Mobile Accesible eLearning

Going Mobile: Learning’s New Holy Grail?

In a short time, our world has changed. We now have the ability to create interactive elearning content and publish it on mobile devices, including iPhones, using HTML5.  Within a few months I am absolutely confident that Blueline’s designers will be able to distribute our award-winning computer based elearning and esimulations via every mobile device imaginable.

But just because we can, does that mean we should? (That’s a great question that one of the characters posed in the movie Jurassic Park. You may remember what happened to them.)

Before I go any further, let’s define our terms. Learning delivered on your phone qualifies as mobile learning. Learning on your desktop computer is not mobile learning.

What about learning on your laptop or iPad? In terms of defining “mobile,” those are gray areas. Sure, I can take them all with me all the time, but I don’t.  I take my laptop on business trips.  I use my iPad when I am around the house. But not always.

However, I never – literally NEVER – am more than a few feet away from my iPhone. Any content that comes to me on my iPhone is, in the purest sense, mobile.

Mobile Data… or Mobile Learning

And here’s where I make my point: It’s easy to get caught up in the belief that all learning should now be developed for mobile.  That everything we create from now on should be developed in HTML5 or one of the myriad of publishing tools that promises to deliver everything that we create to our iPhones, iPads, BlackBerrys and Android devices.

But it’s just not true.  There, I said it.

But sift through the hype, and you’ll discover some important opportunities. Mobile Learning IS transformational.  It has already reshaped what and how we learn.  Gone are the days of memorizing vast amounts of information for instant recall.  I now have instant access to vast libraries of information, far more than I could have ever hoped to memorize in my lifetime.  The skills needed to effectively consume and apply that information are the real Holy Grail.

Mobile Learning makes it possible for us to access just about any knowledge we desire wherever we are, just when we need it.   In this way, it represents a tremendous breakthrough for reference and performance support. Which is where “true” mobile learning shines.

So what does that mean for designers and developers of training?  Your job just got harder on multiple levels. First, you have to tell the business leaders banging on your door that mobile learning doesn’t effectively eliminate ALL time away from the job dedicated to learning and development.  And second, you need to think through a multi-dimensional blended learning strategy that balances classroom, virtual classroom, online and mobile strategies to maximize impact on the business.

Well actually, that last part is really good news.  Because never before did you have so many awesome tools at your disposal to deliver value to your business partners.

And, if you have questions or want to brainstorm potential strategies for putting these exciting new platforms to work in your organization, Blueline is here to help!

Data You Can Touch

How Blueline is using new “digital textbook” technology to engage learners and increase retention.

Whenever we build custom learning solutions for our client partners, most of them request some kind of pre-work or pre-read document. This usually leads to a conversation during the design process that goes like this:

“We need to create an exercise that establishes the foundational ideas and definitions.”

“But we already put that information in the prework document!”

“Yes, but we have to assume that some percentage of people won’t read the prework, so we need to get them caught up.”

Then why even give them prework?!” Hand wringing commences.

Okay, so maybe this kind of behind-the-scenes confessions of a harried learning designer isn’t so relevant to you and your world.

But what is relevant, I bet, is the need to create and deliver your key messages in a way that your people will consume, engage… and even integrate into their paradigms and behaviors.

At Blueline Simulations, we are constantly experimenting with new approaches, new technologies, and new ways of creating enrollment within organizations like yours. Sometimes we come across a new media that gets us excited. That happened just recently, and I wanted to tell you about it because I think there are some opportunities here for you.

This Is Not Your Father’s Data Dump

A big part of organizational learning is assimilating data. You know: those reams of charts and data that you need to somehow transfer to your audience’s brains. As much as we love experience at Blueline Simulations, sometimes there is a need for a “tell” approach. (Often we use the term – somewhat derisively – of “data dump.” This is where the dreaded pre-work document often makes an appearance.)

In a recent program, we dramatically increased engagement and retention of this data dump by using new technology provided by Apple’s iPad.

As you may have heard, Apple has made a significant entry into the world of textbooks. With their iBooks platform, Apple intends to revolutionize how students consume information. Apple has also released the free iBooks Author content creation tool to allow designers like us at Blueline to repurpose and design content in a highly engaging, multi-media, iPad-ready platform.

For our recent program, we created a pre-work document that rivaled the actual learning program in terms of generating participant enrollment. We delivered the client’s key content in an iBook format that included:

  • Embedded videos – from YouTube, and also TED Talks – that deliver a more penetrating look at related content.
  • Embedded graphics and charts that could be scrutinized with the iPad’s now-familiar “pinch and zoom” gesture.
  • Links that take learners to related websites, the company’s intranet, or other content located elsewhere in the document.
  • Short quizzes that allow learners to demonstrate that they have indeed internalized the material.

The game-changer here was the kinesthetic nature of the document, thanks to the iPad interface. The ability to touch, swipe, click, watch, and listen to content proved to be highly immersive. Learners, and the client, were unanimous: More of this, please.

Whenever we have an opportunity to add to our toolbox of approaches, we get excited. But the bigger opportunity here is for you. What is the key content that you need to transfer to your team in a change context? Rather than distribute another 60-page PDF document over email, what if you could deliver it in a novel medium that allows your audience to touch, move, and manipulate the content – thereby practically guaranteeing that they engage?

We’d love to show you a demo.

And if that’s not what you’re looking for, that’s okay. We have a few other tricks in our toolbox as well.

Give us a call. And let’s make some change happen in your organization.

Mobile is a Different Medium

A number of tech writers have said that with its introduction of the iPhone, Apple didn’t create a smartphone but a pocket computer that can operate as a phone. Given everything that people do with their smartphones now I think they are right. The function I use the least on my iPhone is making phone calls.

So, if today’s smartphones are really computers, and are nearly as powerful as laptops of just a few years ago, it should be easy to just move your Computer Based Training over to them, right? Not really. Learning on a smartphone is very different from learning on a computer. Mobile learning is really a new medium. One that has advantages and limitations, just like any other medium.

The main advantage is pretty obvious; people have their phones with them almost all of the time. So they can access training at any time and nearly anywhere making it ever more convenient to access elearning when and where it is most needed.

The limitation that people mention first when discussing elearning development for a smartphone is the phone’s small screen. While I agree that your mobile learning design needs to take the smaller screen into consideration, I don’t think that is the most significant limit of smartphones. The real limitation in moving your existing elearning course to a mobile platform is how people use and interact with their phone. To be effective, your mobile learning program needs to build on the natural habits that people have developed for using their mobile device.

A number of studies show that people spend quite a bit of time throughout the day interacting with their smartphones. Most of that interaction though, is in short bursts, rather than over sustained periods. They read and respond to a text message, check their email, look up some information on Google, or post to a social service. All of these are tasks that they spend only a few minutes on at a time. For mobile learning designers that means we need to think in terms of much smaller modules.

Smartphones may be powerful, but they are not good platforms for completing a typical 45-minute elearning course. They work better for delivering small, focused amounts of training that the learner can easily access in short bursts, and preferably just when they are most interested in the material. Think about a sales representative practicing critical elements of a customer dialogue in a simulation on their phone the night before a meeting with a critical customer. Then reviewing the simulation again the next morning in the parking lot just prior to going in to meet with the customer. From a learning and retention standpoint this is a good thing. Smaller amounts of material that are accessed and reviewed over time increases retention.

What is an appropriate amount of material? How long is the ideal mobile learning module? We can gain some insights by looking at popular media that is accessed on smartphones – YouTube videos and blog posts. The top 25 YouTube videos run on average less than four minutes. The readers of one social media blog report “getting antsy” if a video runs more than five minutes, even if it is “an entertaining” video. Statistics from other popular blogs indicate that people will only spend 3-4 minutes reading a blog post before clicking away, even if they haven’t completely finished it. If we use these findings as a guide, our mobile learning modules should be less than five minutes long.

So, how do you deliver extensive training or complex information in five-minute chunks? I’d suggest that the real power of mobile learning in most cases is as part of a blended learning solution. Computer based training or classroom sessions should be used for delivering the overall framework, and then mobile is used to reinforce or provide practice for specific bite-size elements. For example, a good onboarding program delivered virtually or in a class will provide new employees with a strong grounding in an organization’s culture, structure, and key processes. Then a mobile solution can provide new employees with rapid access to information on a particular policy they need to reference or provide practice in handling challenging tasks or interactions. By using a well-designed blended solution you can take advantage of the strengths of each medium rather than being overly constrained by their limitations.

Smartphones do offer exciting possibilities for effective training delivery – even engaging simulations, but they are just another medium in the designer’s palette. Like any other medium, it should be matched to the need, the audience and the content to be used most effectively.

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!