Mobile Accessible eLearning

Take Your Instructor-Led Training. Take Your Virtual Learning. Now Put Them Both Together, And…

We feel your pain, because we’ve been there, too.

We love our face-to-face classroom training, but in the age of tight budgets and geographically dispersed workforces, it’s fast becoming a thing of the past.  It was fun while it lasted.

I know it’s easy to dis on e-learning and e-simulation. And while there is still a plague of shallow point-and-click programs out there, a lot of folks are savvy enough to build in richer methods of engagement. But I frequently bump up against the limitations of online interaction. Don’t you? There is almost always content that requires the benefit of interaction with other learners and a live facilitator.

If only there was a way to create a hybrid that delivers the best of classroom and e-learning.

Enter virtual instructor-led training, or VILT.

Okay, don’t tune me out yet. Plenty of us have had lame experiences with new technologies like Acrobat Connect, Live Meeting, GoToMeeting, and others, which have simply become another medium for slogging through PowerPoint with a little bit of Q&A thrown in. (And if we are being honest, no one wants to look stupid by asking a question that they fear might have been answered while they were instant messaging a friend, or catching up on the latest web news.)

VILT took a good concept – less time and money – to its logical conclusion. Along the way, it lost sight of how people really learn.

But all is not lost.

We have discovered that VILT can be engaging, interactive and built on solid adult learning principles, while still saving time and money. Blueline designers and developers are pushing the envelope of this new medium with a broad range of proven immersive teaching methods including story lines and passports, online team assignments and collaboration, and rich interactive debriefs.

Imagine highly engaging team-based activities including Socratic discussions, remote synchronous role-plays, networking, and competitive team challenges.  And individual exercises that create “whole brain” learning through visual templates, use of competition and interactive quizzes.

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

Do you have existing instructor-led content that needs to be transformed into high-impact, engaging, VILT?  We’d love to tell you about some of the methods that we have implemented in organizations all around the world. Call the training 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 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!

Is Working Memory Capacity the Real Reason Why Sales Training Fails?

Salespeople know they should listen more than they talk and if you ask them, they can rapidly list the steps in your selling process. Yet when they are in front of a client they almost always talk too much and fail to execute properly on the steps in your selling process. Recent neuroscience research on working memory capacity explains why this happens. It also suggests the solution to the problem.

Working memory is the number of items that you can hold and manipulate in your brain for a purpose. For example, the number of steps in a sales process and the number of pieces of information about a client that you can hold in your head and manipulate to determine what you should say or do next.  Healthy adults can normally hold between three to five items in working memory. This means that if your working memory capacity is five, you can hold and manipulate five items at a time: Add a sixth item and the brain is forced to dump one of the items to make room for the sixth.

To experience the impact of your own working memory limitations try to solve the following two problems. Read each problem only one time and then look away as you try to solve them in your head.

  1. Multiply ten times one thousand, then double the number and add ten.

Were you able to solve the problem? Are you feeling confident? Now try the second problem. Remember, you must solve the problem in your head with no pencil or calculator. To get the full experience don’t give up easily. Instead try hard to solve this problem in your head.

  1. Please read the following problem only once and then look away as you try to solve it in your head. Multiply 267 times 431.

Welcome back! How far did you get before you forgot one of the two numbers in the problem? Don’t feel bad… almost no one can do this problem in their head. The question is why? After all, if most people have a pencil and paper they know the multiplication rules well enough to easily solve this problem.

The reason the average person can’t solve this problem in their head is that they lack the number of working memory slots required to remember the problem, the steps required to solve the problem, and the results of each step.

The fact that you couldn’t answer the second question is interesting. However, the epiphany comes when you ask yourself how you were able to answer the first question. After all, if you use the rules of multiplication the first problem actually involves more steps.

The reason you were able to answer the first question is that in school most of us mastered the use of 10’s. Mastery means that your brain wrote a separate program for solving problems involving 10’s in the same way it wrote a program for riding a bike. Since mastery-based programming runs automatically without using working memory capacity, you had slots available to remember the components of the problem and still solve the problem. When you read multiply 10 times 1000 your brain subconsciously ran the 10’s program and placed 10,000 in one of your working memory slots.

Now let’s examine the brain of a salesperson that just completed a sales training event. The next week they are out in the field trying to recall and use a specific strategy for overcoming objections. In this case it is an objection that a customer just raised in the form of a question.

To properly respond to the objection, the sales person must keep the following items in working memory:

  1. Hold the question the customer asked. (One slot if it is a simple question, two or more slots if it is a multipart question.)

Minimum: 1 slot

  1. Recall and hold the strategy for effectively answering client objections. (One slot for the current step in the process and one slot for remembering where you are in the process.)

Minimum: 2 slots

  1. Recall the facts about your products or services and determine which ones to use in your answer. (This requires a minimum of two slots in order to compare one item to the next.)

Minimum: 2 slots

Danger – at this point most sales people are already out of working memory capacity. The next thing they bring into working memory leaves the brain with no choice but to dump something to make room for the new item. Often this is a critical part of the client’s question.

As bad as this seems, it is actually worse. This is because the salesperson is probably stressed out by the objection. The emotion of stress or anxiety takes up at least one working memory slot if the stress is mild, and almost all of working memory if it is extreme.

Before we leave this exercise, let’s count the rest of the slots a sales person would need in order to effectively execute the “overcoming objections” strategy.

  1. Recall the customer’s primary goals and objectives for needing your products and services in the first place and formulate your response in a way that uses this information.

Minimum: 2 slots

  1. Some systems stress the importance of remembering the personality style of the client and using this information to determine how detailed or brief your answer should be.

Minimum: 1 slot

  1. Use the right emotions. For example, some systems teach a specific method for the level of emotion and energy you should have in your response based on the emotions and energy of the prospect’s question. Of course this must have been remembered.

Minimum: 1 slot

If we count up just the minimum numbers and don’t account for any spaces taken up by emotions, we come in at nine slots. This is far more than the average person’s brain possesses. Yet, everyday millions of sales people effectively execute on this and similar strategies for overcoming objections. The reason they can exceed their working memory limitation is the same reason you can do mental math involving 10’s. The salesperson practiced the strategy on enough different days to stimulate their brain to grow the connections required to reach mastery.

Of course, if the sales person hasn’t mastered the strategy disaster often strikes.  Instead of listening to the customer and effectively executing on the objection handling strategy the sales person interrupts the customer mid-sentence to blurt out information.  The sales person does this out of fear that they will soon forget the important point – which they will as soon as the next thought enters working memory and bumps out the important point.

The most important conclusion regarding working memory is that nothing should be taught in your sales training courses unless it is important enough to teach to the point of mastery. Lots of extra nice-to-know information might make your sales training seminar seem more interesting, but in the long run you are doing your sales people a disservice because during the pressure of the selling situation these extra, un-mastered pieces of information or strategy tips will take up too much working memory capacity.

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.