BLP Partners with TE Connectivity to Win Two Brandon Hall Awards

Bottom-Line Performance (BLP) and its client, TE Connectivity (TE), a global leader in connectivity and sensors, partnered to win two 2017 Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning Awards. The winning project for both awards was an innovative training and sales enablement program that helps distributors understand the needs of different customer types and position a wide range of products with these customers to meet their needs.

The TE Town Mobile Learning Game earned a Silver designation in Best Use of Mobile Learning and a Bronze designation in the Best Use of Games and Simulations for the Learning category. The app was created as part of TE’s new comprehensive training and sales enablement program. Players are elected as mayor of TE Town and must build their town by completing a variety of mini-games. They must identify the correct customer type, learn about relevant products and ask the right questions to help the customer. Learn more about TE and TE Town here.

“TE is continually looking for creative ways to equip our sales team and distributors to serve our customers,” said Maria Cannon, vice president, marketing and Americas sales at TE. “TE’s vision for an interactive game together with BLP’s design expertise created a tool that serves our team in a way that is different from standard training tools. TE Town demonstrates our commitment to innovation.”

“TE Town is an innovative solution to the tough challenge of engaging independent distributor reps. How do you get and keep mindshare when a rep is selling products for many companies and not just your own?” said Sharon Boller, President of BLP. “TE’s decision to use a casual mobile game puts them on the leading edge of what’s possible. I am extremely pleased that TE’s innovation is being recognized. I am also extremely proud of the BLP team that has guided them in designing, building, and implementing this award-winning learning game.”

About BottomLine Performance

Bottom-Line Performance is an award-winning learning design firm serving a wide range of corporate clients. Since 1995, we’ve helped clients choose the right learning solutions for their learners, while also helping them to design and develop learning tools effectively. Areas of focus include product launches, customer training, internal process training, safety & compliance and more.

Bottom-Line Performance is also the creator of Knowledge Guru®, a game-based learning platform linked to the science of learning and remembering. The platform has received five Brandon Hall awards, including a gold distinction for “Best Advance in Gaming or Simulation Technology.”

About TE Connectivity

About TE Connectivity

TE Connectivity (NYSE: TEL) is a $12 billion global technology leader. Our commitment to innovation enables advancements in transportation, industrial applications, medical technology, energy, data communications, and the home. TE’s unmatched breadth of connectivity and sensor solutions, proven in the harshest of environments, helps build a safer, greener, smarter and more connected world. With 75,000 people – including more than 7,000 engineers – working alongside customers in nearly 150 countries, we help ensure that EVERY CONNECTION COUNTS – www.TE.com
TE Connectivity, TE and EVERY CONNECTION COUNTS are trademarks.


Want to learn more about mobile learning games? Join us for our upcoming webinar When Games Go Small: Mobile Learning Game Design Do’s & Don’ts on Tuesday, October 10th at 1:00 PM ET.

6 Steps to a Mobile Mindset: Mobile Learning Basics

mobile learning basics

If you attended ATD TechKnowledge this year, then you might have seen a session about this new thing called The Mobile Mindset and it’s all about mobile learning basics. Steven Boller and myself presented on this topic in front of a rather enthusiastic audience. We were excited to see just how ready people are to do something—anything—to get mobile learning started at their organization.

I coined the term Mobile Mindset to encompass a broader range of programming and design that’s accessible to all organizations—the ones trying to roll out mobile now and those who still have hurdles to overcome. Mobile Mindset means thinking about programming and design in a way that is adaptable for the future. It means improving the design of even your desktop eLearning courses so you’re prepared for whatever device/browser/version comes our way.

It’s worth noting that the significance of the Mobile Mindset goes beyond just successful mLearning. Research shows that using good design principles increases the effectiveness of learning and retention. So without further ado, here are six mobile learning basics to improve your training with the Mobile Mindset.

1. Be conscious of your space.

Source: http://www.goodui.org/

Source: http://www.goodui.org/

Space is a precious resource on a mobile device. We love that our smartphone is small enough to carry anywhere in our pocket, but that tiny screen doesn’t allow for much content at once. That means you need to organize and prioritize your content. I’ll say it again because it’s so important: organize and prioritize.

You need to group “like” things together, and use clear space to separate individual ideas. You need to emphasize important points with callouts or highlights—and please remember, if you emphasize everything, it’s basically the same as emphasizing nothing. If you design all your courses—mobile or desktop—with a better usage of space, you’ll see an improvement in training outcomes and learner adoption rates. Read this article to get a more in depth look at the benefits of good, clean design.

2. Think modular and flexible.

responsive-learning-design

A major part of designing for mobile devices is something called Responsive Web Design—and the ideas behind RWD are integral to the Mobile Mindset. Group your content in such a way that when it is moved around, everything that’s supposed to be together, stays together. That’s what it means to be modular and flexible.

Design and program in a way that allows you to remove a section without breaking the entire thing. Build in a way that allows your content to respond to different screen widths. Build in a way that other people can understand your code.

3. Think beyond authoring tools.

frustrating-authoring-tools

Authoring tools are great for a lot of things. They’ve become much easier to use over the years, and now designing an eLearning course can be as simple as designing a PowerPoint. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but authoring tools have definitely done some good things for the industry.

Unfortunately, authoring tools come with a few serious limitations. Besides needing a license just to be able to edit a course, authoring tools often inject strange code when they’re published that can create time-consuming and completely unpredictable problems. They rely on cumbersome shells/frames to display content (unless you have some serious hackers on your team). Developers and instructional technologists like ours know how to navigate these challenges, but they can create very real challenges if you are not prepared for them.

Authoring tools have become so ingrained in L&D that we often forget you don’t have to use them! There are other ways to build a course. Which brings me to my next point…

4. Consider the website as a training tool.

elearning-website

One of the alternatives to an authoring tool is something you may never have considered before: a website.

Have you ever visited a beautiful website designed to market something? Nowadays, these sites can have questionnaires, games, interactive content, and tracking like you wouldn’t believe. So why can’t we harness this power for eLearning? Well… you can. And it’s easier than you might think!

There are a few different ways to approach it, too. You can build from scratch with HTML/CSS/Javascript. You can use an open source framework like WordPress, complete with an extensive user community and easy-to-use plugins. I even talked to a gentleman after our presentation at ATD TechKnowledge who said his team uses Adobe Muse to build web pages for eLearning. (Love the creativity!)

5. Design with the future in mind.

future-design

This one might be the hardest to follow, because who has time to think about five years from now when there are fires to put out now?

But I want to encourage you to design in such a way that things can adapt when technology changes in the future. This ties back to a lot of my previous points: being modular so that content (especially interactive content and video) can be easily swapped or changed, coding in such a way that a newcomer can read it, and occasionally leaving the authoring tool behind.

All of these are ways to design with the future in mind. Think of it this way… are you building a house of cards?

6. Take the training wheels off. Learners can handle it.

take-the-training-wheels-off

As a designer, this final tip is my favorite. I understand why we needed “click the X to the left to exit the window” in the early days of the Internet… but it’s 2017. Learners have matured in their technology use. I bet almost every person who reads this post has used a phone at some time to navigate the Internet.

(Most) People understand where to click by now. They understand exit icons and they understand the “Back” button. We no longer need to waste so much space and effort on these things. Instead, we need less cognitive load and more room for users to learn what they need to know. And we can achieve this through better design.

Yes, there will always be exceptions… especially in certain industries. But in general, it’s safe to embrace a little minimalism. Learners can handle it.

Register for our upcoming webinar The Mobile Mindset: How to Wow Your Learners and learn how mobile design can help you create better training.

The Mobile Learning Mindset: How to Wow Your Learners (Webinar)

The Mobile Learning Mindset Banner

Our web analytics tell me that most of you are reading this blog post on your desktop. Probably at work. But a growing percentage are reading our articles from the browser on their mobile phone. I expect that trend to steadily increase.

We spend our time on the internet browsing from website to beautiful website. Almost every webpage we visit now is responsive, adapting to whatever device we are using. Content is easy to read, the layout is intuitive and easy to navigate. Take this website for example!

If you’re like most of our clients, you work for a large organization that has a fancy corporate website. Try pulling that website up on your desktop, then on your phone. Looks good, doesn’t it? (Okay, so this won’t apply to all of you.)

Now, try pulling up some recent required training you or your employees had to complete on your mobile device and compare that experience to the company website.

Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

The Web Is Pretty. Your Training Is Not.

Why the discrepancy between the consumer web and internal company training? There are plenty of obvious answers: consumer websites are marketing vehicles that help generate revenue and acquire customers. Training is viewed as just another expense. Training is proprietary to an organization and must be delivered securely, not available on a public website for all to see. And then there’s the graveyard of old, outdated training modules that need to be updated or simply deleted!

While learners will obviously appreciate a mobile-optimized experience, the steps required to get from where your training is today and where it needs to be are not so simple.

How to Adopt a Mobile Mindset

On Tuesday, December 5th at 1 pm ET / 10 am PT, Jake Huhn and I will give a webinar called The Mobile Mindset: How to Wow Your Learners. In the session, we’ll cover:

  • Recent stats on the growth of the mobile web versus corporate mobile learning adoption.
  • Proprietary research from our contacts and customers on mobile learning adoption.
  • A summary of the common challenges organizations face when trying to shift to mobile.
  • A broad overview of responsive web design and Gestalt theory and how these principles can be used to improve training design.
  • Examples from three mobile training apps we have created for clients.
  • A simple solution for turning a simple web portal into a SCORM-conformant LMS.
  • Six practical tips for adopting a mobile mindset

A recording of the session will be sent to all registrants.

Access The Mobile Mindset: How to Wow Your Learners and learn how mobile design can help you create better training.

How Microlearning Enables “Micro-Moments”

blp-learn-banner-update

Welcome back to our #BLPLearn blog series, where we offer a monthly look at design and technology as it pertains to learning and development. I’m your host, Jake Huhn—Senior Marketing Technologist at Bottom-Line Performance.

What are Micro-Moments?

There is a lot of talk in the L&D community about microlearning and for good reason. But outside of the training world, the Internet is abuzz with a different “micro” term: micro-moments. That’s because back in 2015, Google shared a slew of new research about micro-moments. Much like in 2011 when Google pitched the “Zero Moment of Truth” concept, this new research sets out to be a game changer.

According to Google:

“Micro-moments occur when people reflexively turn to a device—increasingly a smartphone—to act on a need to learn something, do something, discover something, watch something, or buy something. They are intent-rich moments when decisions are made and preferences shaped.”

It turns out that the research Google has done to help serve its interest in the marketing world is extremely relevant to our own industry. Our learners are essentially our consumers. That’s why “Learner Personas” (modeled after “Buyer Personas”) are such an effective technique.

What the research shows


micro-moments

The data surrounding this concept is compelling, to say the least, and it has so many implications for the L&D community as we adapt to the increasing mobile landscape. According to the report, 62% of smartphone users are more likely to take action right away toward solving an unexpected problem or new task because they have a smartphone.

And here’s an even more incredible statistic, as far as training is concerned:

90% of smartphone users have used their phone to make progress toward a long-term goal or multi-step process while “out and about.”

I encourage you to read through this introduction to micro-moments on ThinkWithGoogle.com. This has big implications for how we use mobile and microlearning in training.

Tying it all together

It is important for us to realize that these micro-moments are already ingrained in our learners’ behavior. Many of these micro-moments happen on the smartphone, and the research shows that people are using them to solve problems, find information, and reach goals.

When done correctly, microlearning enables and encourages micro-moments. And since learners increasingly want and need a “micro” experience, mobile learning is no longer an option; it’s essential. Mobile learning solutions should be implemented not just because they are convenient or trendy, but because mobile is now part of everyday life. Your learners are the same consumers that Google is trying so hard to understand, and micro-moments are how they make decisions and seek out information.

Sources:

https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/micromoments/intro.html

https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/articles/how-micromoments-are-changing-rules.html

http://www.forbes.com/sites/onmarketing/2015/04/09/googles-micro-moment-why-its-a-game-changer-for-cmos/#495cc30422b4

8 UX Questions Before You Use mLearning for Sales Enablement

mLearning

After years of hype, mobile is finally the big workplace knowledge support tool we’ve all been talking about. This is especially true for sales enablement. Most field-based sales reps live or die by their phones. It’s the device they constantly have with them and reference.

But do you really understand how those reps use their phones? Do you think about what they want and need in any kind of educational app you create for them? Or do you think about what you want and need to include in that app instead. By doing so, you risk creating an app that will never be used. And an unused app is a very expensive app whether you buy or build.

Want to learn more about mobile learning design? Register for our upcoming webinar: The Mobile Mindset: How to Wow Your Learners.


Meet Learners Where They Are

The K-12 space often teaches corporate L&D some valuable lessons. This article published by EdSurge focuses on creating educational apps for middle schoolers and high schoolers. It offers an eye-opening look at how kids use their phones during the day… and discusses how to make an educational app fit within those usage boundaries. Frankly, it’s brilliant because it doesn’t start with the arrogant assumption that kids will conform to the app the educator wants to create. Instead, it assumes that the app needs to conform to the way kids already use their phones.

We need to do the same in the corporate world. To design mobile learning (mLearning) experiences that meet their intended objectives, we need to do a whole lot of things:

  • Spend time observing how people use devices in their work settings.
  • Understand their workflows and consider how any training experience or performance support app will integrate best with those existing use cases and workflows.
  • Think about integrating our app with other apps that they use all the time (e.g. their camera, email, calendar, or CRM system).
  • Think about how skilled they are (or aren’t) with actions such as pinching, swiping, and tapping.
  • Make sure any content we want them to reference is suited for viewing on their mobile device instead of assuming they will do visual and hand gymnastics to read a PDF that was never designed to be read on anything smaller than a desktop. Think mobile first, not mobile friendly.

mLearning Design Questions to Answer

In 2016, more of our clients are seeking a mobile-first experience than ever before. mLearning design has unique challenges that are quite different from traditional, authoring tool-based eLearning. Here are a few of the questions we like to ask before starting on a project:

  1. What kinds of devices do most people have and how big are their screens?
  2. What apps do they use already and what do they like about those apps? Why do they use those apps and what features do they like about them?
  3. How much time are they likely to spend within any app?
  4. How agile are they in using their phones? Do they swipe, pinch, expand with ease? Do they use two hands or one?
  5. What makes most sense for your target—an app that is portrait or landscape?
  6. What’s too small for them to read without forcing them to reach for a pair of reading glasses?
  7. Where are they most likely to use their device? When they do pull it out, why are they accessing it and for how long?
  8. Do they typically enable notifications on apps they download or do they turn them off? (Notifications let you send them messages/reminders to revisit your app or to take an action. If they routinely turn those off, your usage of them is a waste.)

This level of detailed information about your learners’ usage habits may seem hard to come by at first. Consider conducting a task analysis to observe how learners are actually using their phones… rather than asking them to self-report.

Why Mobile Learning is a Slow March (#ATDTK Reflections)

mobile-learning-slow-march

While a huge number of organizations are still just getting their feet wet with mobile, this year’s ATD TechKnowledge conference sought to get learning professionals thinking beyond our current approaches to imagine how technology in 2020 and beyond will impact learning.

David Rose, MIT media lab instructor, entrepreneur and author, painted an exciting picture of the “internet of things” in the opening keynote. He showed a number of products that fade into the background of our lives while using data and connectivity to make our lives easier. We saw orbs that glow a certain color to tell us what the weather is like and tables that create beautiful images to show the balance of conversation in a meeting. Augmented reality was shown as a way to turn the world around us into a user interface we manipulate.

His book, Enchanted Objects, sounds like a must-read. I myself am very excited by the possibilities of these objects!

The Glass Slab

Mobile learning as we know it today is reliant on the “glass slab” in our hand. It’s about building an app or website that is intuitive and useful and moving learning to this device, anytime and anywhere. And while the technology around us is moving forward very quickly, executives and training professionals are constrained by the needs (and sometimes the limitations) of their organizations.

This is why the concurrent sessions at a conference are so useful. These presentations, for the most part, are more grounded in the here and now. One of my favorite concurrent sessions was a mobile learning case study presented by Brandon Carson, Director of Learning at the Home Depot. Carson shared the business needs, process and approach his team has taken to develop a mobile performance support app for Home Depot employees. While David Rose’s presentation was all about exciting products and technologies that will change our world, Carson’s presentation was about his team’s multi-year journey to create an app that is simple to use yet contains a massive amount of information. His team navigated some significant constraints such as lack of bandwidth, device distribution and training time available to create a meaningful learning experience.

The contrast between these two situations was a bit ironic, really. Carson commented on it at one point, noting that his team “was taking three years to figure out what smart phone experience may or may not work. Moving a ship as big as Home Depot is not easy. (This makes it hard to)… keep up with the pace of technology.”

Back to the Here and Now

I feel like many of the organizations we talk to are on the same boat (pun intended). We are all excited about the future of technology and how that future, whether it be algorithmic learning or the internet of things, will change the way people learn and remember. But we are all still living in the here and now, working for or with organizations that have real constraints and challenges that must be addressed. For example:

  • You might know that a software-as-a-service (SaaS) learning product is right for your learners, but your IT Procurement might not really know how to buy it and pay for it!
  • You might want to deliver more training via a mobile device, but the LMS that your organization invested six or seven-figure dollars into makes this experience clunky at best.
  • You might believe that games and gamified experiences will enhance learner engagement and help drive retention, but stakeholders are still feeling burned by a past “experiment” that blew up in their faces!
  • You want to invest in a new, innovative learning platform, but your organization is structured into different business areas and it is difficult to leverage a single platform across multiple areas.

What Can Be Done?

There is no easy answer for how to navigate these challenges. I liked how Brandon Carson’s presentation gave a very real picture of how to move forward with new learning technologies. It might take longer than we would like, but it is possible to bring new learning approaches to an organization if we take the time to build the case, analyze the target learner, prototype and pilot, and match the solution to business needs.

That’s what it really takes to bring the “future of learning,” whatever that ends up looking like, to an organization.

More Reflections on Mobile Learning

I’ve written some other articles recently that explore mobile learning in greater detail, both here and on our Knowledge Guru website. Here are a few:

 

mLearning – the trend that’s NOT? mSupport the trend that might be?

Mobile Learning in 2014

Clark Quinn is a long-time advocate of the use of mobile technologies to support learning efforts. He’s also been a very public presence in trying to help the learning and development community (and anyone else who cares to listen to the conversation) that the BEST use of mobile phones is NOT eLearning. He has written and spoken numerous times on this topic. I responded to his recent post with this comment:

How did the name “mLearning” even get started? I agree with you 100% – the best use of the Smartphone is as a support tool. It seems, then, that the appropriate nickname is mSupport or mResource rather than mLearning. Phones are awesome “find and locate” tools that can help you research something on the spot – something you may not necessarily need to remember after you’ve located what you need, used it in the moment, and then moved on.

My comment was actually a lot longer than the above, but in essence, I noted that our challenge is that the term mLearning has become very entrenched (look at the name of the mLearn Conference), but I believe it is the wrong term. When the L&D community talks about the “mLearning” trend, we’re talking about a trend that is just… not.

But phones are EVERYWHERE! What do I mean?

Yes, mobile devices are prolific. A recent Pew report indicates a whopping 91% of us now own a mobile phone. Everywhere you look you see people on their phones – in restaurants, shopping malls, airports, sporting events, cars (cringe). People are ON THEIR PHONES. But…according to our own industry reports, they are not on their phones doing eLearning courses. Only 1.39% of the 2013 ASTD State of the Industry report respondents indicate they used mobile as a distribution method. ASTD’s reports run a year behind (e.g. their 2013 report relies on 2012 data), but if we are generous and assume a 100% increase in the use of mobile we are still way under 5% of respondents indicating they are using mobile devices as a distribution strategy for delivering learning solutions (okay – ASTD don’t call use the term learning solutions, they use the term training).

What ARE they doing with them?

According to a 2013 report published by Harvard Business Review, our largest usage of the phone is for “me” time (46% or 846 minutes of our time in a month) and “social interactions” (19% of our time or 410 minutes per month). The use of our phone for “discovery” or learning new information is only 4%, which translated to 47 minutes.  Here’s what each of the buckets included:

  • “Me” time included playing a game, checking out “gossipy” websites, or watching a funny video online.
  • “Social” time meant interacting with other people. I assume this would be via Facebook or Twitter but it wasn’t specified the way “me” time was.
  • Discovery time included seeking news and information.

What should L&D practicioners make of this?

I suggest these things:

  • Stop trying to use mobile technology to mimic what you have done via other technologies. We do this ALL the time. When video came out, we shot videos of people talking to mimic the live instructor lecturing to a class. When virtual worlds came out, we held virtual events and did virtual PowerPoint presentations – something we used to do live. When eLearning first came out, we put text onto a screen, slapped an image in, and had people click NEXT to continue.
  • Start paying attention to how people actually LIKE to use their phones. Consider whether there is something of value you can do that resonates with what people like to do. Ripe opportunities include mobile games that actually help people learn something while they play or  videos that people may enjoy while learning  something. Some are trying to create. Another opportunity to consider exploiting is the creation of podcasts or audio books.
  • Consider how to nurture and enable people to use online social communities for learning. People like using their phones for social interactions. Help people become proficient with social tools – and let them explore ON THEIR OWN rather than trying to figure out how to track “informal learning.” (If you are tracking it….it is NOT informal.)

Food for thought

I brainstormed a list of things that I think make a mobile phone a powerful and/or unique tool from other things we have available. Your job is to figure out what this means for the phone’s potential as a support tool to people in the workplace:

Phones are powerful and/or unique because…

  • …of their near constant presence. If we don’t have the phone in our hand already, it’s in our pocket, purse, or beside us.
  • …they keep us continually connected to the Internet and give us access to billions of bits of information at any moment in time.
  • …we focus on them very, very frequently, but in short bursts of time (60 seconds to a few minutes).
  • …the information we find on them is “in-the-moment” information rather than information we want to retain for long periods of time.
  • …if we DO want to retain the information over time, we push it to a repository on the phone (e.g. our Contacts or apps such as Evernote that allow us to document/store information we can retrieve later.) We don’t attempt to remember – we know we can find/locate later.
  • …we bookmark things we find valuable and we search out apps that support things we care about. I have a Fitbit app on my phone as well as a Grocery List app that I use constantly.
  • ….we like apps – but we only use a very few of them routinely. Most apps purchased are used for 10 days or left and then trashed or forgotten.
  • …we use our phones to play – quite a bit. Mobile gaming is exploding and some games have a high, high addiction rate (Angry Birds was a huge phenomenon a few years ago. Candy Crush was the big winner in 2013.)
  • …we prefer to watch stuff on them than to read on them. Videos are much easier to consume on a phone than large amounts of text are. Audio books and podcasts are wonderful to listen to while exercising, walking, or doing other mundane tasks that don’t pull our brain’s attention away.
  • …we like to create content with our phones. Snapchat has skyrocketed in popularity in recent months as people take pictures of themselves, attach a line of commentary and send to a friend. The message is gone as soon as the recipient views it. Twitter has found its greatest potential in partnering with television. It’s discovered that people like to treat TV watching as a live large group event where commentary flies via Twitter as the TV show or live event unfolds.

So… while people are currently talking about “mLearning”, to me it is the trend that’s NOT happening. The trend that COULD be happening if we think strategically and creatively is ‘mSupport.’ Perhaps true mLearning can come (I do love my audio books and podcasts and I learn from them), but I don’t think it will be something the masses employ or enjoy.

eLearning Trends That Will Fizzle, Sizzle, or Simmer in 2014

2014 eLearning Trends

Our industry is notorious for chasing after trends. We all enjoy reading the summaries of the past year – and seeing predictions for the new one. Most folks want to know: which trends are worth pursuing and which ones are going to fizzle? Is gamification going to go the way of Myspace and Foursquare? Will social learning be replaced by “isolation learning” (okay, I made that up)?

At any point in time, there are trends that sizzle, others that simmer, and ones that fizzle out. The really, really good ones become “best practices” over the long haul. So let’s see what’s on the stove right now.

First, the sizzle

This is the stuff that I see TRULY taking off inside organizations. It’s not just talked about…it is happening:

Experience API (aka Tin Can API): Considering the fact that “xAPI” was just introduced in 2012, I think this trend is sizzling. There is no question that companies – particularly large ones – love to track data. If they can’t track it then people didn’t learn… or so the feeling goes. Experience API allows for tracking of all that stuff that has been so hard to track – use of social media, for example. So – just as SCORM took several years to get to a point of critical mass, I think Experience API will – but I do believe this type of tracking is going to be a force for the future.

Gamification/learning games: This trend is at full sizzle right now. We are having LOTS of conversations with folks who want either a learning game developed or would like support in creating a gamification strategy related to a large endeavor or program. I fear that over-use or inappropriate use could lead to it falling out of favor by 2016 because a lot of efforts may fail due to poor design or implementation.

The same reasons games and gamification are being used should be reasons to keep them around: they tend to structure learning experiences into challenges and provide feedback loops, two things that engage people and help foster behavior change.

Storytelling in Training: This trend/topic began peeking its head out last year, and seems off to a roaring start in 2014. Almost every recipient of the “Best” awards at the 2013 eLearning Guild DemoFest featured the use of stories within the learning solution. There is a nice body of research that points to the value of stories in helping us remember. It’s harder to remember discrete facts, for instance, than it is to remember those same facts when they are woven into a narrative. Check out John Medina’s Brain Rules book for info on this.

Agile development: This one got very hot in 2013, and I think interest in it will remain strong in 2014 and beyond. Why? Because a linear approach doesn’t work when you are designing highly interactive web-based solutions; you need to iterate. The skills people will want to acquire are skills in creating rapid prototypes on paper and digitally.

Visuals and graphics: Along with the use of storytelling, the winners at eLearning Guild’s DemoFest featured heavy use of visuals. Designers are wisely shifting away from screens filled with text to ones dominated by visuals. Check out this YouTube video that showcases the World Wildlife Fund’s new educational app for an outstanding example of how visuals can be used to help educate people on facts and “build awareness.” We’ve put together a comprehensive guide for using graphics in eLearning, available here.

Here’s what’s simmering

…With the potential to reach sizzle status:

Mobile Support in lieu of “mobile learning:” This one is just now creeping its way out. There’s no question that mobile has NOT taken off as predicted. The 2013 ASTD State of the Industry Report tells us that only 1.39% of respondents are actually distributing content via mobile even though we’re very close to reaching market saturation with SmartPhones (predictions vary from August of this year to early next year).

I think the concept of mLearning needs to fizzle as we’re not seeing people really wanting to take entire courses on their phones. BUT – we are seeing that people use their phones for tons of stuff – in short chunks – and they love to use phones to find/locate information. Hence, I think more and more corporate L&D people are going to want mobile solutions that help people with these find/locate tasks or with quick two-minute reviews of concepts.

Video: This one has been on simmer status for awhile. I think 2014 will have it burning brighter – but for very specific uses, not broad use like “Click NEXT to continue” did in eLearning.

The low price of the technology is quite a driver. The GoPro lets anyone take amazing video for about $300. Today’s SmartPhones enable high-quality video shooting AND post-production, right from the phone. Video is no longer something you have to consider too expensive to do or leave to professional videographers and editors. It lends itself to storytelling and it allows people to share. In fact, the “homemade” quality videos have become quite acceptable, courtesy of YouTube. Its limitation will be that it’s best suited for the 2 to 5-minute support function rather than a formal course-like learning solution…and lots of companies don’t have a good infrastructure for deploying videos yet without making folks log into an LMS to view them.

Spaced Learning and Repetition: The research is compelling in these two areas, and I am getting phone calls from folks who are telling me they are actively researching these topics – and trying to figure out what they need to be doing differently within their L&D functions to help people really remember what they supposedly “learn” in training courses. I think this one could go from simmer to sizzle at some point in 2014.

What Will Fizzle?

Here’s my big fizzle prediction – and I know I’m going to upset the people who passionately support the concept. I, personally, am an avid user of social media for learning, however…

Twitter-style tools for “social learning:”  I will stop short of labeling “social learning” as the fizzle because I personally am an ardent fan of it… and it’s a natural part of how people have always learned, no matter what L&D has to say about it. I love content curation tools such as Zite, Flipboard, and Feed.ly, though I believe I am in a small minority of people who DO consume content and gather information with these tools.

I sense – based on watching my various Twitter feeds –  that the Twitter fascination is ending – at least in corporate settings. Twitter feels a bit like yesterday’s news. So many tools have entered the landscape that the landscape is starting to feel overwhelming. The number of social tools out there is massive – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube, Vine, etc.

I think people will continue to use a variety of social tools for personal learning – but I’m not seeing wide adoption or interest in it inside corporations – despite heavy conversation on it within the L&D world for the past several years. In fact, I see active resistance to it – not from corporate leaders but from employees themselves. The landscape has become overwhelming; when people feel overwhelmed, they opt out.

mLearning: So I identified mSupport as a “simmer” status trend. I think mLearning is going to fizzle as employees let us know they do not want to take courses on phones. MOBILE won’t fizzle… but the idea of entire courses distributed via phones will. The landscape shows us that we use our phones in very short bursts, though the phones are constantly present. My one caveat to this would be mobile games – people will spend lots of time playing them. If we can design a full-blown course that is as immersive as a mobile game, we may be able to get some sizzle going.

Virtual Worlds: These fizzled a couple years ago, but it’s worth mentioning here only because I still hear others mentioning it… as a tool that fizzled. Second Life had so much buzz back in 2008… and, while the tool still exists, you do not hear organizations talking about how they will use virtual worlds in training anymore. The technology curve was too steep in terms of the hardware and systems requirements to use it – and the learning curve simply to function in the world was too high.

So I’ve gone out on a big limb to predict my sizzle, simmer, and fizzle trends. I would love to hear others’ views on this one. This is a topic that begs for lots of diverse opinions and discussions.

Interview With Mobile Learning Thought Leader Mayra Aixa Villar

Mobile Learning - Glacier, Not Waterfall

Mayra Aixa Villar

Mayra Aixa Villar

I had the opportunity to interview Mayra Aixa Villar, instructional designer and thought leader in the mobile learning space. Mayra has authored articles for ASTD and Learning Solutions Magazine and writes frequently on her personal blog.

If you are interested in where mobile learning is headed, or in how mobile learning is different from “regular eLearning,” read on!

How did you get started in instructional design, and what sparked your interest in mobile?

In 2009, as I was writing my M.A. thesis on Applied Linguistics, I focused my research on a field called Computer Assisted Language Learning. My research findings on how to develop effective educational applications led me to complete an internship at the United Nations Headquarters in 2010. My tasks consisted in assessing online as well as instructor-led courses and to carry out an in-depth research on training course design and training needs. It was at that moment when I fell in love with eLearning and instructional design.

A year later, a sense of curiosity and eagerness to leverage the latest technology in order to design enhanced learning solutions sparked my interest in the potential of mobile for educational purposes.

What tips would you give a learning designer new to designing for mobile devices?

In my opinion, it is crucial to observe how the target audience behaves in the context of performance. When designing for mobile, the ability to understand the environment, the habits, the problems and the needs of the learners is far more critical than in any other training initiative. All these factors heavily influence on the activities and goals that learners seek to accomplish though mobile devices and therefore, they will determine the relevance and usefulness of mobile learning solutions.

When is a learning experience really mobile learning… and when is it just eLearning on a different device?

As Scott McCormick stated in his recent presentation at mLearnCon 2013, 10 Essentials for Successful Mobile Learning Implementation, re-imagination is the first and the most important aspect to consider. When we take advantage of mobile devices built-in capabilities to enhance learning and stop talking about “clicks” to start exploring how touch can free up our interactions with content, we can make our design utterly mobile. I´d also like to add that a really mobile learning experience should integrate seamlessly into the task the learners are trying to perform and help them attain their goals without all the hurdles and constraints that traditional eLearning or instructor-led training usually pose.

What are some of the biggest reasons to transition from desktop eLearning to mobile?

Many people talk about stats that refer to the massive adoption of mobile devices, the impact of devices in our daily life and so on. While I think these facts are very important because they portray the habits and expectations we need to cater for, I truly believe that the biggest reasons to transition from desktop to mobile lay or should lay on the type of experiences we can create and how we can meaningfully respond to learners real needs in order to help them successfully accomplish a task within their performance context.

At Bottom-Line Performance, we often refer the uptake of mobile learning tools and uptake as slow and steady rather than a sudden spike. What’s your take?

I agree. I see that many companies are too attached to old systems and solutions, which is completely understandable as they have invested time and resources in their development. There are also many misconceptions around mobile. Some may think that “mobile learning is too complex and expensive to be implemented” while others prefer designing their own solutions and end up with a bunch of PPTs delivered through mobile devices. This last option is fine as long as it helps learners at the moment of need. Otherwise, why would you want learners to go over 20+ slides of irrelevant content when they just need to know the specific function of key components or equipment?

Many companies want to transition to mobile, but still require eLearning courses to work on desktop and mobile. What are some ways to make the best of this situation?

I have been working for an American company in the health sector during the last couple of months. At the beginning, they asked me to create eLearning courses without mentioning mobile delivery at all. But, I decided to optimize all the courses so they can also be consumed from the iPad even though that was not part of the client´s requirements. This has helped me not only to introduce new approaches to design and information organization but also to start conversations about the need of envisioning mobile learning solutions. Even though this is not the ideal, unique mobile experiences I described in previous answers, it is a good starting point to pave the way for a future multi-channel training strategy.

Organizations invest lots of time and money in deciding which mobile device to deploy across their workforce. What are some best practices for evaluating which device to choose?

Every mobile solution is different. Therefore, a thorough analysis of the convergence of factors and priorities can better guide all your decisions. As I said in one of my posts, the three key elements that we need to consider are the learner, the need(s) and the context. If we concentrate on which mobile device to deploy from the very beginning, we will not be designing a solution from a holistic, more effective approach. In other words, we will not be designing for a dynamic learner with specific needs in a specific context. We need to stop thinking about the device because this may lead to unnecessary constraints and also, ineffectiveness.

What role will adoption of the Experience API play in the adoption of mobile learning?

In words of Megan Bowe, now with xAPI, we can focus on different activities and track different interactions between the technology and the user. Designers are not constrained to create only courses any more. Now, xAPI allows for a comprehensive view of activities across all the systems.

Also, as a linguist, I see great potential in application of Natural Language Parsing techniques in order to extract information from the types of statements generated by this wide range of activities, which, in turn, are delivered to a LRS. This information could help me define behavioral patterns of users and possible influences from the environment and therefore, design more learner-centric experiences.

What do the popular authoring tools (Storyline, Captivate, Lectora, etc) need to do to improve their mobile learning capabilities?

Tools are just tools. It is our approach to design what needs improvement, adaptation and evolution. Some tools are better suited for some projects while fall short for others. Again, everything depends on what needs and priorities you have identified. I could argue that rapid authoring tools cannot offer the benefits of responsive design to deploy content across multiple screens, or they don´t take full advantage of HTML5 technologies.  But, what if those approaches are not the best solutions for a specific project? For this reason, I am always exploring new tools that can help me accomplish every project´s unique goals and requirements in the most efficient way.

What formats and interactions work best on mobile devices and why?

Video is one of the most ubiquitous media formats, and this makes it extremely practical to deliver relevant content at the right moment and virtually on any device. We can also add layers of interactivity that allow for quick search and exploration or we can integrate social interactions. In this way, we could leverage mobile users´ typical behaviors too. I have also seen great examples of mobile applications which make use of AR and 3D simulations. These are ideas I am particularly interested in and I am planning to research in the near future. As regards interactions, simple touch-based gestures that allow the user to quickly perform a task and attain his/her goals will definitely work best.

Are certain types of content better suited for mobile devices than others?

I think that performance-support solutions and jobs aids have become the “wild cards” when talking about mobile learning initiatives. However, I think that rather than content types, there are interactions and ways of presenting information which are better suited for mobile devices. In fact, any type of information could be delivered through mobile devices as long as it is mobile-enabled content and relevant for the end-user.

What are you to now? Any big projects?

Aside from developing eLearning courses and testing platforms and applications, I have been appointed by a local Scientific and Technological Center to be part of a research project in the field of Computational Linguistics. My first task is to design and develop an application aimed at assisting university students and researchers in the processes of grammar writing and text generation. The project involves a web-based as well as a mobile component. So, in spite of its complexity, I am highly motivated to start and also, to contribute to the advancement of mobile learning from my side of the world!

 

Blended Learning and Mobile Performance Support: Ahead of the Curve

blended-learning-mobile-support

“We can’t keep thinking of training as a one-time event.”

That sums up the philosophy behind blended learning and the majority of mobile learning being implemented today. And it couldn’t be more true. Those of us in the training industry have heard the phrase “forgetting curve” more times than we care to remember. And I’m sure by now we all get the idea. But just because the phrase is overused in blog posts like this one, doesn’t mean it’s not a real problem many people still aren’t addressing.

There are plenty of objections to mobile learning, and actual uptake is still much less than the marketing hype would have us think. Desktop eLearning is still “king,” but recent statistics show mobile learning is on the rise for real this time. Why? Mobile learning gives trainers a practical tool for combatting the forgetting curve.

Want to learn more about mobile learning design? Access our recorded webinar: The Mobile Mindset: How to Wow Your Learners.


How blended learning and mobile learning combat the forgetting curve

There are two ways to combat the forgetting curve:

1. A higher degree of initial learning

Blended learning is a great way to establish a higher degree of initial learning (a nice coincidence that the definition of blended learning includes mobile). By integrating e-learning courses with face-to-face instruction and sprinkling in some really engaging game-based learning, you can create a variety of opportunities for synthesis, practice and reinforcement. Using a variety of mediums will make your learning more “sticky,” and you’ll avoid burnout by keeping the learning solution from becoming too repetitive. Not only are you ensuring that people don’t fall through the cracks, you’re also making it easier for them to remember what they are learning.

2. Reinforcement

The forgetting curve remains in effect no matter what training techniques we use. We can’t avoid it… but we can sure reduce it. Mobile learning provides opportunities for “just in time” reinforcement and extended practice. By reinforcing the learning at well-timed intervals, you’ll give your learners, who are already challenged with multitasking and daily distractions, the best opportunity for success. Mobile learning allows you to deliver on-demand support wherever and whenever learners need it. This is how mobile learning is going to secure its place in the world of formal eLearning and “training” for years to come.

blended-learning-2

How we incorporate blended learning and mobile learning

I sat down with one of our Senior Learning Designers, Kristen Hewett, to discuss how we advise our clients on implementing blended learning, mobile technologies and performance support. Here’s what she had to say:

Could you do a brief overview of the various elements combined in a recent project?

Well, this curriculum includes various learning solutions, over several phases. The solutions span from online discovery-based modules to face-to-face training sessions, and even a mobile app with performance support tools and reinforcement activities. Much of the curriculum is story and scenario driven, with real-life examples that learners need to respond to. Because the audience is competitive, we’ve incorporated some games and game elements, too.

How do you envision these elements working together to make the learning solution more successful?

The different phases offer learners multiple opportunities to learn information and practice their skills before they have to use them in a sales situation. We know that repetition and activities that mimic real-world situations help with remembering. Essentially, practice really does make perfect.

So in this case, learners need to know the new product features. First is the online solution (which is prework for the face-to-face training) where learners explore the product and complete a scavenger-hunt style activity to find the new key features. Then, at the face-to-face session, they have to pair those features to a customer need through a table-top game. Towards the end of the face-to-face session, they even have an opportunity to demonstrate the feature to another learner for feedback.

Finally, the performance support mobile app includes a list of features and benefits the learners can go back to for a refresher.

Were there any obstacles in pitching this to the client?

Because this is a global product rollout, they wanted to consider how different elements of the curriculum would be received in various countries. To that end, we made a decision to talk about activities in terms of discovery-based learning as opposed to games. There was thought that discovery-based might be better received. We’re still waiting on feedback but so far, they seem pretty positive about the materials.

Is it difficult for a company to manage a blended learning solution?

Managing a blended learning solution is new, so it may take organizations a little more time to get used to it. For our project, we recommended that the performance support portion live somewhere else—not in the LMS. We also suggested an email campaign to drive learners back to the materials. Is that more work than a one-and-done course? Sure. But it will help learners remember the materials. We can’t keep thinking of training as a one-time event to get the results we want.

Do you think “support modules” are successful? For instance, flashcard apps— are these good uses of mobile learning?

Support modules are the best use of mobile learning. The best feature of mobile learning is that it can be just-in-time support, right there, when it’s needed. Support modules are the perfect use for mobile tech.

Less buzzwords, more action

I hope Kristen has given you some insight into how blended learning and mobile learning function in a real-world consulting scenario. We talk about blended learning and mobile learning on the web constantly, even though actual implementation numbers don’t match up. Training can be an expensive investment. And when it’s done right it can make your organization a powerhouse of innovation and success. But when you don’t go all in and provide engaging learning experiences with reinforcement, it can be a waste. And we all know that when a training solution fails it’s not just bad for that company, it’s bad for our industry as a whole.