Mobile Accesible eLearning

Author Moves us Closer to the Promise of the iPad

When the iPad was introduced three years ago many in the community wrote about its potential use in corporate training, including me. Since then, many organizations have begun to take advantage of the iPad’s portability, constant connection through WiFi or cellular networks and engaging interactivity to create custom training solutions for their workforce. Unfortunately, the tools to really tap the potential of the iPad were not readily available or accessible to most designers. Training solutions on the iPad meant creating custom apps and that meant hiring programmers to bring the module to life.

Apple recently changed all that. With the introduction of Author and iBooks 2, Apple has opened the door for instructional designers and developers to create rich, engaging, interactive training without the need to learn programming skills or hire a programmer. While Author and iBooks 2 were introduced as Apple’s answer to expensive, heavy, out-of-date-by-the-time-they-ship textbooks for K-12, it can be used for much more.

In case you missed the announcement, Author is a new Mac program for creating highly interactive books and is available for free on the Mac App Store. With a What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get interface it allows creators to just drag and drop elements of a book onto the creation screen. Take a Word file of text, add images, movies, Keynote presentations, even interactive 3D animations and Author will automatically create a layout ready for the iPad. It has built in testing features, and makes full use of the iPad’s gestures for zooming, tapping to expand or launch a movie, etc.

It’s easy to imagine a number of elearning modules being adapted for deployment as an iBook 2, which means greater portability, easy reference at the point of need and personalization. In the new iBook format you can easy highlight information and then review it. Imagine a Human Resource Representative, who highlighted key passages of new policies or governmental regulations, being able to quickly and easily reference those noted areas weeks or even months later when a relevant need arises.

I also imagine that sales organizations will be developing product training that can also be used for doing demonstrations for customers.  As new product information is reviewed, the salesperson can highlight those sections most applicable to their particular customers’ needs. Then when on a sales call, just pull up the noted section and tap on the accompanying video to demo it for the customer.

When it was introduced, the iPad was a revolutionary product that eliminated much of the complexity and learning curve involved with using a computer. I believe in time we will see Author and iBooks 2 as the next stage in that revolution that brings the creation of compelling, interactive content to a wide population. And this is just version 1.0. Apple’s history suggests that they have many other capabilities and features in mind that we will see over the next couple of years.

Over 20 years ago desktop publishing software provided affordable tools that allowed almost anyone to create a brochure or newsletter, but that did not do away with the importance of good design skills. Now Apple has introduced tools to allow almost anyone to create an interactive training in the form of an iBook 2, but that won’t do away with the need for good training design skills. Though the tools just became more accessible, effective and engaging training will still rely on great design. Let the award-winning designers at Blueline Simulations help you explore how you might deploy interactive iBooks to meet your organization’s objectives.

Our Customers are Telling us They Want Blueline Innovation… but at a Lower Cost and with High Value.

We’ve been listening! Our customers are telling us they want Blueline innovation… but at a lower cost and with high value. We’ve borrowed a little bit of seasonal North Pole magic to make your wishes come true.

Today, we’re introducing lower cost-alternatives to Blueline custom training solutions. But we’ve got a few other surprises under the tree, including innovative methods for saving on travel costs, implementing mobile learning, and sharing training and communications resources.

Introducing a new suite of high-value, low-cost solutions from Blueline Simulations:

eBooks: The contemporary online elearning solution that can also be delivered via iOS, Android and Blackberry mobile devices.

Imagine your favorite interactive “magazine” format (e.g. CNN.com or the Wall Street Journal Online). As a learning and communication tool, these eBooks are incredibly effective… and are far more accepted by the new generation of learners than old school rapid development platforms like Captivate, Lectora and Articulate.

And the new technologies introduced in 2011 enable our team of developers to design eBooks that will run on all Apple iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad), as well as Android devices and Blackberry’s new Playbook tablet.

In other words, it’s a single solution for a broadly distributed audience operating on multiple operating systems. The applications are endless, and we’d love to show you some of the innovative ways we’ve put eBooks to work for our clients.

Journey Maps: The simpler, faster, lower cost alternative to a Blueline Blueprint –when only a picture will do.

A Journey Map is a smaller, 11 x 17 rendering that visually depicts complex messages. By design, these highly flexible images can carry change messages quickly and efficiently through your organization over a variety of media. The icon-driven approach, simple timeline presentations, and short marketing-style copy have been proven to be the perfect combination when rendering complex systems with simplicity and emotional engagement.

The value of the Journey Map just keeps going: The primary design elements of the document can be isolated and delivered as individual graphics for use in other applications. For example, individual icons may be placed within explanatory documents in Word format, or used in online documents. Our clients have used the Journey Map elements to add context to their company intranet, employee handbooks, strategy presentations, internal communications branding, and more.

Virtual Instructor Led Training (VILT): Transform your classroom training into high-impact, virtual-instructor-led training online and save tens of thousands of dollars in travel costs.

At Blueline Simulations, VILT is much more than a “web meeting.” Today we are creating engaging, interactive learning events… while still saving time and money. We are exploring this new medium with:

•         Immersive story lines and passports

•         Collaborative team-based activities and assignments

•         Socratic discussions, remote synchronous role-plays and networking

•         Rich interactive debriefs

•         …and more.

Yes, it can be done. And when it all comes together, it is a thing of beauty.

Want to learn more about how cost effective it is to make learning a competitive advantage for your business? Call the talent management experts at Blueline Simulations today!

Mobile Learning: Living Up to the Hype

2011 was supposed to be The Year of Mobile Learning, but it hasn’t lived up to the hype.  That is, until now!

While mobile devices like iPhones, Android Phones, and iPads have been around for a couple of years, the tools used to develop mobile learning solutions for those devices have made it all but impossible to serve a broadly distributed audience operating on multiple operating systems and platforms.

However, a couple of announcements made within the last month have literally transformed this space overnight.  Just last month Adobe released new versions of Flash Builder and Flex that allow Flash developers to create and release applications that will run on all Apple iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad), as well as Android devices and Blackberry’s new Playbook tablet.

In response, Blueline has introduced our clients to the concept of eBooks.  eBooks take a fresh new approach to Level 1 and 2 custom elearning through the use of an interactive online magazine format like CNN.com or the Wall Street Journal Online.  eBooks are incredibly effective for communication and knowledge transfer, and are far more accepted by the new generation of learners than old school rapid development platforms like Captivate, Lectora and Articulate. They are a great replacement for pre-work or pre-reading, or any application that requires just-in-time knowledge transfer and communication sharing.

eBooks are built in Flash and have always been accessible through any web browser. And now, because of the new tools announced by Adobe, they are easily ported to any and all of your favorite mobile devices.

eBooks bring your content to life! Unlike print media, eBooks are easily navigated, have robust search capabilities, link to any LMS, engage through a broad range of interactivities, and can incorporate video and audio. And because the Flash designs pull from separate XML files, the content is easily updatable and makes translation and localization a breeze.

Want to learn more about how easy it is to make mobile learning a competitive advantage for your business?  Call the mobile learning experts at Blueline Simulations today!

What can we learn from the world’s best business schools?

What’s the one thing that everyone with an MBA shares? — One or more experiences with team-based simulations. They are perfect for the B-School environment:

  1. They facilitate team-building,
  2. They provide a quick and effective means to assess the strengths and weaknesses of other students,
  3. They are fun and engaging,
  4. They are an outlet for extremely competitive students, and
  5. They teach practical application of a broad range of skills: business strategy and finance, project management, brand management, leadership, market strategy, sales strategy and trust.

Until recently, these simulations ranged from “simply elegant board games” to sophisticated LAN-based computer simulations with unique information presented via “dash board” for each learner to analyze, make and communicate decisions.

Remote team-based activities and simulation

This summer, the Wharton School of Business presented a case about the effectiveness of team-based activities run remotely — either synchronously or asynchronously — at ASTD’s National Conference. Wharton’s experience (with their Executive MBA Program) was that, in addition to significantly reducing travel time and cost, learners retained more and were more productive when they had more time between sessions to digest and apply information. Their typical design approach incorporated a series of individual and group exercises. It included podcasts, webinars, white papers, remote office hours, and a remote group activity followed by a capstone live classroom experience.

While there have been notable exceptions in our past (e.g. broadly successful roll-outs of Simulearn’s Virtual Leader) historically, for most organizations, distance learning has meant delivering PowerPoints via webinar.

However, that’s no longer the case. Blueline recently launched: Enspire’s Business Challenge. Business Challenge is a web-based, single or multiplayer simulation in which participants take the helm of a virtual business and compete for market leadership. The simulation is set up and debriefed remotely via Webinar. At the client’s option, it can also be supplemented with a series of case-based elearning modules called Fluent in Finance. It presents a unique combination of elearning, simulation and virtual classroom in its design.

Today, we live at the intersection of technological innovation and learning. We feel that the ROI on remote team-based activities and simulation is so compelling, that we regularly include elements of it in the work that we are proposing and designing for clients this fall.

An Evolution in Learning: Welcome to the Age of Integration Part 1

Our story begins with a classroom and an overhead transparency projector.

In its nascent years, corporate training was filled with the promise of alignment and change as employees were removed from the shop floor, herded into the conference room, and encouraged to scribble notes while a subject matter expert delivered information that had been deemed strategically important. Learning was largely transactional — a one-way transfer of information with learners situated permanently on the receiving end. (As for PowerPoint gosh, don’t get me started. Let’s just say the technology has only ensured that the transactional model stayed in place long past its expiration date.)

Then came the age of the knowledge worker, and organizational learning took on a different flavor. Awakened from their classroom-induced hypnosis, practitioners recalled how they learned to ride their bikes at the age of 8 (no PowerPoints!) and wondered why the same idea couldn’t be brought to the front lines of work. Many firms (including your friends here at Blueline Simulations) were intrigued by the possibility of the “discovery rich learning environment.” Using learning technologies such as immersive simulation, learning visuals, Socratic dialogue, and narrative, learners drew from their own experience and knowledge to generate awareness, insight and behavior change. This rich age of constructivist learning persists today, and firms such as Blueline Simulations continue to explore whole-brained technologies (such as our popular Learning Blueprints) to create engagement, connection, and meaning. The constructivist age of corporate learning is still young, and we’ve just barely scratched the surface.

Then, with a mouse click heard round the world, web-enabled technologies emerged and learning changed yet again. Why are we spending all of this money to fly everyone here to HQ? Just look how much it is costing us to take our people off of the shop floor!

Sure, the early promise of e-learning was accompanied by a certain amount of disillusionment. (Click: Answer the question. Click: Advance to the next screen. Repeat.) But just as classroom designs evolved from transactional to constructivist, so did elearning.

And as the learning industry generated more and more great ideas for exercising the technology well, some new awarenesses began to spread within the organization: that perhaps it was time to end the artificial separation between doing the work and learning how to do the work; and that learning can and should be delivered at the exact moment of need.

The constructivist era has evolved into the age of integrated learning. This has spawned a broad range of performance support innovations.

In my next post I’ll look at some new ideas for delivering integrated learning — mission-critical training at the point of greatest learning impact: at the moment of need.