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Learning from Virtual Applications as Taught by My 7-Year Old – by Mereoni Robbins

I recently sat down to spend some time with my 7-year old. I always enjoy the time we have not only because it’s flying by so fast (and I’m trying to enjoy each fleeting moment) but it’s so nice to allow myself to ‘slip back’ to being a 7-year old. I quite like my 7-year old self! She’s fun, explorative and a real risk-taker. It’s given me a greater appreciation for tuning out and just letting go from the world for a minute.

While Nate still enjoys playing with other toys and loves a good kick of the footy on a sunny day, he’s like many other kids his age – he loves his iPad and computer games notably, the X Box.

On a recent rainy day in Melbourne, he pulled me into playing a LEGO™ game with him on it the other night. In the game, we were thrown into a virtual world (Star Wars namely – he’s obsessed!) and before too long, I’d completely forgotten about our dinner cooking away in the oven. I had surrendered myself to the gaming environment and before I could blink, I was completely immersed in this other world! Need I say, dinner was burnt!

It got me thinking about the many conversations I’m having with our clients around their specific needs and business environments and my golden rule when designing any learning tool –

IT.MUST.BE.FIT.FOR.PURPOSE.

It needs to be fit for your audience, their needs, their environment and lastly (but also importantly!), your budget, among other things.
Based on my own interactions with clients, assessing their problems and utilising virtual applications as part of the solution, I thought I would share a few relevant examples in the hope that they may be of use to others.

  1. Create a gaming environment that encourages exploration

    The beauty of virtual environments is that they don’t need to be linear in nature. You might want an individual to make decisions, navigate scenarios and explore a specific landscape as they would in real-life. Long gone are the days of clicking next! YAWN.

  2. Scalability = cost reduction

    Once upon a time, a virtual experience roll-out was almost impossible due to the prohibitive costs involved for implementation. Thanks to Google cardboard and other replications, your teams can experience virtual reality for a fraction of the cost! This means that virtual reality has a far greater reach than once thought. Cost reductions take the form of trainer, venue and travel costs while still providing a similar experience as if the content were delivered in classroom format.

  3. Safety training

    An obvious one for many. Compliance training (think electrical safety as a big one), lends itself perfectly to learning in a virtual environment without the need for the learner to be put in danger (electrocuted!). It provides a real-life context that is safe and can simulate a likely situation while at the same time allowing employees to assess environments and make decisions that impact their work while also having real-world implications. The result is direct practice, meaning knowledge transfer becomes almost immediate.

  4. Induction

    Induction training is a great example of where virtual applications can be incredibly effective when used well. They can be used in the form of tutorials, virtual collaboration rooms or virtual reality scenarios where new hires can meet the team without the team having to be physically present at all. It also works as a good talent attraction aid. When designed and used correctly, it can serve to demonstrate the progressive and contemporary nature of your organisation.

  5. Transport them to the other side of the planet (and beyond!)

    You might want your team in Switzerland to understand the manufacturing plant floor and how it operates in China as part of a senior leadership development program. Or you might want your team in Australia to understand how your design team works in India. Re-creating an operational environment can help your leaders make more strategic decisions while enabling them to better understand an unfamiliar cultural landscape.

Whether it’s 360 video, virtual or augmented reality or a combination of these, easyA help organisations across industry and geography to identify relevant solutions that bring learning experiences to life.

Feel free to reach out to me if you’d like to discuss how we might be able to help you do the same.

Design considerations for mobile learning – by Naomi Waldron

Mobile learning is a big deal. A recent survey of the world’s leading eLearning experts (Jones, 2017) reported that mobile learning was the top eLearning trend predicted for 2017. This trend shouldn’t be surprising considering the way that smartphones have become a ubiquitous part of modern life. In 2014, the number of mobile users outstripped desktop users (Chaffey, 2017) and by late 2016, worldwide mobile (phones and tablets) access to the Internet outstripped desktop access for the first time (Heisler, 2016).

As learners demand to be able to access all kinds of digital information – including learning experiences — on the go, learning designers need to understand the implications of mobile learning technology and adapt how they conceive of and create mobile learning content. This article looks at the advantages and limitations of mobile learning, and offers practical strategies for designing for smartphones.

Access and equity

Given the high price of many smartphones, one could be forgiven for thinking that mobile technology would be limited to those with the financial resources to afford it. However, mobile phone usage is now even higher in lowincome populations than in the general population.

It’s a shocking fact that of the world’s 7 billion people, more people now have access to a mobile phone than a toilet (Wang, 2013). While this speaks volumes about the poor state of access to basic sanitation around the world, it also highlights multinational companies’ success in putting mobile technology into the hands of people in a way that many governments have been unable to do.

In Australia, 95 percent of people experiencing homelessness in Sydney and Melbourne have a mobile phone compared with 92 percent of the general population (Humphrey, 2014).

Smartphones are considered essential to connect with social services, find out where food is available, and find safe places to sleep rough.

Organisations seeking to assist poor and disadvantaged people can make significant inroads through delivering learning experiences via mobile technology. Smartphones have great potential to reach people who are excluded from formal education, and provide them with information and educational opportunities that they need in order to create job prospects and thrive.

Learning ‘on the go’

Designing for mobile learning ‘on the go’ means being flexible about where people learn, and when people learn. No longer content to sit in a training room with folders, people now expect to be able to participate in learning activities on the go.

When designing for mobile, make sure that each session is short and pithy so that people can learn in all those ‘in between’ moments we have in life. For situations where more lengthy learning sessions are desirable, consider podcasts for people to use while driving or exercising.

This kind of multi-tasked learning is not always the most effective way to learn; it is much more difficult to concentrate than a more traditional learning setting. Conversely, giving people learning opportunities as they go about their daily lives is often better than nothing at all. If learning designers are open to the idea that people may be learning ‘on the go’, they can design experiences which suit learners’ busy lifestyles.

Organisations seeking to assist poor and disadvantaged people can make significant inroads through delivering learning experiences via mobile technology.

Making use of the inherent functions of smart phones

Most of us are now walking around with a wonderous device in our pocket that is millions of times more powerful than all of NASA’s computing power that sent humans to the Moon and back (Puiu, 2015). As well as a camera, phone and screen, your typical smartphone also contains many hardware sensors that you won’t find in a desktop computer, including an accelerometer, a gyroscope, a magnetometer compass, an ambient light sensor, a proximity sensor and a GPS (Dolcourt, 2013).

If you are going to design for mobile learning, why not take advantage of the unique capabilities of the device?

Now that learners have the ability to record photos and video on their phone, some practical skill assessments that previously needed to be done face-to-face can now be done remotely. For example, a counselling student could upload a video of themselves participating in a practice counselling session. Likewise, this student-created video content can be easily shared in a secure learning environment for peer critique and social learning experiences.

Geolocation can be used to receive individual geographic positioning information and to present information that is relevant to a user’s location. For example, a company with multiple offices can present site induction information that is relevant to the learner’s current physical location.

QR codes are also used to tie a physical object to virtual content. Scan the QR code, and the relevant content launches on the mobile device. To give a simple example, a company could have a QR code on each photocopier in their multi-site organisation. An employee attempting to use the photocopier for the first time could scan the QR code, which then launches a short training video.

Augmented reality applications combine camera scanning technology, screen display properties, geolocation and gyroscope functions of the smart phone. They enable learners to superimpose layers of customised virtual content over the top of what they can see in the physical space. For example a jewellery store sales assistant could use her phone to scan a piece of jewellery such as a necklace. Augmented reality layers could appear on the smartphone screen superimposed over the necklace. The layers could show product-related sales information such as the features of the necklace, matching earrings to recommend etc.

Designing for the limitations of mobile

When designing for mobile, it is important to consider the features that mobile devices have to offer and their limitations.

Since many individual users have limited mobile data payment plans, it’s unfair to force learners to download large files. Either keep file sizes small, or allow learners to pre-download the files they need while they are connected to Wi-Fi.

Small screen size can be a design issue. Avoid tiny details and make buttons large. If drag-and-drop interactions are used, they should be simple so that the entire activity fits on a small screen.

Unlike desktops, mobile devices obviously use a touchscreen interface rather than a mouse. Mouse-over (rollover) interactions do not work, and instructions such as ‘Click on the button’ have no meaning in a touchscreen interface. A better instruction is ‘Select the button’, since it applies equally to touchscreen and mouse interfaces.

Responsive vs scalable layouts

Designing for the features and limitations of mobile devices may seem complicated enough. However, in many cases, learning designers are also asked to create content which works equally well in both mobile and desktop environments.

In this case, designers have three possible design options:

  1. Scale the screen, so that when viewed on a tablet or smart phone, the content is merely a smaller version of what’s on the desktop.
  2. Use an ‘adaptive design layout’, creating multiple versions of the same content for a range of specific devices.
  3. Use a ‘responsive layout’, so that the layout changes dynamically depending on the size and orientation of the individual device.

The chosen option is often dependent on the development tools available. Bespoke HTML development will usually be able to build in a way to suit the needs of the project. However, mobile design layout is often dependent on elearning content authoring tool features.

The trend among these tools is moving away from a scaled, fixed-size ‘interactive slide’ approach, towards responsive layouts which scroll down a long screen. However, responsive authoring tools sometimes also have unintended drawbacks, such as fewer interaction options and non-compliance with web accessibility standards.

If adaptive or responsive layouts are not an option, and it’s only possible to use a scaled screen, then ensure interactive elements and fonts are large enough to use even on a small smart phone screen.

Mobile devices provide opportunities to reach new groups of learners and provide innovative learning experiences in ways that were previously impossible. It is helpful to consider both the inherent features and limitations when designing for mobile devices. It is also important to use the best user interface design and content development methods available.

References

Chaffey, D. 2017, Mobile Marketing Statistics compilation. Available at: < http://www.smartinsights.com/mobile-marketing/mobilemarketing-analytics/mobile-marketingstatistics/ >. Viewed 6 April 2017.

Dolcourt, J. 2013, MSmartphone innovation: Wherewe’re going next (Smartphones Unlocked). Available at: < https://www.cnet.com/news/smartphone-innovation-where-were-going-nextsmartphones- unlocked >. Viewed 5 April 2017.

Heisler, Y. 2016, Mobile internet usage surpasses desktop usage for the first time in history. Available at: < http://bgr.com/2016/11/02/internet-usagedesktop- vs-mobile >. Viewed 6 April 2017.

Humphry, Justine. The importance of circumstance: Digital access and affordability for people experiencing homelessness. Australian Journal of Telecommunications and the Digital Economy, Vol. 2, No. 3, Sep 2014: [55.1]-[55.15]. Available at: < http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=678510832001960;res=IELBUS >. Viewed 5 April 2017.

Jones, B. 2017, 9 Top eLearning Trends of 2017 from 49 Experts – eLearning Art. Available at: < https://elearningart.com/blog/elearningtrends/ >. Viewed 5 April 2017.

Puiu, T. 2013, Your smartphone is millions of times more powerful than all of NASA’s combined computing in 1969. [online] Available at: < http://www.zmescience.com/research/technology/smartphone-power-compared-toapollo-432/ >. [Accessed 5 April 2017].

Wang, Y. 2013, More People Have Cell Phones Than Toilets, U.N. Study Shows. Available at: < http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/03/25/more-peoplehave-cell-phones-than-toilets-u-n-study-shows/ >. Viewed 6 April 2017.

How to create a W*I*N*N*I*N*G digital team (or just hire us!) - by Mereoni Robbins

Having led and managed a number of digital projects for global clients, I am often asked ‘who do I really need in my digital learning team?’ Whether you’re designing your digital learning assets in-house or working with a vendor like us, having the right talent in terms of skill and capability is the key to success for your digital projects. Having one person who can only storyboard just won’t cut the mustard.

So who do you really need on your team?

  1. Great Instructional Designers with strong project management skills and technical background

    There are many of them out there and with lots of experience. But the question you need to ask yourself is whether they are the right fit for your project. Engaging an instructional designer with experience solely in one industry or a specific business, may not be the right person to design the learning pathway and deliver on the learning outcomes of your project.

    Take the time to hire the right person with the right attitude too. They should have good relationship management skills and be ready to roll their sleeves up and work with a variety of different people who will offer different perspectives on how they see the final deliverable.

    They should have experience in authoring tools – preferably a few. I see many organisations who use a combination, not just one and lastly, they should have strong project management skills. They are depended on for the entire instructional design process so they must be able to manage tasks on time and within budget.

  2. A solid Production (or Development) Team (encompassing graphic designers, audio integrators, animators) or with solid experience in authoring tools in the case of rapid e-learning

    If you’re using the same person for your instructional design and your development, then you should ensure they are confident and competent with managing the entire end-to-end process. There are many out there but in my experience, often the individual is great at either design or development. To be great at both (and have great project and relationship management skills) is a rare breed so if you can find them, keep them!

    For more engaging, interactive and appealing digital learning projects, you’ll need graphic design guns, storytellers, animators, cartoonists, video experts, audio wizards, the list goes on. These are very specific skill sets…and that’s where we come in!

  3. Experienced project Leaders (on both the design and production arms)

    This is a no brainer. Without great project leaders, you can consider your project a failure. This one’s fairly self-explanatory.

  4. Innovators

    Your business can’t survive without these. It’s. That. Simple. In every industry it’s the innovators that are where your investment in human capital is well spent. We are seeing many of them (really they are entrepreneurs!), who depart the organisation in order to branch out on their own and dance to the beat of their own drum…cue Naveen Jain founder of Moon Express the first privately funded commercial space company to develop and mine the resources of the moon!

    Innovators are working in or heading up think tanks, incubators, innovation hubs and they’re focussed solely on finding new and creative ways to bring learning to life in the most advanced way possible. You pass them on the street, you just don’t know it. We know it.

  5. The best Account Managers you can find!

    Your account managers (or L&D partners) are crucial to the success of your digital projects. They should be managing the communications between your business partners and your project team. Be it a change in content or a new need, they are worth their weight in gold. They are there to ensure approvals are given on time, that any challenging conversations are managed well and ultimately, that your client (be it internal or external), is smiling every step of the way.

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