different from company to company, the focus on learning and development analytics is the same:

“Ability to negotiate data sourcing agreements with stakeholder partners” – Learning & Development Analyst “Uses data analytics to offer Leadership/Strategy Committee insights from across the Learning and Development portfolio” – Learning & Development Measurement & Analytics Data Scientist “Leverage the workforce analytics knowledge base to promote an evidence-based approach to all things Learning” – Associate Director, Learning Analytics

“Research,” “analysis” and “measurement” describe the focus. “Data collection” and “visualization” describe the skills. Experience with SPSS, SAS, Tableau, xAPI and learning record stores (LRS) qualify the specialized expertise. These are capabilities that just a few short years ago, you would not have seen on an L&D team.

The combination of learning, development and analytics talent is unique and creates an opportunity for established L&D professionals to reinvent themselves. With the rise in demand for talent with strong L&D backgrounds and expertise in analytics techniques and technology, there’s a brand new function in learning and development. The future for L&D analysts is bright!

What’s Driving the Rise in Demand for L&D Analysts?

Learning analytics expert Mike Rustici with Watershed suggests the rise in demand for L&D data analysts comes from increased accountability and transfer of best practices. “Just about every group, department and function across the enterprise is held accountable for using data to demonstrate results. You’re seeing an increased desire from senior leadership for that level of accountability throughout the organization. You’re seeing people coming into L&D leadership roles from other parts of the organization. They’re bringing their expertise and best-practices with them including the infusion of data and analytics.”

Christopher Yates, head of learning and development at Microsoft, sees L&D data analysts as a critical part of the digital transformation. “It’s essential. I can’t imagine having an L&D team today that is not supported by dedicated data analysts. Without L&D analytics, you’re basing your decisions on luck or the way we’ve always done things. Without insight, all you have is a guess, a hunch or a feeling in your stomach about what’s working or not working.”

L&D Data Analysts Are Here to Stay

There’s technique, technology and, now, talent for L&D analytics. The dynamics of complex learning ecosystems require data-driven design for learning solutions and analytics for insights on L&D performance. We don’t have to cross our fingers and hope learning and development fulfills its purpose. We have the data and the L&D analysts to prove it.

L&D data analysts are changing the way learning and development leaders build their teams. As L&D is increasingly held accountable for evidence that shows impact, so will the rise in demand for talent who can use data and analytics as proof for results. Yes…there’s a data analyst on the L&D team, and they’re here to stay!

Kevin M. Yates is creator of The COURAGE Model© and advisor for measurement, evaluation and analytics for learning and development. Connect with Kevin on his website, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.


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L&D Enters the Age of Curation

In 2006, I pursued my master’s degree at the University of Liverpool (UK). At that time, I was always met with a slight look of disbelief when I said the whole program was taught “online.” This was just after the age of certificate mills, in which fake universities pumped out certificates for non-existent courses. I knew what they were thinking: Was it easier than the traditional classroom? Was it less rigorous? Was my online course even real? 

Simply stated, online learning used to be like online dating; it was weird. 

Today, of course, online learning is very much mainstream. We forget how far we’ve come—and how fast. It’s estimated that U.S. companies spend $160 billion per year on training and development. E-learning is the fastest growing segment of this expenditure, with an average increase of 23 percent year-on-year. In other words, online learning is a phenomenon. 

But it remains expensive. On average, it’s said that to develop one hour of e-learning content costs approximately $30,000. If you were to apply that back to my online degree, it would mean spending $4.5 million per module, just to develop the content for the curriculum. 

The L&D industry has spent a lot of time and effort to try and bring down this figure for content production—with limited success. What’s more, people are starting to question why we’re so focused on content anyway? 

Focusing on Content and Systems

You see, even though we’ve been through a digital revolution, our thinking has not changed much since the industrial age. Our focus on consuming content as the sole means of learning is very much a byproduct of past eras. 

In fact, the industrial age and the rise of big business gave us the requirement for standardization. With standard processes—standard tools carried out by people proficient to the same standard—the better the content, the more efficient the worker. We even coined a term for the process: the learning curve. 

But this content focus is part of bygone era—a Taylorist philosophy that promoted efficient bureaucracy. To the bureaucrats, online learning is a dream. It has the potential to scale infinitely, and to make the administrator’s life better. Students come and go, but administrators remain. 

In essence, this means that we focus on making technology that is good for the system, but not so good for the learner. Indeed, our systems are consistently seen as more important than the individuals within them. 

This way of thinking isn’t going to work anymore. Work is no longer standard. When you go to work you solve novel problems every day, and memorizing a textbook will not help you to perform a non-standard job. The world changes too fast to document it and commit it to memory. 

Teaching the same standard content from the same standard curriculum, year after year, will not help learners. Bottom line: overloading learners with content will not help them. 

Adding Context to Online Learning 

In the digital age, we are content rich but context poor. Content is no longer king. Welcome to the age of context. 

Your superpower in the age of context is to seek out content, to make sense of it, and to share your understanding with others. Your ability to perform this task will dictate your success. Making sense of content for your particular context is your unique skill, and this makes you a curator. 

Peter Senge said “Through learning, we re-perceive the world and our relationship to it.” He might as well have said, “Through curation, we re-perceive the world and our relationship to it.” Digital curation is the process of seeking out new ideas, making sense of them for your context, and sharing your findings with the world. 

Harold Jarche calls this “Seeking, Sensing, Sharing.”

You “seek” out relevant content; other people’s work.

You contrast it with your own experiences and the realities you face in your world. You make “sense.”

You “share” that new story of how content applies to your context with others. 

Seeking, Sensing, Sharing. That’s what work is today. 

If You Teach, You Are a Curator 

Did you ever notice just how much you learn when you teach? That’s because the sense-making process has real value—not just to others, but to you, as the teacher. And the skill that it takes to make sense of something new is increasingly in demand. 

It’s tough to be the translator of ideas, though. So you need to share that process with your students. It’s not on you to make a story so simple that people will just swallow it wholesale; it’s your job to let others make sense of content for themselves. 

It will not be enough to simply “know the right answers” in the future world of work. Right answers are easy. Right answers are automatable. Anything that has a binary, yes/no answer will be automated. Future careers will all be about making sense. Your career is at the intersection of making sense out of other people’s ideas. Your life is about making meaning. 

Curators don’t ask, “How does it work?” Curators tell others: “This is how it could work.” That means that curation will always be a human process. Tools may help us seek and content may inspire us, but no single piece of content or process can tell you what to think. You must decide that for yourself.

Online learning has been with us for 20 years, but the revolution has only just begun.