Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Making your courses a resource, not just a one time event.

I had a question on creating an environment for informal learning or as I like to say; making your courses a resource, not just a one time event.

Of course, there will always be informal learning that is beyond the
reach of computers, so tracking outside computers would be out of the
question. We should start by limiting the discussion to informal
learning done on a computer (or other internet-access device). In order
for the learning to be tracked, we either need to make content that
reports itself, or we have to monitor the end-user's computer (and then
try to determine if a visit to a search engine constitutes learning).
With courses that can report themselves and be tracked, there is plenty
of room for "informal learning", but the developer community has been
slow to evolve to this stage. Some definitions of "Rapid eLearning"
(where Rapid also has to do with how quickly the learner acquires the
knowledge) would overlap informal learning, except that the
implementation steps have been to frightening for a lot of the developer
community. That is, if you need to buy/install/configure an LMS, and
then learn a development tool and how to deploy a plug-in-based course
(with all the security issues associated), you are no longer in the
mood to do any "informal" development.

Next, the structure of AICC/SCORM encourages a very formal style of
training. Explanation: Suppose you have taken a course and remember that
there is a good nugget of information somewhere in the middle. When you
want to go back to that nugget ("just-in-time training") you have to go
through a login screen, a message of the day screen, a list of your
courses, a list of the chapters (because the course has been broken down
into multiple units so that they could track how you did on each
chapter's test), and the finally you get to the content you wanted.
Anyway, (where was I?) by now you've forgotten why you came there in the
first place. If you do remember about the nugget, you go and find it,
but then when you leave the course, your score has been changed because
you didn't complete the test. Your "informal" session just became
"formal" and your training transcript has been altered.
- With AICC/SCORM, one could do informal training, but most LMSs I have
worked with follow the above "formal" concepts.

If we want informal training to be tracked and be used more, here would
be my suggestions:
1. Content should be accessible through a search engine (that does not
require burdensome login)
2. Content should be structured for multi-tiered/web navigation (e.g. No
linear/PowerPoint content with narration or time requirements before
going to the next page)
3. Tracking should be unobtrusive and cumulative. That is, if I take a
test 5 times, all my scores should be tracked, but my training record
should be based on my best score.
4. Any navigation tracking (e.g. pages visited) should be cumulative and
used for information only (not evaluation)
5. All content should be accessible in 3 clicks or less.

If the above concepts are followed when course content is implemented,
they can then be used for both formal and informal training.

Vendor Disclosure: I work for ReadyGo, Inc., an authoring and tracking
tool vendor. Many of our customers have discovered that their content,
when designed as above, is re-used by the learners for "just-in-time"
training. They have gotten past the concept that training (like
PowerPoint presentation) is a one-time event. When a learner needs the
information, they can get to it quickly through a search engine without
needing to log back in.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

CHALLENGE: How do you develop courses when you have a bandwidth limitation?

When bandwidth is limited or screen real estate is limited (eg. old computer, mobile phone), the best approach is to go back to basic HTML & JavaScript. These are the underlying technologies that make the web work. Most training can be done without relying on Flash, Silverlight, Video, or other plug-in based multimedia content. However, for those users who do have good connections and reasonable screen real estate, you can still offer the higher bandwidth content.
If you're looking for authoring tools to help you along, you should consider tools that output content as basic web pages. The ReadyGo Web Course Builder is one such product. The underlying files can easily be delivered with low bandwith (e.g. 9600 baud connection), but if you want to include Flash, Video, Audio, etc. these can easily be incorporated into the content at the course author's discretion.