A Lesson for all eLearning Practitioners
My blog team recently completed a Coursera MOOC (Massive open online course) on the concept and practice of Gamification. If you haven’t yet been introduced to MOOCs, they are college level on-line courses offered for free from major universities. Coursera, specifically, offers numerous courses in a wide range of topics that are mostly free to the end user/student. To give you some history on Coursera, it was founded by Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, both computer science professors from Stanford. Coursera works with universities to help promote the university’s top professors and introduce students to content that they may otherwise not have had access to. Coursera has been funded by over 20 million in venture capital which has enabled the creation of very high quality online learning experiences for millions globally. Overall, Coursera provides a high-quality higher education distance learning experience. The features of the Learning Management System (LMS) help create a user-friendly experience. The course design is an outstanding example of best practice. This combination of well designed courses within an elegant website system should do much to promote advancement in distance education using the Internet.
Usually, online courses are delivered through a Learning Management System. Coursera successfully created a user-friendly system that is clean and doesn’t bog the learner down. They track course progress with easy-to-view progress bars and use a simple, clean design that is far superior to the typical LMS that often has user interfaces (too many buttons and/or features) that get in the way. The site views as a stripped-down version of a typical higher education LMS and only allows the students the ability to see their courses, the course catalog, and their course records which holds the statement of accomplishments; Coursera doesn’t overwhelm the user with unneeded functionalities. The Coursera site in general gets five stars from our team here at Web Courseworks.
Colleges and universities do not typically use such well-filmed/designed video as lecture. Instead most colleges videotape an actual lecture. Coursera sets a high bar for recording the “lecture” portion of the class. The lectures include an embedded, well-produced, close-up video of the professor (who is already “a star” in the field content) talking directly to the learner. This method does well to capture the professor’s personality, and it furthers to generate the feeling of an improved face-to-face classroom experience. These lectures are shot well, which is usually expensive to do. Because of this, these courses are generally superior to most online classes for the production value alone.
The courses are well defined instructionally. Parallels exist between classroom learning and the way that Coursera’s online courses are designed. Check marks show for completion, material is exposed to the learner as weeks progress, and the syllabus is at the top of the menu for easy access to course expectations. Furthermore the lectures are rich with examples and are graphically enjoyable. The professor uses a pen to draw on the slides in order to emphasize certain points and theories. This helps to create a real feeling of “being there.” Arrows and highlights on screen draw attention to areas that the learner should focus on. Content is sufficiently organized in scaffold fashion to move the learner from basic introductory material to more advanced material, in due time. If you want to learn more about how the content is produced, check out this video.
Coursera has done a good job at including learner activities to promote content retention and retrieval. Questions are embedded into the lecture so that the user has to stop and think about what content/information has been relayed. The course utilizes discussion boards in which classmates can discuss particular aspects of the class. Usually courses include quizzes, tests, and/or written assignments with peer evaluations. The lecture/learning activity combo is well through out. Ample opportunities are provided for the learner to apply the knowledge learned in the course.
Methods of Motivation
Part of Coursera’s success comes from the motivation behind self-directed learning. In recent years, studies argue that self-directed learning gives students better ability to learn because they can control the flow of their experience. A second method of user motivation is a passion behind furthering one’s knowledge, and furthermore, learners get substantial resume builders, as well as an elevated status once certification is attained. The courses take genuine hard work so employers and traditional schools will recognize the value.
Why is Coursera as successful as it is today after other attempts failed over the last decade? Well, larger technical improvements like high bandwidth have allowed for easy access to the internet on most everyone’s home PCs, work PCs, or mobile devices. Most importantly, the classes are instructionally designed and executed with high production values and delivered within a user friendly web site. This venture in distance education is a lesson for all of us who create eLearning! It is indeed “best practice.” With the rise in universities that are signing on, the inclusion of some courses that give actual credit, and with the already current 3.2 million users that have joined Coursera, there isn’t anywhere to go from here other than up. Bravo to Coursera!. Thank you for improving the quality level, building a new business model, and for ultimately kicking all distance education programs forward.
Managing eLearning is written by the Blog team at Web Courseworks which includes Jon Aleckson and Jillian Bichanich. Ideas and concepts are originated and final copy reviewed by Jon Aleckson.
My Interview on the May 17th Excelsior College Games Symposium
As a follow up to last week’s post on Excelsior College’s coming up webinar on games in education, I was happy to speak with Mike Lesczinski on my thoughts about this year’s symposium topics. Prepared for answers, Mike asked me to share my favorite aspects of last year’s session, where I fall on the topic of gamification, how I believe colleges/universities should be using games in education, as well as much more. If you would like to hear the full interview, I encourage you to visit Excelsior’s page, otherwise, I have went ahead and given you the highlights of my thoughts here.
First of all, I would like to say how much I appreciate what Excelsior College is doing to bring awareness to games in education. It is pretty incredible when a smaller college is able to create an event that is not only expected to bring a lot of interest from a certain professional realm, but furthermore, that can bridge the gap between different types of thinkers with different passions. Though I feel that I fall in the middle of the spectrum of the educational and business minded professionals that have interest in games and simulations, it is interesting to think of the specifics that drive these professionals to encourage game use in their separate communities. In both aspects, it is important to think about HOW we can take aspects from let’s say, video games, and apply them to real world needs and problems, instead of simply, WHY it can be effective. Furthermore, with the expense that is tied to video game creation, how can we effectively build engines/tools that will allow us to build more serious, immersive games, on a budget. The question that needs to be answered is: “How do we incorporate what video games do well…in a cost effective manner?”
So what’s the solution? Someone needs to apply for a grant, and then use that grant to look at what tools exist to build games. I believe that the most important aspect of a game is the systems thinking, the branching, the tools…where do these come from? The subject matter experts. We, as game designers, need to separate the programming and coding from the content development which is just as important, if not more important. Figure out how to write a really amazing branched scenario that students can experience either in class or online. Use this scenario to connect to real life situations, so that students can produce a solution/answer to the problem while playing. The more your content reflects realistic problems, the more the solutions and/or consequences will speak to and engage your learners.
These ideas are reflected in a recent ethics simulation that our company, Web Courseworks, Ltd., had created for the National Court Reporters Assocation. NCRA came to us with the question of how they could attract more members, and then they needed to focus on what the game was going to be about.
Currently, the biggest issues facing court reporters are the ethical behavior and decision making that takes place in the field. Again, though, the first problem was how to attract people to their association. The reality behind games right now is that there is a lot of buzz around them. They draw attention and therefore, they become something good to embrace.
So, to close, I’m incredibly excited for this symposium. Excelsior College is not only bringing together academics, but also people from the private sector. The panel should be informative and engaging, and I’m grateful that I get to be a part of it.
Managing eLearning is written by the Blog team at Web Courseworks which includes Jon Aleckson and Jillian Bichanich. Ideas and concepts are originated and final copy reviewed by Jon Aleckson.
May 17th On-line Panel to Discuss the Role of Games in Education
This coming May, Excelsior College will be hosting a webinar on games in education. I am extremely honored to have been chosen to be part of the panel that will get to discuss this topic and will hopefully be part of a team who can help determine and share what we can learn from using games in education.
While attempting to get a larger idea of who will be at this webinar, as well as the specifics of what will be discussed, I was very thankful to be able to speak with David Seelow, Director of Writing Programs & the Online Writing Lab School of Liberal Arts Excelsior College. David gave great insight on numerous aspects of not only the symposium, but eLearning, games, and higher education as well. The highlights of his interview include:
- Discussion on the importance of exploring alternative learning methods that leave the traditional lecture mode of delivering material
- Theories behind using games as motivators, methods of recognition, ways to engage social involvement and cooperative learning
- Information on the topics and bios of myself, Ben Devane, Dr. Joey Lee, Professor Lee Sheldon, Dr. Tobi Saulnier, and finally, Clark Aldrich, the panel speakers
- Seelow’s opinion on who will be attending the symposium
- The symposium framework/agenda for May 17th
Interviews of the panel members that were conducted by Excelsior College will appear online in the college’s blog forum. Mine should appear sometime this week!
For full interview read on.
1. What are the highlights of this symposium and what can be learned from attending?
The purpose of the symposium, “Games and the Curriculum: Towards a New Educational Model” is to explore alternatives to the traditional lecture mode of delivering curriculum and also propose new ways of designing curriculum that engage 21st century students. Public schools remain in a state of crisis wrapped up in the vestiges of the No Child Left Behind legislation and test taking mania engendered by those policies. Test taking thwarts teacher creativity and stifles student development. Higher education inherits the problems of secondary education and must find ways to engage and retrain students over the course of a student’s academic career. Furthermore, distance education has arrived and more and more traditional institutions are going online witnessed by the emergence of MOOCs. Online education demands more engaging curriculum sprung free for the lecture center’s professorial wisdom and what Paolo Friere called the banking model of education, i.e. the teacher deposits knowledge in a passive learner. Today’s learner must be a producer of knowledge and a critical thinker.
Games contribute to student development in learning in a number of new ways. Let’s begin with motivation. In Glued to Games, Rigby and Ryan evidence the motivating, near addictive power of games to attract and retain student attention. Students spend hours at a time engaged with video games. Wouldn’t we all like to see that motivation applied to course work and social problems? A second major principle of game based learning is the room for exploration. Games allow learners to fail in a safe environment and then learn from their attempts without the fatal consequences of failing a test. Related to this exploration, is the scaffolding built into most games. Early levels of a game tutor the learner in how to play the game. As the student moves up various levels of the game, the learner meets and exceeds progressively harder challenges giving the student progressively more achievements and recognition. This builds learner self esteem and reinforces motivation. In a sense, this game based design operates that educational psychologist Lev Vygotsky’s “zone of proximal development” whereby students are pushed to their outer limits or stretched to learn to their fullest capacity. This principle contradicts the dumbing down of curriculum we so often see today. Learners like the challenge and the accomplishment of meeting a series of challenges.
Likewise recognition, when I watch a golf tournament I am preoccupied by the Leader Board posted around the golf course. Who doesn’t want to be recognized? It makes us feel good. What about fun? Games are a blast. How many students consider their classes to be an exhilarating experience? Many games developers like Ralph Koster have argued for the centrality of fun to the game experience, and I would like to see a curriculum infused with fun. We first learn about the world through play, why should we stop having fun when trapped in a row of seats in the classroom or stuck to our couch in an online class? The need to spring out of our seats leads to another fundamental principle of game based learning- projects and problem solving. Quest to Learn (http://q2l.org/), partial brain child of gaming expert Katie Salen now at Depaul University in Chicago, is a school in New York City based entirely upon game development and project based learning that has transformed education. Games, including puzzle based games, require problem solving and few skills better prepare students for the workplace then problem solving skills and strategic thinking.
Finally, I would mention social involvement and cooperative learning. On one hand games thrive on healthy competition, and, on the other hand, they often involve large social networks and group knowledge bases. As a professor, I often see students struggle to produce a few written pages, but you look at the public forums supporting World of Warcraft (e.g. WOWWiki, http://www.wowwiki.com/Portal:Main) and you’d be amazed about how much knowledge learners produce for each other. Ideally, this knowledge is shared in an open, global environment and Excelsior College (www.excelsior.edu) like other institutions, is committed to Open Educational Resources and the democratization or open access to learners worldwide.
These are just a few of the things participants will learn about and discuss during the webcast. Of course, the best thing about symposiums is the potential for new knowledge to emerge from the interaction of such superb panelists.
2. Can you give further insight to as why you are excited about the speakers/panelists?
Yes, Excelsior College is thrilled to have such a distinguished mixture of experts from both the corporate and academic world to talk about game based learning. I can only touch on a few areas these experts will speak about. Let me start with your own expert Jon Aleckson. Jon’s model of micro collaboration in MindMeld (http://www.mindmeldbook.com/) is a model for 21st century thinking. In online learning, collaboration is critical. The professor is no longer the be all and end all of the college learning experience. At Excelsior Colleges, our online courses require at a minimum the close collaboration of instructional designers, subject matter experts, and program directors (we are kind of like project managers). Hopefully, Jon will speak about the indispensability of collaboration in online game development.
Ben Devane, a leader at the Digital Worlds Institute (DWI) at the University of Florida (http://www.digitalworlds.ufl.edu/), is a young innovator with many creative ideas. For instance, he currently runs a special project teaching middle school students programming skills used in game development. The involvement of higher education in the public school system is a great leap forward in preparing our kids for the future. In terms of higher education, Ben has been involved in a Gaming Against Plagiarism initiative (http://blogs.uflib.ufl.edu/gap/). In this initiative, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, librarians played a critical role in content development. Plagiarism is a national epidemic and an innovative approach to plagiarism prevention is something most people want to hear about.
Speaking about public education, Dr. Joey Lee teaches at Columbia University’s Teachers College in the Games Research Lab, the country’s premier teacher training college (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltASfvmmxZs). Dr. Lee leads two fascination projects that employ games to teach real world problem solving skills. One project involves motivating students to become scientists and the other “greenify” project helps students use gamification skills to address climate change (see Gamifying Education at http://www.gamifyingeducation.org/about).
Switching back to higher education, Professor Lee Sheldon, is co-director of Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)- http://www.hass.rpi.edu/pl/gaming one of the nations leading game design programs. Lee is a true pioneer in games and higher education. At Indiana University he first developed an entire course based upon a game. In other words the course is managed like a game. He has extended this work at RPI and recently published a tremendously innovative book entitled The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game (http://www.amazon.com/The-Multiplayer-Classroom-Designing-Coursework/dp/1435458443).
All progressive educators will be keen to learn about Lee’s successful experiments in transforming the classroom experience.
Back to the corporate side of things, Dr. Tobi Saulnier, CEO of 1st Playable Productions, LLC (http://1stplayable.com/) in Troy, New York is a tremendous entrepreneur and leader of women in business. Tobi is currently working on a very low budget writing games for Excelsior College’s Online writing Lab. This game will be housed on the Owl but downloadable for mobile devices and integrated into a pilot study with five community colleges. This is a step toward the design of games to support the need for improvement in student writing across the country.
Finally, and, in some ways, most importantly, our expert moderator is Clark Aldrich (http://www.clarkaldrichdesigns.com/). Clark is a leading national force in online learning (e.g. Learning Online with Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds: Strategies for Online Instruction), the design of simulations, and a genuine voice of education reform (see the Unschooling Rules Project). In addition to his extraordinary work in education, Clark has been a long time leader in corporate training. I want to point out that when I say curriculum and education, I also refer to training curriculum in both the corporate and military worlds. Workforce development and military training are vital components in the country’s overall educational purpose. Clark brings a national reputation to the symposium.
3. Why should people attend this year’s Excelsior College symposium addressing the role of games in education?
I believe I have answered this in my extended response to your previous question. In summary, people will learn a variety of innovative ways to reinvigorate the curriculum at all levels of the education system. These ideas are cutting edge and point to the future of 21st century learning.
4. Who do you expect to be there this year?
Ideally, I would like to see a large cross section of people from the education and gaming world. I certainly expect all faculty and administrators interested in distance education and online learning, advocates of the Open Educational Movement, instructional designers, and progressive faculty interested in new teaching strategies and pedagogy. I also hope to see a number of creative minded students both online and in person. Finally, I hope to make some initial inroads into a corporate audience interested in cutting edge training models and maybe some military education specialists who have long been supporters of simulations as learning tools. Eventually, I really want to bridge the public education audience and professional development administrators. Perhaps, next year we can aim for a small international audience.
5. Any additional information you may want to add?
Only that Excelsior College, like all our panelists, is committed to Open Educational Resources and the global sharing of knowledge in a cooperative fashion. We all know that the great universities like Stanford, Harvard and M.I.T. are now involved in sharing resources but we want to show even small colleges can make large contributions to education.
6. Could you describe the tentative schedule/bullet points of the topics you will be discussing?
I would like to suggest we adhere to the original design of symposiums articulated by Plato thousands of years ago. A group of distinguished experts address a common topic in a limited time frame. The discussion is spontaneous and flows like an intelligent conversation. I would expect, such a vibrant conversation will touch on some of the topics I alluded to earlier:
- How to reinvigorate the higher education curriculum
- Game Based Learning Pedagogy
- Games and educational reform
- Best Practices in curriculum design
- The future of online learning
- The value of collaboration
- The classroom as a game
Managing eLearning is written by the Blog team at Web Courseworks which includes Jon Aleckson and Jillian Bichanich. Ideas and concepts are originated and final copy reviewed by Jon Aleckson.
As stated in a recent blog post of mine, I was able to attend ASAE’s Great Ideas Conference in Colorado Springs March 10th through the 12th. Furthermore, I presented a session with a friend and client of ours, Bill Schankel, CAE from the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers and am excited to say the session was well received. Our session, “Game On! The Power of Online Games and Why Associations are Playing Along,” seemed to spark interest amongst participants in the possibility of using games and simulations to educate and motivate. Even better, after the conference, Bill found out that their Tech Tower Trivia game (created by Web Courseworks) won a Gold Circle Award for Innovative Communications that will be awarded at their Membership, Marketing and Communications conference this coming June.
Interestingly enough, Matt Riley of National Court Reporters Association was also in attendance at Great Ideas and raved about the 2000 or so members who have played the game “Courting Disaster,” which was also created by Web Courseworks for NCRA to simulate the unique challenges that court reporters may face in day-to-day interactions.
What’s the point? Gamification is sweeping the eLearning nation. Beyond our session at the conference, Marsha Rhea, talked about Gamification as one of her five big ideas on transitioning to a new learning culture for associations. She talks about learning through games as helping to provide more self-directed learning to an association’s members.
Some notes on Marsha’s ideas: While mLearning (mobile learning) goes without saying, it is a great idea to look at content as a positioning statement for your association. Tying your identity to your content and vice versa can serve numerous purposes within your association. Also, while everyone keeps talking about MOOCs and their impact on eLearning, I’m looking for the first association that requires the completion of a MOOC to satisfy a training course. I’ll keep you updated on this, though, as I have enrolled in a MOOC on Gamification myself, that starts this coming Monday!
Disclaimer: Web Courseworks develops and offers custom serious educational games and simulations, as well as our learning management system, CourseStage, and a hosted, development tool for creating and publishing courses, CourseCreate.
I must admit that I was pretty excited to receive a copy of Jeff Cobb’s new book, Leading the Learning Revolution, in the mail recently. While not necessarily association, or even eLearning specific, Jeff drives home the point that the Learning Revolution is here, and that it’s time to capitalize on it. Although this book will definitely be used as a business class textbook (especially for online courses covering distance education), it reads more like a smoothly written New Yorker article. As an “education entrepreneur” I see the many potential ways businesses, associations and educational institutions can profit and grow because of the need and current focus on lifelong learning. This book might show you the way. I have a great deal of respect for author Jeff Cobb and this review will most definitely expose my personal bias.
In the books introduction, Cobb challenges readers to become involved in what he considers a revolution and asserts he has the road map to follow. Ingredients of this road map include: how to assess the market, creating the business model, appreciating pricing strategies, tips for designing the product, ideas on mastering the tools, well applied marketing concepts, and understanding sustainability and leadership. Let’s evaluate how well he navigates these business concepts.
Fully Understand Your Market: Chapters 1 and 2
Why should you enter the learning market? Cobb gives you the rationale and footings in Chapter 1. He outlines the changes happening in the world and their effects on the business of education. By focusing on the economy of learning, the recent transformation of technology, the ease and accessibility of technology, mass audiences created by the Internet, and other specific topics that relate to the learning industry, Cobb relays why learning is an opportunity open to success and profit. In Chapter 2 Cobb begins the journey with tips on evaluating the need. He teaches the reader how to make a market assessment, the four steps to do so, and why you should never stop assessing and testing. Check your theories, and then recheck them. Highlight new needs and uncover both allies and competition. Although easier said than done, I agree with Cobb that it is the foundation from which to build from and that leveraging the Google Keyword Tool is where you should start digging.
Determine Your Business Model and Positioning: Chapters 3 and 4
Cobb delivers several compelling stories, some personal, to help you discover a model that you can be passionate about. Thinking deeply about the four business models he details is worth the price of the book. These models include: P by power of two communities, Flipped, Virtual Conference, and Massive. In order for any model to work, you have to apply strategies to stand out, to bring something valuable to the customer. Cobb sites the Steve Jobs theory: figure out what your customers need and want before they can. Get started by determining how you are going to stand out from the competitors. In Chapter 4, Cobb highlights that no matter how perfectly you are doing something, there will always be others trying to do it too. It is imperative to stand out among the crowd. He gives tips to be “unique,” “memorable,” and “remarkable.” And he suggests yet another tool, the Accelerant Curve, to plot out your very own value continuum when considering pricing strategies.
Design and Develop Learning Experiences: Chapters 5 and 6
There is “educational junk” available online that may not be worth the free admission. People are hesitant to even give out an e-mail address in fear of one more daily e-mail flooding their inbox. Create something worth viewing. Chapter 5 teaches the basics of instructional design. Cobb highlights “Seven Rules to Teach and Facilitate By: Position it, Prune it, Chunk it, Stimulate multiple senses, Remember to repeat to remember, Make it active, and Share the responsibility.” Can you do it? He’ll tell you how in Chapter 6. It is here that Cobb shares inexpensive tools that help when developing content.
Stay Connected, Promote, and Convert: Chapters 7 and 8
Build a strong audience so that when a new learning need arises, you are automatically the one people go to. Embrace the process of searching for needs in the industry continually; stay attuned to the needs of your customers. If lifelong learning is what Cobb is talking about, you can’t stop after development of one good product. To be successful, be able to change. These are the topics of Chapter 7. What to do once you’ve mastered these skills? Promote. Chapter 8 teaches you how to leverage your efforts and convert prospects to customers.
Execute for Impact and Change: Chapters 9 and 10
Chapters 9 and 10 teach you to first do and then lead. While some are able to create great plans and ideas, it doesn’t get them anywhere until they take those ideas to action. Don’t get held up in the “next-big-thing” problem—always wanting to create what the newest demand is. Develop a product and make it better. Consistently think about the larger market and how needs will evolve over a lifetime. Give learners the power to decide what they want and need and who they will reach out to in order to fulfill these desires. As Cobb puts it, “We’ve got a revolution to lead.”
What to do now?
Jeff Cobb’s book, Leading the Learning Revolution, provides step by step advice to begin a business in the education market online. The cost of entry to take advantage of the growing need for life long learning continues to drop. Getting on the road to success takes only a quick read of this book and the decision to passionately apply its advice.
2013 is the year of HTML5… my team has been talking about it, eLearning gurus from around the world have been talking about it. What exactly will this mean, though, for eLearning development? This year’s Learning Solution’s Conference & Expo will be held from March 13-15, 2013 in Orlando, FL. Because I am going to be presenting the “Top Five Ways to Transition Away from Flash” at this conference, I have decided to delve deeper into the many aspects of development that the HTML5 evolution will affect.
Those of us that are involved in technology know that the rate of change is equivalent to dog years. Every year people’s demands change, and every year we are expected to provide solutions to these demands accordingly. Because of this, all of us need to be in a lifelong learning mode and accept that change is constant. Furthermore, we must acknowledge that things like browser compatibility issues and the psychological drama of having to relearn your craft are barriers that we must overcome time and time again…they will continue to be a challenge of our jobs. For programmers specifically, those people who are experts in Flash and do not rely on rapid development tools like Articulate, must make an incredibly strong effort to shift from Flash to HTML5.
So what specific challenges exist when making this transition? HTML5 sites won’t be the same as Flash sites, more importantly HTML5 may not exactly be an interface improvement. Furthermore this development will most likely be more expensive, but yet less elaborate. HTML5 is currently, still, a work in progress—browsers are interpreting this code differently, especially with video and audio. What happens to legacy content that has already been developed in Flash? How can you get your staff trained in learning the HTML5 language? My presentation this year will outline both the benefits and limitations of development in both HTML5 and plug-ins, how to identify three strategies for transitioning to mobile-friendly programming, how to analyze staff propensity to handle HTML5, and management methods to help transition staff away from Flash. While my session will focus mainly on the perspective of both a manager and a programmer point of view, I hope the session provides tips on how to make the jump for all managers, developers, designers, and other members of the development team. Sure, Web Courseworks has spent years refining our craft in Flash production—especially for games and simulations, but when the demand calls for tablet friendly eLearning, we must make the difficult transition along with everyone else.
Year after year, predictions are posted about what is to come in eLearning development. Experts use polls, percentages, and general trends to forecast what will happen in the upcoming year. I have been part of this group as in the past I have posted general eLearning predictions based on what I have learned in the industry. This year, I wanted to do something different. My team at Web Courseworks consists of programmers, instructional designers, project managers, a sales team, and management department, to name some, and who better to make predictions about 2013 than a team of people whose work delves into eLearning and its related topics every day? So here it is, 2013 eLearning predictions created by my team at Web Courseworks.
The Future of HTML5 and mLearning
To my surprise, everyone seemed to be dreaming about HTML5, though the topic of HTML5 brought predictions at all ends of the spectrum. A few people, such as Kelsey, one of our Multimedia Developers stated that “2013 will be the year that flash developers will need to learn HTML5 as eLearning takes a huge step further into the mobile scene,” and another Multimedia developer, Brian, further predicted that the because “HTML5 will continue to be on the forefront of eLearning,” this demand will drive the development of easy-to-use templates. Aileen, our Vice President of Business Development, agreed that “Online quick guides that are interactive and responsive to what the user is looking for on the job creates efficiency and maximizes learning beyond the classroom,” so these on-the-spot demands will increase the necessity for mobile and table accessibility.
As to the discussion of who will be most interested in mobile learning applications and benefit the most from mobile learning platforms, Karissa, one of our Marketing Coordinators believed that the adoption of mLearning will continue to “lag except in markets with specific on-the-job training use cases.” She said tablets are ideal for some very specialized use cases (such as on-the-job training for those in numerous healthcare professions), though while tablets are increasing in prevalence in the workplace, they haven’t yet gained widespread adoption. Shawn, an Instructional Designer on our team, went with only a slightly different position, as he believes that “Opportunities for new customers in health care, government compliance, and finance industries will explode” while “new customers in the defense, federal government and manufacturing/labor industries will all but disappear.”
Furthering the HTML5 and mLearning discussion, Matt, another PHP Programmer thinks that “HTML5 will start to change LMS UX to have more of an application feel rather than just a bunch of web pages strung together.” On the other hand, Ed, our Product Specialist, felt that instead of HTML5 affecting the user interface, instead “there will be much discussion regarding whether [HTML5] is really the best way to design apps for mobile devices.” He goes on to argue that this discussion alone will only go to help refine implementation processes, and that more “Tools and frameworks, such as PhoneGap, will also assist with bridging the areas that HTML5 stumbles on.”
Tin Can/Experience API’s Position in 2013
Tin Can/Experience API was another topic that brought some debate amongst the group. It seems that while our Product Innovation Specialist, Andy, believed that “More LMSs will integrate learning record stores for Experience API,” one of our programmers seemed to differ in opinion. Craig, a Web Courseworks PHP Programmer, believed that “Tin Can API will lose some of its luster in 2013 as the costs and difficulties of actually implementing it become more apparent.” Experience API has been at the forefront of a lot of 2012 discussion on the future of eLearning. I was interested to see the opposing views of the departments, and I will be even more interested to see if the demand will outweigh programming and maintenance costs.
Another hot topic of 2012, the future of MOOCs was a theme of discussion for the year 2013. For those of you who don’t know, MOOCs are “Massive open online courses” that have been developed and opened to the general public—for free. “Even if MOOCs turn out to be a transitional technology…the concept will contribute a lot to the body of research about the internet as a tool in education,” says Lisa, one of our LMS Support Specialists. Katie, an Assistant Project Manager, agreed that MOOCs would be “hugely popular and that even higher education facilities that are traditionally class-room based will move toward more online education.”
If more MOOCs are developed, what will that mean for the Instructional Designer? Well, Tim, an Instructional Designer here at Web Courseworks, believes that it will lead to an increased “need for large-scale instructional design as more universities, and other educational facilities will follow the examples of Harvard and MIT and start to create their own MOOCs”—that would make sense as commonly classroom-based courses will need to be converted to something accessible online. It may mean, that universities will have to outsource and/or hire more personnel—will this bring more business to eLearning development companies? We’ll find out.
The General Opinion for 2013
So what exactly did the team of Web Courseworks decide for the year 2013? A real certainty about one thing: that with Technology comes great unknowns, and that as demands for eLearning change, so will the products that make it happen.
My Session at the Great Ideas Conference 2013
This year’s Great Ideas Conference will be held March 10-12, 2013 at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, CO. I am especially excited for this tenth anniversary, because I will be co-presenting “Next Generation Learning: GAME ON! The Power of Online Games and Why Associations are Playing Along” with Bill Schankel, Senior Director of Marketing of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers. This conference has always been one of my favorites, as not only do I get to present on a topic that intrigues me, but furthermore, I can connect with peers and hear the “Great Ideas” of others.
Highlights of the conference this year include “Two Fascinating and Brilliant General Sessions”. Sally Hogshead will be presenting at the Opening Session. She is a New York Times best-selling author and NBC’s Today Show Commentator, and will be discussing how to develop a fascinating brand. The Closing Session will be led by Simon Bailey, a thought leader and author who will help you transition from average to brilliant. The Great Ideas Conference also holds education sessions that range from Creativity Stations and Photo Sessions, to Mobile Playgrounds and Micro-Skills Sessions.
Bill Schankel and I have decided to tackle the topic of online games, and the power that they hold in the association realm. Games seem to have an unmatched ability to create and unite a community. Associations can capitalize on this trend by using online games to help recruit new members and spark the next generation’s interest in their profession. We hope that this session helps others learn from our organization’s successful venture into this area, and furthermore helps clarify what contributing factors one should consider when developing and deploying a game-based learning initiative at his/her own organization.
Educators have come to understand the need to engage learners in all facets of education. Even face-to-face environments need hands-on learning activities so that participants are actually getting involved in the subject matter. When it comes to eLearning, it has been a challenge for distance educators to build activities into an online program that will force the learner to first do something and then secondly, reflect on the content. I am lucky enough to be able to attend and speak at many conferences throughout the year, and it has been a challenge that I have faced as well. I began to brainstorm ways in which I could engage the listeners and remove the lecture format that usually drives conference sessions.
As you may have read in my previous blog posts, I recently attended the ASAE Healthcare Associations Conference 2012 and co-presented “Professional Development Portal Triage: Planning for Distance Education Success” with a client from the Alliance for Continuing Education in Health Professions, Mary Martin Lowe, Director of Learning and Competency Development. For this session, we developed a card game that focuses on getting the participants to think about both success factors and other components of developing an online initiative including a Learning Management System and extensive courseware. I’ve been really excited about this concept because instead of the typical lecture format where you are basically showing a bunch of PowerPoint slides and talking to session participants who may or may not be engaged, using an active method can help with actual retention and absorption of the content.
It was interesting for me to see the results of this card game at the ASAE Healthcare Associations Conference 2012, as this was a unique “guinea pig” set of groups. As each group tried to create the best common hand with the most success factors, it seemed at first that a table of executives who were very strategic in their planning were going to win with the most cards. As the activity continued, though, I would introduce a new challenge to the teams, this usually forced the teams to lose a card/cards if they did not initially have the right cards in their deck. I introduced two challenges, and then there was a recovery period (draw additional cards from deck) to mimic a road of trials. The winning group switched from the strategic executives to the team who was actually losing at first, but made very tactical decisions for the final challenges. It’s great when a learning activity brings energy to a session!
AKA Tin Can
While at the Learning 3.0 conference I had the opportunity to speak with Michael Rochelle of Brandon Hall and Aaron Silvers of ADL on the new emerging Experience API (also known as Tin Can) and have been given great insight. Experience API is coding that tracks a person’s learning activity even if that activity is housed outside an LMS. An example, would be learning activity game on a moblie phone. This phenomenon is being talked about increasingly because of the need to track informal learning, especially learning effects taking place on tablets, phones and Internet sites like YouTube. A big question exists, though, as to where all of these new, informal learning event records are going to be stored. The ADL is suggesting the creation of a Learning Record Store (a database). This will not replace the Learning Management System (LMS) but it will generate a lot of action on the part of LMS companies. Look for Learning Record Store (LRS) modules arriving soon. The ADL is funded by the Department of Defense and was responsible for bringing us SCORM. Although SCORM 2004 failed to fulfill its promises, SCORM 1.2 was widely adopted. This time ADL has done it right by not leaving it up to the LMS companies to comply. The base Learning Records Store code is accessible, thus diminishing the power of the LMS to obfuscate the standard. Gone will be the battles between content producers and Learning Management companies on what compliance to SCORM means. The fact that the Defense Department is behind this new interface standard means all managers must watch adoption of this new standard closely. My caution to eLearning managers is that it will be easier to use the API from the content side than it will be to make sense of it from the storage and report side. Your IT department will need to accept that the LRS will need plenty of custom programming and IT will need to be comfortable with a LAMP environment (Linux, Apache, My SQL, PHP). Also, Tin Can or Experience API provides no advice on how you display the data, therefore, a lot of custom work will need to be done on the report side and dashboard side. So keep in mind this is a very happy place in the future that should show more promise and acceptance than what we’ve seen in the past.
To listen to the full interview click below: